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Author Topic: What is the Intent of This Website?  (Read 8376 times)


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What is the Intent of This Website?
« on: May 07, 2015, 04:05:25 PM »

I have been asked by others, and often ask myself "What is the Intent of this Website about Steam Engines?"

The answer has been one that has changed over time, and I am not sure I have a complete answer of where it will all end up.

It started after my Dad died in 2006, and I acquired many of his model steam engines, and one of his Roper replica steam bicycles.
Dad was an extremely private person, and so I sort of watched him from a distance as he began building simple small steam engines, and then progressed to larger and more complex engines, eventually building 38 steam engines of various sorts including a Stanly steam car replica, and two Roper replica steam bicycles.

I made several assumptions that have turned out to be false, such as:

False Assumption No.01:
If Dad made all those engines from scratch, then I could too, and without too much trouble.

False Assumption No.02:
It probably does not take much time to design and build steam engines.

False Assumption No.03:
Understanding how steam engines work should not be difficult since they were designed so long ago, and thus were obviously primitive machines.

My interest in steam engines began with a Wilesco model steam engine/steam plant that my brother had when I was a young, and expanded when I ran across an Audel's book about steam engines and their operation, which prompted me to build a steam engine and boiler for my 12th grade science project.

These have been my motivations for this site (to date):


1. To showcase my Dad's steam engine work.
2. To document some of my Dad's steam engines using 2D CAD drawings (Bernay, Dake, Robertson, and No.21 steam engines).
3. To re-create some of my Dad's steam engines.
4. To understand the design of my Dad's steam engines.

It was at this point I realized that there was much more to steam engine design than I ever had dreamed, and I realized that my Dad's steam engines were generally rough visual approximations of the original designs, with little or no attempt to recapture the exact design intend with regard to critical things such as valve gear, timing, ports and passages, original materials and construction methods, etc.

I downloaded perhaps 200 scanned books about steam engines, and since I could not find any usable and historically accurate modern information about steam engine design, I decided to try and document steam engine types, basic design principles, and leave a paper trail of what I found on this site so others could learn about steam engines.


1. I gathered sreen-captures of about 1,000 scans of engravings of old steam engines from the old books, and posted the various classifications and types on this site.
2. I began to learn how to machine metal, and found out that making steam engines from bar stock was (for me) a very difficult and time consuming task, and often did not capture the original intent of the old steam engine designs, ie: cast-in passages, ports, gray cast iron construction, etc.
3. I made a few small steam engines (from steel bar stock), and was most unhappy with the results, and dismayed and discouraged by how difficult it was for me to make even a small simple steam engine.


1. I decided that I was not interested in making bar-stock model steam engines as my Dad had done, but rather my interest was in reverse engineering old (late 1800's) steam engine designs, and recreating them either full size or to scale, with all of the design features of the original engine, and using the methods and materials of the old era, ie: gray cast iron, cast passages, Babbitt bearings, etc.
2. I purchased a 3D modeling program and learned how to model steam engines in three dimensions (with much difficulty).
3. I decided to create a small foundry and experiment with casting steam engine parts in aluminum.
4. I decided to attempt to cast steam engine parts using gray cast iron.
5. I began learning the art of pattern making.
6. I learned much about the art of operating a small foundry.


I have heard the statement "3D modeling creates a pretty rendering, but has little or nothing to do with a real engine".
In many cases this statement is quite accurate, but the impact of 3D modeling on the engineering design world (in my opinion) is as significant and the creation of the pencil, paper, and the alphabet.

When I began documenting some of my Dad's steam engines using a 2-dimensional (2D) computer aided design (CAD) program, I quickly found out that 2D CAD is a very tedious, time consuming, and error-prone way to design an engine, especially if changes have to be made during the design process (changes always seem to need to be made).
3D parametric modeling (parametric modeling is a design based on a central and fundamental set of defined parameters in a 3-dimensional model) is a quantum leap in design capability.

For the first time in history, all the parts of an old steam engine can be recreated and assembled in a virtual space on a computer screen, and more importantly the assembled parts operated in a simulated mode to verify that the design actually functions as intended, and functions as it was originally designed over 100 years ago.  A change made to any 3D part can automatically update and change all related parts, and automatically modify all associated 2D drawing views and dimensions.  The amount of time that can be saved when designing an engine with 3D modeling is vast, and a high level of accuracy can be maintained.

When 3D modeling is applied to pattern making, tedious tasks like adding draft angle, including a shrinkage factor, adding machining tolerances, and scaling a design up or down to any size becomes easy.


Over the past few years, my interest in steam engines has gone from posting steam information on a website to a full blown attempt to accurately recreate some scale and full-size reproduction engines in cast iron.
It has been quite a journey, and has developed into far more of a hobby that I ever dreamed it would (it has become more of a "Holy Grail" type quest for me, for those who follow the Monty Python movies).

At this point I am in the process of casting a twin cylinder steam engine, mostly in gray cast iron.
It will be a 1/2 scale version of a full-sized workshop engine from the late 1800's.

The small workshop engines from the late 1800's are particularly interesting to me since they are simple enough to understand and perhaps to recreate at full scale, but complex enough to provide a very robust and durable engine that could be used for working purposes such as powering workshop equipment, or a small launch.

Just a few of my thoughts on where I am with the hobby today, and a few details of the long journey of how I arrived at this point.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2017, 06:06:40 AM by admin »
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