Steam Power

1st December 2006, 00:18
I have plans to build a model passenger/cargo steamer c1910.
This will be 5 feet in length. All carvel built over a frame, to reduce weight.
I aim to use a good quality hardwood in narrow planks, steamed to curves.
What I would like to do is to power her with steam boilers and steam
engines to twin screws.
There was a book produced of Machinery for Model Steamers from Percival Marshall. Is this book still of use or should I look elsewhere? I add that I have no intention of building a boiler. But I would, please, ask for advice as to how I should go about this.
Best Wishes, Raymond

1st December 2006, 00:22
Are you ever in luck-there's one on Ebay 8QQrdZ1QQssPageNameZWD1VQQcmdZViewItem

1st December 2006, 01:37
Thanks Jo ... I see the postage would cost as much as the book.
I also had a look on Amazon, found it there for a fiver. I guess the
information and advice therein is just as valid now as then.

1st December 2006, 09:39
look on They are another good source of books,usually with a lot of choice.
As for getting into steam in a model boat,are you sure you know what you are letting yourself in for? I wrote an article for model boats a number of years ago about persuing my dream of putting steam into a was a proprietory supplied and fitted engine and boiler with all feeds, plumbing and such.
I never really enjoyed the experience, as it was very unreliable and very fiddly to actually get up a good head of steam and keep there, and eventually I went back to electrics.defeated!
mind you if I'm trying to preach to the experienced I'm sorry,but my experience was to forget it. It was a tremendous exspence for very very little enjoyment.If you think that going into a lake fully clothed ,twice in one morning,to rescue a clogged propeller and a fast rising head of blue smoke from an empty boiler, fun, then I admire your sentiments.

1st December 2006, 13:20
Hello Neil and thanks for the "caveat emptor" ... It is just that I have always wanted to build a steam driven vessel of a decent size. Now I have "time on my hands" I want to "have a go". I am no expert, although I used to muddle around with a couple of steam driven boats as a youth, built the engine - all ran off paraffin and a little boiler that spat steam drops everywhere. Just a bit of a dream, I guess, but any advice would be welcome. I seem to remember some talk of a "no moving parts engine", all controlled by valves off a wheel trip system. But, I have to say, with boiler risks, I will be relying on a built ready made one. Other than that, I want to build from scratch.
Thanks again, Best Wishes, Raymond

1st December 2006, 13:32
you are most welcome,Raymond.something similar in engine management was available from a company called Cheddar models and used radio control for the amount of water going into the boiler and coming to the was a wonderful system and an engine/boiler unit with all the equipment to power a model your size was called the "Proteus".however I could never afford one as they were over £1300.00 for the full unit.however they come on ebay under the toys and games section now and then for about 4-500 which is a good buy.Cheddar models are no longer trading but all the gear was bought back by Stuart models of (either ) guernsey or jersey ( can't remember which).and these guys at Stuart are incredibly helpfull to us inexperienced steamers.they even have one or two names of model engineers who will undertake to build steam plants,some at "pocket money price"I hope I haven't soured your plans,as I didn't mean to.just didn't want you to be disappointed once you had built your model only to have problems with steaming up.all the best and good luck with your project.neil.

1st December 2006, 13:47
Thanks again .... One plan I did have as a back up, as I do realise there are pitfalls in model engineering ( not all Mamod's work ), was to use a compressed gas cylinder as a pressure supply for the engine. I guess the cylinders for these fizzy drinks soda makers, small and light enough for a model would do the job nicely, with a suitable valve for controlling the pressure. I like problem solving. I come from a maritime / mining area, so it is all around me here in Cornwall. I just like to explore the avenues first, before committing to a system. Best Wishes, Raymond

17th December 2006, 15:44
Well gents I have to say I disagree with the thoughts regarding steam models.

I certainly would not be rash enough to say that steam is easy or always reliable but a lot of thought going into the build process will reap rewards with a reliable plant.

They are certainly more work and at times frustrating but electric can be as well if not put together correctly. I have included a couple of shots of my current model project which is a steam coaster made from a kit. Unfortunately I have then put a lot of time in 'upgrading' a lot of the kit parts such as fitted proper planked decks instead of the printed plywood overlays and adding rivet detail to make it into a much more realistic representation. Right from the start I decided the model deserved a steam plant but the kit configuration did not readily lend itself to the plant I wanted. Consequently I had to redesign the bridge assembly to make it removeable.

The plant itself incopporates a number of little enhancements all designed to make the steaming experience reliable and therefore more enjoyable and after a couple of trials on the water I can say she is as manoeuvreable, and as reliable as any electric model.

The enhancements are as follows:

1) Fit the on board gas tank with a external connection to enable raising of steam from an external tank at the pond side and so reduce cooling of the on board gas tank.
2) Use a Cheddar gas control valve which dramatically saves gas and prevents over pressurising of the boiler by controling the boiler pressure.
3) Fitting a copper conducting strap to transfer heat from the seperator tank to the gas tank to reduce the cooling effects of the evaporating gas. Used in conjunction with a pressure regulating valve to give a consistent gas flow to the burner.
4) Fit an on board feed tank and a pump to enable the boiler to be filled without having to blow off the pressure.
5) Fit a blow off line to clear the water out of the steam line to the engine so reducing that first slug of water through the engine that always opens up leaks.

It may seem like an over complicated set up but I only added things that I thought were necessary to enhance the reliability of the sailing. I did not fit a water regulating valve and controller as I am happy to bring it into the bank occasionally and feed some water into the boiler manually. You have to empty the seperator tank anyway so about every half an hour it needs to come in for a gas fill, boiler feed and seperator empty and you are off for another half an hour.

A lot of people understandably don't want this degree of attention but you really really can't beat a cold, clear frosty morning with the exhaust steam billowing out of the funnel and hanging in the air as you delicately manoeuvre the ship into the bank.

By the way Treeve this is the sort of plant that would do your job perfectly: 7QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

18th December 2006, 21:18
I agree with you wholeheartedly ,both of you,with regards to the ideals of steam.Unfortunately bunkerbarge,I just haven't the knowledge to implement such mods.and as a lot of the modelling fraternity have similar aptitude as myself when it comes to model engineering (which in my opinion is far more exacting than full scale engineering) and many of us have a pipe dream of seeing "smoke" coming from a funnel ,listening to the chattering of a multi cylinder engine,then all logic goes out the window.I would love to have your skills in the engineering dept,but as an experience model maker I know my limitations and know that I have to buy a ready made plant,and if anything goes haywire,I can send it back to the supplier,as I wouldn't have a clue as to how to fix it.Sadly if that commercial plant is idiosyncratic to begin with then there is no hope for me at all and that is why I say "if it is a dream" then it's best to dream and let someone else have the heart ache.however.I still dream of putting a Stuart Turner Tripple expansion into a large model steam trawler,but that's another dream!.merry christmas to you all and happy modelling!

19th December 2006, 01:13
I think it is the most important thing in modelling to work within your own limitations.

That is precisely why I purchased a kit with a fibreglass hull as I could not contemplate taking on a planked hull.

Don't worry about the Stuart Turner Triple being a dream, there are very few of us that could afford one never mind keep it operational!!

19th December 2006, 09:22
I must say,bunkerbarge,your workmanship on the model,let alone your engineering skills,looks quite superb!.Please post pictures of your finished model when done.Is it the Ben Ain from Mountfleet?.cheers,neil.

19th December 2006, 13:30
Well, that is precisely the inspiration I need.
So very well done.
A joy to watch and hear working.
Thanks for all the advice and inspiration.
Only thing I would add though, is that we actually
don't know our limitations until we try.
I have spent the last 60 years having a go,
but, somehow I get immersed in it all, and
I find that actually, I can do it. 7 years old,
I took a clock completely apart, and put it back
together again, and it worked. It's been that
way ever since. The picture of the Ben Ain
under steam says it all, lovely bow wave,
and the flow of the steam above is just the
way it should be. Brilliant.
Best Wishes, Raymond

19th December 2006, 13:37
Hi Neil, Thanks for your comments. The model is indeed a Mountfleet Ben Ain kit, although I have upgraded a few things along the way.

I consider myself to be lucky enough to live quite close to Mountfleet so I went along and Frank very graciously showed me his entire collection of completed prototypes to enable me to make my choice. It was more like a museum to me! I went for the Ben Ain as it was built in the Manchester Dry Dock yard at Ellesmere and it could well have been around when my Dad was at sea going in and out of the Manchester Ship Canal.

One attraction was the fibre glass hull, as I really didn't want to spend vast amounts of time building a hull, and the white metal castings are very nicely done. Somehow I always thought the model would be missing something if I did not propel it with steam so I went about putting the idea of the plant together and designed how I could shoehorn it into the model. Consequently a lot of things have been more difficult and time consuming than the kit originally called for but I hope it will be worth it in the long run.

As for finished photo's the model has so far taken up most of my leaves for the past three years and I see it using at least another two years worth.

Don't be misled by the steam plant though, the engine, boiler and tanks were all bought off the shelf, it is just the thought and assembly that is all mine. I hope I can make it reliable and easy to use but I sometimes think these things tend to be manufactured for thier looks rather than thier efficiency. I have already put a lot of time into fixing leaks which I shouldn't have to do and the engine control valve has required serious modification to stop it wearing out very quickly.

I will put some more pictures up as the build progresses, meanwhile here is a link to a build thread on a model site that I have been writing:

19th December 2006, 19:53
I fully intend building the ship model in strip planking and to follow a swept stern, each strip will have to be slowly crafted and formed, rubbing strips together to form butt joints. Keep myself occupied as a change from research and writing web pages. I will be setting up the bench and jigs early next year.
Thanks for the URLs too ....

19th December 2006, 21:06
Thanks for your kind words Raymond,I know what you mean about limitations, I just push the envelope cautiously and after a lot of research. Being a sea going engineer instills that sense of "you can do anything", I just need to convince myself I'm in with a chance of it succeding before I go for it.

I guess Ben Ain herself was a bit of a leap of faith. I have never built a working model boat before, never built a steam plant before, never built a model out of wood before etc, etc so I was in for a few surprises. To hear the little motor clicking away and the blunt bow pushing the water out of the way as she noses into the centre of the pond is immensely satisfying.

I am sure I could have a go at planking but I just don't have the time for it and, to be honest, I probably enjoy tinkering with the brass bits too much!!

I look forward to a picture of your own project.

26th January 2007, 09:48
Oh gents,I've just done the unforgivable!After all the waffle I gave trying to steer Treeve away from putting steam into a model boat I've just done the exact opposite and bought a brand new steam plant off a very nice gent in Yorkshire.Not only did I buy the steam plant but bought double trouble in that there are TWIN steam engines and the partly built and beautifully so model tug to go with it.I could not resist the looks of those beautiful little twin cylinder engines and the lovely mahogany lagged boiler.WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN, but boy am I looking forward to getting it steaming later in the year.You know what they say about kids,sweetshops and never learning from mistakes..........CAN'T WAIT. cheers to all you steamers out there,Neil.

26th January 2007, 13:02
So, there you go! Proves my point. Best of Luck, Raymond

26th January 2007, 21:04
Oh Raymond,don't'll have the burnt finger tips and singed skin from scolding steam and oil soon enough.good luck and maybe see you down at the pond edge one of these days,neil.

28th January 2007, 12:01
Oh gents,I've just done the unforgivable!After all the waffle I gave trying to steer Treeve away from putting steam into a model boat I've just done the exact opposite and bought a brand new steam plant off a very nice gent in Yorkshire.Not only did I buy the steam plant but bought double trouble in that there are TWIN steam engines and the partly built and beautifully so model tug to go with it.I could not resist the looks of those beautiful little twin cylinder engines and the lovely mahogany lagged boiler.WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN, but boy am I looking forward to getting it steaming later in the year.You know what they say about kids,sweetshops and never learning from mistakes..........CAN'T WAIT. cheers to all you steamers out there,Neil.

Whose steam plant is it, John Hemmens? You'll have to send us a couple of pictures of the plant for us to see it and the tug it is going to end up in.

Twin engines will use a lot of steam so I would make sure that you incorporate a means of filling the boiler without having to vent off the boiler. An on board tank with either an engine driven pump or a manual pump would be a great time saver with this set up.

28th January 2007, 16:41
How does that work? The Boiler will be under pressure, so what kind of pump will be able to pump water under pressure to "top up" the boiler? Or maybe use two boilers, or a bigger boiler? Having seen the Harvey calculations for coal fuel burning, pressure and water capacity, it leaves me with a feeling that I have a lot of calculations to do; on top of preparing drawings and work plans.

29th January 2007, 00:22
hi treeve and bunkerbarge.the steam plant is a cheddar models "max" consists of a large boiler from the Proteus steam plant with two puffin twin cylinder steam engines.the starboard engine is fitted with a waterpump that feeds off a water tanl that was already made by the guy I bought it off.all the pipe work is ready for just screwing up at the little journels and the model tug,which is a part built Imara is beautifully made model.At the moment I am building a model Arun lifeboat so I've stuck the tug away in a loft,but after my fiasco with a steam engined Marie felling years ago I thought I'd have to give it another go and getting one that looks idiot proof was at least a slim chance that this idiot speeking might this time have at least a few happy hours on the lake.give me a few days and I'll find some photos for you both.cheers,neil./

29th January 2007, 01:10
The reason I am interested in the twin engine is because I also want to build a Russian Destroyer, eventually, and me being me, I like to plan things out to the tee. She will need twin engines. The original had five boilers. Look forward to seeing your set up.

29th January 2007, 21:42
I look forward to the pictures Neil but that sounds like a very nicely put together plant.

You will have to think about all sorts of other issues such as gas consumption, exhaust seperation, cooling effects of the gas tank etc but once you have got them sorted you should be on your way to a reliable plant.

You certainly have a very nice set up there and it has the making of a superb model.

If you have a read through the build thread on another forum that I linked to earlier in this thread I describe some of the challenges commonly encountered with steam plants and what I am doing to try to eliminate them. I use the word "Trying" cautiously!!!

2nd February 2007, 04:58
Another question for you, as I make my plans ...
the destroyer I want to model, was powered by twin steam turbine, five boilers. What is your advice and opinion of a model steam turbine?
I would like to see the equivalent of the original 34 knots. Sufficient power to cut the water, without emptying the water around the propellers.
Are there any good books on the subject?
Best Wishes, Raymond

2nd February 2007, 11:50
Treeve and bunkerbarge,if you p/m me with your own email addresses I'll send you some photos of the steam plant.being a computor technophobe I haven't figured out how to include them in messages from this site.
As to your question about steam turbines, treeve.there was a very good article on how to make a steam turbine engine (very easy to follow as even I could understand it) on how to make one a few years ago in either Model Boats or Marine Modeling International.
The chap had made one to feed off a normal boiler to power his model of a 35" Turbinia and he said in the article that it worked very well propelling the model rather quickly.
If you contact John Cundell,editor at Model Boats (on 01525382847 ) or Chris Jackson at Marine Modeling International they will be able to help.usually if the mag is out of print they will photocopy the article for you.cheers,neil.

2nd February 2007, 13:07
I see you live in Cornwall. Contact the Redruth Pond Hoppers. They meet up at Coronation Park on Sunday mornings, and I believe Wednesday evenings.

That Percival Marshall book you mentioned used to have a design for a steamm turbine, in a tug. Seemed, from pics, to work very well. I bulit one, trouble was gearing, and it ran well on compressed air. Tried it on the Athlone castle many years ago. It went so fast the shrouding all came off. (A bit of shim brass about fifteen thou. thick.


2nd February 2007, 13:15
Thanks for that Neil, just what I am looking for.
Thanks too Bryan, that must have been fast,
afraid the thought of the story made me laugh.
I guess you need space to sail too.
This all sounds very promising,
Best Wishes, Raymond

1st February 2008, 00:03
More ideas coming in ... I have the drawings for the destroyer, and will
be working them up; in the meantime, I am wondering about using a Tesla turbine. I see a number of ideas using CDs, though at those revs I would worry about integrity and shattering. The question is, revs are not an issue, can a model be made to develop a good torque for use in a model of around 6 feet? The other point is what power and quantity of steam/compressed air is needed in relation to standard steam engines? Any ideas or suggestions (polite :) )... Best Wishes, Raymond

Peter Dryden
1st February 2008, 17:59

I think you are being a little unfair to us all, keeping us in suspense,LOL, Please give us some info on the tug.


1st February 2008, 18:20
Just like "Me old dad" used to say - "You can't scale steam!". Thus, however small the engine, due to a better power to weight ratio and the properties of steam, you may be surprised at the engines performance!

When I get time, I will follow the whole thread and maybe come up with something!


1st February 2008, 18:39
Thanks Dave ... I am digging around for ideas, I have found a lot of what I would consider to be "loony" ideas for the Tesla, not a lot on genuine technology and design. I have to moderate ideas with what is possible for someone who is tackling this for the first time. I know a Parsons Turbine is well out of my capabilities, but equally I feel that the Pronzitelny deserves a steam turbine, rather than some big cop-out of a water pump or electric motor. Best Wishes, Raymond

5th May 2008, 09:43
If you'r not too worried about the turbine being built to scale then I migh have an alternative.
I have just built a tubine using a dead hard drive from a computer. So far I have only run it on compressed air. My estimated speed was 14000 rpm on 120 psi, only needs about 5 psi to start it (no load).
Not to sure how the bearings will handle steam or high temperatures although some hard drives can run quite hot.
So far I have run it for about a couple of hours and so far no problems.