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In another topic there is a comment that Aster Engines are known to be "finicky."


I have not know this to be the case.  I have seen people that seem to put more enery into operation of Aster engines than I do.  I personally believe they are good reliable engines that are easy to run.  I have three and all run "just like a Roundhouse."   My first five live steam engines were Roundhouse engines.

I now have three Aster engines.  Two are coal fired which were converted by John Shawe and one is the alcohol fired P8.

All are great running engines.  :D

All I do is follow the operating instructions provided and steam away.  
:D

I started this thread to see if those that had finicky engines might comment on their problems and how they may have solved the problems.


DAYoung
 

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RE: Are ASTER Engines "finicky".

Dave;

In short and sweet, NO!

Sure, every engine has it's quirks, but that's the nature of the hobby. Aster are reliable, rock solid engines, which of course is proven by the 30 sum-odd years they have been in the hobby...not that I am biased in any way, shape or form..
 

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All depends how one defines, "finicky"
As denoted regards an exacting standard, well then yes to the nearest degree of a fully functional mass produced engine(s) on the market.
As to fussy, see Ryan's comments.
As to scale, YES- Aster offers in the recent years 1:32 standard gauge that I believe has forced all others manufacturers to aspire to become.
As to squeamish....that's a matter of opening one's wallet.
 

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For me the answer is not really a yes or no. 

Allow me to explain:  I dabbled briefly in the world of Aster snobbery.  I owned a W. M. Shay for a couple years.  It always ran great.  The gearing was a bit tall for my liking, especially since I didn't have a rake of fifty 1/32 scale cars for it to pull.  So I would describe getting the right throttle setting to be a "finicky" process.  I also didn't run it often enough to get the hang of managing the axle pump bypass.  I always was either getting low on water or adding too much water.  So for me that was also a bit finicky.  Apart from that she was a smooth runner.  I probably never gave it the effort that a true aster enthusiast would. 

For my infrequent running schedule-- and due to the fact that I often run at public events, the "set it and forget it" nature of my Accucraft Shay was more suited to me.  I also feel that (for me) the more sophisticated features such as blowers, axle pumps, bypasses, etc. are better limited to live steamers that I can RIDE.

In the end I sold it, partially because I decided it was better to stick to 1:20.3 scale (and larger), and partially because I didn't have the attention span for it.  I happen to know that it went to a good home and it does get run.  This shows that the very things that I disliked about my Aster are the same things that make some people love em'.   The moral of the story is that I was able to find out through first hand experience that I am not an Aster snob.

Regards,

Eric
 

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Eric
Not putting words in your mouth but my surmise of your brief:
I also feel that (for me) the more sophisticated features such as blowers, axle pumps, bypasses, etc. are better limited to live steamers that I spend time with.

Thereby indicating that Aster like "ride ons" need a bit more operational attention thus nearer to the reality of running a real live steam 1:1 and less like a sparky type steam experience.
I enjoy my sparky type gas fired engines, my more advance alcohol fired engines and the ultimate of coal fired.  Like some in the other half of the hobby would say: Do not like live steam too finicky.
 

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I haven't seen nor run all that many different brands of engines, but I think "I" am much more finicky /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/crazy.gif and unreliable /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/hehe.gif in operation than my Aster Mikes.  I ran one Roundhouse (a Sammy, I seem to remember), 1 time, and I'd have to say the gas valve was "touchy" (Oh! Horrors!, gasp! /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/tongue.gif), and it was about the same level of "touchy" as the gas valve on the Ruby I have run and the 3-cyl Shay I have seen run several times.  And the more I have seen those run, the less "touchy" the gas valves seem to be.

The only thing "finicky" about my Asters is that I need to make sure the loco is "level" when firing up. I used to belong to a ride-on-scale club and I took my new Mike there to show it off.  The only place I could put the treadmill I had made for it was on a door laying over some sawhorses out in a grassy area and it was not at all level. Just could not get it to steam, did some "field dissassembly" (much to the horror of the onlookers... "You got guts taking that 'watch' apart in the field!"). But it was watching the screwdriver roll to the end of the "table" that made me think of leveling the treadmill!  Then it ran great! ... Tee hee, everybody thought I was great at "field repairs"!!!!!:rolleyes:

"Finicky"? No way!
 

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Posted By Dave -- Use Coal on 02/28/2008 10:42 AM


I started this thread to see if those that had finicky engines might comment on their problems and how they may have solved the problems.


DAYoung

 Seems the question was some what missed, and there was a rush to defend Aster.

  Has anyone had a "finicky" problem with an Aster and can share a solution????

 I agree Asters are probably the best live steam gauge one engines made. But, for example, I can think of atleast 5 Berk owners with very rough  first (and more) runs with the Berks. They were all solved, but for some reason some problems and solutions were never posted here...../DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/ermm.gif

  They can be anything from the wick setting (if you call it that), to axel pumps, insulation, etc. This is NOT to put Asters down, but I think here is valuable info out there that does not get shared for some reason.
 

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RE: Are ASTER Engines "finicky".

My experience is that Asters are rather race horses. They are fast runners and like a load to keep them in check. This is a good thing. The workings are generally scale and do not particularly like grades, unlike Roundhouse with over sized cylinders. The first aster I had had a bad gas filler value that I did not know about for several years. The WM shay has problems reading te water glass. After 1000s hours the Hudson needed some maintenance on the water pump.

In short if I want a no care run, the Accucraft mogul is set and go. If I want the full experience, drag out all the cars and watch the aster go, whlie making sure
that all is well. If that is finicky, then I suppose it is.
jim o
 

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Posted By David Rose on 02/28/2008 1:07 PM
Posted By Dave -- Use Coal on 02/28/2008 10:42 AM


I started this thread to see if those that had finicky engines might comment on their problems and how they may have solved the problems.


DAYoung

 Seems the question was some what missed, and there was a rush to defend Aster.

  Has anyone had a "finicky" problem with an Aster and can share a solution????

 I agree Asters are probably the best live steam gauge one engines made. But, for example, I can think of atleast 5 Berk owners with very rough  first (and more) runs with the Berks. They were all solved, but for some reason some problems and solutions were never posted here...../DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/ermm.gif

  They can be anything from the wick setting (if you call it that), to axel pumps, insulation, etc. This is NOT to put Asters down, but I think here is valuable info out there that does not get shared for some reason.


I can't think of anything "finicky" that is peculiar to an Aster locomotive.  Maybe peculiar to an alcohol fired engine (the levelness requirement), but that is not specifically an Aster attribute.

ALL of the little problems I have seen, seem to be associated with ANY brand of loco... most all being learning curve problems with the operator. Many problems (ANY brand, not just Aster) can be "cured" (maybe) by minor/major re-engineering of some part or other, but can also be cured simply by the user being a bit more attentive to procedures.

Example:  Many gas fired locos have very touchy gas valves.  Sometimes just touching... NOT actually intentionally moving... the valve stem can affect the fuel setting.  This is caused by loose fitting threads and maybe a bit of dirt in the valve seat.  It can be cured by redesigning the valve some way or other... either replaceing the stem and body with finer and closer fitting threads, or a spring behind the stem to hold it tighter against one end of the slop.  But it can also be cured by the user understanding the looseness and thus being careful when touching the knob that they don't wiggle it, especially when letting go.

Sometimes the finickyness is really attributable to the weather!  Some days it is easy to fire up and other days I can't seem to keep the fire in the firebox... yeah, how much wind was there and from which direction? That is not an Aster finickyness.

I spent close to two years playing with different types of wick material... stainless steel mesh, fire brick, fiberglass ribbon, etc. not because "I" was having problems, but because EVERYBODY else was recommending something different because "it's better". I gave up and went back to the original yarn stuff that Aster provided and have been running that way ever since (5 years?) with no problems.  I never blow them out, I just shut off the fuel (or rather I run out of fuel after an hour or so) and they don't seem to be affected by any glazing or anything. I have never had to do any "fine tuning" or twiddling with the wicks... I cut them to length and packed the number in each cup that the instructions said to do.  They work fine... could they be better?... dunno, they work okay so I don't know what could be "better".

Ooo ooo oo! Wait!!!! Hold the presses!!!!

I remember something I had to do to my first engine... I could not get the alcohol to shut all the way off, it would slowly drip alcohol no matter how hard I tightened the valve. I called the Aster Dealer and he said to turn the shoulder on the stem back a little bit using a lathe.  I did so and that cured the problem.  I did it to my second Mike before I started assembly, just because, not due to any known problem with it... it may not have needed it, but I knew it wouldn't hurt. But then, is that an Aster "finicky" problem?  I don't think so.
 

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David
Regards the Berkshire, check the archive files related to "problems:"
You know John I think you hit the nail on the head:). I did have the safetys blowing alot. Maybe the level really is low! After I got done steaming I blew down the boiler into a measuring spray bottle and only had about 1/2 what I put in, but a lot got lost as steam out the top of the bottle. My original pump was bad,leaked so much no water would get to the boiler. Hans sent me a new piston and all seems well. He also sent the upgrade banjo, but implied it was not always necessary, so I did not put it in yet(i guess now is the time!)
Anyway thanks for pointing out the obvious. I will trim my wicks. SA#221
Ct. Valley Lumber and Mining Co. Mine does the same thing.
 Mike - then lower the fire. There are two easy ways to do that. The first is to put a small tube over the chicken feed vent at the bottom of the tank. Cut it off exactly in the shape the metal tube has. Lower the tube 1/8 inch or so, so that less alcohol gets into the chicken feed tank. That will lower the fire. If you have a kit, there is extra tubing from making the tender/engine feed tube. That tube is perfect. I ended up lowering the tube maybe 1/4 in or so.

The second method is to pack more wicks into the burners. That slows down the alcohol from reaching the fire, also lowering the heat output.

I ended up doing both.

John

There is a 5 page MLS posting on the Berkshire, in which axle pump, wicks, sight glass, solutions are discussed.  Hans posted an update to Aster owners about axle pump along with numerous updates might have resolved the necessary situaitons, thus not discussed here.. 
 

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Posted By David Rose on 02/28/2008 1:07 PM
 
Seems the question was some what missed, and there was a rush to defend Aster.

But, for example, I can think of atleast 5 Berk owners with very rough  first (and more) runs with the Berks. They were all solved, but for some reason some problems and solutions were never posted here...../DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/ermm.gif

  They can be anything from the wick setting (if you call it that), to axel pumps, insulation, etc. This is NOT to put Asters down, but I think here is valuable info out there that does not get shared for some reason.



Dave,
So far I haven't seen anyone blatantly defend aster, rather note that it is more operator/builder induced error than everything else.  Nothing is fool proof

Some fixes are not worth mentioning, because they can be entirley specific to that one engine.  Most of the errors I have found with the Berk were a) operator error and b) construction error, mostly in the wick department. 

All meths fired engines require a certain finesse that the set it and forget it steamers seem to overlook.  Also, you are forgetting that the Berk was a new engine for most people, and these machines take time to "bed in" with regards to the close tolerances on the valvegear and gland seals.  Wicks also take time to season as the characteristics of fired and un-fired ceramic yarn and brick are different.  Usually after 2-3 runs the engine settles in for the long haul...think of it as a break in period for a car, keep it under a certain rpm and no hard pushing.  Not like the  A______t engines which are built to very poor tolerances by comparison, but this is not a topic of which is better. 

Axle pumps are load and speed dependent, and the bypass valves are usually on an on-off basis due to the geometry of the needle taper.  Insulation is a new one,  so long as you follow the basic rules of sealing up the smokebox (no big open holes, etc) small air leaks (1.5mm or less are more than acceptable.  A extremely well sealed smokebox will require no blower when running, no matter what speed.  the exhaust is just enough to keep a small sq cm of air passing through the firebox.  If the engine needs a tremondus amount of blower at slow speed, there is either a draughting problem or the wicks need to be shortened and loosened.  Loose creates a cooler fire, similar to a car running rich, keeps the safety margin optimal.  Shorter is just like a pariffin (kerosene) lamp, you expirment, shortening little by little until the optimum is reached.  Again, what works for one season and set of parmeters (load, weather, etc) may not ork for another.  There is no universal fix for every engine, as each one has differences.

Lastly, I am fairly sure the number of owners you state having problems with their berks were either sheepish, or didn't think that the fixes needed to be placed on here.  Fixes travel more by word of mouth than by word of...finger, so to speak. 

If you'd like, I'll send you my 10 page book of notes that encompass all the little fixes I found to the numerous engines that have "passed forth on yonder work bench-ith".  Most people would stop after they read "tear the engine down to the bare frame and rebuild" I might note, that is on engines with and without manuals! 

P.S.

I'm sure that this isn't the only company with a few quirks on engines...no names mentioned, but they do have a delivery issue at times, and the QC leaves a bit to be desired.  That is all.
 

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RE: Are ASTER Engines "finicky".

There's no such thing as a bad Aster ( well except for the pot boilered 0-6-0 of 1980!), just bad Aster runners. Like all live steamers with pedigree you have to pay attention and little engines are harder (finickier) to run than larger ones. The secret of an Aster is to give it a prototypical length train to make it work for its living, if you do that it will reward you in bucketfulls.

David M-K
Ottawa
 

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RE: Are ASTER Engines "finicky".

Odd.
I am guessing none of you has had a C&S Mogul.
Nor had to rebuild the fuel system.
I got mine because the previous owner had burned his fingers for the last time.
Some were fine, some were not.
Counting on the "vapourization chamber" to produce gas from liquid was a bit odd, I guess.
I do believe the most "fireball" awards went to Mogul owners.

I speak from experience, and while looking at my Mogul.
 

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In the finicky league tables I put my Catatonk Shay way ahead of the pack. Curses, blasphemy and burned fingers are necessary pre-requisites for coaxing it into life!

I pride myself of having no 'shelf queens' amongst my fairly large collection of Asters. My top four tips for avoiding problems are:

1. Proper packing of the the burner wicks - it is really an art to get this right and the best starting point is to follow the build instructions to the letter. I admire people who build burners from stainless steel mesh, ceramic tiles or dried seaweed, but I've always found the wicks that Aster supply are just fine.

2. Smoke box and fire box are well sealed to ensure a good draft. Sealing the firebox helps reduce the "hunting" that can happen when the draft fails and there is still some alcohol in the system.

3. Good quality 'meths' or de-natured alcohol free of water. An increasing problem to find this in the US....

4. Bits of silicone or other junk in the axle pump preventing the balls from sealing. 

In general, I find the Asters no more difficult than anything else that I have. Yes they have their moments, but they are real, live working steam engines!
 
 

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One of the jokes around my track is how a lot of folks claim that you cant make Asters run slow.  The Asters that run often at my house are: Mikados, Berk, P8, Daylight, BB, Frank S, BR 03, Flying Scotsman and a couple of Reno's.  All owned by different people running on all three fuels: Butane, Alcohol, and Coal. All except the Reno's can run as slow as you want them to around the track with or without a load. For some reason, the Renos seem to be jack rabbits /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/shocked.gif.  If you want the absolute best control over your engine install a Dx 6 radio.  Most Asters have "touchy" throttles and because of the fine adjustments that can be made with these radios it will open up a whole new experience with running these engines. You can literally make them crawl. :)
 

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I feel slightly guilty for setting off this discussion. I have ample critisism on Aster kits, but that is a slightly different matter.

It somehowseems to have eluded the readers, that my other Aster P8 thread actually is a very positive account on the performance  characteristics of my completed Aster P8 kit.

With ample heat and steam generation, and a VERY smoth running machinery, setting off along the track at low pressure - without even the normal initial manual nudge - thus stunning the surprised driver (me)! :D In my view, smoth machinery and enough power, facilitate extremely slow driving. My engine obviously has that. And I'm counting on changing the notion among Stockholm Livesteamers, that Asters are somewhat "finicky" to drive.

However, after building the Aster kit, I'm even more convinced, I would never quite trust a factory to build a smooth running engine. In general, I would expect a hobbyist taking his (unpayed) time to build, should make an exellent job of filing and fitting parts to assemble an engine. I would not be surprised if some factory assembled Asters aren't smoth running enough, to be able to crawl along the track - without load!

With Aster kits, this fitting of parts, seems extremely important (much, much more so than for a Regner kit). And this is my critisism; There seems to be no thought through philosophy of tollerances in design and manufacturing of Aster parts / engines. It is so blatandly ill thought through or tried out, that it takes a lot of knowledge and time to be able to assemble a kit correctly. It is true that one does not need a lathe or such to complete an Aster kit, wich makes for a very nice sort of kit. BUT - assembly requires one to be a seasoned mechanic, with experience and knowlidge. Or you might actually end up with an engine that almost wont run at all. A collegue of mine (a dentist by profession), has built 4 kits. The first 2 really don't run at all - because he trusted the parts coming from Aster to be correct, too much. (he also claims to have received a factory built engine for service, where inlet/ outlet of waterpipes for the axle pump, had been reversly mounted. He states "I'm not impressed by Aster factory assembly standards")

I am really stunned by the lack of thought through philosophy of tollerances in design and manufacturing of Aster parts and general layout, based on my experience with the P8 / BR38 kit. It really cannot be described, even mildly, as anything but poor engineering, but at times it amounts to downright faulty engineering. I myself, would not have accepted many aspects of the design. It's not about large changes, it's merely implementation.

Not that it's that important, but should it not be possible to cut down the number of types of screws etc employed in each design?!? Using M1,7 for fastening headlights is downright silly. 1) M1,7 is generally to be avoided, as a rare exceptional thread 2) there are no mechanical reasons for this extremely odd choice. (Considering that livesteam engines actually have a life expectancy of maybee 100 years(!), beeing passed on to future generations, this seems like a nice consideration; Don't make future spare parts an unnessessary difficult matter.

The lack of thought through philosophy of tollerances is even more surprising, since Aster themselves are going to assemble a lot of RTR engines. As for possible explanations, the P8 model is actually a few years old, I can't help wondering if Aster had not yet adopted 3D CAD drawing, but that doesn't explain everything. Lack of philosophy, and possibly not making 2 prototypes / zero series, are other likely causes. I know this very well, since I personally designed (and patented :), manufactured and assembled a mechanical vending machine in a small series of 300 machines last year. The design and manufacturing process would be basically identical.

Having said this, adapting and fitting Aster parts, you will get a wonderful engine, with it's specific Aster flair! Aster really tries to mimick the workings of the prototype to a degree, the other larger manufacturers don't, in my view.
 

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Hello Pauli, I am amazed at the fact that so many parts in your kit were out of toleance.  All the Aster engines that I refer to in my above post were Factory built except for a couple of the Mikados and the Flying Scotsman that were built from kits to be converted to coal.   Even a self proclaimed "Aster Snob" like myself will admit that a "lemon" might get out somtimes.........................but what you say about Aster quality of tolerances, and how poorly RTR's are built just does not make sense.  If you search the old archives for "Steamin" at Steve's"  you will find movie after movie of factory built Asters crawling around my track.  We run them slow all the time to prove that it is no big deal or talent to run them this way.  Sorry that you got one of the ocasional lemons that get out and had to rework it as you built it.  I have been around many Asters engines and have talked to even more people that have built Aster kits and you are the first that I have ever heard such things from.  Hope you get things worked out. :)
 

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Pauli
"There seems to be no thought through philosophy of tollerances in design and manufacturing of Aster parts / engines. It is so blatandly ill thought through or tried out, that it takes a lot of knowledge and time to be able to assemble a kit correctly. It is true that one does not need a lathe or such to complete an Aster kit, wich makes for a very nice sort of kit. BUT - assembly requires one to be a seasoned mechanic, with experience and knowlidge. Or you might actually end up with an engine that almost wont run at all."

I have to disagree with your experience and that of your dentist friend as representing Aster products and kit specifically.  Our first Aster Kit was a Berkshire built by a 17 year old in less than 40 hours. It ran smoothly during kit process and has been running successfully ever since.

We have numerous Asters through purchase and most are kits that were built by others all have been excellent performers: WM Shay, GS4, Mikado, K4 etc.  

We also can compare apples to apples relative to tolerances and QC based on two productions of GS4.  Your statement "Aster really tries to mimick the workings of the prototype to a degree, the other larger manufacturers don't, in my view." relates to this comparison.  But I would not describe Aster effortsof the works as a product of mimicking but restricted to scale limitations relative to the real thing.
 

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RE: Are ASTER Engines "finicky".

@ Steve; It may well be that the P8 / BR38 design incorporates more designflaws in clearance, tollerances and such, than other Aster models. Aparently, no model since the P8 has had such ill manufactured valve gear. It is not possible to make the valve gear operate correctly on most P8's.

@ Charles I'm not sure we understand each other, the close mimicking is supposed to be a compliment on Aster.

I am truly surprised a 17 year old could (had the luck?) assemble an Aster kit successfully. How complicated an engine was it? Personally, I've wanted an Aster since I was 13 years old, seeing the first Aster Schools class. But, having just completed the P8 successfully at age 45, I think it was a very good thing I never came around buying an Aster kit earlier.
 

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Pauli
If you have the time to read the thread in the section "Informative Thread" sticky:
http://www.santacruzlumberco.com/MLS_PDFs/AsterBerkshireKitBuildingLog01.pdf
Part A - 1.71mb
Part B - 1.47mb
http://www.santacruzlumberco.com/MLS_PDFs/AsterBerkshireKitBuildingLog02.pdf

Without doubt we would purchase another Aster Kit, as many have which in itself speaks for the excellence of Aster's offering given that kits add to the total cost of production runs but the demand is there otherwise Aster would not make them.

I hope you will come across other opportunity and that the P8 experience will not prohibit, based on that outcome, you from another Aster kit.  That is not to say there are no flaws on the other hand no one does it better in a mass production offering.

As per the characterization of Asters as mimicking; that goes to GS4 comparison.  The Accucraft valve gear mimics the real thing (non functional) where as Aster's valve gear actual allows for notching back. 
 
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