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Traction engine build

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julian evans 130/08/2021 19:06:13
2 forum posts

Hi all, I’m thinking of building a 4 / 41l2” traction engine DCC based, I’ve looked at Fowler,Garrett,Burrell ,McLaren, I don’t think I want to go down the kit way of building from steam traction world, as I would like to manufacture parts and build the engine from plans, and buy certain parts that I think are generally more sensible to buy than produce, I have looked at LMS engineering, and I think they may be the route for me to get started, I have a Boxford AUD lathe, and will purchase other machinery if required, a mill etc, LMS seem to provide working drawings, parts and machining.
I would be grateful for any feed back that may help with my decision , as I am green in this new venture,

kind regards


Andrew Johnston30/08/2021 19:55:32
6266 forum posts
677 photos

Welcome to the forum. thumbs up

I assume you mean Live Steam Models aka LSM? I'll start by stating that whatever advice I offer it is inevitable that somebody will pop up to say they made a 6" scale engine on a mini lathe. teeth 2

A Boxford is on the small side for a 4" scale traction engine. There will be a substantial number of parts which simply cannot be machined on it. I have a 13"x40" lathe which will swing 18" in the gap. That is sufficient for all the turned parts on a 4" scale Burrell SCC. While it is possible mill on the lathe again there will be a substantial number of parts that are too big for a Boxford. For milling I have Bridgeport vertical mill which is sufficient for most parts. While gears can be cut on the Bridgeport I have a large, but cheap, horizontal mill which greatly eases the cutting of the 5DP and 6DP gears needed and also doubles as a cheap horizontal borer.

Before building my engines I bought the plans, worked out what the largest diameter and longest parts were, and chose a lathe accordingly. The mill is less critical but the bigger the better, as bigger has more rigidity and a greater metal removal rate. A look at my photo albums will illustrate the nature of the tasks that need to be done. As a caveat I like to make all parts myself rather than buy in when required. So far the only big jobs done professionally have been the boilers and vulcanised rubber tyres.


Jeff Dayman30/08/2021 20:04:05
2176 forum posts
45 photos

The first question I would ask around on is the type and the cost of the boiler you want to do. Copper boilers this size will be extremely costly and could take a very long time if ordered from a professional boilermaker. Steel boiler may be cheaper in materials but professional welding to meet local / national regulations is very costly.

If funds are unlimited please disregard my comments above entirely, but if cost conscious like many of us, the boiler will be a big factor in overall costs.

You may need to have some large parts made on others' larger equipment, ie boiler parts wheels flywheel if they will not fit your Boxford, No problem if you have a friend or friends with such equipment but can get costly if you have to have work done at a commercial machines shop. Not trying to discourage you in any way, just mentioning these things for awareness. Good luck.

JasonB30/08/2021 20:19:38
21436 forum posts
2448 photos
1 articles

I don't think you could do larger than a 2" engine on a Boxford unless you had another larger machine that could be used for the larger items but that can be a pain if you have to wait about for when a friends machine is not in use or want to leave something set up if you did not get all the work done in one visit. Harrison M300 or Colchester Student are the popular choices and a mill to match.

At that scale I would want to go for a steel boiler as copper would not have the strength and would be much more costly than a steel one. You will find the majority of engines in those scales are steel boilered so no additional design work required if you redesign for copper.

Also suggest you register for Traction Talk Forum as it can take a while to get approved then have a read of the build threads on there to see what people are building and with what.

Don't discount the 6" GMT as it's not a lot different in size to a 4.5" road loco or Agricultural

Edited By JasonB on 30/08/2021 20:21:24

Paul Kemp30/08/2021 21:13:36
689 forum posts
18 photos


As Jason says in that size a steel boiler is the only way to go. Andrew must have been waiting for me to pop up!

Depends on your outlook but I don't think the costs are as scary as Jeff portrays. My 6" has cost me North of £10k, couldn't tell you exactly as I have stopped counting. Castings were about 15%, boiler 20 - 25%, rubber tyres 10% all of which were incurred in the first couple of years (been on it nearly 5 now) the rest sundry materials, fastness, cutters etc. I have done a lot of the smaller parts on a hobbymat, myford and mini mill and there are a lot of small bits but there are also some big hits, I am fortunate to also have an Elliot Omnimill and a Harrison L6 as well as access to a Bridgeport, Kearns horizontal borer, large radial arm drill, Holbrook, Edgewick, large Harrison and other assorted machines. The crank shaft, wheels, diff and flywheel were all done by me on large machines as was the cylinder block on the HBM and my Omnimill. I also cut my own gears on the Omnimill. So there haven't been any sub contract machining costs, with only the Boxford you will struggle unless you have access to some bigger kit, even for a 4 1/2" engine. With some creative set ups you will manage some of the bits but not all of them and if you have to pay someone to do them, that could cost as much as the boiler! Also consider the space you need, when mine is a pile of bits there is a lot of them. Don't be put off but certainly if you are going to buy a mill buy a big one! Finally be prepared for the time requirement, mine has absorbed most Saturday's for five years and a fair few evenings and other odd days and I am not finished yet! It is no short term or quick undertaking. However with enthusiasm and tenacity it is eminently do-able and very satisfying. Do remember though that most drawings contain errors so if you are contracting stuff out, make sure you check all the dimensions carefully before placing the job!

Other than that, go for it!


Paul Lousick31/08/2021 00:01:57
1855 forum posts
661 photos

Hi Julian,

I built a 6" Ruston Proctor SD traction engine which is a similar size to the 4 1/2" Burrel with drawings and castings supplied bt LSM.

Most of the parts were machined on a 9" (diameter) Southbend lathe and a Seig SX3 mill which I pushed to the limit. I did however have access to larger machines for a couple of the components that were too large. (you can always get the bigger parts made by a local machine shop if you don't have the tools).

My engine has a steel boiler and I did all of the machining myself and employed a professional welder for the final assembly.


Link to the build here: **LINK**

Chris Gunn31/08/2021 20:57:41
392 forum posts
27 photos

Julian, one thing to take into consideration is what you will do with it when you have built it. If you intend to rally it, and take it on the road, then I would suggest a 4" scale of a large original is the minimum to consider. Such an engine will fit into a medium size van for ease of transport. I would look at the 4" Garrett, this was the first TE I built, and I found the drawings the best I have come across. I would confirm you need a steel boiler for an engine of this size. I built mine using a Colchester Bantam, and an Elliot Omnimill. I did have access to bigger machinery for the few larger parts.

I would also be looking to see if there is a ME society in the area with plenty of members interested in road steam, and I would join. Then you can draw on their experience, and if you are lucky they will have a workshop you can use with bigger machinery than you have. I would guarantee that a few of the members will also have larger lathes, and in my experience will be glad to help.

Incidentally I am currently giving my 4" Garrett a make over, and after 21 years of 10 -15 rallies a year the cylinder bore is nicely run in, the worst wear is in the valve links, which will need rebushing and the pivot pins replacing.

Chris Gunn

DMB31/08/2021 21:54:33
1164 forum posts
1 photos

A fellow model engineer built a steam tractor, possibly 4"? and he used a disability type car to transport it - just fitted! I think it may have been a "Berlingo."

Paul Lousick01/09/2021 06:46:01
1855 forum posts
661 photos

My Ruston Proctor will just fit into a 6' x4' box trailer which I tow behind my Mazda 6 which can legally tow 750kg unbraked.

The trailer weighs 220kg and the engine 700kg. Loaded up with tools and supplies it is over 1 ton, so I had to upgrade the trailer with a bigger axle and add electric brakes.


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