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· Premium Member
2,062 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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.

· Premium Member
2,062 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·

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.


· Premium Member
2,062 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
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.

· Premium Member
2,062 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
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.

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