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I have located a steam roller that I am thinking I would like to buy. I don't know a lot about how to check it out or how to put a value on this old pice of iron. Would any one like to give me some advice. Phil
Best advice? Hire a boiler inspector and pay for an inspection (here in Pa one is about $35) Sometimes you can find an insurance inspector in the hobby who will do it for expenses.
If you can't do that, take an experienced engineman along to help go over it. He'll see things you will miss (guaranteed). Another option is to take someone from your local boiler shop along (BUT be aware that there HAVE been a few cases where shop people have panned a particular engine to a customer, just to later purchase it for the shop to restore and resell).
What to look for? Completeness - every missing item = time and money.
Condition - especially boiler, places of particular interest: crown sheet, firebox sheets at the grate line, lower front tube sheet, barell belly, entire bottom on a wet bottom, inner and outer firebox sheets just above the mud ring, stayboltss, and any place that has accumulated organic matter (which holds moisture against the metal) We will assume that if it has been sitting any length of time that it will need new tubes. Mechanicals? Check the gear teeth, Many enginse which were used for haulage have badly worn pinions and bull gears - this will affect the value, but unless they are missing teeth shouldn't really be THE deciding factor on a purchase. If the engine still turns over, fine, if not you may want to inspect the cylinder bores (since you said a roller. I'm assuming it is a twin)
Paper trail- if it has already been in preservation there should be inspection reports, receipts, and all the other official paperwork. Also, some states, like NY, will NOT accept a lap seam boiler, PERIOD, even if it is brand new. Be aware of your hobby code before you go.
I agree with the previous post about the boiler and completeness. I have limited knowledge of values; so I'll just toss out some numbers FWIW. Prices vary a great deal with condition. For parts, say -bad boiler, I would think 1-2k. I would guess with a good solid inspected boiler that does not appear to need anything would double the value to 4k or more. Stored in doors all complete and good boiler maybe 6-8k. I dont know what tubes cost or if you would do that yourself, the repairs might be considered a labor of love more than investment. I think if it ran and was inspected the final value might be +/- 10k. Most rollers Ive seem had had lap seam boilers. Perfectly acceptable in my opinion, but not too good a long term investment prospect.
Gas engines have become a commodity and big time investment. For a steam roller, its better to just plan on keeping this for life and spend what you can, when you can, to bring it back. Try and buy cheep; but understand steam is NOT a cheap hobby and NOT necessarily a good investment.
New York is an interesting problem. I own a traction engine with an old boiler. I am CONFIDENT that it is safe. it probably would not pass an inspection. Since I love old iron, I an very happy to have this engine and run occasionally at home. In my opinion all steam engines are worth preserving. Even in NY you can run an engine at home. And the next step down the scale, an engine with a bad boiler might make and interesting static display for the guy who "really" appreciates the iron. On the two wheel rollrs, the boiler can be replaced. Boilers can be repaired, its expensive, but it is an option for the hard core lover of iron.