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A New Challenge in Locomotive Building

The Electronic Steam Locomotive Part 2

 


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 Badger          


            continued from Part 1

With the boiler mounted, the remaining wiring was finished and provisions made to install a Sierra Soundtraxx Climax sound system.  I found a compact 120 watt amplifier on the E/Bay auction website for $5.00 brand new.  I also found speakers: a 6” mid-range that is fitted in the balloon stack and an 8” sub-woofer mounted in the steam dome.  In setting up the sound module, I synchronized the chuff rate to the speed of the wheels.  I also deleted the bell as most Class A Climax locomotives came without them.  The whistle is a single chime and I mounted a small flat-top imitation on the top of the cab roof.


Finished frame with trucks mounted ready for wiring

With the boiler mounted, the remaining wiring was finished and provisions made to install a Sierra Soundtraxx Climax sound system.  I found a compact 120 watt amplifier on the E/Bay auction website for $5.00 brand new.  I also found speakers: a 6” mid-range that is fitted in the balloon stack and an 8” sub-woofer mounted in the steam dome.  In setting up the sound module, I synchronized the chuff rate to the speed of the wheels.  I also deleted the bell as most Class A Climax locomotives came without them.  The whistle is a single chime and I mounted a small flat-top imitation on the top of the cab roof.


Looking into the tender showing the 4QD controller, batteries, and the homebuilt handheld throttle

All electrical systems checked out and the cab was installed. I decided that it was time to test the locomotive out at the Portola Valley and Alpine Railway in Portola Valley, CA where I am a member. October 3, 2002 was a bright sunny fall day, and since it was a workday at the club, not much was going on. After unloading, I ran up to the main line from the yard, and posed the locomotive for its first official photographs. After that the locomotive ran for over 2 hours with several of the club members present taking a turn at the throttle. The ride is as smooth as a Cadillac. The fuel gauge at the end of running hadn’t even moved. The dynamic braking on the 3% downgrade was very evident even with only one car. I could hardly wait for the regular run day to get some real weight behind the locomotive and see how it would perform.


Robert Staggs assists as the boiler is mounted and electrical wiring is run through

I was very satisfied with the performance and looks of the locomotive. I spent the next couple weeks before the regular run day at the PV&A finishing off the lettering, number plate, foot boards and grab irons. I made sure the cord for the controller was long enough so I could sit in a riding car or even operate it from my live steamer. As you can see, everything I build is narrow gauge 3” to the foot.

It was time to reflect on the project to see if the goals I had set for myself had been adhered to.


First run of the Class A Climax #4 at the Portola Valley & Alpine Railway

  1. The first two and a half months went well. I probably spent more time setting back in my chair looking at the locomotive and contemplating the cosmos. Due to my job as a camp manager, I had to put the project on hold until the summer camp season was over. I got busy in September again and the locomotive was complete by October 28, 2002. I figure I have around 165 hours into the project.

  2. With the variety of suppliers used, the most machining work I had to do was with a file. No lathe or mill was used. Lots of drilling and welding though.

  3. As far as how much money spent, when you look at the time I could have expended in machine work on raw castings, I saved money. If I charged out the time at a local machine shop rate to build the locomotive, it would have been cost prohibitive. I own a lathe and mill, and they both sat still through the whole project. The 4QD controller from England saved money over most of the competitors here in the states, and I am very pleased with its performance so.

The challenge is over and I am now ready for the next one. Since the completion of this locomotive, I have had many people take turns at running it. One such person fell in love and had to have it, so it went home with him. I keep challenging myself with each project since this one and have managed to build a jalopy rail truck, a center cab diesel, several flats, one gondola, a tank car, and a neat logging caboose. One of my friends lamented that he did not get the chance to buy the Climax, but challenged me to build a Heisler using the same formula. I did and here are the results of that. Began in January and finished in August of this year.


Battery Electric Powered Heisler with Sound System built by Jeff Badger

I guess I am very lucky to have a wife who allows me to do this, and a job that gives me the shop area to work in. Hopefully some of you are inspired and are up to the challenge of building a car or locomotive for your railroad over the next few months.

Currently in my shop I have under construction another Jalopy Rail Truck, a live steam powered donkey engine, and a 15” gauge critter locomotive.


Written by Jeff Badger      

the end

 

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