click to view home pageWe made a flat car, put a box and upholstered seat on it, and built a boxcar shell that fits over the seat. Its frame rests on the flat car floor while the sides extend down the flat car sides. The shell is not bolted on and simply lifts off when a riding car is needed . The step-by-step directions with photos show how the car is assembled.  Attach the detail parts, your trucks and couplers, paint and decals and your ready to go. To save costs, these plans are available as a download only.  After your purchase, you will be given access to the plans.  Print out your plans to refer to as you build your multi-use car.

Discover Live Steam Downloads 

The Live Steam Hobby

An in depth look at steam engines, boilers, track, wheels, etc.

Jeff Frost


Available as a download using your PayPal account or a credit card

Just Released

  You need a mentor when you're doing live steam railroading. Let Jeff Frost be your mentor. Real steam is not easy but it's not as difficult as it seems with Jeff pointing out what you need to know to run and maintain your steam locomotive.

When Jeff's Dad, Don, got started in the Live Steam hobby in 1989 there was not a lot of literature readily available for learning about steam engines, their potential problems, fixes and general information about the hobby. Jeff and Don found some old books and learned from them as well as learning through trial and error. This book was written to be a useful resource for those who are just getting started to those who have been in the hobby for years. This book contains the basics of track construction, basics for operating a steam engine (coal, oil and propane) to the basics of the behavior of the water inside the boiler and boiler safety. This book also addresses potential reasons why an engine may be a poor steamer or a poor runner along with different aspects to look at, fix and modify, how to set Walschaert and Stephenson valve gear, make and install tires on the wheels, inspect the mechanical and boiler aspect of engines, improvements for the firebox and smokebox along with other useful tips and explanations of why things are done in certain ways. Many aspects can be applied to steam and diesel engines of any scale and can be used on engines around the world.

Contains 302 pages, 363 photos and 39 illustrations.

    $50.00 Hardcover Price (not currently available as a hard cover book)
    $25.00 Download Price
About the Author

Jeff Frost was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan and graduated from Michigan Technological University in 2006. Starting in 1990, Jeff and his dad built three 7.5"gauge steam engines. During the winter of 2004/05 Jeff and his Dad rebuilt the 15" gauge 4-4-2 that ran in Traverse City. In January 2007, Jeff began work at the Strasburg Rail Road, in Strasburg, Pennsylvania as a machinist and mechanic and engineer, fireman and conductor on the Strasburg and helps maintain their engines. Jeff and his wife Veronica live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with their two sons.


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Table of Contents

Getting Started 5

Safety is Rule #1 5
Suppliers and Resources 5
Buying or Building a Live Steam Engine 7
Buying a Steam Engine 9
Casting kit vs. building from scratch 12
Track Basics 23
Book Knowledge vs. Experience 27

Basics of Operating a Steam Engine 30

Basic Check List for Operating My Steam Engines 30
Water Level in Boiler 33
Basics of Coal Burners 34
Basics of Oil Burners 36
Sanding the Flues 37
Basic of Propane Burners 37
Firing by Landmarks 39
Speed 39
Water Behavior in the Boiler 40
Carry Over vs. Foaming 43
Hooking up an Engine 45
Hooking up, Compression and Knocking in the rods 52

Boiler 55

Water Glass Safety 56
Water treatment 65
Fusible Plugs 66
Boiler Anodes 66
Boiler Washes 67
Water Circulation in the Boiler 71
Stored Energy in the Boiler 72
Lessons from Gettysburg 76
Signs and Dangers of Low Water 77
Inspections 78
Mechanical Inspections 78
Boiler Inspections 80
Why Internal Boiler Inspections are Important 83

Valve Gears 85

Dead Centers 85
Setting Stephenson Valve Gear 88
Setting Walschaert Valve Gear 92
Inside/Outside Admission vs. Indirect W. Gear 96
Steam Blowing by the pistons and valves 98
Potential Reasons for Uneven Exhausts 99
Another Possible Reason for Uneven Exhausts 101
Adjusting the Valve Gear on the 4-6-0 103
Walschaert Valve Gear for the 4-6-0 104
Rebuilding the Valve Gear 111

Tractive Effort and What an Engine Can Pull 113

Tractive Effort vs. Grades and Curves 113
Tractive Effort vs. Factor of Adhesion 115
Tractive Effort vs. Driver Diameter 116

Common Myths 118

Common Questions 122

Improvements and Why Things are Done in Certain Ways 125

Potential reasons for a poor steaming engine 125
Helping an Engine Become a Better Steamer 126
Firebox Arch 128
Large Scale Atomizer 133
Drafting 138
Our Experience with Axle Pumps and Injectors 144
Tires 147
Automatic Cylinder Cocks 154
Replacing a Crank Pin and then Some 160
Piston Problems and Lessons in Threading 167
When There is no Water in the glass 172
Revisiting Retubing the Mikado 173
Making the 0-4-0 into a 2-4-0 179
Equalizing 185
Lubrication for the Cylinders 188
Throw, Quarter, Side Rods and Such 189
Wheels and Trucks 191
Basic Lights 193
Dynamo 196
Grates and Ash Pan 199
Learning Oil on a 15" Gauge 4-4-2 205
Propane 215
Long track or short loop 217
The Bigger the Better, Right? 218
Equalized Brakes 220

My Experiences in the Hobby 226

Growing up in the Hobby 226
The Shay 241
#596 243
#1555 248
#1908 253
Rebuilding the Spirit of Traverse City 257
#400 271
Getting Back Into the Hobby 275
Introducing People to the Hobby 288

About Jeff 302



"I have been reading through the book and it is great. I think it is excellent information for someone starting out. I really like the pros and cons on each subject."   Eric


"This is some good stuff! I'm glad you chose to go the route of writing an e-book. As I've said before, there is an unfortunate lack of material on the internet (or anywhere else for that matter) for newcomers seeking out introductory information or even those simply trying to improve their hobby with a different perspective, advice etc;. I'm no editor but from what I've read so far, the fact that this info is presented in a such way that it appears to have been intertwined with personal experience, I find makes it more personable and easy to read rather than sounding like an instruction manual, yet it still maintains and does not sacrifice rich & much needed detail~~ in short, exceptional balance!  It truly surprises me that any of this has not made it into Live Steam thus far."   Nick