Locomotive Water Issues

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Locomotive Water Issues

Post by Shlick88 » Thu Aug 24, 2017 2:51 pm

I’ve been around live steam locomotives my entire life as my grandpa has a 7.5” gauge railroad that surrounds his farm. Over the last year and a half we’ve been working on a 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive 1.5” scale for our latest project. This engine had a previous owner who didn’t do a good job keeping up with maintenance so we’ve made several repairs, upgrades, and tweaks to the current setup.

The engine has an axle pump which doesn’t come close to keeping up with the water demand needed to run. It also has a hand pump located at the back of the tender but currently doesn’t work. Eventually I’m guessing we’ll need to replace the hand pump. My grandpa installed an injector that he got from A & K.

This past weekend we were able to steam up and briefly run but no matter what we did, the injector wouldn’t work. From my experience running trains I’ve learned injectors can be rather temperamental. My grandpa has a steam injector on his Hudson and 4-8-4 Northern. He mentioned the pumps and I think the company has since went out of business (Solaire or Solare (sp?)?

Anyways, after doing some research online I’m wondering if it would be best to just bite the bullet and spend $1,000+ for a steam pump or try the Economy Injector by Super Scale?

I’m new when it comes to the hands on building and machine work that is needed for this hobby, I’m trying to soak in as much as I can from my grandpa and uncle who have been building engines for 30+ years. If anyone has any suggestions or input it would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by Miserlou57 » Thu Aug 24, 2017 3:17 pm

Unfortunately you cannot get SuperScale injectors anymore as the owner has passed on. The business is in new hands but no more info there, and the injectors are pricey 2nd-hand.

The nearest thing is Eccentric Engineer's standard injector. They're similar and the designer had a good relationship with Barry at SuperScale and a very good aptitude for design and their manufacture. Mine works well so long as the water flow is right, but I haven't used it more than a handful of times. I'm sure others will chime in, but surely these will become the new de facto standard for the hobby.

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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by ccvstmr » Thu Aug 24, 2017 3:59 pm


Miserlou is correct...good luck finding a Superscale injector...economy or other wise. The hobby "world" is waiting to see what happens with the old Superscale line of products. Lucky for you, several other suppliers are stepping in to bring injectors to the market. Other than The Eccentric Engineer...Mercer is working on something as is Locoparts.

In the meantime, without more info...about the best we can do is ask questions...and you'll have to follow up. Such as (in no particular order)...
1) let's start with something basic...is the injector installed properly? Don't laugh...it happens. A photo would be nice.
2) did you check to make sure the feed water line to the injector is tight? Injectors do not like air leaks.
3)) are you even getting a good water flow to the injector? Disconnect the feed line at the injector and make sure there's sufficient flow.
4)) down stream of the injector...is there a check valve? ...is it stuck? ...if it was removed, was it re-installed correctly?
5) is the delivery pipe from the injector to the boiler the same size as the injector water outlet? ...don't want any restrictions downstream.
6) if you fire up the loco and disconnect the delivery pipe from check valve...will the injector work and produce a stream/fountain of water?
7) what kind of valve are you using to turn the steam on/off to the injector?
8] when was the last time the injector was cleaned? Is there a check valve or "check washer" in the injector? ...does it operate freely?

Basically, you'll need to proceed one step at a time...confirming each element of the feed water system is working properly. More like...process of elimination (or discrimination if you will). If the injector worked before...what changed since that time? Start with the simply items and work your way up...with the last being a live steam test. If the injector doesn't work...there's gotta be a reason. Hope that helps get you going. Carl B.
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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by Fender » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:06 pm

The two biggest reasons for an injector not working are air leaks in the water feed line, and trash getting into the injector from the water supply. Be sure the cones are clean and put a 100-mesh strainer in the water line to keep them that way. Put clamps on all the hoses in the water supply. You really need at least two ways of getting water in. The hand pump and axle pump don't count if they don't work or can't keep up with the demand.
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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by Pat Fahey » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:23 pm

So you're having injector problems, I was running the club Hudson at Waushakum this past Tuesday. The injector that is on it came from Polly engineering out of England. The injector will pick up anywhere from 60 psi to 95 psi, with no problems. The engine has a Steam pump built to Bill Van Brocklin design, but was out of service, my only way to put water in the club Hudson was the injector. Don't get wrong I do like the Steam pump, but you can't beat a good injector. Pat Fahey WLS
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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by Miserlou57 » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:33 pm

Gonna repeat it for emphasis, even the tiniest, most insignificant bit of air in the water supply will cause it to fail. I couldn't get over how touchy this was, so I ended up soldering those connections and tightening the hose clamp pretty darn tight.

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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by Marty_Knox » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:42 pm

Last weekend at ILS I forgot to tighten the connection between the injector and the tender. It wouldn't pick up - once I tightened the connection it worked fine.

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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by Trainman4602 » Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:47 pm

Hi Miserlou57

Please check your PM thank you.

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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by PeterCraymer » Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:48 am

With my A&K injector, I must turn the water on full, turn on the steam (ball valve) until a stream appears out the overflow that only experience can tell you what that should look like and then cut the water back until it picks up. As soon as it picks up, you must snap open the water back up to full open and then you can open the steam valve to full as well. There remains a small dribble from the injector unless I throttle back the water valve just a hair. Mine is reliable from 80-125 (safety pressure), but you have to know how it operates or else you can't get it to pick up. I have tried multiple setups on water, steam and outlet sides and nothing seems to help make it like Superscale on/off operation. My boiler checks are o-ring type and when new, would stick to the seat, but don't stick any more. Hope some bit of that helps.


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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by OSUMiner » Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:15 pm


As Marty Knox emphasized during his recent presentation at the Buckeye Limited Convention, "If there is one thing you should take away from this presentation, ALWAYS keep water in your boiler!!" Seems pretty obvious but you'd be surprised how often someone finds themselves unable to effectively do so.

I believe the general rule is to always have at least two ways to get water into your boiler, my engine has three, all capable of supplying an adequate amount during normal running. I prefer using injectors ( I have Economy Injectors by Super Scale) but also love to run my Keim Steam water pump as well. I test all of my injection methods (injectors, 2 and Keim Pump) as I am firing up. If I have any problem with my injectors I won't come off the steaming bay until I've addressed the problem. During operation I only run 1 of the injectors, this way I always know that I have a backup that works. The only time I've really had any serious problems with my injector(s) was due to debris in the water. For each injector I now use a large automobile fuel filter, that is clear plastic, so that I can see what is in it. Since adding these filters to the water lines in my tender I have rarely had a major injector or steam pump issue. If out on the track I have an injector that starts acting up I will go to my backup injector or my steam pump and make the appropriate adjustments to the injector that is acting up at the next water stop. I believe all the advise given above is good as well. If you want a steam pump that you know is going to work I'd talk to Brian Keim. http://www.keimsteampump.com

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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by Harlock » Fri Aug 25, 2017 4:33 pm

Trouble with injectors is almost always one of six things: Incorrect plumbing, air leaks in the water supply line, a poorly made injector, an injector being used for a pressure it wasn't designed for, or a frozen / temperamental boiler check or contamination. Or a combination of the above.

The only currently available brand I can personally recommend for engines of that size is Eccentric Engineer's economy injector, which is the spiritual successor to the SuperScale Economy Injector.

The A&K injector appears to be a British import similar to or the same as the Macc Models injectors, and as far as I know they are only rated to work to about 100 PSI (on a good day) as that is what most engines in the UK operate at. I don't know if that holds true for the larger size numbers, someone else will need to confirm. Peter claims above that his is good to 125 PSI, and I think Bill Shields runs a larger one at that pressure as well.

What is your operating pressure / safety valves set to? Since most folks in the states with steel boilers on 7.5" gauge engines are running 120 - 125 PSI, I'll assume that for now. That is likely the first part of your problem. I had one of those smaller A&K injectors on my Chloe because I thought it would be better to have a smaller injector, but it proved to be unsuited to the engine due to the maximum operating pressure. I replaced it with a superscale and never looked back. Eccentric Engineer injectors (and SS before them) are good from about 35 PSI to upwards of 150. It will get you out of trouble if both your water and your steam are very low and you need to get some water in before you rebuild your steam pressure.

Next, a lot of problems can come from water delivery pipes or fittings having too small of a flow volume. This could be because of one fitting, or because of the build up of all the piping and fittings. I have had problems with quick disconnect fittings between the tender and engine on injector lines not having enough flow. For SuperScale injectors at 4.5 pints per minute, 5/16 lines are recommended throughout. I also avoid elbows and use tube bends instead, as one elbow can be the equivalent of several meters of tubing length in terms of friction. It looks good, but it flows poorly. What # is your A&K injector? (1-6)

If the boiler check valve is stuck from sitting, that is another problem. I can't tell from the photo whether you have isolation valves downstream of your boiler check. If not, it's a good idea as you can shut off the iso valve and service your check valve while the engine is hot. If the valve fails closed, all the water will come out the overflow. If the valve fails open, steam will come pouring out of your injector even when the steam supply valve is shut off. Sometimes if the check won't pop open, you can tap it repeatedly with a small wrench while the injector is running. Usually a sign it needs to be cleaned. If the check valve or the steam supply valve are leaking, it can overheat the injector and it will need to cool before it starts working. Try pouring cold water on it while you are trying to start it. If it is located up against the boiler you can have this same problem, especially if it is above the tender waterline.

The British injectors typically need to be started slowly to pick up, or have an adjustment period as mentioned by Peter Craymer. SS and EE injectors are instant on. Also, I don't know of the A&K injectors are lifting injectors. If they are not lifting, and are located above the water line of the tender, they may not be able to suck the water up to get started. You may need to re-locate the injector below the cab floor where there is water pressure at the injector. It will also start much faster this way.

If the injector is contaminated, it will fail and all the water will go out the overflow. My only experience is with cleaning SS injectors, don't know how the A&K injectors come apart. But the cones should be removable, and at least on the SS injectors, there is a very small hole through the middle that has to be kept clean for it to function and is usually the thing that gets clogged. Usually I pull it out and blow it out with a rubber tipped air gun. I have also had the overflow spring seat get stuck from sitting for an unusually long period of time. Pressurizing the engine on air while the boiler is still warm and opening the steam supply valve will blow all the water out and keep it from getting contaminated with dissolved solids in the water as it dries. This is part of my cleanup process after running, blowing out water from all the appliances, cylinders and residual water from the boiler. Then remove the safeties from the dome, open the cleanouts and let it dry out thoroughly while still warm.

When set up correctly, injectors should never be 'temperamental'. They have that reputation mostly from people who don't know how to plumb and use them correctly, or from people who have purchased an injector unsuitable for their engine. I have two injectors that are the only source of water on my engine and I have to clean them perhaps once per year each, with no filtering on the input. Otherwise they give no trouble and absolutely reliable service. If one clogs I can have it off and cleaned in five minutes, while I continue to use the other.

Regarding the hand pump - a hand pump on a 7.5" gauge pacific is probably pretty ineffectual unless it is a very large bore double acting pump. I wouldn't recommend using a hand pump on anything that sits on 7.5" rails larger than an LE crab. Toss the pump, don't replace it. Two injectors and an axle pump is pretty much the way to go for an engine like that, or a steam pump in lieu of a second injector. I will second the recommendation for Keim Steam Pumps. They are excellent.

As for the axle pump, disassemble it and make sure the check valves aren't stuck. Usually they are check balls, little stainless ball bearings. on two separate engines that I recently helped refurb, that was the problem on both. The axle pump works gangbusters now on the LE Atlantic I recently sold.

half of that has been said by others above, but I thought I'd give my three cents...
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Re: Locomotive Water Issues

Post by PeterCraymer » Mon Aug 28, 2017 8:42 am

To my knowledge, the A&K is non-lifting. Mine is a #6 I can tell when the water in the tender is getting low as it is harder to get the injector to pick up because of less head pressure to the injector. I have had an issue as well with this type that has the ball type overflow valve in that if there is any buildup on either the seat or the ball, it will not seal correctly and not pickup. I second Harlock's recommendation of having a cutoff between the boiler and the check valve. It sure has been nice to be able to clean/inspect the check valve and in one case un-stick the o-ring from the seat while under steam.


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