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George, I bought one from Harbor Freight and have noticed that it does not like shiny surfaces as you say. I tried using it on my as yet unpainted Mason Bogie and most of the temps I got were obviously low, like the smoke box too hot to touch was reading about 80 degrees. I'm hoping it wil be more accurate on painted surfaces. I haven't tried it on either of my other locos.
 

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Getting the temp of steam from a table is fine if all you are interested in is the boiler temp. However I personally am also interested in the temp of things like the cylinders, smoke box, stack, back head, gas tank, etc. For those things a remote sensing thermometer is great if it is accurate.
 
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