Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have a question, send Peter an email.

How long does it take to build one of these things?
The simplest steam loco takes about 1,000 hours or around 18 months for the average builder. Some builders have been working on their loco for over 10 years and the finished product is immaculate.
A battery powered loco can be built in a couple of months.

Can I buy a kit to build a miniature live steam model?
No, but you can buy plans and get $1,000,000 of advice and experience when you join a club.

How heavy is it?
The smallest steam engine we have weighs about 50kg and the big ones up to 150kg. There are other engines a lot smaller and also a lot larger.

How does it work?
Water is boiled and the steam sent to the cylinders. A valve controls whether the steam pushes the piston (in the cylinder) forward or back. The piston connects to the wheels via a connecting rod which causes the wheels to go around. A very simple process.

How long does it take to get a steam locomotive up and ready to go, from cold?
All locos are different, but around 30 minutes. It's very simple. Put water in the boiler, firewood and char in the firebox and light it. While we are raising steam, we lubricate everything.

How long does it take to cool it down, once you get it in from the track?
Around 30 minutes. We have a lot of cleaning and oiling and checking to do, not to mention chatting to friends.

How much does it cost to build a steam locomotive?
If you want to buy one, it will cost from about $6,000 to over $40,000.
If you want to build one, the parts for a simple one would set you back under $4,000.
If you have to buy all the tools and machinery to build one, you could pay $7,000 up to .... .

What skills do I need to build one?
If you have a mechanical aptitude and handyman skills, you can soon learn to operate a lathe and a mill.
If you aren't sure about building a steam train, you could build an electric/petrol type loco for under $1,000. They are a lot simpler.

How powerful is steam, compared to diesel or electric?
It is impossible to compare engine to engine because there are different types designed for different purposes. Generally speaking Steam, diesel and electric can have similar power, but steam trains require a lot more maintenance.
The smaller "BlowFly" types (like Woody) that we run are about 1/3 hp.

Do they take much maintenance?
Generally, no. Most are very precicely built. On some parts, the accuracy is the thickness of a human hair. We also provide plenty of lubrication while we are running to prevent wear. We sometimes 'over engineer', making parts bigger than their scale size - only by a fraction and you won't notice it, but it helps. We are also careful not to over work the locos. Most engines can pull 4 carriages, but we limit them to two. However, as you may have noticed, we do occasionally break down, just a everything does.

Do they cost much to run?
It depends a lot on the number of passengers, whether they are adults or children, which track we are on, the condition of the loco and numerous other factors, but as a guide, one of our locos used ¼kg Char and 2.5lt water in one lap. On a Public Running Day, it used 9kg Char and 86lt water.

What tracks do you have?
Our 1.5km ground level track is used for 5" locos and the 200 metre elevated track can run 3½" and 5" locos. Some clubs have tracks for 2½" and 7¼" locos.

Why do we have to wear covered footwear?
We are very safety conscious. If you wore thongs and your foot slipped off the footboard, you could lose a toe, and that's not nice.

This page was developed due to a suggestion from Helen Armstrong. Thanks. Please send any question you have to the Web Master