Live steam demo video
Some tips on running OO gauge live steam
The thing to remember is that live steam is a lot more ‘hands on’ and less responsive than ordinary 12v or DCC. If the loco has a sufficient head of steam, the engine will keep on running around the track even if you switch the whole thing off and unplug it!
As with full size steam engines, both my locos (A4 Mallard and A3 Papyrus) exhibit different characteristics when steaming them. The A4 is not as smooth accelerating or decelerating as the A3. As you open the regulator on the A4, the fourth ‘click’ will increase her speed more than the third or the fifth, whereas the A3 will speed up and slow down quite smoothly until the last click before ‘stop’ when she drifts on for quite a bit. This makes pulling into a station with a nice, slow halt a very rewarding experience!
The A3 also produces a lot more visible steam from the funnel (the A4 hardly has any unless the room is very cold) and she also exhausts the safety valve steam partially down the inside of the bodywork making for more interesting and realistic effects.
I don't think you need the full 0.5ml every 4/5 steaming as it says in the instructions – both my engines just spit most of it out all over my layout when they first start moving. My oiling regime is to add just a drop or two from the syringe EVERY run. People I have spoken to who use this regime, have had no problems in well over 3 years of running.
Always use pure distilled water (not de-ionised) – your loco will last a lot longer.
If you want a shorter run just put less water in (I normally use 9 to 10ml). A benefit of doing this is that you’ll get a better initial start-off because a half full boiler generates less pressure and ‘wet’ steam than a full one so there’s less spitting and less chance of it running away and coming off at the first curve. It’ll also cost you less for each run, so it’s a double bonus!
It’s really got to be as good as it possibly can. Too many joints in the wiring, poor point (turnout) blades or just plain badly joined and bumpy track will result in problems. I have never had any power connection problems on my 9’ x 4’ layout but chatting to people on forums etc., anything much over that size might well need booster cables as recommended in the book.
For a smoother initial pull away, always allow the loco to sit and simmer for a few minutes after the safety valve has started to lift before trying to get it in motion. This allows the cylinders to warm up and will stop the steam condensing in them when you open the regulator (this happens to full size engines as well). Even better is to open the regulator by 1 or 2 clicks so that some steam is being fed to the cylinders but not enough to start her moving. This will warm them even quicker but you will lose a bit of running time because you are allowing water to escape.
Switch the steam regulator to 'normal' (not 'superheat') and have at least 2 coaches attached and then gently ‘nudge’ start with your hand for the first couple of feet or so while gradually opening the speed regulator. This will get rid of any water build up in the cylinders it should result in never getting that dreaded 1st curve derailment problem when the engine is given too much steam .
Once she’s off and running smoothly, I switch the steam regulator lever to ‘simmer’. Now I can stop and start just using the speed regulator. Unless your room is very cold, the simmer setting should supply enough steam for a scale speed run and give you an even longer run duration.
You will notice that towards the end of a run, when the water level is getting low, the loco will gradually start slowing down – now is the time to close the speed regulator until the red light on the engine glows. Don’t wait for the control box to sense ‘no water’ and switch off. This way, when you start the next run you’ll always start the heating sequence on a closed steam chest. It’s a good habit to get into and makes life a bit easier.
At the end of every run, while the engine is still hot, I carefully and slowly remove the water filler plug (wearing the gloves!) to let any remaining water evaporate. I don’t know if this does any good but as I sometimes don’t run them for several weeks, I always think it’s better for them to be totally dry before being stored.
Live steam isn’t very powerful so if you have any inclines on your layout, the locos will slow down as they climb them (and speed up as they go down them) very much like a full size steam engine would perform. It’s not a problem though, because they make a lovely little ‘bark’ noise when climbing a gradient – a very miniature version of the real thing.
You probably won’t need to ‘weather’ your carefully laid ballast – they’ll drop all sorts of oil and rubbish on it so it’ll look real very soon! (also, any lineside accessories close to the track will be liberally coated as well)
I hope this proves useful to someone but the main thing is have fun!
Please contact me via Dave's fan page link if you have any questions or (nice) suggestions.
New tips added 25/01/2008
A couple of tips just learned from TerryB (who posts frequently to our small and friendly forum - please join us!) http://rail.freeforums.org/index.php
If the red and green lights on the A4 start acting strange (e.g. both going off), take the loco body off and gently clean the wiper near the front LEFT HAND side of the loco. Follow the shrouded white wires from the R + G PC board to find this assembly.
While you are there, check the tightness of the 5 steam chest cover screws - all mine needed a 1/2 turn. She now runs just like new again.
A very interesting video:
It shows the inside of the Mallard including all the elaborate engineering involved. It's a viewing must for those of us who want to know how it works but aren't brave enough to take one apart!
Thanks to Renning for letting me add this link. Fascinating stuff.
More tips. From Richard on the Hornby forum:
Re: live steam
Fri 8 Aug 2008 09:37
Good decision I paid £125 for PAPYRUS from adealers on the south coast. You are about to enter a new and interesting world. Some tips, track cleanliness is surprisingly low on the list but all the joints must be perfect, keep the layout simple its no fun crawling around through the potted plants trying to sort out a poor contact area. If you fire up on the same piece of track each time oil will build up on the rails making it appear that all is not well with the loco',the lubricator on these loco's is very crude and tends to dump its contents in one big gulp. On the subject of oiling you will hear a lot of talk about over oiling, be careful here, TIP every now and then turn the loco' upsidedown and check the cylinders where the paint is missing if there is some sign of bluing this shows lack of oil watch this. Most problems will be track based, you will need to practice. Hang 3or4 coaches behind the tender to deaden the responsis then start running at a steady speed,once steady running is achieved tap back once to reduce speed nothing happens!. In the reversing gear is built in a lot of backlash (slack play) this so tap back on the controller and count the number of taps required to cause a reduction in speed on my 4 loco's it takes 5. So when the train is running at a suitable speed I tap the controller back 5 times then i'm ready to stop whenever I wish and at the same place every time, practice/patience,these are not electric loco's any fool can run them (and does). Hope this helps sounds a lot but very quickly becimes second nature enjoy
Fri 8 Aug 2008 12:00
Help your'e self old TOM couldn't get into your'e website but then i'm not computer literate. Another simple tip buy lots of "o" rings and seals etc and replace them frequently the slightest loss of steam will not be tolerated in these loco's lots of owners blame the loco' for something as simple as an invisible steam leak. Whilst raising steam hold a small mirror over the boiler safety valve and filler plug if the mirror mists over suspect poor seals these will severly affect performance. Help youre self OLD TOM lets keep these people running.