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I don't have a live steamer but I keep hearing the call. It seems to me that if I want a vaguely American look and an inexpensive (under $1000) starter my choices are


Accucraft Forney (not out yet?)

Roundhouse Sammie


Am I missing any?



Maybe an Accucraft Ruby--I'm assuming the Forney is a ruby in different clothes--is that right?

My layout has a lot of 8 foot (R#) curves, so that's another limiting factor


The rave reviews here for Roundhouse, coupled with the relatively strong dollar, seem to be making the Sammie a good choice. How long will it run on a full boiler and a full tank of gas? I'm really completely clueless
 

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For a year and a half, I ran Sammie several times a week on a 5 x 8 tabletop with 2 foot radius curves. She pulled trains of 35 axles (halfway around the track) and running light, would run for 50 minutes under good conditions. Realistically, you can expect a good half an hour with a train behind her.

Street prices on the Accucraft 0-6-0 seems to be very close to $1,000. Smaller scale but very nice runners and no serious issues from what I've seen.

If you will fudge a little over $1,000, you can consider the Accucraft two cylinder Shays and the Accucraft 2-6-0. I love my Shay and regularly see a 2-6-0 run. Sweet engines, attractive, no problems.

And above that? Keep your eye out for a used Roundhouse Fowler -- closer to $2,000 but very attractive, hard working, and plausible as a southern or Hawaian plantation engine.

Good luck. It is a fine madness. Mike
 

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making the Sammie a good choice. How long will it run on a full boiler and a full tank of gas?


Lownote, as you have noticed, the general opinion is that the Roundhouse is a bullet-proof starter choice. The locos run for about 30 mins, +/- 5 or 10 depending on the load, temp, etc. It is fairly easy to add a 'Goodall' valve (inexpensive way to add water while the boiler is hot) and to reload the fuel, so you can do 2 or 3 runs before you have to stop and refill the steam oil. Even that can be done while hot.

The Ruby is much more cantankerous and you'll find several threads about 'improving' it. It works out of the box, but if you like to fiddle (and learn while you fiddle) then the Ruby is a good choice. I've read that the Forney has larger cylinders but is otherwise a Ruby - if so, it might perform a little more pleasantly.

If you can stretch to the $1,000 - $1,500 range, the choice is more open. TheAML USRA 0-6-0 SWITCHER is getting good reviews.
 

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Mike - My first (and currently, only) LS engine is the Accucraft 2 Cyl Shay. It's amazingly easy to run and can be found for a little above $1k. Also, as Mr. Thornton notes, the AML 0-6-0 has gotten great reviews and is available at the $999 mark from several of the site's sponsors.
 

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I like Pete's comment "learn while you fiddle". To me the Ruby is an excellent choice for a beginners engine because you really learn a lot just assembling one and getting it to run. For only 400 bucks, that leaves you with plenty of money to move on to bigger and better engines if you decide you like making steam,,, and if not, you don't really have that much invested and could easily sell the thing on ebay for what you paid for it as long as its not all busted up.
 

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Richard,

I'll be the first but probably not the last to offer you $400 for your Ruby in "as-is" condition!
 

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I would go with the Ruby as well. It's a great runner as is and basically bulletproof. There is a ton of big and little "jazz-up" things you can do with it. Check out Vance Bass' website on things you can do with a Ruby and the photo gallery:


http://www.nmia.com/~vrbass/steam/

Do a MLS search on Dave Hottman. He did several performance mods.


Dwight Ennis did a nifty article on how to add RC:

http://archive.mylargescale.com/articles/articles/ruby/ruby01.asp

Don't listen to the "sparkies" lownote. You will find a peaceful, inner zen with live steam


Bob
 

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I've gotta ruby and it's fantastic. I would recommend getting the kit version, it helps you to learn how it all gets put together, but you need to take your time. Then again I built mine in a night and a half (being a college student I pull crazy long nights all to often!). A great mod that I did was add cord boiler lagging, which I picked up from a article by Kevin Strong (if memory serves). Actually I now have the problem of it producing too much steam!
PS Do you teach at GMU? I just noticed the domain name of your website.
 

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Of the Loco's mentioned, only the Sammy will "Run like a ROUNDHOUSE". The Sammy is much heavier built, will run right out of the box with no tuning or major modifications and years from now will still be worth something if you decide to sell it. While the Ruby has rightfully earned its place in the steam world.......................it's just not close to being a ROUNDHOUSE Sammy.
 

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As a previous owner of a Ruby, I have to agree with what has already been said about the Ruby being a good candidate for modifying. But the same can be said about the simple Roundhouse locomotives. I have done both. In either case, I recommend building a kit, either Ruby or one of the ones offered by Roundhouse. This way, you will learn a lot about how a steam locomotinve works and be able to make adjustments and repairs in the future (won't need to with a Roundhouse). A good kit choice that will leave you with an excellent running locomotive is the Roundhouse Billy kit.
See the kits section at this site: http://www.roundhouse-eng.com/

You don't have to purchase and build a Billy kit all at once. You can first buy and build the chasis, then later purchase and build the boiler and finally purchase and build the cab and details. You can also purchase and buy a William tender kit if you want to add a tender. This way you spread out your payments and learn a great deal in the process. Here are pictures of my modified Billy with a William tender and a modified Ruby with a scratch built tender on a small LGB chasis.



 

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I'd also start with a Ruby again. It was what got me hooked. I actually bought the Ida and this is how she looks today.

You cant go wrong with a Roundhouse. There are also quite a few unsed for sale including a Argyle Philly for like 700.00 along with a Mogul he did. the Old Star.



 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Well thanks again everyone.

I'll be at the ECLSTS this weekend and I think I may be walking out with a Ruby if there's one there for sale. There's such a wealth of info available on it, and the price is hard to argue with. and then I keep thinking modifying it would b a lot of fun.


As I understand it--and maybe I have this wrong--live steam engines are more likely to balk at steep grades than electric engines--is that right? I have a nasty grade on one loop of my layout and a more moderate but probably around 2% grade on another loop. Will it manage this kind of a grade, maybe with a few short, light cars?
 

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live steam engines are more likely to balk at steep grades


Not really - live steamer engines are extemely powerful and tend to slip rather than 'balk'.

However, a live steam engine needs more steam to get up a hill, as we all do! So you need to open the throttle more to get up, and hastily close it at the top or the open throttle will send the loco flying down the hill.

A Ruby (or a Roundhouse starter loco) is manually controlled, and hence the problem with hills. You have to drive the engine up the hill and down the other side, which means adjusting the throttle while it is moving. Not impossible (especially when it stops due to lack of steam,) but you have to get to it.

Most 'live steam' tracks open to other users are flat for that reason. Check out Mike Moore's 'Aikenback Live Steamers' in the layout room at ECLSTS ( and say hello to us.)

The solution is radio control. Then you can open the throttle and close it without getting out of your garden bench or putting your beverage down.
 
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