A New Challenge in Locomotive
The Electronic Steam
Locomotive Part 1
Builder Jeff Badger runs a double header with his much modified
Meg Steam “Wendy” along with the new Climax Locomotive at the Bitter Creek &
Western Railway. Arroyo Grande, CA
Written by Jeff
a local Live Steam Club meeting, a visitor with his young son were admiring the
work on my locomotive, a much-modified Meg Steam “Wendy”. During our
conversation his son reached out to touch the engine and let out a shriek after
making contact with the hot boiler. I felt so sorry for the child and
after comforting him and seeing that there were no burns, the father challenged
me with this question: “Most children love the sights and sounds of a steam
locomotive, but live steam can be dangerous for them. Are there any steam
locomotives that adults can operate with little or no experience, and children
won’t get hurt?” I explained to him that I had seen a few internal
combustion and battery powered steam outline locomotives, and continued to tell
him that model railroading in this large of a scale has its inherent dangers.
Yet in the past few years many parents with young children are entering this
hobby without proper instruction and awareness of safety issues.
That was in February of 2002. I went home
that night and mulled over the words and the situation that had occurred earlier
in the day and decided to take on the challenge since I had no other projects
lingering at that time. I would build a steam locomotive that young and
old alike could operate with little or no experience. I set some goals for
myself first though:
I would not sacrifice my family or work
I would find as many off the shelf parts
I would have a budget – both monetary and time.
Beginning the next month in March and with the
completion 8 months later of this project in October, I feel a sense of
accomplishment and astonishment.
I set about looking for a prototype to model.
In early March I received a copy of the new Climax Locomotive Book. Being
a true aficionado of all things steam powered and gear driven, I found the
locomotive that I would build: a 22-ton Class A Climax. I decided it would
be battery powered with a sound system installed. I drew up some sketches
and scaled it in 2.5”, 3”, and 3.75” to the foot. I settled on 3” to the
foot. What I ended up with is a locomotive that I can ride in, is very
powerful, and to my knowledge no one else in the hobby has built.
The next week was spent gathering steel and
wood, while working only 2-3 hours per night for 3 nights a week. At the
end of March the project was taking shape.
The Climax begins to take shape in the shop
I built the frame
using 1X2 channel with a 1X3 stinger running the full 82” length. The
overall width of the locomotive is 24”. I used mostly scrap Oak from old
pallets to build the cab. The boiler is 10” diameter schedule 80 steel
pipe. The truck side frames are a slight departure from the Climax
prototype, but are more common to the Gilbert / Dunkirk style of geared
locomotives that were the forerunner to the Climax. I found these frames
while visiting Craig Adams in Medford, Oregon. I purchased Roll Models 6”
spoked wheels, axles and 5:1 gearbox/motor combination. Both trucks were
assembled in two nights and surprised me how fast everything adapted together.
Chain and sprockets allow for all wheels to be powered from the main drive axle.
Power Truck nearly completed on workbench
boiler was easy. Provisions were made to house two of the four deep cycle
gel-cell batteries inside using a slide tray. I welded on a steam dome and
firebox side sheets. RMI supplied a firebox door ring, sand dome, balloon
stack and base along with a headlight and brackets from the Sweet Creek line of
products. The smokebox door and ring are from Meg Steam.
the trucks to the completed frame, it was time to develop a wiring diagram and
harness. I decided to use a 24 volt 4QD 200-amp controller from the UK.
It is compact and has variable dynamic braking with regenerative power to
recharge the batteries. I used circuit breaker protection on each lead to the
motor rated at 50 amps. The wiring used was purchased from the local
marine supply store. It is a high quality rated wire and able to handle
the amperage along with being very flexible.
Boiler nears completion and ready to mount on frame
|I built the water tank large
enough to hold the remaining two batteries and controller. I left enough space
between the tank and the cab so my size 11 boots can get in and out easily. I
tested every circuit carefully and made sure that all wiring had plenty of
movement for curves and was fastened in securely. Extra measures were taken to
place all wires in a split loom to protect from weather and blend in with the
black frame. I built my own throttle using parts available from the local Radio
Shack. I used the 4QD fuel gauge, which lets me know when the charge is getting
Written by Jeff
continued in Part 2
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