I get a lot of eMail from people who are interested in our great hobby. They often ask where to begin. People are looking for suggestions on startin out in the hobby and build a locomotive.

Let me offer the following suggestions. If you have more questions, drop me an eMail.

1. Search out your local Live Steam club(s). Join as an associate member. Get to know other members. Most Live Steamers are very friendly and want to share their love of the hobby with anyone who will listen.

2. Before choosing or building a locomotive, do a few things. First, check out the scales and gauges in your area. 1-1/2″ scale has two gauges. In the south and west U.S.A. is 7-1/2″ gauge, while north east U.S.A., eastern Canada in and Europe, most tracks are 7-1/4″ gauge, while the. 1″ scale is mostly 4-3/4″ gauge, while there are some tracks to 5″ gauge. The one scale that is universal is 3/4″. 3/4″ scale is 3-1/2″ gauge. Next, decide what locomotive you can reasonably build with your machine skill (you can learn as you go along as I did), and your financial abilities (you can also build each section as you have the money). Finally, build a locomotive that you will be able to move considering you health, age and vehicle.

3. Subscribe to one or more of the hobby magazines. I get both Modeltec and Live Steam. You will find a listing under my Live Steam Suppliers page under publication.

4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I began building my American with no experience. My kit was purchased machined and by the time I finished, I had a small lathe, mill and a number of hand tools. George Broad from Modeltec once said, “A good machinest has a pile of scrap under his work bench.” The reality is, a person that never tries, never succeeds.

5. Vist different clubs. Look at the many locomotives. Ask the owner how they made something. You can get some real good ideas by looking at other locomotives.

6. Don’t be too serious. Live Steaming should be fun. When it becomes a chore, it is no longer a hobby. You can get enough stress at work.

7. Dream! Building a locomotive is not a one weekend project. However, your hard work, challenges and perseverence will pay off. There is no greater thrill than pulling the throttle on the locomotive that you spent many hours building and people telling you have beautiful you locomotive is.

8. Happy Steaming!


Beginners — 6 Comments

  1. Terrific website. Impressed at your craftsmanship. My great-grandfather built live model steam trains in the 1950’s. He was a machinist who also worked on full-scale steam locomotives at Spencer Shops Roundhouse in North Carolina. He passed away before I was born. I wish I could have met him. I’ve got all of his original metal working hand tools. I regret my family sold his lathes and milling machines. I’ll be fifty-one in August. My seven-year old son wants me to build him a backyard ride-on train. It will have to be electric for now since I don’t have machining equipment. I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to machine metal. I’ve learned how to make my own sand castings. Built my own crucible furnaces. Poured aluminum, copper, bronze, and iron. I was once a dental lab technician where I learned to use a variety of materials, molds, techniques that would readily apply towards building a steam locomotive.

    I realize many people must ask you for technical advice. I know I’ll have to learn things like everyone else. At step at the time. Instead of technical advice, could I ask for a prayer for discernment? I am an artist. I draw, paint, sculpt, cast pewter, weld. God has blessed me with a variety of gifts and talents. I have done my best to use them, be a good steward of them. It has just been so hard to find a focus for them. I’ve tried so many different mediums. They’ll last a while then fade, or the door will close. It’s been a frustrating experience. Something about seeing and holding a precision machined part has always fascinated me. I often experience it when I replace machined parts on my car. The milling marks, the tolerances, their use as part of a greater whole. Heck, it just looks FUN. It would be so fun to share it with others too.

    Thanks for reading my email. Perhaps one day I too can know the joys of machining and building that you’ve experienced. It certainly shows through on your website. Keep up the good work.

  2. hello I recently bought a 3/12 g scale but is missing some parts, the main part is a dome close where the smoke scapes. the dome is missing but AI do not know if it had a pressure valve or safety valve do that it has a 5/8 inch hole with treads that has signs of steam but with me just a begginer do not know this parts also ther is otwo rods that are missing the they sincronize with the wheels I would appreciate your help from Gil I live in cal

    • I would recommend joining a local Live Steam club. Get to know some of the members and ask their assistance. It’s difficult to recognize a problem with a locomotive without actually seeing it.

  3. I live in wisconsin, i would like to start small built i cant find any clubs near my area. Not sure where to start, couple of of my budies will be building with me. But not sure where to find the pre machined parts, drive train boiler ect. Iam confident in my machining skills as i do enough at work. if any one could help me out it would be much ap. my email is biggestreimannd@gmail.com or a comment on this page thank you.

    • Hi Dan,

      Not having a club nearby makes it a little more difficult. It may be worth your while to travel to the nearest club, although it may be a long distance, to see what you are getting into. You can check out the various suppliers on the website. I would suggest you start small.

  4. I am enjoying your workmanship and inspiration. I myself, have started a Kozo Pennsy A3 in 1.6″. Because I was raised around LALS and my Father’s automotive shop I decided to make some modifications outside of my comfort zone in order to test my 3D modeling and engineering skills. This has resulted in a growing pile of scrap but on the bright side, I have learned how to rebuild a lathe twice.

    Although my progress is slow because I seam to be making a lot of jigs and specialized tools, I look forward to the day of finishing this engine and starting my next one.

    Thanks again for the information, inspiration, and encouragement.

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