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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello there!
Well here is my story, I decided about two months ago I wanted to make a garden railway in the shallow pit where the family pool(above ground) used to be. As I've been weeding and cutting down brush and small trees, I have been saving up for a LGB starter set to get the wheels turning on this project, which to start will be a simple loop around a nearby tree while I work on the main line. Now, to my (mis?)fortune, I soon discovered G-scale live steam. This ignited a fire in me as since I was little I was mystified by small scale steam powered locos, the smallest I had seen outside of the zoo were the small privately owned railways or small roadside amusement park tour/tram. The idea of owning such a small engine made me soon discovered Roundhouse, which seems to be praised a bit more than the other brand I found MSS/Mamod.

My question thus starts here; as someone who plans to use a large amount of powered track, but has no prior experience to this side of the hobby, would a RH Basics Sammie be the better thing to get soon-ish, or would it be better for me to wait a bit and buy the Classics Davenport with the insulated wheels and such?
Sorry if this feels like a no brainer or if I'm missing something easy, I think I'm suffering from a mixture of buyer beware, analysis paralysis, and just basic guidance from folk who know what their doing XD
 

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Hello Tank Girl 90,
My advice for you is first to visit one or two garden railways and visit one or two live steam meetings.
These are essentially different worlds. It is not entirely impossible to run live steam on a garden railway but it is difficult. Plus, it makes little sense as the main point of live steam is to engage in full scope interaction with your engine.
On the other hand, garden railroaders (mostly electric power using track, not R/C) engage more in engine and rolling stock details and prototypical 'correctness' and some of them also add buildings, etc etc.
Combining the two is not impossible as I stated above, but it does not make much sense. It is also more demanding on all counts and definitely not for a beginner.
Chances are, if you already feel a spark for live steam, chances are you will go that way. Once you go live steam you are unlikely ever to turn back.
First engine - any Roundhouse is good although I not recommend slip eccentrics to anyone beginner or otherwise - they are too limited and require rather annoying manual push practice for reversing. On the other hand, there is also a perfect engine for first step in live steam and that is Frank S by Aster/LGB - though it is not R/C and is getting difficult to find in a perfect condition - watch out for unused but frozen by age cases.
Best wishes and enjoy whichever way you turn,
Zubi
 

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Hi Tank Girl 90,
For running live steam Roundhouse are definitely the easiest to run and should give no problems. A simpler model such as the Sammie you suggested would be a good start and the Davenport also would be good.
I would not worry about insulated wheels as when you run live steam you pay full attention to the locomotive and running anything else at the same time can be a problem attention wise, so keep electric rail power off when running live steam and only run one type of power at one time. That way you don't need to worry about insulated wheels on the live steamer but remember to take it off the live electric track before running electric trains again!
Regarding valve gear Zubi mentions 'slip eccentrics' this where a full turn of the driving wheels (you push the loco in the direction you want to go with the regulator off then open the regulator) is very easy and I quite like it, especially if you are starting out with steam. Reversing valve gear, of various types, where you push a lever in the cab for forward and reverse, like the real prototypes do, is the most common but does add a little bit to the price of a loco.
My advice is do as Zubi suggested and make contact with someone/some club involved with live steam garden railways in your area and talk to as many people about it as you can then you will get an idea of what you want. Here on this forum we are here to help and there is no such thing as a silly question but seeing them in action and talking their owners is the best.
I do strongly advise that you make your curves and turnouts as wide a radius as possible as live steam locomotives do not pull as well as most electric locomotives on sharp curves and likewise on gradients, no steep grades.
Good luck and if you are like the rest of us live steamers you will get hooked on these 'living mechanical beasts' that you need to interact with in a big way to get the best out of them.
Russell
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
"shallow pit" sounds like drainage problems, which at the least will mess with trackwork.
I guess shallow pit may have been a poor choice of term, its mostly like shallow bed of sand, maybe 2 to 3 inches at the most, or it was until I churned the ground up. I plan to bring in some fill dirt and then throw of planting soil on top of it. Drainage is an issue I suspect will be my biggest challenge. Living in Southern Michigan made me plan to include a slight dip inwards to all water features as well as a draining stream to handle any over flow that will affect the pond. I was also thinking of using bricks to support the tracks, would this be okay or would it be a good idea to mix brick with a layer of ballast on top?
 

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I'm from upstate NY with winters similar to S MI. Frost heave will be your enemy and draining water away from the roadbed will be of paramount importance. Hopefully you will bring in enough soil to raise the whole railroad above the surrounding grade. I am a fan, and had success with, a 4-6" deep trench dug in foot deep compacted soil and filled with #2 gravel. Then finer ballast was added to support the track. From there I built up land forms and planted shrubs and ground covers. There are other approaches you could take but I found this method to work in our climate. As for a beginner live steam locomotive a Roundhouse Sammie is a simple, bulletproof, good choice. I would steer clear of Mamod which may cause more frustration then enjoyment.
 

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Hello Tank Girl 90, if you like the RH Davenport and can afford it go for it - take R/C version and have it painted to your choice of colour. You will have to wait a bit since Roundhouse builds engines to order but in batches and there is a waiting queue - for the most popular engines it can be more than a year. Avoid second hand engines especially as a beginner. Best wishes, Zubi
 

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There are also several live steam groups in the USA, I am part of one that is based in central Indiana and sets up our portable layout at shows in Indiana and Illinios several times a year along with steam ups at members houses that have home layouts. Ground level live steam is best enjoyed with RC control or geared engines(such as the Regner Lumberjack). Roundhouse stuff is really good, I have had several and am running a well worn Millie from the basic range of locos. Sammie is an excellent beginners model, lots of upgrades for it from RH. I highly recommend the water top up/slight glass kit and a pressure gauge. There isnt a bad model from that brand, just a bit of a wait for engines in the classic range as they are made in batches, so you might have a good 12 month wait till the next batch. The Lumberjack from Regner is also a fine model, has a gear reduction drive between the cylinders and the wheels. This makes its top speed a fast walking pace, so little chance of a runaway loco or a tip over on tighter curves. The Train Department(nice website) is the USA dealer for Regner. You can also get Roundhouse thru him or even direct from Roundhouse in the UK. Many times, RH will have models on the shelf available for purchase from canceled orders. If a model has non insulated wheels, you just cant have any power on the track while running that locomotive. I converted most of my LGB engines to battery power, either onboard or from a battery car that feeds power to the loco.
 

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Hi tankgirl 90.
I'm a dealer for Roundhouse in the USA and can advise you on their locos, basic and classic. I enjoy chatting so please give me a call on 206-396-2756, I would like to find out more on what your layout is and see whether manual or r/c is best for you etc. Hope to hear from you!
 

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love those geared locos…..!
(imho dont even mess with a mamod…had one…limited in too many ways to describe, if you want enjoyment , )


I have a roundhouse srrl, and an old aster/lgb frank s.
i am a live steam neophyte.
i love them, and run them somewhat regularly. Otoh, they are not as easy to ‘run and go’ as electrics.

my layout has 2-4 %grades, some level areas too, r3 curves.

i agree heartily about pressure gauge and sight glass.
to avoid scorching your locos paint, and other more severe damage, you must never let the loco run dry or too low on water. never think ‘itll run out of gas before it runs out of water’…it might be true…or not).

thought:
roundhouse are a joy.( The lgb is too once you get the hang of it. Theres an article on the start up and tilting the tender). Both are reliable and easy to operate and maintain. I far prefer my roundhouse loco. They will provide decades of trouble free fun.

if you have anything less than 8 ft diameter curves (lgb r3) id suggest you NEED r/c control.
ditto if, in addition, your layout is not dead level,100%. Grades can make live steam locos fly fast, and derail on curves. Add a few cars and it gets worse. These 2 points really are critical. I love hands on, ie non r/c, but , imho, in certain applications, its essential.

final thought….dig deep, buy as nice a loco as you can afford. Over a few years, the extra will be money well spent, imho.

the other things you will need, additionally, distilled water, a lighter (bbq style bic), blue label 3in1 oil, a large syringe with hose, a medium syringe (for water and steam oil, respectively) , and, steam oil. And, some butane cartridges, such as those sold for asian style grill tops, and, an adaptor for the can nozzle into the loco gas tank.

Its nice too, to buy an appropriate storage box, like a plastic tool or tackle box, or, a camera equipment case.

a little care..its not overwhelming.
 

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I get my Iso-butane in the sporting goods dept at Walmart, they also have straight butane as well. The screw on adapter is available from Regner, Roundhouse and Accucraft. The geared design of the Regner easy line locos take away any fears of slight grades or tighter curves, this is where they excel in operation.
 
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