Thread: Discussion Ideas & Thoughts
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Old Jan 14, 2013, 05:55 PM
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Bozeman, Montana, United States
Joined Aug 2003
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Steam is different. For an electric boat, you can assemble parts from a kit, and the boat will likely perform fine the first time out. My electric VacUTug worked on her maiden voyage. With steam, even if you have a kit, you will likely not achieve instant success, at least I didn't. There are skills to learn to run even the simplest steam boat: Fire management, Fuel management, Water management, Steam management, Safety, Tools needed and Tools nice-to-have pondside....in short, you have to be as knowledgeable as a real steamboat engineer. You can read all you like about these topics. But, reading and doing are not a given. Experience is necessary. Mistakes will be made.

When I see a new guy starting out with a complicated design, I worry that he will be overcome with problems and quit. Debugging a steam power system is not a trivial matter, even for experts. This is true even for the simplest system.

If the builder adds complication, the debugging process balloons. I saw this all the time over on the live steam RR site....posters were true steam and machining experts, with years of experience. They had to use every bit of their knowledge to achieve success with their complicated models. Admittedly, it was stunning success :-). It was fun reading how they debugged, I learned a lot. Unless you love debugging something for which you have no experience, think twice before diving into a complicated steam setup.

I recommend starting with the simplest system, no automation: eg. Midwest Heritage engine/boiler package. It works, it has more power than most people expect, it is a lot of fun to run, and you learn steamboat skills. Then, if you are having fun, and getting your boat to run satisfactorily, branch-out and add the fancy dodas to your next boat.

The dodas are not necessary for enjoyment. They let the boat act more like an electric boat (turn it on and forget about it). But, if that's your goal, then why not stick to electric? The joy of steam is that it Does require skill. Gain the skills of operation, with manual control of everything. They will provide a sound foundation for branching out with your next model.

In my own roundhouse I have complicated and simple locos. I find I enjoy the simple, do everything yourself, models as much (and maybe a little more) than the complicated ones. My 3 steamboats have all been simple; my enjoyment has not been hurt at all by their simplicity. Examine your own goals. If complication is your thing, then Great! I think you'll have a more enjoyable journey towards Complication if you get a little steaming time under your belt first.
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Last edited by Brooks; Jan 14, 2013 at 06:16 PM.
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