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I've never run anything in live steam, never even seen anything run, but it looks really intriguing. A Ruby is not unreasonable, and I keep thinking that when (if) Aristo comes out with its live steam 0-4-0 I'd I'd be very tempted. I have some really dumb questions about live steam.

1. Whenever I see videos or pictures of live steam, it's always on elevated track. I assume this is because live steam locos need a lot of tinkering. Are they really a pain to run at ground level?


2. I rarely see live steam "garden" railways. Is there some incompatibility with typical electric garden railways? Maybe--and like I said, these are dumb questions--a fire hazard involving plants at railside?

3. Whenever I see videos of live steamers in action, the engines are nearly always racing along at really high speed, whereas videos of electric locos tend to show them moving really slowly. Is it hard to run live steam at prototypical speeds? Or is it just more fun to crank them and let them run?

4. How long would an engine like, say, the Accucraft 0-6-0 run before you needed to refuel it or add water?



Sorry about the dumbness of the questions
 

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Dr. Note,

A quick answer to your questions...

1. Unless your track is quite level, you need to constantly control the throttle. Thus, at ground level it is wise to have radio control.
2. Garden railways are usually at ground level, and sometimes not perfectly level. Hence rule 1. I've never seen a plant fire caused by live steam.
3. A really good live steamer will run slowly. We once had a race with Shays to see who could go the slowest. The winner went the length of his locomotive in something like three minutes, all without stopping.
4. There is a wide variance in run time of live steamers, somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour. The median is probably near 30 minutes.

You probably should attend a SteamUp or two before you take the plunge, and chat with the steam engineers. I'm sure someone from your area will gladly issue an invitation.
 

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I agree, go see a live steam running session, and like me, once touched by it you will be hooked. Thank You J & Dan. Nick Jr
 

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Lownote

Your questions are very relevant, and I would agree with what Tom has said. With regard to compatability with track powered electric, there can be problems if a live steam locomotive does not have insulated wheels. This would clearly short out the track supply. Another issue that I found in the very short period running with track power was the difficulty keeping the track clean enough for reliable pickup. Steam engines tend to drop oils and this. with dust sticking to it, can cause problems.


Most of my line is ground level, because I prefer the look of it, but I have a raised steaming up area which makes it easier on the old bones.

As Tom indicates, the Accucraft Shays are well know for slow steady running. They can be fired up and set off, leaving the driver the time to sit back and watch them roll steadily up hill and down dale. Some locomotives, like the Ruby for example, are not really ideal for lines with grades unless they have radio control.
 

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Posted By lownote on 02/03/2009 12:58 PM
I've never run anything in live steam, never even seen anything run, but it looks really intriguing. A Ruby is not unreasonable, and I keep thinking that when (if) Aristo comes out with its live steam 0-4-0 I'd I'd be very tempted. I have some really dumb questions about live steam.
 
1. Whenever I see videos or pictures of live steam, it's always on elevated track. I assume this is because live steam locos need a lot of tinkering.  Are they really a pain to run at ground level?

 
2. I rarely see live steam "garden" railways. Is there some incompatibility with typical electric garden railways? Maybe--and like I said, these are dumb questions--a fire hazard involving plants at railside?
 
3. Whenever I see videos of live steamers in action, the engines are nearly always racing along at really high speed, whereas videos of electric locos tend to show them moving really slowly. Is it hard to run live steam at prototypical speeds? Or is it just more fun to crank them and let them run?
 
4. How long would an engine like, say, the Accucraft 0-6-0 run before you needed to refuel it or add water?



Sorry about the dumbness of the questions



Hi,
These are NOT dumb questions, especially since you have not witnessed live steam in person.
If I may add a couple of my thoughts.
Yes, live steam needs some hands on attention when running. An elevated track of at least knee height will save the back and knees a little when it comes to lighting up, fueling and pumping water in.
A friend who witnessed live steam said something to the effect that the difference between live steam and electric to him was reality over realism. Now there is no reason why the two can't mix. I have seen quite a few 'raised' tracks complete with lineside buildings and areas where it meets the ground complete with all the garden plants.
I would say that in general terms a 'larger' loco is easier to run than a small one. A larger volume of water in the boiler will allow a more consistent run than a boiler that keeps running low on water and need attention. Also a larger loco normally has larger cylinders and more weight so it can be run slower, especially when pulling a good load.
As has been suggested, try and find somewhere where you can see a bunch of different live steam running so that you can see what all the different types of fuel are like, and find the loco that suits your interest.
Don't necessarily start with the cheapest and then find it is really not what you wanted.
All the best,
David Leech,
Delta, Canada
 

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Posted By lownote on 02/03/2009 12:58 PM
I've never run anything in live steam, never even seen anything run, but it looks really intriguing. A Ruby is not unreasonable, and I keep thinking that when (if) Aristo comes out with its live steam 0-4-0 I'd I'd be very tempted. I have some really dumb questions about live steam.

1. Whenever I see videos or pictures of live steam, it's always on elevated track. I assume this is because live steam locos need a lot of tinkering. Are they really a pain to run at ground level?


2. I rarely see live steam "garden" railways. Is there some incompatibility with typical electric garden railways? Maybe--and like I said, these are dumb questions--a fire hazard involving plants at railside?

3. Whenever I see videos of live steamers in action, the engines are nearly always racing along at really high speed, whereas videos of electric locos tend to show them moving really slowly. Is it hard to run live steam at prototypical speeds? Or is it just more fun to crank them and let them run?

4. How long would an engine like, say, the Accucraft 0-6-0 run before you needed to refuel it or add water?



Sorry about the dumbness of the questions




Not dumb questions at all!

1. Yes, Live Steam does require a bit more hands-on than electric (track or battery powered). I assume folk oil their electric engines, but a Live Steam requires a bit of oil in more places that an electric can get away with not oiling; such as in the valve gear... Live steamers have tighter tolerances there because of the need to make them work, whereas the electric ones have sloppy fits and thus don't have the need for good lubrication. But don't let the term "Tinkering" scare you. We do not spend lots of time undoing nuts and bolts or making fine adjustments when prepping for a run. Yes, some of us do enjoy RE-making some adjustments, but once it is set right it seldom needs tweaking.

2. Some Live Steam engines do not have insulated wheels and if you try to run a track power loco (or a battery powered loco that has electrical connections to the wheels) a Live Steamer will short out the power from rail to rail. If the steamer has insulated wheels then there is no problem... well... maybe a problem with a Live Steamer being a bit oilier due to the difficulty of getting scale drops of 1:1 oil on all those places that need oiled, and the excessive amounts of steam oil blowing out the stack, and all that oil tends to make the track slick and gathers dirt which makes the track powered engines run a bit erratic.

3. Yes, a Live Steam loco tends to need to run a bit faster than an electric. Physics just doesn't scale well and with the poor flywheel effect of the smaller and lighter drive wheels of a scale model it is sometimes hard to keep the motor running smoothly. That is not to say that a well tuned engine (one that someone has tinkered with well) cannot run slow, it is just easier to let them run fast and enjoy it that way. I have run my Mikes slow and they are certainly pretty running slow when they are running well.

4. I don't have the Accucraft 0-6-0 so I don't know how long a run you can get, but with my Aster Mikes I get about an hour of run time from the fuel load, but I have to add water to the tender a couple of times in that hour. With both butane and alcohol fired locos it is important to not refuel the supply tank with the fire going... too much chance of a flash fire due to fumes. Butane can be shut off easily for reloading the tank, but alcohol engines require the fuel to be shut off and then either blow out the flames or wait until the residual fuel burns away before one should attempt to refuel. Adding water and fuel just adds to the fun for me... that much more "real world" operations.

Live Steam can be just like running electric, but it depends on what you call running an electric
 

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Where is Doug.....his experience with live steam and ground operations is a perfect example!
 

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Posted By lownote on 02/03/2009 12:58 PM
I've never run anything in live steam, never even seen anything run, but it looks really intriguing. A Ruby is not unreasonable, and I keep thinking that when (if) Aristo comes out with its live steam 0-4-0 I'd I'd be very tempted. I have some really dumb questions about live steam.

1. Whenever I see videos or pictures of live steam, it's always on elevated track. I assume this is because live steam locos need a lot of tinkering. Are they really a pain to run at ground level?


2. I rarely see live steam "garden" railways. Is there some incompatibility with typical electric garden railways? Maybe--and like I said, these are dumb questions--a fire hazard involving plants at railside?

3. Whenever I see videos of live steamers in action, the engines are nearly always racing along at really high speed, whereas videos of electric locos tend to show them moving really slowly. Is it hard to run live steam at prototypical speeds? Or is it just more fun to crank them and let them run?

4. How long would an engine like, say, the Accucraft 0-6-0 run before you needed to refuel it or add water?



Sorry about the dumbness of the questions




Well, there are a lot of more experienced players in the field that will be glad to help you out, but here are my thoughts on your questions:

1: There are some VERY nice ground level tracks, I had the privilege to run on one this past weekend. Nowadays a lot of people are adding 1 or 2 channel RC to their engines which eliminates the issue of bending down to adjust speed, something you need to do unless the track is very level. With that said, an elevated section for steaming up is nice, since you are servicing the engine, much like a full scale prototype, and having the engine at waist level makes this more enjoyable. It is possible to steamup at ground level but you learn to appreciate a good cushion for the knees.

2: See above answer. There are a number of garden railways which run live steam. Steam has an advantage over powered track in that you do not have to worry as much about track conditions (tarnish, oxidization, etc). You will seldom see 'sparkies' and steamers running on the same garden railway due to the fact that steamers are very messy and tend to leave steam oil on the tracks, not good for powered track electrics. There is not an appreciable 'fire danger' with live steam. Not saying it couldn't or doesn't happen, but usually when it does it has to do with the steamup process. Unless there is a derailment the fire usually stays well behaved in the firebox or burner. The one exception is coal, but I will let someone else introduce you to that fuel.

3: Many of the 1:32 mainline locomotive owners are very proud of how fast their engines can run with a heavy load. There are also 1:20.2 narrow gauge owners who pride themselves on how slow they can get their engines to run. Geared engines can be run very slowly. A well setup rod engine can also run slowly.

4: Live steamers vary in their run times. My Ruby runs for about 20 min on a fuel load, I do need to top off the water a bit during the run. My K-28 will run for an hour or more on one fuel load. I'm not sure about the 0-6-0, but I would guess probably about 1/2 hr or so.

I would highly recommend the Ruby as a starting engine, I am not sure when or if Aristrocraft will come out with their 0-4-0, but Accucraft's service is great and a large number of the live steam community got started with this.

Good luck in your venture if you choose live steam.
 

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My vote for a first live steamer would be a good used Accucraft two cylinder Shay. They will run up and down hill without throttle adjustments, so no need for radio control.

My current Shay does have radio control, but just for the live steam Weltyk's Whistle. It is fun to hand the control to some little kid, and let him, (or her) blow the whistle until they run me out of steam. There are also some great log cars available that can be weathered and fitted with real logs for free.



As an aside, that's Ephriam Shay's house in the background, Harbor Springs, Michigan.
 

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1: they do need some tinkering before and after a run like fueling, oiling, cleaning. Sometimes during a run, certainly when you run on coal. But also because attending the loc and keeping your hands on it to drive it are part of the idea of running a live steam loc. You are the engineer on board and it is up to you to make it run, check the pressure, add water, add fuel etc. (partly because most in this hobby are of an age when bending over every few seconds isn't much fun anymore)

2: it is possible to run together with electric locs, but the crowds don't mix very well :) Live steam is messy and the mess we make makes it harder for track feed electrics to run. Also we make their scenery dirty (they don't mind spending hours to weather it however). Another issue is that the electric crowd often like to run operations, meaning alot of start/stop/wait. And with live steam that requires a lot of attention (because when you run out of water you're up a creek with no paddle). So you will see that most live steam is also running rounds. And like said many live steam engines are not isolated and short the track power.

3: as said above, physics don't scale. So it is hard to let a live steam engine run slow. But with experience, and a heavy train it is possible. Geared engines are another option if sloooooow is your goal. But mostly they run a bit faster.

4: depends on the engine, the driver, the weather etc. One of the reasons that keeping your hands on the engine is part of the job. Those burning gas last as long as there is gas in the tank (you have to turn off the burner when fueling). Those on alcohol or coal can be kept in steam as long as you care (however your oiler that keeps the cilinders lubricated may force you to shut down).
 

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I have a ground level electric setup.  I run electric and live steam locos.  The ruby kit was my first live steamer and has been a lot of fun.  My Regner Lumberjack is great though,  because it's geared, and runs pretty smoothly up and down grades.  I considered getting an accucraft shay, but have a lot of tight curves on my layout.  The lumberjack is really the only geared locomotive I could find that would take r-1 curves and also lent itself well to remote control.  Check out the Train department website for regner stuff.


http://www.traindept.com/


Also, you should check out this video link on the 7/8ths site:


http://www.7-8ths.info/index.php?topic=16679262.135


It's an accucraft edrig converted to 7/8ths running at near ground level.
Dan
 


 
 

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When my 2-6-2 Roundhouse live steamer was new, I ran it on my ground level layout. I found out the hard way that grades and live steam rod engines do not mix well. My ground level railroad was anything but level. Since I had to clean the track to run electric trains anyway, it didn't matter if it left oil on the track. I had to clean it one way or the other.


It is equipped with R/C, so that made operating it easier. However, due to heavy grades and inexperience, I would get maybe 4-5 laps out of my live steamer (around a 100' line) before running out of fuel and water. Because of the grades, I would use all the steam climbing the hill, then I'd have to shut the throttle to prevent it from flipping off the track going downhill. At the base of the hill, I would let her sit until she had almost built up 40 PSI again. It was interesting, but I don't think I would really call it "Fun". Having read a lot of the experiences here and also chatting with steamers, such as Charles, I have discovered that my methods of running live steam could be much improved.


As for the high speed runs, I have noticed that too. When I used to run my live steamer, I would try to keep her at close to prototype speeds, but given the heavy grades, I would often open the throttle wide at the bottom of the hills to keep momentum up, and then just barely make the top of the grade. Pretty stressful. I did have one really great experience running her on a modular layout in 1994. Perfectly flat railroad. She just chugged along merrily with her 5-6 coaches. I think that if I want that kind of running again, I will have to build a line specifically for it. But that'd be OK. Might be kind of fun, too.
 

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I am always surprised about the "myth" that Live Steamers can't run slow. Granted, it looks great seeing big main line freight and passenger engines pulling many cars around wide turns at speed but these same rod engines can also run at a snails pace. It is true that the larger the engine the easier it is to run slow..................but the small ones can too. The Asters that I own have sensitive throttles, but because the new DX6 type radio has no glitching and gives you the ability to move the throttle at such small increment's, has made it possible to make the Mike and Berk crawl. You can also run manual but making adjustments on "the fly" with a sensitive throttle can be touchy.

Just about all the Accucraft, Roundhouse* and Aristocraft steamers that run at my track will also run nice and slow. I made my track elevated because it is so much easier to run Live Steam on. My enjoyment in the hobby is watching all the working parts of the engine and realizing that there is real steam running through their veins. I am not into gardening or little buildings, just engines and trains. My track will never have power because I am down right cantankerous when it comes to "Sparky" engines and piped in electric sound.

This being said, my good friend John Frank has the finest garden railway in these parts. It is awesome, tons of work to keep up and a true joy to run on. Me, not being into plants or flowers was running at his lay out one day. I lost a part in a small bush next to the track and proceeded to pull it up out of the ground to find it. Little did I know that this was one of John's prized flowering plants
. Needless to say, I found out in a hurry.............
. He actually invited me back for his next steam up, don't know if he still likes me or just feels sorry for me.
* Edited for....... "Dave - - use coal".
 

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Welcome to the World of live steam. Visit live steam layouts and events, talk to live steamers, read magazines (Steam in the Garden, Garden Railways, and if you can get them, Sixteen Millimeter Today and GardenRail). Check out the web, especially this site, G Scale Mad, 7/8 Lounge, Sidestreet Bannerworks, Roundhouse, Accucraft, etc.

There are a lot of different ways to run live steam -- it's all up to you. The British experience tends to be smaller and more likely on the ground. The U.S. tends to be elevated. Larger curves are better but you can have a lot of fun on two foot radius. I ran a Sammie (Roundhouse) on a ping pong table, a number of times a week of about two years -- very slow and controllable by then.

I have a bias towards Roundhouse, where even the basic engines have large (9/16 diameter) cylinders and slide valve gear -- makes for long-wearing, strong pulling, slow-running engines. At the current exchange rates the Basic Roundhouse engines (Millie, Sammie, and Bertie) will run you about $700 plus shipping. Sammie is US outline while the other two are British.

If you want Accucraft, I suggest you bypass Ruby and go to something a little farther up the product line -- Edrig (British outline), either of the two truck Shays, a 2-6-0 Mogul, or the new 1:32 0-6-0. All are good, reliable, somewhat controllable engines, in a range from maybe $700 to $1,300 -- I don't sell them so you need to shop around among the dealers for a real world price. Ruby is okay at about $400 if that's what you want to invest, but you really do get a lot more if you spend more -- longer run time, more power, more control.

R/C seems to be a necessity if you run on anything but a nearly flat course. I stay on the flat because I like hands on running. Higher is better than lower, especially if you have back or weight issues -- at least high enough that you can tend your engine while sitting down. On a typical sloping yard, you may be able to step over your layout at one end, under it at the other, and in the middle, it's just right.

There is a haelthy live steam community in and aroudn Virginia, including this forum's sponsor, Royce Brademan. Won't one of you guys please give this newbie an invite?

Again, welcome, Mike in Tallahassee
 

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The new Accucraft Forney[/b][/b] would also make a good introductry loco imho. It's half the price of the Accucraft Shay (also a terrific starter loco - just more expensive). Additionally, the new Forneys come equipped with new 1/2" cylinders, removing the main complaint of the old Ruby design. Other improvements compared to the old Ruby...
[*]Steam admission (inside/outside) has been reversed, so reversing the eccentrics is unnecessary for good forward performance [*]A sight glass is included [/list] Accucraft is also still making the Ruby kits, probably the least expensive way to get into Live Steam. Check out the Live Steam Class[/b][/b] from a few years back... this was based upon the Ruby kit.
 

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I am still relatively new to live steam and also did not attend a steam up before purchasing the Ruby. What convinced me to buy the Ruby was the article on modifying the Ruby on this site and watching Jason K modify his. Once I saw that, I was hooked on the idea of running prototypical power. But I wasn't hooked on running steam until I actually built the Ruby kit and got the wheels spinning. After that I bought the 4-4-0 Accucraft so I would have something to run while I modified the Ruby to my specifications.
I've run on 2 ground level tracks (my own temp 8' circle and Crises nice layout) and one slightly elevated at Marks, and Chris and I went to Dan's and ran on a nicely elevated track. You definitely want to have remote control if you're running at ground level and have a bad knee like me. Slightly elevated is slightly easier, but the most comfortable is elevated about 3 feet off the ground.
My electric train/s was/(is being) converted to battery power so I've got no problem running them together :)
I've had my 4-4-0 running as long as 45 minutes without adding water or fuel. But these stops to do routine maintenance like that just make running them more challenging and fun. I can run my electric for a couple of hours on one charge and not have to do anything to it except plug it in to the charger. I don't run it much, and have more fun modifying them.
 

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tHIS IS A VIDEO DONE AT jOHN fRANK'S GROUND LEVEL RAILROAD. aS STEVE SAID IT IS EMACULATE AND jOHN HAS TO SPEN D A LOT OF TIME IN MAINTENANCE BUT WELL WORTH IT.
 

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Mike,

I agree with all of the above comments about live steam. Once you try it, you'll never go back to electric. It's just too much fun and you will learn all the time. I do have an 1/8 scale ten-wheeler 4-6-0, live steamer, but as I get older I really don't like hauling this 500 pound beast to the track to run. My next engine will be an live steam Accucraft 3-cylinder Shay. Enjoy.
 

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Mike,
If we get some nice weather, drop on by and we'll run my Shay.


I do not find it a pain to run at ground level; but it is helpful to be elevated a bit when starting it up. I have run it at the same time as my other locomotives, but they are battery.

It runs slow...I think I can get it up to 18 scale MPH, but usually run about 8-10. It's probably good for about 25-30 minutes, depending on how hard she is working. I do have 4% grades.
 

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Posted By msimpson on 02/03/2009 3:33 PM The British experience tends to be smaller and more likely on the ground. Mike in Tallahassee

Sir, the only steam tracks that I run on, including my own, and a couple approaching that of the estimable Dr Rivet, are elevated. You have been reading too much propaganda about our teeny tracks for teeny trains. Sure we have some teeny live-steam tracks, but THEY are for our teeny 16mm trains, NOT gauge 1. The vast majority of G1 steam tracks in this country are as good as anything you have where YOU live, and, I dare to remark, better than most.

I heartily suggest that you get ahold of any of our recent newsletters to see what the majority of our Gauge 1 tracks REALLY look like.

tac
www.ovgrs.org
G1MRA #3641
 
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