The Trouble with Old Model Steam Engines

Model steam engines have intrigued hackers and makers for over 100 years. Many of us have seen old steam engine models up for sale at garage sales and various internet auction sites. The problem with these engines is the fact that many of them were sold as rough casting kits. This means the quality of the model is only as good as the original owner’s machining and fabrication skills.

[Keith Appleton] is something of a steam engine expert. In this pair of videos, he takes us through troubleshooting two engines. Keith goes on to show some of the common failures he’s found while working on these wonderous little machines.

First off is the paint. If you find nuts, bolts and random parts painted in different colors, the engine is probably bad. It sounds strange, but [Keith] has found this to be a rule over his years of working with these engines.

Another problem is rattles. [Keith] found one of these engines rattled terribly. The culprit was the crankshaft. Not only was it the wrong size, but it was built wrong. These engines use built up crankshafts, rather than shafts machined from a single piece of metal. This engine’s crankshaft was threaded into the crank webs rather than pinned. Whoever built it tried to re-engineer the design of the crankshaft, and failed miserably.

You can check [Keith’s] videos out after the break. Want more displacement? We’ve covered the simplest steam engine, and an insanely detailed steampunk battleship, which of course is powered by steam.

12 thoughts on “The Trouble with Old Model Steam Engines

  1. That’s spooky, I stumbled across Keith’s YouTube channel a couple of weeks ago and have been slowly going thru each series. No fuss, no ego, just plain simple advice from his years of experience.

  2. This takes me right back to 1973 when Santa brought my 10 year old self a real working steam engine! My Dad was as excited as I was and immediately fired it up for a demonstration run. And blew up the kettle, utterly destroying my brand new toy.

    Nobody got hurt physically but life never really was the same after that…

  3. This guy is hilarious! He almost reminds me of Billy Connolly. That reasoned, dead-pan delivery just kills me. “I know it looks like the engine’s moving but it’s not. It’s an illusion… It is my hand.”

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