Beginner projects

Jump to navigation Jump to search

First Steam Project

Charles A. Purinton

The Miniature Locomotive, May-June 1953

Very often I receive a letter from someone who is thinking about building a small working locomotive. All too often, in my opinion anyway, they want to build a Hudson or even something bigger. In these cases I always consider it best to try to put over the idea of something fairly small and as simple as is possible. Even a comparatively small and simple locomotive means a lot of work and time and often a beginner gets so tired of the work and time involved that he gives up on even a small simple job, to get it to running well, and to learn what the live steam game is all about. Then, having done this successfully, that if they want to make an articulated, to go right ahead as they have been through the mill and should know what they are getting into.

There is yet another angle to the small versus large engine which a good many builders seem to overlook. This slant concerns the weight of the finished job and in this case how is the loco to be moved about in the shop or from the shop to the track. With a loco weighing say around seventy-five pounds, no very great difficulty comes up. When one considers the weight involved in a large type of loco, the problem of moving it around the shop or to the track becomes something to think about seriously.

Maybe I had better explain a little bit about what I mean by small and large locos. I would classify an 0-4-0, 0-6-0, 4-4-0, 4-6-0 or 2-6-0 as a small loco. An Atlantic fits nicely in the scheme as a happy medium. Generally speaking, the other types come under the large heading. To explain a little more, it has been my experience that a small loco built in a large scale is much more practical in every way than a large type of loco to a small scale. The machine work is not so small and fiddling (I detest taps smaller than No. 3-48) and the completed engine is much more practical and nearer the real thing.


Beginners might consider building their first project in wood. Most beginner shops are better equipped to work with wood than steel. Simple hand tools will even suffice. Here is a list of projects to consider. Be sure to add weight to your completed project, as that will help it stay on the rails.