Ray's steam locomotive.

July 31, 2015.

After 10 years I got tired of working on trying to build a live steam locomotive and not getting very far. So in March 2015, I bought one from a member of my train club who has built 7 different steam locomotives. After much cleaning and maintenance (and some repairs) it was as operational as I could get it in our garage. So I brought it out to our train club's track. After a couple of hours of fiddling (these things are tricky and don't come with a manual), my friend Derek Beatson, and I got it going.

It was able to pull me around a half KM short track. The run identified a number of issues which I have worked to resolve. I hope to have it running early next summer. I will try to get a video to share from this page.

But for now, here are a few photos.



My locomotive and me. This was built by Dr. Eric Mortis of Calgary around 2001.

The car behind is where I (and a second person) can sit. It also holds a horizontal propane tank. I am in the process of building a car like this one this winter.

Driving one of these locomotives is very tricky. See the red vertical line? That is the water gauge. You must make sure there is proper water level in the boiler at all times ...so it does not blow up. Really!

Update. Fall, 2016

I spent most of last fall, winter, and spring building a propane car for my loco. I am quite happy how it turned out (see movie at end). I think it looks quite nice and will look even better once I get the name and number graphics on it. And, check out those 520 rivets which had to be drilled out twice and installed. I'm quite proud of that.

The main purpose of the propane car is to, of course, hold a 30lb horizontal propane tank. However it also contains a water pump (and accompanying car battery, and charger). The water pump sucks water from the tender, and pushes it into the locomotive boiler against a pressure of about 100 PSI. This whole system works quite well but my train is somewhat slow going up hills. This can likely be improved without me having to lose 80 lbs (which I probably should anyway for other reasons).

I ran it three days this summer, and each day were multiple runs on the 1.6 km Track. And each day identified more issues which needed to be fixed. But that's all part of the challenge and joy of owning and running such a locomotive. The loco has now been put away for the winter. All the pipes had to be "blown out" to make sure there is no water left which could freeze and burst the small copper pipes.

The main project this winter will be to build a new propane burner for the boiler. Currently there is a blow torch in the firebox to provide heat. That why the loco sounds a bit like a jet engine in the movie below. This new burner should also provide more and better heat distribution and should also be much quieter. The throttle valve in the smoke box also leaks steam and I plan to replace it.

But for now, here are a few more photos and a link to a very short movie.

Getting ready to run. Electric exhaust blower on the smoke stack is to draw the smoke out until the steam blower can do its job. This is a better view of the propane car I built.

Am I having fun, or WHAT!! Photo by Nick Janzen.

Click the above movie icon to download. It is only 10 seconds long. Movie by Nick Janzen.

Another short movie. This one 15 seconds long. Movie by Dave Judd.

Update, June 2017

The burner was completed over this past winter. In addition, a number of changes were made including the replacement of the throttle ball valve in the firebox with a new high temperature ball valve (fingers crossed). Some piping in the firebox also needed to be replaced or changed. All the gaskets and o-rings in the steam pump were replaced. (Additional photos yet to be included.



The burner had to be built in 2 parts so that it could be fitted into the Fire Box through the bottom. The problem is that the axle of the rear wheel is in the way. It took me quite a while to figure out how to resolve this problem.

Here it is assembled. All Nice and Shiny and silver soldered. I tried the burner June 7 and it works like a charm. Nice blue flame with lots of heat, ...and much quieter.

Some historical facts.


The locomotive was modeled on an actual locomotive called a Fitchburg Northern. This locomotive represents the general class of narrow gauge locomotives that ran on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. As a narrow gauge loco, the whole locomotive is smaller. However the train crew is, of course, the same size and the cab reflects this. This makes the cab look larger and somewhat out of expected proportion. But this is also what gives the look of this locomotive its particular charm.


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Contact ray@verdone.ca