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Make sure all the holes that should be threaded, are threaded. I have assembled two kits and one of them had two parts with unthreaded holes. Of course, the ones that were unthreaded were the ones that are the hardest to get to with the screws and I spent a lot of time assuming I did not have them aligned correctly.

There is one other tricky part to get together and I spent a lot of time getting quite upset to my stomach before I realized how EASY it is to assemble them...

The Walshaerts valve gear has a curved link with a forked Radius rod that fits into it and a small square Link Block between the forks and contained inside the Curved Link. You have to place the fork inside the link and then slide the Block down one fork tine halfway into the link and then push it sideways so it will fall between the tines. I had a terrible time because every time I tried to slide it sideways, it fell over and then would not fall between the tines. ARRRRRRGH! TWENTY MINUTES of: put in the fork, lay the block on it, tip the fork so the block slides into the link, it falls over, remove the fork, shake the block out, drop it on the floor, hunt for it, do it all again.

Then I discovered that the small screwdriver that comes with the kit could be inserted into the link from the side and into the hole in the block to keep it vertical. Then it could be slid sideways and down between the tines.

The first one took me 20 minutes and 3 seconds, the second one took 3 seconds. The second engine also too just 3 seconds per side.

Don't be afraid to file off burrs around punched out parts... especially the Link Block (it should be smooth on all the edges, but don't file it smaller, just break the edges a bit!) Also the paint seemed to have subtracted a wee bit of width from the frame axle box horns. A light, fine file will do. I used the file on my Swiss Army Knife for all of it... it is not too agressive.

Mark Horovitz wrote a review of the Mike for Garden Railways Magazine back when the kit came out. I would heartly recommend reading it. I think it used to be available on his web site, but I could not find it just now.

He said he felt that the kit was not for beginners and that had me quite nervous as I had purchased my first one before I read the review and I was a klutz assembling plastic models as a kid. I think he also said that Aster expected the assembly to take between 20 to 40 hours and he felt that was a bit short. He also listed some errors in the assembly instructions... if Royce does not provide them to you, say so and I will get them to you somehow.

I decided to spend no more than 1 hour per evening and maybe 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons just to make sure I didn't "burn out" on it. I assumed it would take me a couple of months to get it done.

I started on a Tuesday night. I read the whole instruction manual and studied the assembly drawings (and made markups per Horovitz's article). I then got a bunch of plastic cups (ice cream cups... low and wide so they won't tip over easily) to hold some of the really small parts and the bags of screws. I kept the bags of screws and such in alphabetical/numerical order on my table so I could find them easily. The parts for each step of the instructions all come in one box per step. That was the first night's "work"... that and being mesmerized by the beauty of the tiny parts!!! It should not have taken me 3 hours to do this step, but I spent way too much time admiring the parts... and it is a good indicator of how well I kept to my plan of just 1 hour per night.

By Friday night I had the chassis running on air, but discovered I had missunderstood the instuctions in setting the valve gear and when I put it in forward, expecting to catch it with my right hand, it went backwards and almost into the glass front of my china cabinet!

By Sunday afternoon, I had it boiling water and running on steam. It took me less that 20 hours to do the assembly. (This was without the axle pump, but with the tender pump.)

The second engine... well it took me slighty OVER 20 hours to assemble it.

Two reasons...

ONE, there were two parts that were not threaded and one was the smokebox base where you have to slip the screws deep into the frame almost blindly to attach them together. I spent a long gut wrenching time on that one before I pulled the smokebox off (a tricky step due to some of the parts in the smokebox you have to thread through the hole in the bottom) to see why I could not get the screws started... NO THREADS... easy fix, but took a trip to the hobby shop to get the right metric tap.

TWO... Male EGO! I had already assembled one of these things! It was EASY! RIGHT!??!?!? I kept skipping steps in the instructions, putting things together that needed other things attached first. Had to do a LOT of dissassembly to correct things. I also still got the valve gear reversed, but I was smart this time and put a couple of big books on the ends of the table to catch it!

If you have problems, feel free to ask here... also do a search of the archives for notes by those that have assembled it. Also check the Southern Steam Trains website for more notes.

\http://www.southernsteamtrains.com/reference.htm
 

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If I remember these details correctly.../DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/blink.gif

They recommend the absolute weakest type of locktite... I think that is "222", but I could not find it locally and wasn't about to wait to order it by mail... so I bought the only type the hardware store had on the shelf which is "242". According to a chart I found, that is the next to weakest type.

I used it VERY sparingly. I would put a small drop on a toothpick and touch that to the screw threads and then use a paper towel to absorb most of it back off... leaving just the tinyest amount in the threads of the screw. I have had no trouble removing screws when I have had to and I have only had one part come loose in operation... the Bypass valve has a ring with a long screw to hold it to the shaft of the valve, the long screw helps the fingers grip the ring to turn it to open or close the valve. This is the only part that came loose and I actually found it laying on the ballast when I discovered it missing during a run. :cool:


Another bit of advice... the kit comes with a tube of "bathtub caulk" (the box is printed in Japanese, but the 'drawings of use' on the box will show you that it really is bathtub caulk). The instructions will tell you to use the caulk on all of the steam fittings and on the gasket material around the steam chest. It was recommended to me to use steam oil on the gaskets instead, as it makes opening the steam chest easier if you want or need to make adjustments inside it. I have had to remove the steam chest lids a couple of times and the steam oil releases easily and I have not had to make new gaskets, but if I had used the caulking compound I am sure I would have needed new gaskets to reassemble things. It won't hurt to use plenty of steam oil there as it is needed inside the chest anyway, but if you get that caulking compound in the wrong place it will be a big problem. Do use the caulking compound on the pipe fittings and such, but be sure to keep it away from the insides of the pipes... it will clog things up badly and may be impossible to get out of the wrong places.
 

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I put the auxilary blower fan (either the commercial Aster type fan, or a computer CPU fan in a funnel, or an air-compressor through a venturi) in the stack to draw a draft on the fire, open the fuel valve and wait about 30 seconds (if I can wait that long!) and then use a butane bar-b-q lighter held along side the bottom of the firebox. The alcohol lights quite easily. A small handheld inspection mirror-on-a-stick (dental mirror) can be used to look up into the firbox to see if it is lit and how well it is burning. I keep the auxilary blower running until I hear the built in blower hissing and then remove the auxilary one.
 

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You may have the top and bottom nuts exchanged. One of them has a groove across the end that fits inside the body of the pump. I think that one goes on the top, if I remember correctly, (which is not likely after a day wandering around the Midwest Old Settler's and Thresher's Reunion with my son and two grandsons). But I know that if you get those two nuts exchanged the pump will want to work backwards and the hand pump will be working against the inlet and outlet valves of the reversed nuts.
 

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Well, ya shamed me into digging out the instructions to be sure I had not misled you.

If you look at the diagram (assuming you have the same one I do) the Banjo Bolt 6B-12 is the one with the slot and it goes on the top and 6B-8 goes in the bottom. The top is denoted by being the longer end of the pump body. You have to really look at the drawing, but it does kind of show the slot in part 6B-12 and definitely does NOT show a slot in 6B-8. So I feel better now. I bet that was the problem, you were just supplying so much pressure from the hand pump in the tender that it blew out the (bathtub caulk) seal (the pumps are quite powerful!) It really should be relatively easy to work the tender hand pump... at least until you get 30 or 40 pounds of steam pressure in the boiler.


Another note (though maybe a bit late in your construction... sorry):

The tender pump diagrams show the output and return pipes as being parallel to each other, but some folk say you have to cross them to get the correct pipe to the correct side of the engine, and commented on how difficult it was to cross the rigid pipes under the tender.

Well, yes you do need to cross the connections, but I found it much better to cross the hoses at the tender-to-engine draw-bar, one below the draw-bar and one above, rather than cross the rigid copper pipes under the tender. I found that this eliminates the tendency of the hoses from the tender to the engine to kink and it makes the engine/tender connection much more flexible in curves.

Once you get the axle pump corrected, open the bypass valve and work the tender hand-pump. You should see, by looking down the tender water-fill-hatch, water squirt from the return pipe (that you should have positioned to be visible near the hatch). I always do this every time I start up for the day... this way I know the pipes are not clogged (or the hoses kinked) and all connections from the tender to the engine are correct. Then I close the bypass and work the tender hand-pump to put water in the boiler. It takes several pumps to tell that it is working by seeing a rise in the water level in the sight-glass on the boiler back-head. This also primes the axle pump.


Many folk like to find a theoretical "sweet spot" to have the bypass valve set to. One where the water being pumped in equals the steam being used. I have NEVER found that point, because the amount of steam being used varies a bit regardless of how fast the engine is going. I have R/C control of both the throttle and the valve gear and once up to running speed I back off the valve gear to the "company notch" and use lots less steam that way. But that means that how much steam I am using depends on how often I stop and startup and how well I am controlling the valve gear.

So, I gave up on finding the "Sweet spot" and just monitor the sight glass (a good idea anyway... well, not just a good idea, but a MANDATORY one no matter how you handle water usage and replenishment!) and when the water is low, I close the Bypass valve and when the water is high I open it. All part of the experience of running a real live steam locomotive!
 

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What kind/brand of steam oil do you use? What is your water source... distilled, rain, dehumidifier, etc.??? The only paint that has come off either of my Mikes is because I have inadvertantly scraped it with something.
 

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I have not seen anyone jump on Brian. The problem, as reported, is a bafflement to some of us. As is Hans response. I just want to know about the problem and how it came about. If I can help, I will do so. Not because Aster is wonderful or lousy, but because the reported problems are confusing compared to what I have experienced. I feel like I don't know all the facts and I have requested clarification.
 

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Posted By Brian Tusin on 09/08/2008 12:27 PM
First off thanks Rod for stating what I said. Oil has not stained that stack the paint is peeling off. Ryan, what is your problem, you think I am lieing? Hans was pretty rude to me, he said that happens to every Aster because of the heat and I know that is a lie. The fact is he does not want to support his product so he can have it back! I will go to a company who will go out of there way to make you happy Accucraft. I will never buy an Aster again. I should not have to fix there paint problem they should but dont want to fix it. I think you would be stupid to fix it yourself when it is Asters quality problem.
Brian




I would still like answers to my questions! If your engine lost paint off the stack, then there is a reason. Rather than just give up, I would like to know why... maybe we would all have the problem if we were using the same steam oil as you did or the same fuel (or even the same brand of paper towel!). It is NOT necessarily your fault, nor is it all necessarily Aster's fault.

I know a fellow that decided that Acetone and Alcohol were alike and decided to use Acetone in a home made burner under a Wilesco stationary engine and it removed the paint from the molded simulated brick around the firebox area. Maybe your Alcohol has a component that contains a paint solvent... SOME DO! Some have rubber-cement solvent as part of the denaturing component.

I have read of people using something other than "Steam Cylinder Oil" for the steam oil. Some, in the past, have used chain saw oil, some have used "3-in-1" (tm) brand oil. Maybe you got ahold of some bad stuff.

If you will help US, the live steam fraternity, it would be most appreciated, many here have done their best to help you. Maybe you have stumbled upon the cause of a common problem and "we" can all avoid it in the future.
 

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For that matter, what are you going to do with a new stack that will lose the paint the same way? How many stacks do you expect to be supplied over how many years?

I still want to know what kind of fuel and steam oil you use.
 

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Posted By Brian Tusin on 09/09/2008 8:42 AM
As I can see no one sees my problem. I do not feel like I was treated right. Also paint should just not flake off like that. The bottom line I am just not happy with Asters service. I think it is crazy that it taked 10 days to 2 weeks to get parts to you that were there mistakes.
Brian




I beg to differ. I do see your problem. You feel slighted in your treatment by Aster's representative here. You feel that for the price you paid (probably around $4,000.00 and over 20 hours of your time) you expected the part to not lose paint. You are not a happy camper at this point.

RIGHT?

Oh, also, you feel that 10 to 14 days is too long to get a replacement part to you. There, now I believe I have reiterated your feelings about it.

You feel doubly-slighted because, after you pubicly complained, the Aster Representative has relented and said he will honor your request for a replacement... you see that as sort of a backhanded appeasement gesture.

But, I don't think that is really your problem. I really don't!

Your problem is that you are not thinking through the situation.

You have a half dozen respondents to your situation here on MLS that have attempted to help you understand the reasons that the Aster Representative did not immediately respond in your expected way. We have attempted to explain why the paint came off. We have attempted to explain that even if he were to send a replacement, it will do the exact same thing. Please think ahead a short time and realize that you will not be better off for receiving the replacement. It will accomplish NOTHING for you. You will not gain from that response to your problem.

I initially thought that the amount of paint that came off was a large patch on the outside of the chimney such that there is a glaring shiny brass spot visible. I realize that the photos that have been posted are NOT of your engine, but you have not stated that the amount of paint that came off was much worse that what they show. So I attempted to find a reason for the problem and asked questions to gather more information. I had to ask twice before you responded. This tells me you were not seeking solution, but rather demanded assuaging your ego.

Cool yer jets, fella! Think through this situation.

The paint comes off the chimney... many people have pointed that out. Yes, you paid a pretty penny for the locomotive. But, I wonder how much we would have to pay for something that would not lose paint like it did? Would you be willing to pay $5,000.00 for one that the paint won't come off of? I wonder what it would cost to come up with some process whereby the paint would not come off... $10,000.00?, $50,000.00? Put a price on it, please!

What price would you find acceptable for the locomotive if you knew the paint would chip off? What discount do you expect? Knock $10.00 off?... $100.00?, $1,000.00?, $3,999.00? Put a price on it, please!

I am not privy to the actual conversation, but by your own account, the Aster Representative explained that a replacement part would just do the same thing. Think ahead a bit here, and tell me how many times would you demand repeated replacement parts for the same problem? Put a price on that, please!

Have you mailed anything lately? How long does it take your electric payment to get from the mailbox to the electric company? 2 or 3 days if it is just across town. How long to get a part from Japan to the U.S. and to your house? Sure, there are 2nd day air services... wanna PAY for that? Put a price on it, please!

What should the Aster Representative have done after your public complaints here? Ignore you completely? Sue you for defamation of character? Send you a factory built replacement engine? Deliver it to your door personally, with a bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates and a lottery ticket? Put a price on it, please!

I don't know what you should do at this point. I don't think that it would be right for you to receive a full refund for the locomotive if you send it back. I have no idea what shape it is actually in... it may be in perfect condition (except for some missing paint on the stack) or it might be in need of corrective repair. I DON'T KNOW, but if I were the vendor, I would not be in a mode of cheerfully refunding your money.

I would like to see you keep the locomotive and enjoy it, but I have the feeling that is beyond possibility at this point. I suppose you could sell it and attempt to recoup your costs.

I'd recommend you get a hobby, but that may be a bad bit of advice for you... uh... get a second job so you don't have time for a hobby, you might be happier that way.
 

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Quote from the e-bay description:

"It does need retired. I have the instruction manuals and it shows how to do it. I have only steamed it once."

Can anyone explain the term "retired"? I have two Aster Mikes with instruction manuals and I don't remember any "retire" instructions... I don't know any way to do so, since the wheels and "tires" and flanges are all one piece (as near as I can tell). And, how come it would need to be "retired" if only steamed once?

I am just real curious as to what is meant.
 
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