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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello. I have a couple of questions about firing and running my Berk. I built this engine from a kit a little over a year ago and didn't really get to run it on live steam until last June (?). I fired it using alcohol with stainless steel wicks. It was a joy to see it running for the first time on live steam! The problem I ran into is that once the engine is running, say after about 5 minutes, I couldn't tell how much water is in the water glass; it kept getting bubbles in it. About the only way I knew for sure that I have enough water in the boiler was when a large amount of water (dropplets) would come out of the smoke stack. When the engine is cold and I pump water into the boiler, the water glass fills properly, i.e., I know how much water is in the boiler. Any suggestions?
The other question is regarding fuel for firing. Would it be possible to fire this engine on butane such that I would have a good steaming session? I've fired the engine twice, both times the burners over flowed with alcohol and caught the roller base on fire. The first time there was not any damage as I was in a shaded area and could see the flames. The second time I was out doors (sunny day) and couldn't see the flames and caught the base on fire. I damaged the track and the wooden base. I'm getting to the point that I'm not really comfortable with firing the engine with alcohol. One reason is getting the fire started and the second reason is adjusting the flame, i.e. keeping a correct flow of fuel flowing. So, any comments about firing with butane?
Thanks,

Steve G.
 

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Alcohol is a great fuel. I have seen it work fine the the Berkshire. Adjustment of the wicks is what is needed. Is there a steamer who does alcohol within driving distance that could help you sort out the problems.

As far as the overflowing of the wick cups, the alcohol tank must be air tight. Check your tank fill opening to make sure that it has a gasket on it. Also check to make sure that there is no other leaks in the tank.
 

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You are having problems with the wicks because they are not the correct size for the set up you have. For starters, there is no particular reason to use stainless steel. If you used the OEM wick material it would work just fine. The reason the burners are overflowing is because the alcohol is climbing up the inside of the burner. You need to lower the alcohol level in the sump in the tender - which will lower the level in the burners. The easiest way to do this is to add a piece of tubing to the pointed metal tube on the bottom of the tank. Make sure to cut it at the same angle as the original and extends about 0.25 inches past the end of the tube. This will lower the alcohol level by that same quarter inch.

Fire up the locomotive. If it doesn't leak - you have lowered it enough. If it doesn't produce enough heat, you can raise it back a little bit. If it still leaks, move the tube a bit more. There is no reason you should have to lower the level more than about .25 inch. If you do, your wicks are packed too loose. (in your case rolled to loose) Again - some will tell you stainless steel wicks are better. Perhaps. But not in my experience. The Aster wicks work just fine. Some claim they burn the fuel more efficiently. I don't want to begin a nasty disagreement, but that is not what the thermodynamics would imply. The time the alcohol lasts is a function of how much heat you generate, not what the wick material is.

As for butane, it is not possible to fire the Berkshire like that, and there really is no reason to waste the money it would take to make a new boiler.
 

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Steve,

I agree with Cpt Dan, you need to make sure the filler cap on the tank seals well. The design of 'chicken feeder' burners such as this prevent overflow only if the tank is airtight. Only when the fuel exposes the vent tube does more alcohol flow into the burner. Some folks add a small ( 1/8" ) extension on the vent tube to lower the level of fuel in the burner/wick tubes.

Once you get the burner working well you will really appreciate using alcohol. I wish all my engines were fired that way.

Re the sight glass, this is probably one of the few real problems with the Berk, the lines between the boiler and the sight glass are very small and have long runs. The Berk sight glass is known for unreliable readings under steam.

Great engine overall, hope you get to really enjoy it.


Joel
 

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You said you are running the engine on rollers, is the tender at the same level as the engine? If the tender is just a few mm too high this will cause the wicks to over flow, and will happen quicker with SS wicks.
You may want to go back to the stock Aster wicks. It takes a bit of tinkering to get the best out of SS wicks. I have been able to get longer run times with SS ( 60 to 75 minutes VS 45 minutes with Original Aster wicks, but I could improve that by possibly packing them a little tighter but 45 minutes in fine with me) The Aster wicks of course make more heat but that has never been a problem either way even in cold weather.
Also be sure to put a drop of oil on the alcohol tank fill plug O ring, for an air tight seal.
On the water glass, you could wash it (the boiler) out with some vinegar, and be sure to use only "steam distilled" water.
Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
IMO, the engine and tender are at the same level. It is the Aster roller base with the rolling bearing set and wood base. (And yes I damaged it from the fire). Some one had mentioned in an earlier posting about using silicon tubing as an extension. I'd forgotten about that when I fired it. I did some reading on this list and other places about adding the extention, before I fired it the very first time, but it didn't make sense (then) what purpose it would serve. Hind sight being what it it, now it makes sense. Other than these couple of problems, I have been very happy with the way the SS wicks work, etc. Just starting the fire, the first time, for each run has been the challenge.
I use nothing but distilled water, although it may not be steam distilled (not always the easiest thing to find.). I will try the vinegar suggestion the next time and see what happens.
Thanks to everyone for the replies.
Steve
 

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Steve, Just use the vinegar to wash the boiler and water glass with the engine cold. you can pump it in from the tender if you want, carefully shake the engine, hold it with cab down to get some in the water glass. then drain thru the blowdown, repeat several times with distilled water. No need to "fill" the boiler in either step.
Let us know it works out for you next time you steam.
Jeff
 
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