Some thoughts about steam.

John Moore Oct 8, 2019

  1. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    The recent discussions about steam locomotives have got me to thinking about my own experiences with steam. I used to be heavy into steam with my motive power being nearly 90% steam. A fair number of those were Bachmann with quite a few modified with extra detail parts and different tenders I even built a few using donor mechanisms including a NP A-3 Northern and a Yellowstone. I kit bashed a few 4-4-0s into big 4-6-0s that could pull a 20% grade because all the wheels were traction tired and extra weight was added in the kit bash and they were tender driven. I retro'd a number of steamers to get Great Northern steam with Belpaire boilers.

    Most of that came to an untimely end due mainly to split axles on the Bachmann steamers. I tried sleeving the split axles with brass tubing from an old article with mixed to very poor results. The end results were that about 70% of my steamers were consigned to circular file 13 with the tenders saved for various other projects.

    The most reliable and trouble free steam I have ever owned were Minitrix, Kato, and Athearn. The Minitrix poor pick-up with their 4-6-2s was solved by making the tenders pick-up from both rails.

    Eventually I sold most of the good runners keeping for steam only a few low drivered Athearn/MDC and the Atlas Shays. I built some geared steamers using diesel mechanisms. Today my motive power ratio is completely reversed with about 85 % small diesel and 10% geared loco and 5% small drivered rod locos.

    None of the current offerings in steam interest me any more since my modeling interests have also changed. Also due to age, eyesight and other issues I find I cannot operate on the finicky steamers anymore. So like what was stated here earlier most of my remaining steam is parked on a siding at the very end or up by the engine house and only the geared steamers still see service. Passenger service that used to be pulled by 4-6-2s and a lone 4-4-2 is now in the capable hands of some lash-ups of self propelled cars. Freight is now handled by a fleet of 70 tonners and some SW series diesels and switching duties are now handled by 44 tonners. Heavy hauling from the mine is handled by slow sure footed Shays to the ore docks.
     
    Brighid likes this.
  2. grymg

    grymg TrainBoard Member

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    The steams that I started with, the Bachmann 2-6-2 and 4-4-0 were novelties for a while but that appreciation quickly wore off once I got my strong Kato diesels that pull like crazy. The pulling power for the Bachmann steams are horrible and any wavyness in track or loads exceeding 3 cars caused wheel spin for me especially with the 4-4-0. I believe this is due to the lack of weight in the cab (plastic shells). I'm trying to add weight but can't find any space to put it in. Another possible cause could be that they are geared too high. Also, the pickups are very close together whereas on the diesels they are farther apart ensuring a constant voltage to the motor. So for now, they are relegated to the display shelf.
     
  3. Hansel

    Hansel TrainBoard Member

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    Last year I converted my whole layout over to steam. I have been using 4-4-0 and 2-6-0 from Model Power/MRC along with 2-4-0 and 2-6-0 by Roundhouse/Athearn. All of locos either came with all wheel tender pick up or I converted them over to all wheel tender pick up using B-mann tenders. The only issue I have with them is trying to find spare parts for them other than cannibalizing another loco. Has anyone tried to replace a traction tire with an aftermarket tire?
     
  4. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    The last time I bought traction tires they were made I believe by Stewart. However there is a site that sells traction tires and midway down their page is a handy chart for wheels sizes and manufactures model in both N and HO scale.
    https://lovetrainhobbies.com
     
  5. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    The issue that developed with me for my Bachmann 4-4-0s was related to the tender wheels seizing up due to Zmactitus in the metal part of the truck assemblies. Ordered some replacements and basically got the same thing with the new replacements, At that point I ended up scraping all the 4-4-0s and the kit bashed 4-6-0s made from them. They were replaced with Atlas 4-4-0s. Those I fitted a MT pilot with MT coupler and on the pilot deck installed a small tool box stuffed with Tungsten putty. There is a small amount of space at the cab top that can get some Tungsten putty and since I installed an oil tank on the tender it has a small amount of Tungsten putty inside of it. Electrical pick-up was improved and traction was improved. An MDC 2-6-0 received the same treatment. Both locos are part of my surviving steam.
     
  6. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    I like steam better than I like hundred car trains. That's why I'll never switch from HO to N. It isn't just ease of maintenance. It's also about how easy it is to see and appreciate the rods and valve gear.

    But I do appreciate hundred car trains, and I'm glad other people do model in N. Variety is the best thing about this hobby!
     
  7. grymg

    grymg TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, forgot about those tender trucks that was a problem with mine too. Some of those silver wheels just end up dragging on the rails. I heard to change them out with trucks from a spectrum tender. May try that one day. I'll probably end up putting enough money in this Bachmann to buy a really nice 4-4-0 from another manufacturer LOL.
     
  8. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    In all honesty, I am shocked over the rising costs of N Steam, like the cost of a Bachmann 0-6-0...
     
  9. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    The funny thing is that on the smaller section of my layout, which is a non-historic railroad, I run only steam. I am running B-mann ten wheelers and moguls, MP eight wheelers and moguls; MDC consolidateds and moguls. I am having fewer headaches with them than the diesels. The MPs have been upgraded with B-mann SPECTRUM tenders (the MRC eight wheeler already has all wheels live). The only non-steam item that runs on the non-historic is a B-mann doodlebug.

    I was running some diesels, but, they stalled to frequently at very slow speeds. The steam that I am running rarely stalls. The only diesel that is reliable on the non-historic is an E-R Shark.
     
  10. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    The problem with trying to change the wheels under a Bmann 4-4-0 tender is the size and then the tender will ride too high and not connect properly to the loco. A problem I gave a lot of thought to. Other than a poor metal choice for the tender wheel assembly it isn't a bad loco.
     
  11. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    The newer ones, in the plastic box, are a major improvement over previous issues. None of mine that came in the plastic box have shown the wheel seizing problem, Y-E-T. I sold off most of my older ones. I kept two basket cases for parts, as GF has one that she got in a train set many years back. It performs well, still, the only one of that era that ever did, at least that I have seen. The rest of the older ones fetched pretty good prices on FeePay. I guess that the buyers wanted them for parts.

    I did see one other example of the older issues that ran well. It was at a Disney display at a World's Greatest Hobby On Tour show. It was holding a steady twenty five SMPH and had no wobble. It was pulling a train of several of the older B-mann passenger cars on a roundy-round. They were not on stilts, either. I asked the people at the display about it. They informed me that they had heavily re-worked the locomotive and had, in fact, cut down the bolsters on the passenger cars.

    Even the older versions, then, could actually be saved, if you had the time and ability to do something with them. They have taken well to the improvements from Bachpersonn. I actually can use the last issues to switch cars on my nineteenth century pike, although they can back in, only, as I have yet to figure out how to put a coupler onto the pilot. The nineteenth century pike also has metal frog turnouts, to minimise the stalling of nineteenth century power.
     
  12. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    The reason some people may have been interested in them from the parts angle was to build some 0-4-0s or to bash into a 4-6-0 the very early editions of both.

    My solution to the pilot coupler was to graft MT pilot assemblies available from MT at the time in several variations of switcher and road pilots.
     
  13. porkypine52

    porkypine52 TrainBoard Member

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    Living, breathing, filled with soul STEAM engines. Since my FIRST ride on a REAL PROTOTYPE (Southern #4501[the maiden tour]). I have been HOOKED. NO diesels for the INDIANA RAILWAY. OTHER MODELLERS can have all the diesels, they want, the INDIANA RAILWAY is and will always be 100% steam powered.
    There are some bad/poor runners, there are some good runners, and the are some GREAT runners. Early steam engine models, are mostly junk. The Bachmann 4-8-4 (for example) probably drove more first time N-Scalers away from the Hobby than any other steam engine. The currant models are OK, but just don't fit in with the IR. Some Minitrix engines (2-10-0, 4-6-2) were OK too. But then KATO jumped into the market. A 4-6-4 for Con-Cor that ran great. I still have a couple of these 25-30 year old engines that run like watches. A 4-8-4 that can run with the BEST. And then KATO delivered a game changer: The 2-8-2 MIKADO. You can detail it as you wish, runs smooth,and steady. Have no idea how many of these units the IR has. A workhorse for sure. This engine, alone, showed that well detailed and well running steam engines could be had in N-Scale. There are other engines too. Life-Like/Walthers 0-8-0 (later models), Athearn 4-6-6-4's and Big Boy's showed that SOUND had come to Model Railroading, N-Scale in particular. I was running my double-headed coal train (2 Challengers and 100 MTL coal cars) at a Train Show. Had the guys with the BIG STUFF (HO) come over and ask what/who was making all the racket? Talk about getting a BIG HEAD that day! Also like the Con-Cor 2-10-2's. Get the pick up issue solved, put KD-MTL coupler springs on the front tender trucks, for better pick-up, they will pull and pull. Bachmann has done well with 2-8-8-4's. and there are others also
    What I have learned about Steam:
    1) Don't buy when first issued. Let the bugs get worked out.
    2) BULL FROG SNOT Do it yourself traction tires.
    3) Don't be afraid to adjust/tinker with engines
    4) Trust SPOOKSHOW http://www.spookshow.net/trainstuff.html for good HONEST product reviews. Support this guy, he does GOOD!

    Enough said, I'll get down off my soapbox now and my signature says it all.
     
    Brighid likes this.
  14. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    My thoughts on Steam...
    I have ONE steam locomotive. Its on permanent display in 'Railroad Park' in Jeans Valley. Good place for it !!:p:censored::mad::whistle:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2019 at 5:43 PM
  15. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    George, That steam engine looks awfully familiar. Well not that one but ones just like it on my layout in the same condition. And don't think things haven't changed.

    John you drive an interesting discussion. I have a roster of steam locomotives and those with traction tires are slowly getting converted to Bull Frog Snot. They can run with traction tires if delivered as such. Until they snap and break... I won't mess with replacing the traction tires. With regard to traction tires, you've probably heard me say, "A poorman's excuse for a good running locomotive".

    Re-quartering a locomotive is something I'm capable of but won't do it unless it comes to internal gear problems. Of which Bachmann is famous for. Even today I'm reluctant to put out money for a Bachmann locomotive or motor (diesel). I'd rather buy Kato, Athearn, Intermountain, and or Broadway.

    As far as yesterdays locomotives I have a soft spot for Roundhouse, Rivarossi, and ConCor. I will watch train shows for such. Mainly looking for a source for parts and motors.

    Bob E., used to say, "Be cool and Run Steam." RIP. You bet!
     
  16. Champsummers

    Champsummers New Member

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    I have had good like with the K4 and the B&O EM-1. The EM-1 is my favorite engine. It is a great puller and has no problem with tight curves as the Broadway Limited steam engines.
     
  17. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    I like steam, but only have four Kato units (CBQ Mikado, FEF freight and two of the SP Daylight Northerns in the "Southern Pacific Lines" scheme). I probably need to sell one of those Daylight units.
     
  18. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Well I have mostly Kato steam that sat dormant until recently when I had sound decoders installed in all my Kato Mike's. Now I can say they will see major running time. A few more to go and all my steam will be running with sound.Since it is so few of them I am spurging on sound decoders. Can not even think of that with my diesels! Loksound rocks!
     
  19. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    I totally understand, I am looking at my Bachmann 2-8-0 and a few Atlas/Rivarossi steamers, thinking about sound
     
  20. grymg

    grymg TrainBoard Member

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    After a quick spare parts replacement session yesterday I'm officially done w/modding my short Bachmann steams. Relegated to the kid's toy tub for now. Seems to be spinning on the rails with anything higher than a 2 car load, even after replacing the worm, gears, and tender trucks. IMG_5646.JPG IMG_5647.JPG IMG_5648.JPG
     

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