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Hi guys,

After about 5 years of no running, and on again - off again restoration, I have finally succeeded in:
1. getting a fire to stay lit in the burner, not the smokebox

2. figuring out what causes the slide valves to bind up.

3. tuning the timing valves
4. converting a basket ball pump in to my own personal air compressor

and finally,

5. Boiling sufficient water to get the locomotive to go a short distance under its own power.


Now this is where it gets complicated for me. On the one hand, I really like steam engines. They are lots of fun to watch in operation. On the other hand, I have this nagging voice in my head that tells me that this size steam locomotive is not ever going to work the way I think it should.

I burned through two tanks of gas but did not use up one whole serving of water in today's trials. Not sure what the deal is, or how you guys make these engines work so well, but I simply cannot get this locomotive to make steam as fast as it likes to use it. What is the trick? I would probably enjoy this locomotive a whole lot more if I spent my time RUNNING it rather than waiting for the steam to come up all the time. Seriously. OK enough bitching. Here is what I did. Perhaps I am still making newbie mistakes.

1. Boiled Distilled water in the microwave.

2. Poured all of it in to the boiler until boiler was full.
3. Using syringe, removed 30 mL of water from boiler.

4. Filled gas tank with Coleman Butane/Propane mix.
5. Lit burner

6. Oiled around.
7. Waited for the 5 PSI to lift the safety (It did not. I suspect that it is clogged again, and I need to steam up with some vinegar)

8. Waited.
9. Enjoyed wearing shorts on a 55 F day.

10. Watched the snow melting some more.
11. Noticed that there was about 10 PSI on the gauge, after only 10 minutes.

12. At 20 PSI, I decided to try and 'warm' the cylinders. Ran loco forward and backward, but then had to wait for pressure to build again.
13. FInally, at 30 PSI, and a dipping sun, I decided to go for it. Put the loco in 'forward' and opened the throttle manually (another problem with the RC), and off she gurgled and spit, then finally started chugging!

14. After about 25' we were down to 5 PSI again. So, I pushed her around to a point where I could work on her a little more.
15. Shutting off the gas, refilled the tank, and relit.

16. Waited another five minutes or so to build back up to 30 PSI.
17. Got a little more running out of her this time, but probably more due to the downhill grade than actual steam pressure.

18. In an attempt to put more Fire to the boiler, I opened the gas line further. Unfortunately, I opened it too far, and the needle valve popped out, and all the gas with it.

19. After making just two laps around the line, I decided that I'd had enough and I would consult the experts.

So. What is the secret to making steam in a Roundhouse boiler? Did I miss something? I really want to enjoy this, but I am very frustrated. Maybe I left too much water in to begin with, but that doesn't seem very likely. Maybe it was just too cold outside.
 

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Mark,
May I ask which of the Roudhouse locomotives you own? I have a RH Katie and it will run at 45 degrees , without filling the boiler with boiling water. My locomotive wants to start moving when the pressure gauge gets to 15 PSI , and it will run down to almost no pressure on the gauge. Less than 5 lbs PSI . I wonder about your statement about the safety lifiting at 5 lbs. Most RH models have an operating pressure of 40 lbs .

Did you build it from a kit, or was it new, used? Lets see if we can help you figure out what is going on, Roundhouse Models are supposed to be " bullet proof " when it comes to operating. I also have a RH Old Colonial ( Lady Ann ) that is 26 years old and it runs like new. Bought it used and it wasn't supposed to even run !

Charles M SA # 74
 

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Charles,

The Liberty Belle is based on the Fowler. I bought her new in 1994. She saw a lot of action running in the fall of 1994 and again in the summer of 1995. However, I was off to college that Fall, and she only ran a few times in 1996. In 1997, I took her with me for my summer at school, and she spent a lot of time chasing her tail around a pool deck. Unfortunately, I was using tap water that was high in lime, and had some issues when I tried steaming up again in December of 1999. Not knowing anyone in large scale live steam, I had no urgent need to straighten her out. Then, in the Summer of 2003, I decided to give her another try. That's when I met Charles from NJ and went to the PA Live Steamers. Got a few things sorted out there, but other problems came up, like the burner wasn't lighting properly. Finally got that sorted out, steamed up with vinegar to clear the boiler out, and then thought I had a steam leak, when in fact, I had running gear problems (that would have been easily fixed!). That was the summer of 2004. In 2005, I had some interest again, and tried to figure it out again, but to no avail. And to make matters worse, I stripped out the left side cylinder. So... in Dec. 2007, I ordered a replacement cylinder. The loco spent 2008 half torn apart because I simply had no time. Now, I find myself with some time, and in the span of a few short nights, I have managed to gain an understanding for this seemingly complicated machine. At least mechancially.

Now, I am a little bit frustrated with the boiler operation. Maybe I need to adjust the air flow? It is set for about half open right now. Does Butane / Propane need more air or less?


Anyway, Charles, thanks for trying to help me out. I really appreciate it.


Mark
 

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I don't know Roundhouse equipment but let me blabber a moment on a couple of your points.

1. Preheating the water in the microwave really should not be very necessary. It may help in reducing the time to get a head of steam up, but I doubt very much if it helps all that much... may depend on how long the water sat in the boiler before you got the fire started.

7. The safety should NOT lift at 5PSI... no way... maybe show some steam wisps around it, but not "lift".

14. Seems to me that you have a small fire for some reason. Should not have lost so much pressure just moving a few feet. Do you have any major steam leaks? I suspect you would be seeing steam all over if so at the ambient temperature you mention (55).

18. If you got the valve stem completely out of the housing without a huge fire in the smokebox and coming out the chimney then there has got to be something wrong. I assume the fuel valve is like others I have seen and it should be somewhere around 5 to 10 turns to unscrew it completely and "full open" should be no more than 1/2 to 1-1/2 turns.

Is the line kinked someplace? Or is there something in the line that is inhibiting the flow (dirt? flux? got soldered nearly shut someplace?)

On the other hand... Did you have any water around the fuel tank? Is it possible on this loco? 55-deg is right at the lower limit of getting butane to vaporize well and when it does it will cool the tank such that it won't vaporise any more and that could also cause too little fuel to the burner. Maybe try pouring LUKE WARM water (NOT HOT!!!!!) on the tank and see if the burner surges. If so then that was probably the major problem and maybe not a clogged line.
 

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Right, the safety lifts at 40 PSI, I get whisps coming at 5. Today: nothing.

I'll look in to those other things, but the gas is mounted to the roof of the cab with a short copper pipe down to the burner. The gas went out the opposite direction of the burner and the fire was instantly out.
 

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Mark,
I would say the first thing is to sort out the burner problem. If it is possible I would remove the fuel tank and flush it out . Might have some dirt in it after all of those years. I would also check the nozzle of the jet. A dirty jet would give you the kind of problems you describe too. A Roundhouse burner is designed as a unit in terms of how it works in the flue. That is the size of the flue and the jet nozzle opening work together .

If the boiler has had water with a high lime concentration in it, the outside of the flue may be scaled over. This would reduce the ability to raise steam. The fact that the safety vavle is whisping at 5 lbs makes me thing lime scale is in the valve too. It should not whisp till about 40 or so pounds. Might be able to see down the safety valve opening with a small flashlite. People have recommended vinegar to remove lime scale in boilers. If you try this , I would not leave it in longer than a hour at a time. Then a couple of rinses of clean water to see if any scale comes out. I wouldn't suggest steaming with vinegar in the boiler however.

My Katie had been in its box for 2.5 years before I bought it new. The first steam up , worked fine. Second time to steam up the safety valve would not close. Had to take it apart and clean it , it had dirt in it and would not seat. Works like a champ now.

Hope these suggestions can get you started. Keep posting progress or not , we will see what we can do.

Charles M SA # 74
 

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Ha ha, ya gots two "Charles M" helping you... well, one goes by that as his on-line name and I go by Semper Vaporo, but we both are a "Charles M"

Anyway, I wonder if a few runs with mineral water would deposit enough scale to affect steaming qualities this much. Does the engine have a sight glass to show water level? If so, does it show scale on the glass? Can you shine a light into the boiler some place (safety opening, fill port, etc.) to see if the flue pipe has any scale on it? Maybe shine a light in one port while you peer into another.

The safeties on my Aster engines weep while the engine warms up and then seal better, so I would not worry too much about "some" wisps as that is probably not a great drain on availalbe steam and I doubt it is the problem as you have described it.

If the gas tank is on the roof of the cab then it is supposed to be kept warm by conduction of heat from the boiler through the chassis and such, and by convection from the boiler heating the air and that carrying it to the roof of the cab.

But at 55-deg (F) ambient temperature, you might not be getting enough evaporation of butane to get the fire going enough for either conduction or convection to produce enough butane to maintain the fire. Was it also windy? What was the humidity, if you know? When the humidity is high it can drain heat away quickly in a slight breeze.

I had a fellow at my track once with a new Ruby he had built and we could not get it going well. It just acted like it was out of fuel. It was "cool" (I don't know what the temperature was) and a bit breezy. We eventually took the fill valve out and looked into the tank and it had some liquid in it! We thought it was water. Upon turning Ruby upsidedown it poured out and immediately vaporized... oh! it was butane! That was the problem, not enough heat to vaporize it in the cold tank... no vapor, no fire. We heated the tank just by putting a thumb on it and got a fire started and then there was enough heat conducting back to the tank to keep the fire going, but it was sluggish and didn't work well... I think it was just because it was not warm enough that day.
 

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Charles M's' (I didn't even realize that!!)


The safety would weep under previous 'normal' operations.

I will take the fuel tank and jet out, remove the nozzle, turn the tank upside down, and open the tank. We did this in the past and it helped. I will also check the jet itself, as that did clog up a few times before.


Barry at Roundhouse suggested that it may have been too cold and that's why I was having some trouble. I would say it was a little humid, but not more than 40-50%. It was a little breezy, and it got colder as the sun was setting.

I have steamed up with the vinegar before and it clears all the copper lines out very well. I think the vinegar eats the lime but does not affect the copper or brass. It does kind of stink, like sauerkraut or pickles!! Dang, now I am hungry!


Ok, well, I will keep after it, but now my time will be limited, so if you don't hear much about it, send me email to remind me that I need to get this loco running.

Thanks again guys for the encouragement and the advice.


Mark
 
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