An Introduction to Live Steam Railways

The term “live steam” refers to steam that is placed under pressure and used to operate moving equipment. For avid live steam hobbyists, one of the most interesting uses for this technology is the Live Steam Locomotive. These have been commonly featured in museums and recreational parks, though in recent years their popularity has been rising among residential enthusiasts as well.

Understanding Scale

The locomotives produced by Live Steam Australia and similar companies are crafted to be scale models of larger trains. Usually, they are referred to by the number of inches of scale per foot, so a 1:8 scale live steam train may be referred to as 1.5-inch locomotive. Keep in mind that choosing the right scale relies on understanding the system’s intended use. Those who wish to use their live steam trains for display purposes only can purchase smaller-scale models, while those who want to use their railways for passengers will require larger models with more power.

Understanding Track Gauge

Track gauge measurements refer to the distance between rails, ranging from tiny model railways, which tend to range from 2.5” to 7.5”, all the way up to grand scale railroads. These larger-gauge tracks are more frequently featured in amusement parks and other commercial settings, though it is possible to purchase large-gauge tracks for use in a backyard Garden Railway as well.

It’s important to keep in mind that track gauge is not necessarily directly related to locomotive scale. Larger equipment can be used with narrow gauge track configurations.

Relevant Technologies

Just about all live steam trains feature boilers, but there are many different designs available. Some locomotives feature externally fired pot boilers, while other larger and more complex models may use superheater boilers or multi-flue internally fired boilers. Basic models may instead make use of a valve gear, while extremely complex models may mimic the operational strategies of full-sized steam engines.

Fuel Types

There are a wide variety of fuels that can be used to boil water in live steam engines, the most common of which are coal and gas. Most experts agree that coal is more effective for ridable trains, though some larger-scale models do employ gas ceramic burners as well. Other less-frequently used fuel sources include oil, methylated spirit, and hexamine fuel tablets, but these are used very infrequently in contemporary live steam trains.

Learn More Today

Always been interested in installing a backyard railway and ready to get started? Check out Live Steam Australia online to learn more about available products today.


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