Steam Locomotives (the Cyclopedia)

More accurately, Model Railroader Cyclopedia – Volume 1: Steam Locomotives:

Steam Locomotives - Cyclopedia

This arrived for me this week, after a discussion with my friend Andy Malette about research materials for our CNR Mikado project. Andy noted that this book taught him a lot about the various appliances on steam locomotives, as well as the myriad of pipes that connect them. So, I grabbed a copy via ABEbooks. And Andy is right – there’s a ton of information in this tome.

The caveat is, the information is of course “ex-Works”, “best practices” and so on. If you’re detailing a locomotive, as we are, it’s important to check prototype photos of the exact locomotive you’re trying to model. This is particularly important with steam engines, and even moreso if they’ve been around for a while: just like a subdivision can start out looking like it’s built from Monopoly houses, yet acquire character through the passage of time, individual steam engines often developed a unique character as shop forces worked to keep them in service, and to modernize them.

In fact, that’s one of the joys I’m experiencing in doing this project with Andy. We’ve each picked different numbers – I’m doing 3737, while he’s chosen 3702 – and the two locomotives are very different. The plumbing is different. The location of appliances is different (for example, on Andy’s locomotive, the location of the feed water pump and the air pump is reversed). The smokebox fronts are different. The sand domes are in different spots. And so on. When we’re finished, we will have two locomotives of the same class that each exhibit their own character, and have their own back stories.

This is what makes prototype modelling so rewarding. As a friend is fond of saying, “Details Matter”.

4 thoughts on “Steam Locomotives (the Cyclopedia)

  1. I had forgotten what a treasure that chapter is! It should be required reading for every steam locomotive modeller, as it gives a foundation on which to interpret the photographs we see. If you can identify the systems on the locomotive, you can untangle all those pipes to come up with a model that looks like it might work.

  2. Another brilliant source of information about the fittings and how to model them is Mel Thornburgh’s constructional how-to series of articles in 1940s Model Railroader.

    Anyone with a digital subscription, or the DVD of all early issues, is recommended to read these. IIRC, there were series on 0-6-0, light mike and light pacific USRA designs, plus a NYC ten wheeler and also a B&O E27 consolidation.

  3. The starting issues for the series are:
    USRA 0-6-0: September 1939
    USRA 2-8-2: June 1941
    USRA 4-6-2: May 1940
    B&O 2-8-0: October 1945
    B&O 4-6-0: January 1948
    B&O 4-4-0: September 1950

    I got the railway wrong for the ten wheeler (that was a more recent series in MR), but as a bonus there is the 4-4-0…

    There are more, so worth searching the Kalmbach index:

  4. There was a series in the Narrow Gauge Gazette in the ’70s and ’80s called “Straight Talk About Bent Pipes” that covered a lot of appliance information, also. I don’t think it ever was published as a volume but you can get the Gazettes on CD now so could review.

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