Building a Steam Locomotive

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I always wanted to build a backyard scale locomotive. At least since the Arizona State Fair the year I was about 7 years old. Underneath the grandstands was a huge HO scale train layout with many long trains running simultaneously. It was the Phoenix Turnbow Railroad Club's annual display. I would literally spend all day there - that is - if Dad would let me.

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Image 0: The Mikado - September 18th, 2011
(Select photo to enlarge it)

But then he dragged me away to another exhibit. It was a display of railroad artifacts and history. And in that display was a 1/8th scale locomotive. It might have been a PRR Atlantic or something similar. I just don't remember. But I do remember that it was very nicely detailed. My dad said you could actually build a fire in it and run it on steam. He said some guy built it from scratch. Really? "Dad. Can we build one?" Sadly, the answer was 'No'. We simply didn't have the time, tools, or place to run one.

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We did do a lot of other things together. We did participate in the YMCA "Indian Guides" when I was in 3rd grade, and he coached me on how to build my "Soapbox Derby" racecar, which I ran my 6th grade year. Camping and fishing and riding the White Mountain Scenic Railroad were also highlights of my younger days. We still get together. Last time we met in Austin, Texas for my 51st birthday.

I finally got to build a 90 ton logging Mikado built in 1915 by Baldwin. The term "Mikado" refers only to the wheel arrangement 2-8-2 (2 pilot wheels, 8 drivers, and 2 trailing wheels). Mikados were originally named in 1897 after a group was built for Japan. The name means "Emperor of Japan". The 1885 opening of Gilbert & Sullivan's opera "The Mikado" had brought the name into use.

Why build a Mikado? Because I like lots of wheels. And besides, the #36 and #100 of the White Mountain Scenic Railroad of McNary, Arizona were both Mikados. I got to ride in the cab of the #36. It was HOT. It was LOUD. It was unforgettable.

Here's a short video of my 90 ton logger's first documented run.

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My 3D Mikado Belt Buckle