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Building a ceramic burner

6487 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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I am definitely following this one.

what about a Bix burner?

Looks good. If you have good results maybe I can buy one from ya :D
I would think that if your engine steams well, as you have described previously, I would let it be.
I am curious in the design because the only difference I can think off is that is significantly colder where you are located and someone I know is building a layout where it snows. I didn't steam today but it was 62 degrees here today. Although the more I think about it, if it only takes a few minutes to build steam from a cold boiler then the burner should fine?
Terry’s engine is coming tomorrow so we’ll see if we have a repeat of the problem or not.
Are you trying another c-18? I am curious in it's performance as well.
I remember you asking me how many turns out I have the gas valve open and toady I finally put a line on the gas valve knob to help me keep track. I fired it up today and I have mine set anywhere from one full turn to two full turns from closed although after one full turn I can't tell a difference in the fire.

I know your building a new burner but just wanted to give you that info.
I see you previously replaced the jet with #8. Do you know what jet # jet comes stock with the C-18? I pulled mine and there is no number on it.
I am almost tempted to ship you my burner to see if that really is the issue
That was my initial thought when first hearing of the problem or at least request a new burner. I am kinda frustrated that he is having these problems and it's not even my loco haha I'd be very bummed especially for the price.
Reading the manual again and it looks like at some point maybe they were going to have an alcohol version and cold weather can make disappointing levels of performance. They mention wicks in the Firing Up section and mention poor cold performance in ColdWeather Running section.

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The C-25 I have is ceramic I’ve only run it once tho and the locomotive isn’t currently located at my house(I had to make room for a k-28 thanks to someone haha 😬) so I can’t go test and compare the performance although when I did run the c-25 it was probably 25 degrees outside and it did fine.

If it were me and there was no extra burners to have at the moment and couldn’t wait for an accucraft replacement I would try the bix burner that is similar to size.
Here is an example testing my burner out of the locomotive with non warm water and warm water around the gas tank using butane, not blende gas. I was quite surprised with the results and didn't expect to see this big of difference considering it was about 60 degrees outside. I am deff eager to get it back together and give it a run with warm water. I am sure some of us have defective burners based on previous photos and I consider my self one of the lucky ones but I still think the burner could be better for example, the rear section has no flame but for me if it works thats good enough.

The first four photos are using warm water around the gas tank and gas valve at 1/2 to 1 full turn open. The burner and fire were really roaring and tip of flame to ceramic was easily 7 inches in height/length.
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Below is lowest I could get the fire using warm water, basically the same as using non warm water in the tender.
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Here is the fire with non warm water around the gas tank. The little blue triangle flames are barely noticeable the best way for me to capture them in photo was to get the camera lens eye level with the burner. Also this is with the gas valve wide open. I would also say the overall height/length of the flame from tip to ceramic is around 3 inches.
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Could you define "warm water" for me in a scientific measurement? Celsius Fahrenheit or Kelvin will all suffice as satisfactory measurements.
My water was 110F, sorry I thought I included that info.
Today if i have time I am going to test camping gas mix. I will make sure to note the exact water temps.
I remember you did a video taking temp of the Ruby tank from the boiler heat and looking back at that video it shows the gas tank around 60F. Adding 60F water to the bath will probably cool down very quickly causing poor performance and require to change the water bath more frequently vs adding much warmer/hotter water. The 60F on the Ruby is being maintained from the boiler and the tender temp isn't being maintained by anything, it's actually being attack from the outside cold air.
A member here recommended maybe adding a steam pipe from the back head of the boiler equipped with a valve and running the pipe back to water bath to constantly keep the bath warm, a feature that I've been told is on the K-36 and maybe some other models. I think it's a great idea that should be included on all locomotives with a water bath in a tender.
Here is my first test using mixed camping gas made by Jet Boil and its ratio is 80% Iso-butane and 20% propane.
For this test 60F water was used in the tender bath. Looks and sounds the same as straight butane with hot/warm water in the tender bath, as a reminder my hot/warm water was 110F while using straight butane.

First photo bellow is the lowest setting.
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Second photo at 1/2 turn from closed on the gas valve with my shop lights on.
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Third photo 1 full turn open from closed on the gas valve and shop lights on.
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Last photo same as third photo but with shop lights off.
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Here is my second test.
Jet Boil mix gas 80% Iso-butane and 20% propane, 105F water in the tender bath. The burner and fire sounded insane you can see the parts of blue flame turning almost white and for me the camping gas with "room" temp water is what I will probably always run.

My final testing will be with the burner re installed in the locomotive.

First photo gas valve on lowest setting.
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Second photo 1/2 turn from closed on gas valve.
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Third photo same as above with lights on.
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Finally 1 full turn open from closed on the gas valve, the fire and burner is really screaming here making me uncomfortable. The combination of warm water and mix gas is probably pushing the burner past it's limits.
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Nice to see it running better! At least now you can run your locomotive while you work on a new burner design.

I'd probably try blended camping gas with room temp water especially where you are with the cold weather, unless keeping hot water around isn't a hassle. Do you happen to know how many turns out the gas valve was? Anything over a full turn from closed for me didn't show a difference.
It looks like a nice runner for sure. You should put a load like a brick on that flat car and see how she does.
How are your mods comparing to the stock design? Have you tried adding a collar to the stock burner for air adjustment?
I think you will always need warm water in your tender running in suck cold conditions. Have you tried your mods on blended gas? The little bit of propane should help with the pressure in cold conditions and with this gas you might get away without warm water in the tender. I live in California where it’s rarely in the low 40s so I can’t run test in your conditions, I did run my k-28 the other day with blended gas and no water in the tender with zero issues for pressure but it was probably 55 degrees outside.
These need to be converted to coal and all your issues will be gone. To bad they didn't design this one like the c-25.
Is the brick arch the shield above the burner in the fire box? What is the purpose of this piece?
Either way good to see you making progress.
What is the purpose of the flame baffle that comes with the locomotive?
The flame baffle is a carry over from the Alcohol fired P-8 which uses the same boiler. It is needed for alcohol firing in a manner I have no experience with yet. But is a massive heat shield in a radiant Gas loco.
Interesting. I will have to give mine a try without the baffle.
I have not had the chance yet. Hopefully soon.
I’ve been working on installing a new sight glass with a different blowdown valve and adding RC
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