How to Build a Faux Steam Locomotive Part 1

JupiterIn honor of the firm’s founding in 1968, let’s go back 100 years to 1868, the year the Jupiter Steam Locomotive (a recreation seen above)  was constructed by the Schenectady Locomotive Works.  It participated in the “Golden Spike Ceremony” officially opening the First Transcontinental Railroad.


The one we’re going to build is considerably  smaller, but inspired by the great railroads of the past.  So with that slightly clumsy, but effective segue, let’s start building.


We’ll be using a combination of engineered wood products, metal and pvc to construct our locomotive.  While a faux steam engine, it will be ridable and pushed by a tender equipped with an electric forklift motor running on a 24 inch gauge track with a 20 pound rail.  Like with every design project we start with a Sketch-Up model.  This accurately built model will provide all the dimensions and details needed for the project.


We are going to need a lot of perfect circles, so the first step is to get cutting.  This locomotive will operate outdoors on nice days and therefore will need a certain degree of waterproofing and moisture protection.  All the pieces have been primed and sealed inside and out.


The way we make perfect circles is by roughing them out on the bandsaw and using a circle jig on a large disk sander to true them up.  By using the same radius point, we get identical circles.


The shell of the smoke box and boiler will be wrapped in two thin sheets of heat-treated hard board.  The first layer is glued and screwed and the second layer is secured with contact cement and screws.


Assembly continues down the boiler with iron rods and wooden strapping reinforcement.  Plumbing for smoke effects is also added to the structure.


Wrapping of the boiler jacket is next.  All the seams will be hidden by decorative brass strips.


We can now start adding details that will take our boiler to the next level.


With faux painting, texture and the addition of our Number Plate, the smoke box is looking pretty believable.  The bell is a narrow gauge reproduction from

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The Sand and Steam Dome bases are a tricky connection that required scribing and quite a bit of sanding and fitting before they are perfect.  All wooden parts will be sealed inside and out prior to installation.


Other parts like the Steam and Sand Dome cylinders were finds in unlikely places.  You probably didn’t know that T.J. Maxx and Bed Bath & Beyond are good sources for locomotive parts if you know what to look for.  A couple a steel bowls and some lobster pots do the trick.


Details like the official “Freer Locomotive Works” Builder Plates were constructed using laser cut letter forms and cast in a durable resin.


With the Smoke Stack and lamp assemblies underway, we’ll end part one.  Part two will cover the paint finish on the boiler and the construction of the lamp, running boards and cab.  Happy Rails!  Part 1.5

About PhillipFreer
Draws, paints and builds stuff. Designs Theme Parks, places and family destinations.

One Response to How to Build a Faux Steam Locomotive Part 1

  1. benwilliams says:

    Mr. Freer, this is amazing!

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