Heritage Model Trains Article

Model Steam Locomotive Trains


For a “ride-able” live steam railroad train, say in a backyard or at a fair ground, it can be built but it is time-consuming and can be costly to purchase. The garden railways, in a smaller scale – ones that cannot pull a live person nor be ridden on, offers the benefits of real steam engines but obviously does not provide the same experience.


One of the most famous live steam railroads was Walt Disney’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad around his California home. This inspired Mr. Disney to surround his Disneyland amusement park with a working, narrow gauge railroad.


HO Gauge Steam Locomotives


The live steam hobby is popular in the UK, USA and Australia. Worldwide, there are hundreds of clubs and associations as well as backyard railroads. The world’s largest live steam layout with over 25 miles of track is Train Mountain in Oregon. Another notable layout is the one operated by Los Angles Live Steamers or the Riverside Live Steamers.


While it is not technically live steam, hobby embraces other scale model locomotives whose prototypes are diesel; visiting some will reveal a mixture of locomotive types – not all of which are steam.


Railroad gauge refers to the distance between the rails. A live steam locomotive is often an exact, hand-crafted scale model. Live steam railroad scales are generally referred to by the number of scale per foot.


The generally accepted smallest gauge for a live steam locomotive is 45 mm. Producing smaller-scale models remains problematic as the laws of physics do not themselves scale: creating a small-scale boiler that produces useful quantities of steam requires careful engineering.


Hornby Railways has produced commercial live steam-powered locomotives in OO scale by utilizing an electrically heated boiler mounted in the tender, with cylinders in the locomotive, and control provided by electrical signals fed through the track from a remote control unit.


While they are less mechanically realistic than models in larger scales, the visible valve gear is a dummy, as on the electric-motor-powered models, and steam admission to the cylinders is controlled by a rotary-valve servomechanism inside the boiler casing, which is also a dummy. That said, the locomotive is driven by steam and that is created on board the locomotive making it a genuine steam locomotive.


Of course it is technically possible to build a smaller operating steam engine; hand-made examples as small as Z scale with a gauge of only 6.5mm have been produced. These are fired with a butane flame from a burner in the engine’s tender.


Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


All Aboard……


Esther Smith, author

Heritage Model Trains