What is "Live Steam"?

This forum is dedicated to the Live Steam Hobbyist Community.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Atkinson_Railroad » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:40 pm

This is a great question to ask. Pinning down a definitive specific answer as to what “Live Steam” means or represents today is a challenge because it’s meaning has indeed shifted. Everyone will have their own interpretation of the term based on their own level of participation and passion on the subject.

Keith (LVRR2095) points out his definition of Live Steam as his opinion, but I’d say his description is technically a pretty accurate one. I don’t know, but I’m sensing Daris is seeking a more broad brushed description that mirrors the realities of the 21st century.

Perhaps the term “Live Steam” has lost its earlier meaning the same way “virus” has taken on a whole newer meaning. Someone may say, “He’s a Live Steamer”, or “They have a live steam track over there where they run trains…” implying that the long used platform of Railroad, represents its foundation of existence.

From what I understand, when the Brotherhood of Live Steamers was formed, it was never intended to be a railroad club. Yet, those folks are all gone now, and the world is a very different place demanding continuous upgrades.

My observation has been that the “reach” of the hobby has expanded quite a lot.

“Hide bound” was a popular term describing this hobby for decades. It doesn’t appear to be cloaked like that anymore. The rivalry or contempt that some have had toward the various modes of motive power that are not actually Live Steam also appears to be slowly passing off into the past.

I’ve often thought of Live Steam as being similar to amateur radio where a kid could start with a simple thing like a “cat whisker” and a piece of wire, and work up the chain of plateaus to higher and higher levels of complexity.

While total scratch building continues to decline across so many hobbies including this one, “Live Steam” hangs on, to hands on.

In enjoying the pastime, no other activity comes to mind which can draw upon so many knowledge disciplines or call upon the many kinds of tools and machines used (including computers and programing) to achieve its passionate ideas.

One can assess their personal forte and fit right in.

“Live Steam” is excavating, it is carpentry, it’s drawing, it’s metal working, it’s machining, it’s welding, it’s soldering, it’s molding, it’s casting, it’s painting, it’s traveling, it’s socializing, it’s friendship.

It’s creative thinking. It’s research. It’s the art of covering up mistakes. It’s learning about patience. It’s a [lore] of long days, nights, months, or even years of personal endeavor toward the objective of being able to step back and say, “I made that!”

Ya, it’s all opinion.

If we had a mere 2 percent of the some 12,868 registered forum members here put forth their opinion as well,
we’d have a fairly good idea of what Live Steam means to most people today.


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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Dick_Morris » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:03 pm

I think you will find the term “Live Steam” originated in the UK back in the 1920’s with LBSC.
Keith - I suspected that might be the case. I also suspected you might have a good answer.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Steve Alley » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:46 pm

What is " LIVE STEAM " Well I can tell you or don't need to tell you is best. When you take on a project of this time frame and you put in hundreds of hours, Machining fitting, Polishing, Painting, scaling each part to your best ability and you finish your " Steam locomotive " Then you go and steam it up for the first time You will truly know what live steam is. Until then You do not have a clue. I find it so hearty warming to see another Member in our family see his eyes as it come up on pressure and the safety's lift and he moves it for the first time out on main line. You can not feel this or explain it until it happens to you. All your hard work and time involve to produce this one engine that has your signature of completion is such a high. Its a drug high of accomplishment that only " LIVE STEAMERS " have.
You didn't pour gas into it, and turn a key. You didn't charge the battery's and turn the switch. You and only you will feel this great accomplishment that only belongs to you the builder of your engine. You go around the track and find things to tweak or changes need's to improve it. It's work in progress and you tactical them with all of your ability. You return from the main line and enter the steaming bays. You blow down and you have to sit and look at what you done and what changes you will need. But mostly your heart is full of excitement that it ran and is good. I like to be there for my customers when they go out for the first time and experience this. But I would recommend to do this on a off weekend, when not all the club is there to give you fits answering there questions when you going out for your first time. If you are close and I am not far away call me. I would love to experience this time in your life. I will support you and help to explain this needed or just for moral support.
So bottom line if its not "steam" its not " LIVE STEAM Period " To see the Locomotive come a live and its yours. There is Nothing better.
Steve Alley
Allen Models of Nevada.
Keep Steaming

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by NP317 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:02 am

My definitions:
"Live Steam" refers to steam doing work, especially with reference to hobby sized equipment.
"Large scale railroading" describes our overall hobby, and Live Steam is a subset.
Full-sized steam machinery is simply "steam powered."

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Pontiacguy1 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:32 am

The title of the thread and the question in the post don't exactly match each other. I agree that 'Live Steam' is about building and operating models of larger equipment, and which are themselves powered by steam. The generic phrase 'live steam hobby' has expanded beyond only steam power. I believe he is wanting a definition of the generic phrase 'Live Steam Hobby'.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by LVRR2095 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:46 am

I don’t agree that the hobby of Live Steam applies to only “larger equipment.” As an example I have a photo of Cliff Blackstaffe riding behind a “live steam” locomotive...and it was an O gauge model. To be honest I prefer the term “Model Engineer.” Models powered by other than steam can be beautiful examples of model engineering. And worthy of great admiration....but that doesn’t make them live steamers.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by rkcarguy » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:25 pm

I totally agree Steve, even my fiancé was thinking I was building a "steamer" when I told her about the idea for the PG&F express (Palletwood-Garbage, & Firewood). Unfortunately I need something that can be started up at a few minutes notice and put to work. A steamer and all the things that come with it would certainly be an unbeatable novelty though, and a build will be on my to-do list in the future. Steam requires more maintenance, a lot more time to build steam, and is a lot more complicated. It's almost like taking care of a boat, where you have to "winterize" it after each use. So both have their own place, depending on what you are doing.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by BClemens » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:21 am

Steve Alley, you nailed it! The thing is alive, with a personality with quirks and idiosyncrasies of an entity. No two are alike as with people, but unlike people they will never dislike you, just innocently let you know that, maybe, you're not nearly as clever as you think. A live steam locomotive by definition is very hard to describe to someone who has no clue how stuff like that works or what is involved in building such a fantastic mechanism. The description "Live Steam" is just fine and enticing enough to be perfectly adequate - why waste words? Let's do something very basic - build a fire; make some steam, blow a whistle and pull a throttle.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by dnevil » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:40 pm

Thanks to all who contributed to this discussion. I think all the comments were positive, valid ideas. I will "digest" this material and see how I can use it for an introduction page to "Live Steam".

Daris Nevil
IBLS Secretary
North American Region

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Steve Alley » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:42 pm

If its not "LIVE STEAM " Then your just playing trains.

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by Harold_V » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:30 am

Pontiacguy1 wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:32 am
The generic phrase 'live steam hobby' has expanded beyond only steam power. I believe he is wanting a definition of the generic phrase 'Live Steam Hobby'.
I'm not convinced the meaning has expanded, as the name is very clear. Steam. One who is informed does not make reference to a diesel locomotive as a steam engine--although it's true that it is a locomotive. Armed with that thought, it's up to readers to try to keep some semblance of identity. Is it steam powered? Then it's live steam. Is it powered by one of many other choices? Then it isn't. A diesel locomotive is NOT a choo-choo train, nor should it be considered one.

Some of us are purists. I consider myself one. I have little interest in locomotives in general, but a keen interest in steam locomotives, as well as other steam powered devices. I have to believe, even if I'm wrong, that the connotation is intended to be specific---that it revolves around steam, not other methods of conveyance.

Sort of reminds me of the Live Steam club in California, where nothing but steam is permitted (Riverside). :wink:

We faced this issue on the Chaski board some time ago. Because some people are steam enthusiasts, we created a second forum, for other types of propulsion. That was so those with no interest in other motive power types didn't have to dig through posts, trying to sort steam from non-steam.

There is no right or wrong with this issue--just personal choices. It would help others if the terminology wasn't bastardized such that the word steam included other power types. After all, I'm not thrilled when someone identifies my Dodge Cummins diesel trucks as Fords. :twisted:

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

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Re: What is "Live Steam"?

Post by NP317 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:38 am

I'm with Harold.
Steam is steam.
Other power sources are just that.
(Fords in Harold's case...) :lol:

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