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Building a ceramic burner

6506 Views 129 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  RioGrandeFan
I have been having issues with the ceramic burner supplied with my C-18 locomotive. I haven't reached out to the manufacturer yet. I could be simply experiencing a defective burner that doesn't perform like the rest that were produced. I don't want to make any negative remarks towards the manufacturer for something that could be an anomaly.
Besides steam production, there are many great comments I, and other steamers, make about this engine. Very smooth, self starting, perfectly timed out of the box. Excellent boiler insulation in the design. Just a wonderful engine if I get a good fire. The manual even specifically says a strong fire is needed (from the supplied burner.)

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Since my primary running season is outdoors in Wisconsin winters, I find it obvious that I will require a more capable than stock burner. And because I simply want to build something, I haven't tried before, I am starting this.

The existing burner has a surface area of 2.1 square inches, without modifications to the the rest of the engine I can increase the burner to 3 square inches. A 43% increase in burner surface area. This will also help seal off the bottom of the firebox as I'm told is necessary for a ceramic burner.

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I will be switching to the "hard" ceramic material in this burner.

I am hoping that Bill will weigh in with his insights on ceramic burners.

My design calls for 1 inch wide by 3 inches long and 0.93 inches tall. I will be increasing the length of the jet tube to resemble Bill's design in this post.
This post of Bill's build thread. Is the best I found with details of the burner design. His Blue Comet article in Steam in the Garden also has some details on burner design.

If there are other informative posts for ceramic burner design I would greatly appreciate them.
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Hi guys. It has been a loooong time since I posted here. Very interesting discussion that I could not resist. I have owned or worked on every live steam 1:20.3 Colorado NG Accucraft has produced. Let me first say that the C-18 is mechanically the most advanced engine in this series. I have both poker burner and coal fired engines but this is my first ceramic burner engine. Let me first say that even for an experienced live steam guy, there was a definite learning curve to operating this ceramic burner engine consistently. Much easier than coal fire but more sophisticated than a poker burner. Overall this is a fantastic engine and a real bargain for the price.

Add my name to the list of people not having issues building and maintaining steam in cold weather. If anything during the first few runs I was having issues with too much steam and popping off too frequently. At first when I tried to turn down the burner to compensate, I had problems keeping the burner lit at low settings.

I do not know if it was a learning curve or just break in time but this issue corrected itself with several hours of running time. After several gallons of water and many hours of run time, it is now relatively easy to maintain pressure right at 60psi while keeping the water level at mid glass.

Now here is why I jumped in. My fire looks EXACTLY like the stock burner photographs above except I am getting a little more circular ceramic glow. Even though the engine was producing more than enough steam in cold weather, the appearance of the fire did cause me to review Bill’s old build logs as I was expecting the ceramic to really glow like his did. I finally concluded the burner was working adequately even for cold weather but could be made more efficient if desired.

Based on my experience, I agree with Cliff in that the stock burner with big blue flame should produce more than enough heat. I also agree with Bill’s post that a better more efficient burner could be built. Unfortunately after much thought I cannot offer good ideas on what the issue you are having outside of the burner which based on your pictures should not be the fundamental issue. Other than stressing the importance of maintaining very warm water in the tender, I would suggest running the engine on compressed air while holding resistance to check that each of the 4 exhaust events is providing good and even draft out the stack. A single partially clogged port can really draw an engine down and require much more power to just run.

Question for Bill if you read this far. Does this boiler have the correct grate and flue areas for good coal firing? If it does I might consider buying a kit and building a coal fire C-18 as adding a removable grate and ash pan looks very feasible.

That being said I am continuing to monitor this thread as a more efficient burner would be desirable to extend run times without increasing fuel tank size. Good luck.

Tom Burns
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I watched your videos.

1. If you are using butane, it is essential to use VERY warm water in the tender to heat the butane and maintain adequate gas pressure. Accucraft does not specify max water temperature other than the touch test. You should be able to put your finger in it without being uncomfortable. Using heated water makes all the difference in cold weather. I use an electric kettle to heat my distilled water up to very warm temps before adding.to the tender.

2. On my engine when close coupled I noticed my gas line between the engine and tender was a bit too long and crimped restricting gas flow. Took a but if bending the tender side to get the gas line not to crimp.

3. As you have done, fixing drain cock leaks is essential. Having drain cocks leaks can waist tons of steam and can ruin exhaust draft.

Hope this helps.

Tom Burns
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