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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was looking at the Model Boats Magazine site and came across an article on a nice Steam Launch Alexandra. In the article on the Alexandra he says "have now steamed Alexandra a number of times using Glynn Guest's idea of putting 5% glycol into the boiler water to get a more visible steam effect on hot days. This works wonders and as Glycol contains a rust inhibitor and is also a lubricant, I think it can't do any harm (please see Model Boats March 2008 for his 'Hints and Tips' piece)"


Has anyone else done this how does it work? Are there any ill effects?
 

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hummm.....I've played with adding various compounds to my boiler water to reduce surface tension (for better sight glass readings) - saliva, alcohol, red line water wetter, etc. There was some marginal improvement in sight glass performance, but I honestly can't say what it did to the plume and I never thought of using antifreeze (Glycol). I haven't seen any ill effects that I can attribute to these additives either - but my use of these additives has been quite minimal.

Glycol is used in radiators which contain very hot water, and pass through metal (and rubber) passages, and contact gaskets sealed with various compounds. This sounds very similar to the water in a steam engine, so I wouldn't imagine you are likely to see ill effects. You could always try it on an inexpensive and easily repaired engine like Ruby. The glycol isn't going to eat the boiler, so the worst that could happen would be clogged passages or deterioration of a seal - but I seriously doubt it would cause any harm.
 

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I just wonder what kind of deposits that might be formed if the boiler is run dry. Would it cause some kind of insulation? Would it be soluble? Maype put some in a frying pan and cook it up real good, then see if you can rinse it off with warm water. As for me, I'll just wait for a cool, damp day to see some great steam plumes.
 

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n a frying pan and cook it up real good


I would stand back and make sure the windows are open - it will get smelly.

The marina reconnected my hot water tank to the water supply after last winter (we disconnect and drain them here in the frozen Mid-Atlantic,) before they flushed out all the antifreeze from the pipes, so I ended up with a hot tank of anitfreeze. The hot water smelled horrible for several trips, until we managed to flush it out.

what kind of deposits that might be formed if the boiler is run dry


None, I should think. As Mark points out, it has been used in car engines for years, and they have all the same issues as our engines.
 

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What about the glycol mixing with the steam & getting into the cylinders & causing a possible dilution of the steam oil there??? Jim
 

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Posted By lvst4evr on 12/31/2008 10:03 PM
What about the glycol mixing with the steam & getting into the cylinders & causing a possible dilution of the steam oil there??? Jim



That brings up a good point.


Perhaps the item that is most worrysome is what will the glycol do to the seals and rings of the pistons over time. Glycol can be quite aggressive and attack rubbers that are susceptible to chemical breakdown. EPDM rubber is resistant to glycol as that is what is used commonly in car coolant systems, however it is also only rated for 212* F, and quickly deteroriates. I wonder how glocol affects piston rings made from Buna-N and Viton.


Interesting idea and experiment, not sure I would want to prolong the use just for a little more effect in running a steam engine. A stationary engine would probably be best as they use little to no seals in the locomotive.
 

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You're right Ryan! That's what I was getting at! Here in california, awhile back, the diesel fuel properties were changed for "emission" reasons, & the fuel injection pump "o-rings" started to leak like crazy!!! A very expensive repair! Why take a chance for an increased "vapor enhancement"! Jim
 

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Im just thinking of the build up that you get in your radiator over time, the pipes and passageways are much smalled in these models, but were not looking at a 50/50 mix more of a 5/95 mix. I think to the times I have seen cars overheating, huge plumes. Do I want to try this on my trains...Not really
 

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Adding glycol to the boiler water would also raise the boiling point slightly - more wasted fuel to develop steam pressure. Also, pure ethylene glycol is one thing, the common automotive anti-freeze loaded with secret additives is another kettle of fish. I will let someone else try this one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
A Lot of my running at shows is done on artificial ponds, usually about knee high. It is quite common for children to try to smell the steam, after looking up Glycol's properties ;
Ethylene glycol poisoning is caused by the ingestion of ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is most commonly found as the primary ingredient of automobile antifreeze and hydraulic brake fluids. It is a highly toxic, colorless, odorless, almost nonvolatile liquid with a sweet taste. Following ingestion the symptoms of poisoning follow a three step progression starting with intoxication and vomiting, before causing metabolic acidosis, cardiovascular dysfunction, and finally acute kidney failure. The major cause of toxicity is not the ethylene glycol itself but the metabolites of ethylene glycol when it is metabolized. The major metabolites causing toxicity are glycolic acid and oxalic acid.
I don't think I will use it.
Regards,
Gerald
 

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In the mid-1980s, there was a major scandal in Austria when it turned out that enterprising vintners were using glycol to give sweetness and body to otherwise unremarkable wines....

Robert
 

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I tried a small experiment using a stationary steam plant with has PTFE piston rings. First run was distilled water, second was abotu 10% ethylene glycol. I made a (poor) video of the results. Not definitive as it was hardly a controlled experiment, but the glycol run does seem to produce a better plume...






Robert
 
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