Register now to get rid of these ads!

Projects I'm building a steam powered Model A

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by wafflemaster, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. Joe H
    Joined: Feb 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,019

    Joe H

    Most steam cars use the exhaust pulse coming from the cylinders, to pull fresh air into the burners. Large steam trains do the same thing, so exhaust piping is critical for good combustion. It will be interesting to see the final car.

    Safety is always something to think about, but the steam cars were no more dangerous then anything else on the road. Stanley had a ton of piano wire wrapped around the boilers so if it ever did explode, it would blow the top or bottom off, away from the driver. My uncle studied the Stanley's for years and never found a credible report of a boiler explosion. They buried one in the ground and set off to explode it as a test, it was well over 600 psi before giving out!

    They don't make as much steam as you would think, see videos above.
    aussie57wag likes this.
  2. rjones35
    Joined: May 12, 2008
    Posts: 865


    very cool! and nice shop!!
  3. 45_70Sharps
    Joined: May 19, 2010
    Posts: 331


    Thanks for the info and videos Joe
    Anyone who can see those beautiful old cars in action and not smile has something wrong with them!!
    I know that the stream cars of old weren't inherently dangerous, but they were built by people who lived the high tech world of steam. They knew steam, had practical experiance, learned from what they saw work, and from failures in autos, ships, commercial applications, trains and heating. This is an exercise in application of theory and historical research. Also, presumably the car that made it to the road wasn't Stanley's prototype as this model A will be.
    I'm sure it's going to be fine and cool as can be, I'm just saying due caution and respect for that steam pressure is certainly in order.

    Sent from my SM-G920V using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  4. sailingadventure
    Joined: Feb 11, 2007
    Posts: 279


    I just love thinking out of the box. This is a great thread.
    Roadster pu 1929 and wraymen like this.
  5. B Ramsey
    Joined: Mar 29, 2009
    Posts: 646

    B Ramsey

    I think this is the coolest project ever. I don't know anything about steam power. Carry on.
  6. patterg2003
    Joined: Sep 21, 2014
    Posts: 682


    A lot of good advice has been given here & needs to be carefully considered.

    First check should be what are NV state requirements for the construction & operation of a boiler. Most states defer to the ASME &NCIB codes but some have their own additional requirements. All the materials need to be traceable and suitable for the service. Cast valves can grenade if they are not WCB grade. I have seen regular WOG valve explode when fitters installed it on a 160 psi condensate w/o checking with the QA/QC first. A Hydro test is a way to test but should be 1.5x service and be held long enough to verify that that the materials stand up. Over squeezing it could be overs tressing it that may shorten its life. Even at 1.5x it is hard on a boiler so all our tube work was 100% xray and then an extended hydro at 1.1x as an in service leak test. We only used 3000lb forged fittings and seamless A105 gr B pipe for all the small stuff. Slight overkill but better to be on the safe side. The safety relief valve has to be appropriately sized with safety factors that protect the boilers. Some boilers have 2 or more pressure saftey relief valves. The PSRV's have to be serviced, tested & recertified at regular intervals to satisfy the regulatory requirements. Some codes and jurisdictions require corrosion allowances to give the equipment service life and to remain safe as metal corrodes, erodes and operating stresses. A boiler should have nnual inspections to test thickness, erosion, repair and a hydro to return it to service for another year. A local quarry made a boiler out of a propane tank that was backyard construction that exploded to kill an employee and sent others to a hospital.

    I administered the welding and code work for a large pulp & papermill for steam power piping, boilers to 1200 psi, chemical piping etc. The ASME & NCIB boiler & piping codes that regulate the boilers takes up an impressive amount of shelf space. The ASME Section VIII applies to the design & construction of a boiler. The NCIB codes have a lot on the repair and inspection of rolling steam engines such as railway engines. The paper work for a simple repair to satisfy the government boiler inspectors details & records the repair processes, all the material specs and MTR's (material test reports), welder ID's, hydro tests & non destructive tests. The welders are tested annual to be certified for code work with respect to weld process, material thicknesses & the metal families. Often engineering review & stamp is required to ensure that the modifications or repairs meet code & regulations. I have seen the effects of a failed 600 lb boiler tube and the damage is awesome. A 2 inch tube will split wide open and look like a flat spade. A large failure with an overlap condition damaged a recovery boiler and bent a 12 inch boiler buck stay beam. Large boilers may also be designed to blow out at the corners so that the destruction is controlled. A lot of thought goes into a boiler.

    I would suggest that you find the boiler regulatory authority and have a conversation before you get nuts deep into this. There is a huge difference between running a small steam engine in the backyard where the operator is the only one at risk. The serious concern here is that this is operated around people (daughter) and needs to be a safe piece of equipment. If you plan on taking it to the open road then the vehicle may not be insurable.

    You may have welding experience or have employed someone that is highly skilled as a welder but all are legally incompetent if they do not have the welding tickets that qualifies them for that specific construction or project.
    The boiler codes were written because of horrific losses in the late 1800's and 1900's that caused great destruction & loss of life. This show one example of a shoe factory boiler that flattened a multi story factory and the neighborhood around it..
    Boilers contain lethal energy that requires proper design and managed. A boiler operating at 300psi definitely is operating in a pressure that will have to be competently designed, constructed & tested. It will require an engineers stamp on the design. This is intended to help guide you to what is legally required to construct a boiler and be safe as at this point you have added your daughter to the equation. A piece of equipment in destruction mode is not selective on who it injures of kills. I have been the one to tell a family that there son was killed at work and I have been on the receiving end as well when my wife's brother was killed at work. Both sides of the equation are terrible especially when it all was unnecessary if everyone had followed the safe practices & regulations around the work. Boiler codes and all regulatory codes are a minimum standard of construction that has been written in blood by the injuries and death that brought about the standards to keep people safe. It would be a worse place to do this to ones family and friends if the boiler is not constructed to be safe.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
    stimpy, 48stude, ratman and 2 others like this.
  7. olcurmdgeon
    Joined: Dec 15, 2007
    Posts: 2,245


    Very enjoyable thread, lots of we old guys love steam. I grew up riding the NYC as a young boy when steam still pulled the trains and rode steam propelled nuclear submarines as a machinist mate as a young man. Lot of wise advice here about safety, you sure do have to respect steam power. But I am rooting for you to post a video of the first successful operation of your project!
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  8. Engine man
    Joined: Jan 30, 2011
    Posts: 3,476

    Engine man
    from Wisconsin

    A couple of years back I was on HWY 64 in Northern Wisconsin and a car turns onto the road coming toward me a couple of miles ahead followed by a cloud of white smoke. I realized that it wasn't smoke because it dispersed quickly. It was a Stanley Steamer.

    Good luck with the project even if you only get to drive it on your own land, it's certainly unique.
  9. wafflemaster
    Joined: Jan 10, 2014
    Posts: 57

    from Reno, NV

    Did some more testing on the burners, they put out plenty of heat! I bought two outdoor fire pit burners that are rated for 90,000 btu each. Should be enough to make plenty of steam. I'm not 100% clear on what my steam consumption per mile will be, but I've made room to carry up to 22 gallons of water to inject into the boiler to extend my range. I should run out of propane first based on some rough math. I think it's about 6 miles from my house to my office, so hopefully I have enough provisions for at least a one-way trip.

    I did some pipe fitting and layout for all the controls, gauges etc.



    So far I've plumbed in:
    • One 1.5" emergency automatic blow off
    • Two 3/4" relief valves (set to let go at a lower pressure than the big valve)
    • One manual bleed valve so that if I'm making steam and can't use it, like at a stop light
    • Provisions for my whistle
    • Throttle
    • 250 psi sight glass to monitor water level
    • Water temp thermometer (probably too far away to be accurate but it looks cool)
    • 3 "Try cocks" as a backup to the sight glass
    • 2 pressure gauges. One for boiler, one to monitor steam consumption
    • Check valve for water injection
    • One wet blowdown valve
    ...and some various other pieces. Hydro tests are now conducted without the sightglass valves open, and have been successful.

    In order to test everything a bit easier, I sourced some 4x2" box steel to build on top of. When I'm done testing I can integrate it into the existing chassis. This setup is a lot easier than working on the actual chassis, and I can roll it around the shop for welding, testing, cleaning etc.


    Once the stand-in frame rails were in place, I added the burners to the boiler for the first time and performed an "in the field" pressure test.


    Everything went better than expected, and we got to hear the whistle again. I can't wait to use the whistle in traffic hahaha.

  10. Hot Rodding is and always has been just that. ;)
    BradinNC likes this.
  11. winduptoy
    Joined: Feb 19, 2013
    Posts: 2,373


    I believe that you have the potential for a really unique project. It would be a hill killer
    I'm a licensed Master Mechanical Contractor, high and low pressure Stationary Operating Engineer and own a 1919 Stanley Steam Automobile. There is still a lot I don't know but I'm still here in one piece and everything still works reasonably well.
    In your first post you mentioned 'Safety' for the reason you chose a water tube boiler over a fire tube boiler. It is not my intention to squelch your enthusiasm but I see some very rudimentary problems with your set up with regard to safety. I was and still am reluctant to post but I don't want to see anyone getting hurt so bad they wish they were dead.
    Even worse killing someone.
    You can do anything you want in your own back yard but if you intend to operate this in public or for that,
    even around family or friends, that is an other matter.
    As mentioned in a previous post, the expansive energy of steam is what gives the 300 ft lbs of torque at 1 rpm
    That energy if uncontrollably released can maim or kill.
    Your selection of what I see for a water level sight glass is not adequate for the operating pressure let alone something that is going to bounce down a road. It is something you will need to keep an eye on routinely as you operate it. You need an armored level gage with a reflex glass. It is more robust.
    You have two pressure vessels that are hooked together. They both need safety reliefs
    I see the omission of a low water safety....a device that would automatically shut off the burner if the water level in the boiler vessel gets too low
    You are going to go thru at least a gallon of water per mile and maybe even more depending on how efficient the external combustion engine is.
    The feed water to the boiler needs to be injected below the water line and the feed water pump needs to be able to feed in excess of the greatest consumption. I don't see the provision for the feed water. I may be missing it.
    The feed water should maintain the water level automatically with a manual feed piped parallel. (no water=bomb)
    In the last photo before the whistle test video, you can see flame impingement on various components that shouldn't have flames on them. The one that stands out is the long flame that is burning right on a tube. If you study, you can see the flame fork around the tube. This can cause a failure right at that point.
    These are only a few safety related items that pop out at me.
    Please back off and consider a safe conventional approach to your un-conventional project.

    XXL__, turboroadster and patterg2003 like this.
  12. aussie57wag
    Joined: Jul 13, 2011
    Posts: 233

    from australia

    Love it. Way more cool than a smallblock chev will ever be.

    Sent from my SM-T805Y using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Pete likes this.
  13. willymakeit
    Joined: Apr 13, 2009
    Posts: 1,326


    This has taken on a life of its own. Enjoyed every post and something different. Keep at it.
  14. deathrowdave
    Joined: May 27, 2014
    Posts: 2,526

    from NKy

    Looks to me like your still using 150 lb fittings also. Flame should never touch copper tubes . As stated relief valves weither it be 10 or 1 need to be sized to vent all pressure without allowing generation of steam 6% above MAOP . There needs to be a fusible plug that is temp melt and allows boiler water to stop all heat generated in the burner ( fire box ) . Remember you are dealing with a closed pressure vessel , check valves and manual valves need to be placed to stop pressure from entering feed water tank . Are you planning open or closed design feed system ? Corrosion to tubes and shells must be closely monitored . Relief valves should be temp and pressure rated if they are not already . You operating a boiler above 15 lbs operating pressure is against the law unless you have proper license . These are granted after testing for a reason . I would suggest a snubber steam headed to stop pulses caused by engine cycles , this cycling will cause major stress on your boiler tube and shell . Again , I'm by no means saying you are not qualified to complete your project , but please be as safe as possible . Rules and guidelines concerning pressure vessels are written for safety . Just keep in mind the expansion rates you are dealing with , major energy that you may have never experienced on tap before this project . I see major problems in water levels as you travel up and down road grades . I'm sure you have this figured into your project , just please be 10x more careful following engineering guidelines than you ever have before .
    ratman likes this.
  15. AVater
    Joined: Dec 9, 2008
    Posts: 2,492

    1. Connecticut HAMB'ers

    Very cool (hot?). Keep up the good work and best wishes. Ambious project you have there IMG_1981.JPG IMG_1983.JPG .

    Back when I was a kid, I too was fascinated with steam an received this as a Christmas gift from my parents via Western Auto about 50+ years ago. An "atomic reactor" .

    Couldn't resist posting this.
  16. plym49
    Joined: Aug 9, 2008
    Posts: 2,797

    from Earth

    Very cool project. I doubt that OP is a dolt. Everything will be fine. No nuns and children will be hurt.
  17. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 11,019

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    This thread while interesting is turning into a huge waste of time.

    Lots of good advice has been given and it has continued to be ignored and blown off by the OP/ builder.

    And I use that term loosely. Builder I mean.

    He keeps posting pictures of his Mickey Mouse work, things like using threaded galvanized water pipe fittings and malleable iron 150 pound fittings for a boiler pressure system.

    Along with the already mentioned sketchy welding and design.

    There are construction standards and codes that deal with these things.
    As has already been mentioned.

    As a professional who has worked with these things all my life and who has also taught much of the same for the past 19 years it pains me to see his obvious "don't give a shit attitude "
    In any case as I said this has been a huge waste of time for anyone who has offered help or guidance.

    A shame really because the basic game plan isn't that bad, just the execution.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  18. I wouldn't fuck with sketchy boilers when you have literal boiler makers telling you there are huge red flags in the design. I'm all for seeing a steam powered A terror ass down the road, but do it right, these dudes are giving you tons of free valuable advice.
  19. toxic waste
    Joined: Dec 18, 2011
    Posts: 383

    toxic waste
    from Iowa

    Read this first.

    This happened in 2001. I've operated steam , repair and boiler inspected for over 30 years. I don't want to shit in your punch bowl but I see thing that's not safe.
    Plumbing steam is not anything like plumbing a air compressor. I don't know what you do for a living or your occupation but you need to do some research and learn how steam works. When they say "steam is a living, breathing thing" trust me it really is alive. If steam don't like something it will bite your head off.
    It is very hard to explain everything over a Web site. There is so many things that can go wrong that you don't even think about. For example, what water will you use in the boiler ?? Dirty water will cause boiler failure. Did you know goose shit or soap will foam and water will not boil ?
    Galvanized plumbing, stainless plumbing a no no . Schedule 80 black iron only. The water glass needs to be on a water column and needs to be as close to boiler as possible the copper tubes on your boiler , if there not full of water they will burn off.
    I want to see you do this but do it safe.
    If you need more info just ask.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  20. Toqwik
    Joined: Feb 1, 2003
    Posts: 1,308


    This is the most exciting thread I have seen in a long time. Be safe and listen to those in the industry but I applaud you for thinking down the street from the box. Good luck with your build!

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    paintslinger805 and slv63 like this.
  21. toxic waste
    Joined: Dec 18, 2011
    Posts: 383

    toxic waste
    from Iowa

  22. toxic waste
    Joined: Dec 18, 2011
    Posts: 383

    toxic waste
    from Iowa

  23. ratman
    Joined: Jun 15, 2006
    Posts: 423


    BANG !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and WHEN it does I hope nobody is hurt or killed
  24. gnichols
    Joined: Mar 6, 2008
    Posts: 10,953

    from Tampa, FL

    In this sense, a "torpedo" is a small explosive device strapped to the rail head that "explodes" when run over by the engine to signal the engineer / crew. Obviously, it was used by folks not on the train and more that likely used in emergency situations. Gary
    slowmotion and wraymen like this.
  25. wafflemaster
    Joined: Jan 10, 2014
    Posts: 57

    from Reno, NV

    I appreciate all of the feedback and advice, both positive and negative. Nothing is going unheard, ignored or otherwise. Posting a project like this publicly is a great way to see if you ideas will hold water (pun, sorry). I see many conclusions being drawn after a few posts and photos. It's very difficult to show the complete story in a few pictures and words. Anyone who has tried online dating would understand what I'm saying :)

    I'll briefly address my boiler design. My hybrid, mixed-material water tube design is significantly different than a more traditional fire tube design, common in industrial applications, locomotives and most boiler-explosion horror stories. With a fire tube boiler you would want it as stout as possible to handle emergency fluctuations in pressure. My design is based on intentional failure. There are 56 points of intentional failure designed into the boiler (each copper to steel connection). Those are the weakest links in the chain, and they are designed to fail well before anything else (and the whole thing gets encased in a fire box/ protective jacket too). The rest of my design follows that principle, hopefully that helps paint a better picture of the project.

    Now, onto the project. I found this old nail holding the brake actuating rod in place. If that ain't a "traditional" build, I don't know what is :)


    The burners that I purchased are great for a fire pit, but a poor choice to heat my boiler. Main reason: Soot, and a lot of it. I tried to drill out the orifices for the air mixer tubes to allow for more oxygen, but it's still way too rich. They produce an aesthetically pleasing flame, but the soot buildup will eventually degrade the heat transfer properties of the copper coils.


    While waiting for new burners to arrive, I turned my attention to the exhaust system. The engine had very small diameter exhaust tubing, pointing straight up. After a couple test runs ended with me being covered in water and steam oil, I decided to send the exhaust down and to the rear. I'll be doing my part in keeping our streets clean and properly oiled. A quick trip to the local plumbing supply company resulted in some wallet shock and some beautiful 2" copper pipe.


    Next, it was time to start modifying the chassis to my new width and length requirements. The plasma torch removed about 5.5" from the crossmember to get my new width.


    Then I cut the front rails to the correct length to attach to my new box channel rails:


    ...and all welded up. It needs gusseting and bracing, but the idea is there.


    Finally, my 20 pound brass bell showed up! It's really loud, sounds just like a big train. This will be a big hit at intersections and crosswalks I'm sure.

  26. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 27,946


    Ten or fifteen years ago there were 20 Stanley Steamers within an hours drive of my house. Sadly three of the owners have passed on, but they left a lot of good memories. I remember a new boiler being wrapped with piano wire, just as the originals were to help contain the steam pressure. Will the boiler with the coils run at a far lower pressure than a Stanley? Bob
  27. gnichols
    Joined: Mar 6, 2008
    Posts: 10,953

    from Tampa, FL

    A couple of side bars from the wise crack department? First, why hasn't anyone mentioned the other cars in the OP's garage, from classic big sedans to a DeLorean. Flux capacitors should be no problem, either! More to the point and I'm sure operators of steam things get this all the time, quite a few years ago I was visiting the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway in Chama, NM and while walking the yard I overheard an engineer give a visiting father and son a detailed response to their query about how those big, narrow gauge locos were fueled and how it worked. The engineer started with the water and coal in the tender, talked about how the fuel and water was routed thru to the firebox or boiler, heated, made steam, how the steam was sent to the cylinders, pistons, siderods, etc. to move the wheels. But when the briefing was over, the father still wanted to know where you put in the gasoline. Gary
  28. woodbutcher
    Joined: Apr 25, 2012
    Posts: 3,236


    :D Hi waffle.IIRC that you said that the burner that you are using is for NaturalGas.If so,that is the reason for the very rich flame.Natural gas produces LESS BTU`s than LP gas,thus needs larger holes in the burner for the NG.Burn the proper gas in your burner,and the rich flame will go away.
    Good luck.Have fun.Be safe.
  29. wafflemaster
    Joined: Jan 10, 2014
    Posts: 57

    from Reno, NV

    I'm actually using LP, which prefers a lot of combustion air. I guess I can build a fire pit with the old burners! The new burners are specific for LP. They are outdoor beer brewing burners.
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  30. wafflemaster
    Joined: Jan 10, 2014
    Posts: 57

    from Reno, NV

    Yes, my engine and boiler is designed to operate between about 80 and 150 psi. All of my safety devices are set for a little over 150. I've tested the engine at 40 and 80 psi and it runs great.
    lothiandon1940 and turboroadster like this.

Share This Page

Register now to get rid of these ads!


Copyright © 1995-2021 The Jalopy Journal: Steal our stuff, we'll kick your teeth in. Terms of Service. Privacy Policy.

Atomic Industry
Forum software by XenForo™ ©2010-2014 XenForo Ltd.