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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Guys,

I am still relatively new to live steam. I recently acquired a butane fired Catatonk Heisler which I love. However, I am looking for a rod engine. I am really interested in Accucrafts GS4 and Asters Mikado, however I dont know which type of fule is better: alcohol or butane? I have not had any problems with the butane so far, but is there any advantages of alcohol over butane?

Thanks for the help guys,
David
 

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Your best bet is to contact Ryan Bednarik, he had worked wonders on both the gas and meths version. There are still many left new in the box at Accucraft
 

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Alcohol will work better with less work on your part when the outside temperatures are low, but then, not many people like to run a "toy" outside when it is below freezing!.

Butane (plain) won't vaporize at all at temps below about 32-deg (F) and even if the outside temps are higher than that, the butane will cool itself below that temperature when you start to draw off the vapor.  This makes adjusting the fire difficult sometimes.  You can use a butane/propane mix (which is quite common) which has a lower vaporization temperature.  Or, you can heat the butane tank (also quite common), by putting warm water around the fuel tank (that is why on lots of locos the fuel tank is in the tender water space!)  Some people even have a steam port to direct a small amount of steam back into that water to keep the tank warm.  Note, don't attempt to use HOT water to HEAT the tank, it could burst if it gets too warm.  Just keep it up to room temperature and the more stable the temperature, the better the firing characteristics of the engine.  As the temperature goes down the pressure drops and you have to open the valve more to keep the fire the same.

Butane does require you to have a deft hand on the fuel valve and some of them are rather touchy to get adjusted, but not so bad that you cannot quickly get the hang of it.  It does provide the ability to adjust the intensity of the fire with the fuel valve.

Butane can be shut off quickly, which is sometimes a good thing.  Alcohol is usually a valve that lets alcohol flow into a sump that then feeds the burner cups, when you turn off the flow of liquid you still have the sump and burner cups full and that can take a couple of minutes to burn away and the fire to go out.  Some people blow it out, saying that letting it go out due to fuel starvation is a bad thing for the wicks, but I have noticed no problems letting it go.  Some use a small CO2 cartridge (bicycle tire inflator) as a fire extinguisher, but I have always wondered about the stresses that might cause to the hot parts to blast them with the cold CO2.  People do it, so it must not be THAT bad, I just "worry" enough about it that I decided not to do it.

Butane is probably a bit easier, but alcohol makes running the loco a bit more like a prototypical operation... you have to have a draft over the fire to keep it going and to make it hotter; just like a coal fired loco.

Alcohol generally is just open the valve and light it off... you have little control of how much fire there is, other than the setting of the blower, but once the engine is underway, the exhaust provides the draft and adding the blower does not add all that much to what heat the fire can produce.

Personally, I like the realism of alcohol firing and having to remember to open the blower when stopped and close it when underway.  I have a 3 channel R/C and use the 3rd channel just for that purpose.

What little butane running I have done is okay, but I have not done enough of it to truely get the hang of it or to say for sure whether it is "better" or "worse" that alcohol.  I can say that LiveSteam is the way to go!  Battery and track power are just not worth it... period!
 

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I like alcohol better.  It burns just right and burns quiet.  No tedious fiddling with a valve to keep the burner lit.  It is more of a "hands-on" fuel.  It requires an auxilary blower to provide draft though the boiler during warm up.  Once the boiler is hot,  the steam blower takes over until you are ready to run.  During operation the exhaust steam provides most, if not all the blower requirement.  Most alcohol engines have a mechanism in the fuel tank that maintains a constant fuel level to the wicks.  It's called a "bird feeder" and it ensures you have a steady flame thoughout the run.  They are really neat.

Aster "Mike" is a great engine.  Very powerful.  It has, I believe, the best boiler in Gauge 1, very steady steam producing boiler.  They start off with no trouble.  Runs strong.  It gets my vote. 
 

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Alcohol is my favorite fuel too.  It requires more effort then butane, but the lack of burner noise and the added realism of a blower makes it worth it to me.  The Aster Mikado is hard to beat.
 

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I have only got two Aster locomotives, both pretty old, although one has only been run three times in its 25-year history so far.  The BR78 has been the subject of a thorough rebuild in the fuel and throttle area, to make it less twitchy - a fault that I believe is common on this strong hauler, and my BR01 had the revised four-wick burner installed by the original owner many years ago.  Again, it has a simple Smithies-type boiler, is a very strong steamer and has a tirleess and dependable performance - I simply don't have enough to put behind it to give it a real test.

Both are alcohol-fuelled, and the only sound that comes from them is the sound of a real steam locomotive working.

I have four other live-steamers, all gas-fired, and therefore producers of unrealistic amounts of noise until you get used to them.  They range from a Garratt down to a two-cylinder Shay, and I love them all.

As for the Aster Mike, it is my belief that few models are better - a movie of one hauling around 40 or so freight cars here in UK is commonly used to show its prodigious hauling powers - all self-started, too.  

Steam?  There's nothing like it - gas or alcohol.

Best

tac the Griper
www.ovgrs.org
 

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I love alcohol! (And I'm teetotal when it comes to imbibing personally!) I've never really got to grips with Butane - my Roundhouse Darjeeling scurries round the track with the roar of a jet airplane and the butane control is so sensitive that either the flame goes out or the safety is always blowing. My butane powered GS4 has twin burners and I singe my eyebrows every time I light up. And the less said about my Catatonl Shay, the better.

Only snag with Alcohol here in the USA is finding stuff that doesn't produce noxious fumes....

Robert
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I like the way alcohol sounds, or should I doesnt sound. Hearing the chuff more clearly is a huge advantage and I do not mind a more involved job of raising steam. I have heard a lot of praise regarding the Aster Mikado, but I like the looks of the GS4 a little better. Is the quality better on either engine? Are there any major downfalls to either engine?

Thanks,
David
 

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The Aster Mikado as supplied is rather plain.  If you build one, (or Aster could build one for you) get the detail kit and axle pump and add them as you build.  With the detail kit installed, the Aster Mike has all the pipes and added detail of the real ones. This being said, there are many out there without this added detail and they run just as well, and to their owners look great too. As far as the GS4, if you are talking about the Accucraft alcohol version..................they have had their share of problems. Charles or his son Ryan could clue you in on how to fix them.
 

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Dear Mr basketballer - there have been many and good threads here about the rebuild of the Accucraft GS4 carried out by the Bednarik twins [tee hee].:) Work required to make it perform to an approximation of the high standards of the Aster version is both complex and time-consuming, but the younger of the Bednarik twins is a dab paw at it by now.;)

A friend of mine has the gas-fired version, and has found that the axle-pump cannot keep up with the boiler, and that the hand-pump is not man enough to pump into a pressurised one.

If you ever find an Aster GS4, sell your family into slavery or rent out a kidney - the $10k will be worth every cent. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/w00t.gif

tac the Griper
www.ovgrs.org
 

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The options Aster Mike and Accucraft GS4 as to making a decision on purchase of an alcoholcould easily come down to dollars and "sense." Most of the Aster Mikes run well out of the box. The Accucraft will need several key upgrades on its functional components: combination levers, suspension, timing, water delivery setup, rods,wicks/nozzle, etc that will make the competitive/comparible price of the GS4(alcohol) to Mike will require one to shell out a few dollars more to make it function efficiently and effectively.
Bottomline: Aster Mike hassle free RTR but building kit and add details a bit of work and cost for detail kit. By the way: fuel cost- alcohol a lot cheaper if you can get good quality from a resource such as a race track, go-cart place, etc vs. Home Depot/Lowes, etc and the SLX brand.
Accucraft GS4 requires time and money to retrofit above the base line cost.

Regards alcohol/butane- only Accucraft GS4 gives you the choice. Most here have given the pros/cons to both fueling systems. I would only add that the base line GS4 gas is a better performer with less problems than the based line alcohol GS4 but still could benefit greatly from retrofits (particularly rods and combination levers).
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Tac,

I would love to be able to spend 10k on an engine, but I am just a high school student and will probably have to sell almost all of my collection just to raise 5k or so.

-David
 

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In my opinion none of the fuels are better they are just different.

I started off with a Roundhouse gas fired engine and now have: A) Three coal fired engines B) Three gas fired engines and C) Two alcohol fired engines.

More than the type of fuel I believe you should consider wether the engine has a water sight glass and a method of adding water to the boiler when the engine is under steam. (Okay, so not all of mine do. But I would like for them to have these features.)
 

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Seems that the original thread in this post indicate two particular engines. Both have water glass and secondary water input devices (hand pump, Aster Mike base unit require axle pump kit installation). So, it the focus again would be placed on the type of fuel relative to model of interest.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
OK. One last question: I have a minumim radius of 6 ft and mostly 7.5 ft radius. Will the GS4 with blind drivers run on this track? Has anyone seen an engine of this type on this radius track?
Thanks,
David
 

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the GS-4 with flanged drivers can do 10ft but its tight and slows it way down. So blind driver should go around 7.5ft but it will be very tight.
 

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A question slightly off topic for all of you familiar with alcohol, I just got my first aster and of course it is alcohol fired. Denatured alcohol is what I see many people using but is that the fuel you can not see when it burns? I would like to know only because this is the first alcohol loco I have and I know that a fire outside the loco is sure to happen, so it would be better if I could see it before it melts things. At least until I am more comfortable.
Thank You, and my loco thanks you
 

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Yes, you want denatured alcohol (actually, if you could afford the taxes, pure ethonol would be best, but if you want it affordable, you get it "denatured" so it ain't drinkable!). If you use pure methanol, the smell is overpowering.

Yes, it is basically colorless when it burns. It does show up well when you use a mirror to look up into the firebox as a good yellow, orange and sometimes blue flame, but in the sun light it is quite invisible until what it is setting fire to starts to burn, then whatever that material gives of is what you get. Of course, by then it is probably too late.

I have heard of folk trying to add various things to the alcohol to give it a visible flame, but I know of nothing that works well enough to use. There is also the fear that the gases given off by the additive might be worse that what alcohol gives off. There is also the residue of whatever it is collecting on the wicks and such.

People do put food coloring in the alcohol but that does not provide flame color. Our Brit friends use blue food coloring, but here in the states it is usually red. This provides two benefits... one is that you can see it better in the feed lines from the tender to the firebox and that helps you tell when you are out of fuel. The other is that you can tell the difference between the alcohol and water and are less likely to use the wrong one in the wrong place... alcohol in the boiler is probably a very bad idea!

As long as you keep the loco/tender on level ground when preping the engine and starting the fire, you should have no overflow from the cups in the firebox, and thus no problems. But sometimes there can be a spill. The best you can do then is to fuel the loco in one place and then move it a few feet before lighting the fire.

Many people talk about burnt ties and such, but I know of no one that has had a major conflagration due to a spill. I have burnt the wires from the R/C receiver to the servo I mounted below the smokebox when the draft was too low and the fire started hunting for oxygen outside the firebox./DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/crying.gif Apparently alcohol fumes are heavier than air and if the draft is poor it will flow down, burn there and then raise due to the heat generated and envelop the cab. The burning plastic insulation on the wires was quite visible in the amount of black smoke they gave off!/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/sick.gif

Keep a good fire extinguisher very close by when runing. I have also heard that a small bucket of water with a large beach towel soaked in it is a good idea. Water is okay to use to put out an alcohol fire, unlike gasoline and other petro chemicals. Alcohol absorbs water quite readily and that cools the alcohol to below the combustion point.

Naturally, take care when playing with fire... there are also dangers when using butane (as many people will attest to!:w00t:). Some precautions before hand are necessary and all is fairly safe.

I have had a couple of MAJOR accidents with my Mikes and the alcohol spill from them was just a very quick flash of vapor and done. If you watch my YouTube video of "The Wreck of the CMBY RY #505" you can barely see the vapor cloud as the video fades to black at the end. See:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKxroW2VopU
 

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A good thing to do is to always push your loco down the track a little before you lite up. This is incase any alcohol has overflowed from anywhere and has puddled under the loco or tender. I learned this lesson the hard way. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/blush.gif
 
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