Modular powerplant (Now in a floating boat) - RC Groups
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Jul 18, 2012, 09:11 PM
Steamy laser dude.
SenorNeekers's Avatar
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Modular powerplant (Now in a floating boat)

Hello steam-folk!

I'm starting this thread to serve as a form of motivation as I work on a long-term project. I am planning to build another steam launch, this time with an easily removable steam plant.
As steam engines, boilers, and their various fittings are expensive, I'm planning to mount all of the various workings onto a 4" wide plank by around 14" long.
My goal is to have the capacity to transfer this power plant to different ships without needing to spend money on anything other than the hulls.
This way, I can save money, get more boats, and gain more hull building experience. Seems like a plan.

I plan on using a GAGE TVR1A for the engine. I built it a while back and have been eager to put it into a hull.

For a boiler I am on the fence. I have been considering buying a Maccsteam boiler. From what I've seen and heard online about their performance, they are tough to beat. The price is however, a bit intimidating.
The other option I've been considering, is building a boiler. Having read K.N. Harris' book Model Boilers and Boilermaking I am realizing that building and testing a boiler is within reach of my skills. I have formed copper in the past, and am also experienced with silver soldering. The main thing that is preventing me from jumping right into it is the fittings.
I can make the shell fairly easily, but my tools are limited as far as making the bushes and other fittings. Buying them is a possibility that I am considering as it would still probably end up saving me quite a bit of money in the end.

What are some of your thoughts?

As for the hull, I'm planning on trying something new for me. I work at a trophy shop that has a laser cutter. I'm planning on turning a few sheets of plywood into a set of bulkheads, keel parts, and a rudder. I've included a screenshot showing what the pieces look like all layed out for printing.

While I have it all ready to print I'll likely wait until I have the powerplant built so that I can be sure it will fit.

I may have sourced a section of 3" copper pipe to form the basis of a boiler.
As I mentioned, I am unsure if I'll make my own boiler. Not only that, I am unsure what form it would take if I made one. There are definitely lots of different options.
I am thinking that I'll likely go for something with a fairly large water capacity. If possible, I would like to avoid anything more complicated than a hand pump for refilling the boiler.

Anywho, that's the general plan. Mostly putting the idea out there so that I feel like I'm doing something with it.
Last edited by SenorNeekers; Dec 08, 2013 at 01:40 AM.
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Jul 19, 2012, 02:05 AM
Taking care of the pond.
I'm watching this build.
Jul 19, 2012, 02:51 AM
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Bernhard BB's Avatar
ohh yes me to
Jul 19, 2012, 08:38 AM
Mini-Me is watching you...
thenodemaster's Avatar
Jul 19, 2012, 09:32 AM
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steamboatmodel's Avatar
If you split the ribs into smaller thinner sections they will nest better for the cutting. You can buy fittings and bushings from a number of places and solder them in your self. Building boilers yourself is fairly easy provided you do it in a logical manner and do all the safety testing. If you have any questions don't be afraid to ask.
Jul 19, 2012, 10:24 PM
Steamy laser dude.
SenorNeekers's Avatar
The ribs are really about as narrow as they can be. You can see there are some angular notches in some of them. These are to accommodate the plank upon which the powerplant will rest.
And I played tetris will the pieces long enough to realize I'll need 3 sheets anyways.
I did consider leaving the deck off and hand planking it, but I figure that adding thin veneer planks on top of a pre-cut deck will give me a similar look compared to the method used by the maestros around here, while being much easier.
I discovered, however, that my .cdr files cannot be opened by the computer at work for some reason. This issue will need to be overcome before I can print these pieces.
Jul 20, 2012, 04:57 PM
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-kno3-'s Avatar
Interesting project. Building the steam plant first and the hull after is a very good idea.

Regarding the boiler,I think you can definitely build it. But if you're going to buy the fittings, try calculating costs in advance and see how much you'd save before deciding. A commercially made boiler has the advantage of being made and tested professionally.
Jul 20, 2012, 09:39 PM
Steamy laser dude.
SenorNeekers's Avatar
Originally Posted by -kno3-
Regarding the boiler,I think you can definitely build it. But if you're going to buy the fittings, try calculating costs in advance and see how much you'd save before deciding. A commercially made boiler has the advantage of being made and tested professionally.
That is indeed what I was thinking.
From my calculations a 3 1/2" Maccsteam boiler will all the fittings will set me back 540 CAD, plus another 80 CAD for a gas tank.

Whereas, if I do it myself I'm looking at about another 40 dollars for the copper, another 50 for a burner, 20 for the sight guage, 20 for a safety valve, 70 or so for a pressure guage, plus I'd still need a gas tank.

So the whole kit and caboodle buying it would be around 620 or so.
Building it will be at least 280.

Keeping in mind I want to add a hand pump, and a whistle, we're looking at about another hundred or so for either option.

So potential savings of over three hundred dollars to be had. Subtract from this that I will need to buy more supplies, such as silver solder (I doubt I would have quite enough for a boiler) and shipping from various sources.

Another question for those in North America who have ordered a Maccsteam boiler. Roughly how much has shipping run you?
Jul 21, 2012, 01:30 PM
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steamboatmodel's Avatar
The Major problem with building most of the model boilers to published designs or copying existing ones is the main boiler shell. Most of the designs call for 3 1/2 " dia shells, which I have found is usually ether a special order from a model engineering supplier or required a minimum order that would involve a second and third mortgage. I am working on one design that calls for 3 1/2 " and the largest I have found that I can afford is 3". I will have to crowed the fittings a bit on the end plates, but figure I can increase the length a bit to maintain the same volume.
Jul 21, 2012, 06:21 PM
Steamy laser dude.
SenorNeekers's Avatar
I was lucky enough to find a fellow to sell me a 3" diameter pipe, 6" long, for $2. Which I feel is fair.

I am, as of yet, unsure if this will be sufficient water capacity without a automated pump. I may be stuck with slightly shorter runs. (not a really big deal)
Aug 19, 2012, 02:19 PM
Steamy laser dude.
SenorNeekers's Avatar
So progress on this is slow as I have a lot of other projects on the go right now.
That being said, I've gotten the base plate all stained up and mounted the engine, as well as the push-pull rod for throttle control. I'm hoping that I'll be able to mount the electronics onto this plank, but with the boiler taking up space it'll be tight.
Here is a pictures showing the engine beside a condenser and what I originally thought was going to be my boiler shell.

Upon acquiring the pipe, I noticed it's not the right kind of pipe. Mandrel formed, but not rolled after. After discussing this with my pipefitter friend, he mentioned that this type of copper tends to split over time, even without load.
He also mentioned that he has lots of thicker pipe, of sizes up to 4" diameters, so clearly I am going to have to go that route.

Considering the price I paid for this piece of copper, even if I just use it as forming practice, I think it was a good buy.

I also got around to laser cutting and assembling the first piece of the boat that this will go on. Most of the pieces will be cut from cheap plywood, but things that will be highly visible, like the Rudder and Transom, I want to look a little nicer.
I used some scrap 1/8" local Alder from work. One side had previously been etched, but since I was planning on sandwiching them up to 1/4" thickness, this wasn't an issue.
The brass rods are where the rudder will connect to the boat. Aiming for a more prototypical look here. Of course now that I upload it, I realize it should have another post at the base. Oh well, plenty of time to add it later.
Aug 19, 2012, 05:03 PM
Registered User
-kno3-'s Avatar
You could also fit that condenser alongside the engie, which would allow to move the boiler closer and get you a more compact plant.

Nice work on the rudder.
Aug 19, 2012, 07:05 PM
Steamy laser dude.
SenorNeekers's Avatar
That is something I had considered, and now with a different control set-up, it is far more feasible.

I am glad you like the rudder. It is the kind of precision I am hoping to achieve throughout this build.

Something I forgot to mention: I added a leather pad under the engine. This will hopefully absorb oil and grease that sometimes makes its way out of the engine. It may also reduce vibration, and thus noise, within the hull. We'll see how it goes.
Last edited by SenorNeekers; Aug 19, 2012 at 07:10 PM. Reason: I thought of something I forgot.
Aug 20, 2012, 04:58 AM
Registered User
-kno3-'s Avatar
In that case, the leather pad will be messy and impossible to clean without dismantling.

If you're concerned about vibration (no need imho) you can add small rubber feet under the base and leave enough of a gap to be able to clean the space with a cotton swab or something similar.
Aug 20, 2012, 12:41 PM
Registered User
steamboatmodel's Avatar
You could build a small tray for the engine to sit in that would collect the spillage. the rudder looks like a good start.

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