What is "Live Steam"?

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What is "Live Steam"?

Post by dnevil » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:10 am

In thinking about how to expand the reach of our hobby it occurred to me that we should have a good definition of what the "Live Steam" hobby means. I think it has changed a lot over the years. How would we describe it today? Care to provide a description? I would like to use what we come up with on the IBLS website as an introductory page.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by NP317 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:16 am

"Not dead!"

Sorry. I'm just starting my first cup-o-coffee...

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by SteveM » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:20 pm

Can't help but think of the scene from "The Sand Pebbles" when Steve McQueen is explaining "live steam" and "dead steam".


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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Pontiacguy1 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:31 pm

I would say that the 'Live Steam' hobby is the building, care, and operation of locomotives and rolling stock which are capable of being ridden and driven by the operator.

To me, this is anything from 1/2" scale to the foot (2 1/2" gauge) on up through 7 1/2" gauge. When someone says 'live steam', this is what jumps into my mind. Anything above 7 1/2" gauge is 'grand scales' in my mind. Anything below that are scenic scales only, even if they are powered by steam, they are not meant to be ridden. 1/2" scale is truly the crossover scale because it can be both. In 1/2" scale, half of the builders want to ride behind them, and about half of them are made for scenic use only, not to be ridden/driven.

That's my thoughts on it.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Rich_Carlstedt » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:37 pm

Live Steam refers to working "steam" machinery
It's not compressed air or compressed gas, it's not mechanical, or hydraulic,It's not electrical , instead it is the vapor of water doing Thermodynamic work
It can be large as full size Locomotives, or very small, like the "O" gauge model locomotives

My definition


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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by cbrew » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:08 pm

Live steam simply means just as it sounds. as Rich stated above :)
If it is not live steam. its not worth it.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Mr Ron » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:16 pm

I would also include stationary steam engines, model steam boats and traction engines, but only within the confines of hobbyists. That being said, I would NOT include full size locomotives, steam ships or power plants.
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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Glenn Brooks » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:40 pm

My .02 cents is that “live steam hobby” refers to building scale models of full sized locomotives. In the early days of the hobby, people placed great emphasis on the ‘modeling’ of locomotives and other equipment. I also don’t see any reason to narrowly limit the definition to a 7.x “ gauge, or any other gauge, except that the models are of a sufficient size to be ridden on. Models can be built in all sorts of gauges and scales and still be “live steam” hobby models.

In my mind the term “hobby” also implies the model was built as a recreational, not commercial, activity.

The big problem now of course, is that many, perhaps half, or more, of all live steam locomotives now in existence, are not steam engines at all. They are diesel outline models, powered with electric motors or internal combustion engines. The “Hobby” no longer refers only to steam powered engines.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by rkcarguy » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:49 pm

I am building a "diesel" and don't consider myself a live steam guy, and still wouldn't if I built a steam engine body with a gas motor under it. Live steam means it runs on real steam to me.
It is a bit sad that steam is going the way it is, but in our litigious "Amerika" it's a huge liability to have it in a park or something that serves the public. I have and still do, take part in many hobbies whose existence is defined, and can be swiftly put to an end, by the insurance companies say.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by LVRR2095 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:53 pm

There are two kinds of steam...live steam which has not done any work yet...and exhaust steam.
So...do you want a definition of live steam...or the Live Steam Hobby. Which is not necessarily railroad but any hobby which is using steam as its energy source.
If you build a traction engine, or a stationary engine...you are still a live steamer. If you build miniature railroad equipment NOT powered by steam you can call yourself a miniature railroader but NOT a live steamer.
This is of course my opinion only.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Dick_Morris » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:06 pm

To expand the question a bit, when did the application of the term "live steam" originally begin to be used? A quick check of a circa 1939 Little Engines catalog shows their offerings called "locomotives" or "miniature locomotives." A 1934 Cole's catalog uses "working steam locomotive." A 1955 Little Engines catalog says "Live Steam Locomotives" on the cover. The first issue of the magazine, "Live Steamer," was published in January/February, 1950. "The North American Live Steamer" was published beginning in January, 1956.

In my opinion, "live steam" when applied to the hobby is a bit loose and can apply to diesel outline, rolling stock, and the track. Like the way that the definition of a trunk of a car has evolved from being an actual trunk on the back bumper to an enclosed compartment, live steam has evolved to mean something different from what it originally meant.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by LVRR2095 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:32 pm

I think you will find the term “Live Steam” originated in the UK back in the 1920’s with LBSC.

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