Monthly Archives: December 2014

Sturgeons #1 – Design Considerations

The following is a list of what I’d like to accomplish with this project.

  • Begin with the BAGRS concept.  The concept is proven and there are plenty of opportunities to deviate from (bash) the original design.  While kits were available for a while, they don’t appear to be currently available.  That means this is really a scratch built locomotive.
  • Upgrade the power.  I see an upgraded boiler and steam engine.   I want to be able to pull decent sized consists.
  • Upgrade the wheel arrangement.  I see this as a 0-2-4T rather than the 0-2-2 in the BAGRS design.  The addition of a four wheel truck at the rear will allow the engine to better negotiate turns.
  • Power more than one axle.  After all, this is a live steam engine that will regularly deposit oil on the rails.  Ideally, all three axels would receive power.
  • Modify the scale.  While the BAGRS model is a 1:20.3 (3 foot narrow gauge model), it makes more sense to me to convert to 7/8 scale (2 foot narrow gauge).
  • Create a unique look that fits in with NPC history and the terrain in which it operates.
  • Learn how to use a mini-lathe and a mini-mill in this project.  The output doesn’t need to be NASA quality.  I just needs to look OK and work.  After all, this is a backwoods engine.  The prototype would have been cobbled together.

In the rest of this post, I’ll discuss how these objectives were met.

Sturgeons #1 Research

I thought I’d use this post to document research into the design and construction of Sturgeons #1, a vertical boiler backwoods locomotive.  This research took two forms, research into prototypes and research into models built by others.

Prototype Research

An old steam buddy, Keith Christensen became my acquaintance during the Mason Bogie archive project.  I was bidding on a MB builders photo on eBay and Keith out-sniped me.  That was back in the days when bidders eBay handle showed in the list of bidders.  So I fired Keith an email congratulating him on his successful bid.  Then I asked him to scan a copy of the builders photo and e-mail it to me.  That led to him emailing a number of MB photo scans.  He also collaborated with David Fletcher and I in pulling together the back head drawing of NPC No 21 also available from this site. Keith owned the remaining Class A Climax.  I’ve always wanted to build that engine as a live steam.  But I don’t think I currently have the skills to do it.  But I will post some research information on that engine in the prototype research section — When I get around to it. I’ll also add some photos of backwoods locomotives as I come across them in posts to this section.

Model Research BAGRS Project Engine

This whole project started out when I was getting my head back into live steam paging through my copy of “Starting in Steam”.  I came across a photo of the Bay Area Garden Railroad Society (BAGRS) project engine. EPSON DSC picture At his web site, Michael Martin maintains a complete set of building instructions including:

  • Drawings of the wooden part of the structure
  • A complete parts list
  • Step by step instructions on its construction.
  • Tools needed
  • A set of links to parts sources

Here is a link to the project section of his Web site. I used this as a starting point.  But as one afflicted with kit bashism, I couldn’t just build the project engine.  I had to make some modifications to make it my own.  And I was already in possession of the first step in the bash.  I had just taken delivery of a PM Research Boiler No 1, a vertical steam boiler, much more robust than the boiler (and engine) specified in the kit.

PM Research Boiler #1

For now, I’ll just share a photo and link to the PM Research Web site.  But because this is an unmachined kit, you’ll see and hear a lot more when I am documenting construction. STEAM-BOILER-1-450x400 Mike Martin’s Backwoods 7/8 Scale The boiler created a problem in designing this model.  It is 7″ tall at the base of the chimney.  That’s too tall for 1:20.1, 3 foot narrow gauge on G Scale track.  But what about 2 foot narrow gauge.  That’s a scale of 1:13.5, or 7/8 (to the inch) scale.  A 7′ boiler would be a bit under 8″ in scale.  Now we’re talking.  I didn’t have to look far to find one.  Mike Martin had a picture of his at his web site. Pro-II-small-1 This engine was built using the project boiler and steam engine.  My boiler will be significantly taller.  But there’s room if I fiddle with the roof line. You would expect all of the dimensions of a 7/8 scale engine to be 1.5 times as great as the dimensions of a 1:20.1 engine.  Except for the track which is the same distance apart for both engines.  Width would be about 6″, scaled up 1.5x from the 4″ width of the BGARS engine.  With G scale rails 1.772″ apart, the engine could be pretty tippy, especially going around curves.  Mike cleverly dealt with this issue by building a 4″ wide deck and superstructure, then added an additional 2″ of width with floor boards providing the ability to step up.  The front and rear bumpers finish the look.  So the two inches of additional width is both low and light.

Graham VR1A Steam Engine

Of course I needed a more robust steam engine to go along with the more robust boiler.  With the width available on the deck, the steam engine needed to be relatively narrow.  That eliminated the two cylinder vertical engines.  Fortunately the Graham VR1A fits the bill.  It is a machined kit requiring little more than small screw drivers and a file to assemble.  I’ll just provide a photo and a link for now.  The assembly and testing of this steam engine will be documented in the build section.


When I posted some of the above images to the Live Steam Forum at, a couple of members provided links to threads documenting their builds.

Scott Lawrence’s “Baggar Shayish”

Scott Lawrence posted this photo of his Bagger Shayish, his spin on the BAGRS project.


He has a very interesting thread documenting his build.

Eric Shade’s VR1A Install

Eric Shade and his son built these engines using a Graham VR1A.  I don’t see a final photo in the thread but there is a drawing.


Woodpecker Backwoods

I found this very interesting photo at the Woodpeckers 2 Foot web site.


You’ll find more photos here.

Professor McMillan’s New Locomotive

This interesting locomotive combines a BGARS drive train with a roof that is reminiscent of the roof on Mamod and Wilesco traction engines.