Scot's "BAGRS BASIC" Project Engine

The "Bagger Shayish"

Live Steam.... I just couldnt resist anymore! 

I had one of those cheap-o stationary steam models when I was kid..I think I got it to work once,
it was a junky old thing..but still, I liked it! the seed as planted, I was probably 10 years old.

years later, im into Large Scale trains..electrics...
Im building a Mason Bogie with the Masterclass at
cutting apart Bachman Big Haulers, that sort of thing.. doing all kinds of model building..
I know about live steam, but havent "jumped in" yet..just peering over the edge of the "slippery slope"..
During 2002 I saw some steam engines run at a few "steam-ups" put on by the "Upstate Steamers" club. thinking "Ruby" or even "Sammie" for 2003!
While searching for "all things steam" all over the internet, I ran across the "Bagrs Basic" webpage.

Great concept, it uses an inexpensive engine (boiler and cylinder kit) that is designed for model boats.
mount the boiler and cylinder on a flatcar, and use a chain gear system to drive the wheels!
brilliant.... im thinking about it....for a year or more! still thinking...thinking some more..just thinking...

Then one day GGGRS club member Don Sauer brought in his "Bagrs Basic" engine into the clubhouse.
that was it! I was hooked! I MUST build one of these! 

So I ordered a "Midwest Models Heritage Steam Engine" kit.
Midwest makes 2 versions of this kit. the "Model IV" with which you must build the boiler yourself,
including soldering the boiler.
or the "Heritage" kit, which is basically the same thing, except the boiler comes ready-to-run!
so for just a few extra bucks, I went for the "Heritage"..soldering my own boiler didnt appeal to me.

The kit arrived on Sunday (!) 3/2/03.

Here it is! only took an hour or two to put together..
She was fired up that same day!
(interesting..I noticed that *before* I fired it for the first time, I referred to it as "it"..
but *after* it was fired, it became "she"!)
normally you would put the wood strips around the top of the boiler,
but because of what I have planned for mine, I didnt do that step.

now normally, when building a "Bagrs Basic" you would take the boiler kit,
along with the other necessary hardware, and mount it all on a flatcar-type frame,
resulting in this:

(image from

these are cool! but....the "logging engine on a flat car" concept just didnt do it for me.
well..thats not really true..I do like the looks of the Bagrs Basic!
and seriously considered just building it that way..
but I was also thinking of something different...I wanted something that looked more like
a "traditional" steam engine. of the great things about this Bagrs basic concept is that they are highly customizeable!

So I started working on a few potential ideas...

But that vertical boiler of the Heritage kit just doesnt lend itself to a "traditional" design!
steam engines tend to have horizontal boilers..and the Heritage kit cant be tipped sideways.

so....what to do??

while looking through some photos of VERY early Steam Engines, I came across these:

The "John Bull" built in 1831. The real John Bull is today displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
I believe She is the oldest operating self-powered machine in the world.

The "George Washington" built by Norris, 1836.

notice the "T-boiler" design on these early engines...hmmmmmm.... very interesting!


This might work!t

I would build a new "dummy" vertical boiler..complete with dome and rivits..the heritage boiler would fit inside it..
then the horizontal boiler, complete with wood lagging, would attach to the dummy vertical boiler..

The most difficult part is finding a good place for the cylinder..
it doesent fit anywhere in a prototypical manner.
at first I thought about mounting it on the pilot..stuck out in the front.
but that would look really weird, and there isnt a good way to route the steam pipes.
I could run the steam supply pipe through the horizontal boiler, but if I wanted to run the exaust
through the stack it would require a big curved pipe sticking way out in front of the engine..

so I played around with locations..cant put it behind the boiler, because the cylinder needs to connect to the
drivers with a chain-drive. and the firebox would block the path..

on TOP of the boiler?? nah..way too weird..but then again...hmmmm..
all that spinning steaming machinery right out in the open has a certain appeal.
and early steam engines had all kinds of strange designs!
and hey, its my engine, so why not?!
yes it looks strange, but its really the only option if I want to use the heritage kit in this way..
and, its kinda cool! and this is a fun, freelance again..why not? 

and thats everything as of 03/03/03.

Update 3/6/03

Having the cylinder perched on top of the boiler like that was really bugging me..
I knew it was just totally un-prototypical, and it just looked too weird to me..
or was it unprototypical?? perhaps not.."there is a prototype for everything"
is a common saying heard among model I went looking.

I discovered another "project" steam locomotive, the "Denver"

Here is a "Denver", built by Marc Horovitz.

Look at that! cylinder on top of the boiler! im not the only "weird" one! ;)
I discovered this type of arrangement is called an "overtype"..

I found some other model steam engines with this arrangement:


And here are some real overtype machines! steam tractors ..getting closer!


So...someone, somewhere, sometime must have built an actual railroad locomotive with the cylinder
or cylinders on top of the boiler..must keep searching...
finally! found one! 

This locomotive operated on the "Newman to Nireaha Railway" in New Zealand.
She was built in England around 1876.

read all about it here:


Update! March 17.

ok then! all that stuff above? about building a "John Bull" type engine?
the idea has been SCRAPPED! ;)

The biggest problem with that idea was finding suitable drivers..they would need to be BIG!
2.5 - 3 inches..
I found some nice drivers from an outfit in England, Slaters
And was seriously considering getting a set of their large drivers..but there were too many potential problems..
First..the drivers have nylon spokes..could they handle the heat?? dont know..they arent plastic, but does this
kind of nylon melt? maybe..
Second..the gear ratio would have to be heavily modified, because the drivers would be so much larger than the
"standard" Bagrs..
Third..there was some doubt if the midwest engine could even HANDLE this kind of
system! it might not be powerfull enough..(see this thread)

So..the only way to determine if all this would work or not would be to build it and see!
But I would have to order the drivers ($50) and some extra gears..
and if it *didnt* work I would be stuck with $70-$80 worth of wheels and
gears that I would have no other use for....
So I dropped the whole idea...moving on to plan B.

Go to Page 2, and the new plan

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 Scot Lawrence.  Page started March 03, 2003.