Live steam

Live steam

[lahyv]

Live steam is steam under pressure, obtained by heating water in a boiler. The steam is used to operate stationary or moving equipment.

A live steam machine or device is one powered by steam, but the term is usually reserved for those that are replicas, scale models, toys, or otherwise used for heritage, museum, entertainment, or recreational purposes. Revenue-earning steam-powered machines such as mainline and narrow gauge steam locomotives, steamships, and power-generating steam turbines are not normally referred to as "live steam".

Scale models and railroads

The term live steam usually refers to a model steam locomotive, or any other steam-operated model that is powered by steam produced by boiling water. Steam rollers and traction engines are popular, in 1:4 or 1:3 scale, as are model stationary steam engines, ranging from pocket-size to 1:2 scale.

Ridable, large-scale live steam railroading on a backyard railroad is a popular aspect of the live steam hobby, but it is time-consuming to build a locomotive from scratch and it can be costly to purchase one already built. Garden railways, in smaller scales (that cannot pull a "live" person nor be ridden on), offer the benefits of real steam engines (and at lower cost and in less space), but do not provide the same experience as operating one's own locomotive in the larger scales and riding on (or behind) it, while doing so.

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

The live steam hobby is especially popular in the UK, USA, and Australia. All over the world, there are hundreds of clubs and associations as well as many thousands of private backyard railroads. The world's largest live steam layout, with over 25 miles (40 km) of 7-1/2" trackage is Train Mountain in Chiloquin, Oregon, USA. Another notable layout is the one operated by Los Angeles Live Steamers or the Riverside Live Steamers.

Scale

A live steam locomotive is often an exact, hand-crafted scale model. Live steam railroad scales are generally referred to by the number of inches of scale per foot. For example, a 1:8 scale locomotive will often be referred to as a 1-1/2 scale locomotive. Common modelling scales are 1/2" (1:24), 3/4" (1:16), 1" (1:12), 1-1/2" (1:8), 2-1/2" (~1:5) and 3" (1:4).

Gauge

Railroad gauge refers to the distance between the rails. The ridable track gauges range from 2-1/2" to 15", the most popular being in the 4-3/4" to 7-1/2" range. Gauges from 10" (254 mm) and up are called "Miniature Railways" (in the USA these are known as "Grand Scale Railroads"), and are used mostly in amusement park rides and commercial settings.

Often the gauge has little to do with the scale of a locomotive since larger equipment can be built in a narrow gauge railway configuration.

Technology

A wide variety of boiler designs are available, ranging from simple externally fired pot boilers to sophisticated multi-flue internally fired boilers and even superheater boilers usually found only on larger, more complex models.

Fuels

There are several common fuels used to boil water in live steam models, depending on their scale:

Small scales:

  • Hexamine fuel tablets – which produce relatively little heat but are cheap and relatively safe. They are often used on "toy" live steam locomotives and engines, such as the newer models in the range produced by Mamod.
  • Methylated spirit, (methanol/ethanol mixture) – which burns hotter than solid fuel, but, as with any flammable liquid, requires more careful handling. Cheap and easy to obtain, this fuel was used with early Mamod models.
  • Butane gas – clean burning and safe, but relatively expensive to engineer the burners.
  • Electricity – delivered via the track and used to boil the water in an immersion boiler. In 2003, Hornby launched a range of 00 gauge models that run from a 10 to 17 Volt power supply, making this method safer than previous, higher voltage versions.

Large scales:

  • Coal – which is the prototypical fuel for most full-sized steam locomotives, and the preferred fuel for ridable trains. It can also be used on boilers down to at least 16mm:1 foot scale.
  • Oil – also a popular fuel for large, ridable trains.
  • Propane gas – an alternative to coal or oil in large-scale models.

Festivals

A live steam festival (often called a "Steam Fair" in the UK and a live steam "meet" in the USA) is a gathering of people interested in steam technology. Locomotives, trains, traction engines, steam rollers and tractors, steam boats and cars, and stationary steam engines may be on display, both full-sized and in miniature. Rides may also be offered.

Live Steam magazine

"Live Steam" is a U.S. magazine, founded in 1966 and devoted to the live steam hobby, as well as to other uses of miniature and full-size steam. Originally, it was a mimeographed newsletter, but soon expanded into magazine format. In 2005, the name was changed to Live Steam & Outdoor Railroading. It is currently published bi-monthly, in full color, with a press run of slightly over 10,000 (Dec. 2004).

References

External links

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