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Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please


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  #1  
Old 07-18-2016, 03:37:42 PM
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R. Kern R. Kern is offline
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Default Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

I've got a nice collection of Empire toy steam engines and most run on their own live steam (electric built in heaters) but I have several that have the heaters burned out and I'd thought I'd try and set up 3 or 4 to run on compressed air from some sort of 12Volt pump so I could "hide" the pump and run them on compressed air at engine shows. I know I can buy electric heating units and again I got many running steamers...this is for something different.

I'm older and heavy stuff is a problem...figured if I put a 12 volt battery in my trunk and used it to power the compressor to run the engines it might be fun and not too much work.

My questions are has anyone done this with small engines? I know some folks run larger steam engines on compressed air but these are just toys....I'm guessing 5 psi or so might run them. Should I use a manifold with one pressure gauge or do I need some sort of gauge for each outlet and engine?
Finally is there some compressor that can be used that is not noisy like a tire pump?

I'd bet someone has done some of the ground breaking and if they want to share some of the pros and cons it would be much appreciated...thanks again
R. Kern
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Old 07-18-2016, 05:30:42 PM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

There are commercial compressors that work on 12 volt. They are made to maintain brake pressure on trucks that stand idle for extended time - like fire trucks. These pumps are not cheap! you might be better off looking for a good sized inverter and an old style paint compressor, that only puts out about 30 PSI. Either way, it will take a lot out of your battery to power the compressor. Even those little tire pumps take up to 10 amps, and they tend to overheat if used for over 3 or 4 minutes. I know, as I tried it! An alternative is to mount an old compressor to a small engine, like a B&S 5-S. At idle, it will be quiet, make enough air for your models, and makes a light, quiet neat display all on its own! better than running your truck to keep the battery up!

As for engine pressure, 5 to 10 Psi should do it. Install regulator at supply end of a manifold, and install individual shut off valves for each terminal from the manifold (each engine). The regulator will maintain the pressure up to the limit of demand and supply, and each engine can be 'throttled' with its supply valve. NOTE - your steam engines, run on air, will not be efficient, as there will be no expansion to do the work. The engines will be less powerful and will waste a lot of air
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Old 07-18-2016, 05:46:09 PM
G.M.Johnson G.M.Johnson is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

How long do you plan on running your little steamers, Short bursts to show spectators that stop by, or for many hours? I don't see why your idea wouldn't work. Maybe take a couple of batteries, instead of one, hook your compressor up to a small receiver air tank, but them both in the trunk, run a air line out to the manifold, and split off from there to each motor? Most 12v compressors are of the noisy type and putting it in the trunk would muffle the noise, but then how long before your battery runs down. As far as a manifold goes you can make a simple one out of black pipe fittings and a single gauge should be fine, no need for individual ones. Being in the HVAC trade, I myself have used a small high pressure tank of dry nitrogen, regulated down to what ever pressure I want and have used this as a source for air. I also have friends that are big into the air rifles and use filled scuba tanks as well, which are a lot lighter and can go a lot higher in pressure which yields more capacity. Nitrogen tanks in all sizes you can get and rent on exchange bases at any HVAC supply house. As far as scuba tanks go, some scuba shops are picky and don't like to fill tanks without being a licensed scuba diver. Mine where I live don't care either way. Just a few ideas.
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Old 07-18-2016, 05:56:24 PM
joncrane joncrane is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

I run my model engines off a sears compressor,110v and an extension cord. Can usually find an electric hookup "no too far away'.
Saw another guy run his smaller toys with an air compressor from a fish tank bubbler. Really small and he hooked it up with plastic 1/ hose. Again he plugged it in. Bubbler compressor probably did not weigh two pounds and was cheap too.
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Old 07-18-2016, 06:40:52 PM
BobSaunders BobSaunders is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

Here is my set up at shows. The manifold is ice maker valves from Menards. Paint sprayer pump. No need for a gauge. I also use fish aquarium valves when needed. I have a air pump for an azimuth or medicine inhaler from a thrift store for $5. 3 lbs is about right. Bob
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Old 07-19-2016, 10:24:04 PM
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R. Kern R. Kern is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

Many thanks to everyone that chimed in....I got some ideas and will proceed to figure out what works...be an interesting experiment...I'm to the point that the bit cast iron hit and miss are getting way to heavy to keep messing with...

One thing I'm going to try is to use a really good running Maytag twin to run a small compressor...the Maytag is really clean burning so very little smoke and it's got a great muffler system on it so it's nice and quiet...might be a way to run a small compressor and have the best of all worlds..an antique gas engine and some antique steam toys...all in one display.

Thanks again

R. Kern
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Old 08-03-2016, 09:24:37 PM
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John Hamilton John Hamilton is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

Those really small compressors that plug in to a cigarette lighter work fine. Just use a quick release on the hose and engine to make easy work of it. Probably Walmart or Harbor Freight have just the thing.
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Old 08-05-2016, 07:33:48 AM
Gil Garceau Gil Garceau is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

As pointed out above, small Briggs style 4 cycle engines at slower speeds are nice and quiet.
A long 1" to 1.5" ID reinforced plastic hose works great to get the air supply near your display
and acts as an air tank at the same time, thus eliminating pulses from your display.
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Old 08-05-2016, 08:27:19 AM
Odin Odin is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

A display I've seen a few times has model engines for sale all running off of compressed air.

They use a small modern engine driving what looks like a 5 gallon compressor. There's a regulator between the compressor and manifold to give a constant pressure, followed by a smaller tank that I think is actually an old 1lb propane tank welded into a stand containing the manifolds. Each engine has its own needle valve, and is connected by clear vinyl tubing. I guess the air pressure required to make them tick along isn't much at all.

As long as you took care of the engine exhaust, you could probably run a suitable sized compressor without unloading it from the truck. Then wherever you go you'd have power for your display. Maybe get the gas engine to run a compressor as well as an alternator so you have electricity for the electric boilers that still work as well as air for the models that don't have a working boiler to use.
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Old 08-09-2016, 08:29:02 AM
kwfiggatt kwfiggatt is offline
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Default Re: Toy steam engines run on compressed air help please

You might look up a Gast air pump. These are vane style pumps that run 5~10 psi, used in labs, and also in sewage aerators. Ebay is a good place to look. I've seen them belt driven and direct electric motor drive. New they aren't cheap, but are very rugged.

The one that I have has a bleed fitting on the outlet to control the pressure. I'm using mine on a waste oil burner that used low pressure air for oil atomization.
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