Question: parts for a steamer

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chiloquinruss
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Question: parts for a steamer

Post by chiloquinruss » Fri Apr 07, 2017 7:34 pm

Let me start off by saying right up front I am not a steamer so please don't take offense at my ignorance at this type situation.

I received a call from a manufacturer that deeply concerns me and I would like to know how to answer this kind of situation in the future. We love to have manufacturers at our bigger meets. However we have had to limit our steamers to propane only because of extreme fire danger most of the operating season. This manufacturer regrettably will no longer come to our propane only meets.

So here is the question, I know the firebox and associated items for creating the steam is unique for a coal or oil fired steamer versus a propane steamer, but aren't many of the other parts and pieces more or less universal amongst any steamer? I'm thinking if I was a manufacturer any steamer would be a potential customer for some of my parts. Is this correct? Are steamers that unique so as to not have some interchangeable parts?

I would love to have any manufacturer feel welcome and that they have potential sales if they come to one of our meets.

Thanks in advance for any assistance or directions you may be able to send my way. Russ

James Powell
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by James Powell » Fri Apr 07, 2017 9:40 pm

If, lets say, 1/3rd of the individuals making steam engines want to build a coal fired engine, and not a propane fired engine, then the manufacturer is going to be missing that 1/3rd the marketplace. So if your track has banned 1/3rd of the live steam community at all times, then perhaps the manufacturer feels that it is not worth their time/costs to attend your meets any more. They may elect to attend another "nearby" track instead, in order to have access to the 33% (or more) of builders who are building coal fired engines.

Now, as to boiler/firebox design, there are detail differences between different coals, never mind between coal, oil, wood, corn, propane, bagasse, ect. An engine that will steam freely on propane quite possibly will NOT steam at all on coal, though for the most part you can get an engine to run on coal/propane/oil without requiring a new boiler. It can require different exhaust arrangements, as the draw required for a coal fire is much higher than that required for most alternatives. (except corn kernals or wood pellets).

I usually run 3 1/2", which is probably 80+% coal fired...so take what I say for what you think it is worth. I'm also a volunteer firefighter, and understand why Train Mountain may choose to ban coal fired engines during periods above low fire risk. I do not understand a blanket ban when the fire risk is at low to non existent (wintertime), but it is up to your organizing body to manage risk as you feel is appropriate.

James Powell

(* my exact words at work were: "I'm going to wait for the fire risk to drop before I bring the traction engine in- because I don't want to be known as the firefighter who set fire to the fire fighting school " (that was 2010 here on the Island))

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Builder01
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by Builder01 » Fri Apr 07, 2017 9:53 pm

I think pretty much all of the parts will work no matter how the heat is created in the fire box. If I were a manufacturer that was really in business, I would make sure that at least one of my steamers had a propane burner for exactly such meets. The question is, does this person want to sell product or not. Presented with what you have said, it sounds like he is doing this as a hobby and is not particularly serious.

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Marty_Knox
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by Marty_Knox » Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:02 pm

Russ, I'm sorry, but the sales at a meet don't begin to cover the cost of attending a meet. Even if all the sales were 100% profit (which they're not) it wouldn't cover the cost of attending. And many of the sales are pre-arranged, just delivered at the meet. Most vendors I know go to support the hobby, meet fellow hobbyists and potential customers, and have a good time. If someone can't run there locomotive at your track I completely understand them deciding not to attend.
I attended the last two Triennials as a vendor. I'm going to estimate maybe 25% of attendees, 33% at the most, came through the vendor shed. At the 2015 meet, 7 people told me they were going to order a boiler from me. So far, almost two years on, only one has followed through.

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chiloquinruss
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by chiloquinruss » Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:12 pm

I really respect all of your answers and do appreciate the time you took to give complete replies.

Part of our fire danger problem is at the peak of our meet / run times during the year it is also high mountain desert fire danger season! We go from fire danger low to high in about 4 or 5 days most seasons, so trying to build a safe schedule not knowing when the forestry service gives us the bad news is just not feasible. We are so rural that even the most avid railroader must make plans well in advance of a visit.

Our current statistics show that about 1/3 of our visiting engineers have steamers (over 100 last count) and only about 9 or 10 were coal or oil fired. A couple have tried with some success in making alternative fuel work for them. Others have decided to not bring their engine but very fortunate for us they still come and volunteer and hang out with the gang.

This propane only situation was a very hard decision for us to make but one that the local forestry and fire departments highly recommended.

I have been in sales all my working life and fully understand that you may not cover your costs doing shows, but in some industries shows separate your company from a garage based company. There is a lot to be said for the touchy-feely that happens at a show. I have done some research on this subject and so far it looks like the major players also sell other goodies to our small target audience. I just didn't have the specific knowledge on the inner workings of a steamer, so thanks again for all your comments. Russ

southwestern737
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by southwestern737 » Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:06 am

I completely understand Train Mountain needing to mitigate risk, but I do not understand why oil burners were also banned.

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cbrew
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by cbrew » Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:32 am

southwestern737 wrote:I completely understand Train Mountain needing to mitigate risk, but I do not understand why oil burners were also banned.
it comes down to a dirty burner dripping burning fuel onto the road bed.
I have personally seen it happen a number of times. and what makes it worse. you are told go to hell when you let them know and they don't fix it.

its happened on mine loco, you normally catch it on the bay and if its setup correct, one can drop the burner, clean it and reinstall before the boiler cools all the way down.

some say there is burning soot blowing out the stack. but they have that issue with gas powered locos, and most i have seen do not run any type of spark arrestor. so i am wondering when that is going to be brought up :wink:
If it is not live steam. its not worth it.

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chiloquinruss
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by chiloquinruss » Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:50 am

"some say there is burning soot blowing out the stack. but they have that issue with gas powered locos, and most i have seen do not run any type of spark arrestor. so I am wondering when that is going to be brought up" Yep I have seen all kinds of 'sparkly goodies' when we go for our summer night time rides. However so far I don't know of a documented riding scale gasoline powered rig causing a fire because of a lack of a spark arrestor, but you might be correct in thinking that that possibility does exist.

The oil burners as was pointed out above were added to the fire ban list because of the dripping of oil from a few engines. The hard part is that its leaking under the engine, being passed over by the train, and the conductor, so a fire doesn't get seen. We have many good running oil burners here like the folks from Riverside Livesteamers, but unfortunately its hard to make a ruling that says you can come and you can't and have two similar engines.

We all hate rules, we just want to have fun in our hobby and enjoy all the benefits of hanging out with a great bunch of people. So believe me when I say this was a decision that was very difficult to make. Once again thank you all for your comments I appreciate them all. Russ

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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by Harold_V » Sat Apr 08, 2017 3:43 pm

The bad thing with this ruling is that some folks (like me) have absolutely no interest in running anything but coal. I'm not active right now, so it makes no difference, but if I was, I would avoid attending ANY track that excludes coal burning. That, to me, is much like having to attend a performance of country western music when I avoid listening to that genre.

One of the realities of life is that humans set rules, and some of them may not be to the liking of some folks. While I understand the need, my response would be to simply not attend. To do so would be akin to having to put mustard on my hotcakes, when my preference would be Mrs. Butterworth.

Life marches on, and we outgrow our need for buggy whips. I see a bleak future for coal burning. Yet another loss for those who care.

Harold
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

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Fender
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by Fender » Sat Apr 08, 2017 5:02 pm

Harold,
I agree with you. The inability to run coalburners, together with the distance (for me) makes it very unlikely that I would attend or (especially) bring equipment. There's just so many great tracks that are closer that I've not been to, and which I would rather visit.
I'm not saying I disagree with the policy, and understand the need for it. But the reality is that it doesn't appeal to me.
Dan Watson

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John_S
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by John_S » Sat Apr 08, 2017 5:28 pm

Fender wrote:Harold,
I agree with you. The inability to run coalburners, together with the distance (for me) makes it very unlikely that I would attend or (especially) bring equipment. There's just so many great tracks that are closer that I've not been to, and which I would rather visit.
I'm not saying I disagree with the policy, and understand the need for it. But the reality is that it doesn't appeal to me.
Dan,

I'm of the exact same mind as you. Would I like to go run at Train Mountain? Absolutely, as it would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I'm sure I'd love; however, I'm on the other side of the country and my mogul burns coal. These two factors immediately put me on the "Nope" list.

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chiloquinruss
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Re: Question: parts for a steamer

Post by chiloquinruss » Sat Apr 08, 2017 7:04 pm

I totally understand however we do have members because of distances and extreme costs make annual visits but only occasionally bring a train. Like our Australian cartel, seems thou$and$ to ship their trains back and forth is a bit much!

Anyhow, the rules are the rules but we would still like to have you come for a visit and show you a great time. We can always barbecue something to get that coal smell in the air! :D

I'm not trying to make light of this situation just letting you know we do understand and sincerely hope you do get to come visit some time. Russ

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