Model Maker's Dream Engine

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Model Maker's Dream Engine

by Fred M. De Ripperda

Mechanix Illustrated, February 1949

Mechanix Illustrated Cover Feb 1949.JPG

Meet Clarkson Bundick, skilled devotee of one of the world's most exacting hobbies--the building of scale-model, steam-driven replicas of locomotives that made our railroading history.

Did you ever happen to see an apparently normal-looking man bend over a working scale-model steam locomotive, take a deep whiff of the acrid aroma of hot oil and soft coal being emitted from its tiny smokestack, and then murmur ecstatically, "Mmmmm-aaaah! Wonderful!"? You did? Well, friend, you were gazing at a Live Steamer, one of those curious craftsmen whose hobby is among the strangest and most fascinating in the world.

To the full-fledged Live Steamer, no smell is more alluring, no sound more melodious, no sight more thrilling than those produced by the miniature metal engine which he has created after months--somtimes years--of painstaking effort. In the truest and most flattering sense of the word, these fellows are "nuts"--and extraordinarily contended "nuts" at that. And the closer their models come to the real thing--in sight, sound, smell and performance--the happier they are.

One of the most skilled Live Steamers I've met is a wiry, energetic fellow from Scarsdale, N.Y., named Clarkson U. Bundick, whose superb 3/4-inch-to-the-foot working model of the New York Central's Hudson-type streamliner is pictured on the cover of this magazine. Mr. Bundick is a model engineer for the National Broadcasting Company. In spare evenings and during week-ends, over a period of eight months, he built with his own hands and tools every single item (except the steam pressure gauge) of the many hundreds that went into this replica of the engine which once pulled the crack Twentieth Century Limited between New York and Chicago.

How many hours did it take? Possibly 3,000, probably more. Mr. Bundick isn't sure. Live Steamers don't keep track of such an unimportant element as time when they are absorbed in their hobby. But a glance at the photos on these pages of the six-foot long, 400-pound locomotive and tender tells its own story.

The locomotive's boiler, holding 1-7/8 gallons of water, carries a working pressure of 125 pounds per square inch. It is built of one-quarter-inch thick steel tubing and has 19 flues, each about the same diameter as a .45 pistol barrel. Mr. Bundick uses an ordinary ramrod to clean them. The firebox burns tiny grains of rice coal on a grate surface of 40 square inches. Force draft is provided by exhaust from the cylinder, blower valve and feedwater pump exhaust in the smokebox. The water supply is provided by a hand pump, an axle pump, an injector and a steam pump--all designed and made by Mr. Bundick. The twin-cylinder, double-acting feedwater pump will squirt 1.745 pints of water per minute into the boiler when operating at the rate of 200 strokes per minute.

Another ingenious device is a miniature feedwater heater which preheats the water before it enters the boiler. The superheater element raises the temperature of the generated steam to the point where condensation in the cylinders, and resultant loss of power, is eliminated. The boiler is completely enclosed with asbestos and covered with a jacket of stainless steel.

The mechanical parts consist of two high-pressure cylinders with a stroke of 1.750 inches and a bore of 1.374 inches, each equipped with a hydrostatic lubricator. The valve motion (of the Baker type predominantly used on the New York Central's Hudsons) is so accurately built that even steam distribution is assured at all speeds. All castings, including the corrugated cab deck, were made from the builder's own patterns. All 26 wheels on the locomotive and tender are fully spring and equalized. The locomotive develops 0.865 hp at four mph and 0.218 hp at one mph. Its safe speed is about 10 mph and it will pull a weight on flatcars of approximately 1,000 pounds.

The most soul-satisfying experience in the life of any Live Steamer, like Mr. Bundick, comes from driving his locomotive. Since an engine of this size is too small to permit the engineer to sit completely in or atop the tender, a trestle about three feet high is set up, enabling the engineer to ride side-saddle on the first flatcar behind the tender.

Why do Live Steamers take such pains to build, maintain and (occasionally) operate these intricate little steam locomotives? Probably--says LBSC, nom-de-plume of England's foremost Live Steamer--"because they can't afford to buy a full-size locomotive or have no place to run it." Which is a pretty good explanation.

eBay Auction

Clarkson Bundick's NYC Dreyfuss Hudson was listed and sold on, December 2013. Here is the description posted with the auction:

Amazing 3/4 scale coal fired live steamer of the 20th Century Hudson. Builder was an old friend of mine. I have blue prints and all wood molds for sand castings. All correspondence after train was in Mechanics Illustrated 1949 issue. This model is solid brass, bronze, copper, stainless and steel. In case you were wondering the paint job was destroyed before it came to me. The cabinet and glass case shown is included in this auction.