No Longer a Blueprint

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Bud Stedinger pauses for a photo at the first test run of his Blackstaffe Beginner's Locomotive at the GGLS Redwood Track. In fact, this is the first test run of any of the Blackstaffe Beginner's Locos.

A new live steamer gets his feet wet with Cliff Blackstaffe's Beginner's Locomotive

by B. Stendinger

Oakland California

From The Miniature Locomotive, September-October 1954

My Cliff Blackstaffe Beginner's Locomotive is in steam and I thought you would like to know just how it all happened.

Ever since I can remember I have day-dreamed about building a real live-steam locomotive. I did not know that other men also had such an idea until one day I happened to drive through Redwood Park. Lo and behold, here were some real live-steam locos actually running: I stopped and gazed in wonder. Finally, I approached one of the "engineers" who turned out to be Larry Duggan, secretary of the Golden Gate Live Steamers. I wanted to know how a rank greenhorn like me, with no previous machine shop experience, could go about building an engine. He told me about the club and invited me to attend the next meeting. He also told me about your magazine, The Miniature Locomotive, and suggested I subscribe.

I attended the next meeting of the Live Steamers, and when I was called on for comment I said I would like to build an engine, but knew nothing whatsoever about a locomotive nor how to go about building one.

To this the president replied, saying that I was welcome to visit any of the members and see what they were building and also that I would get all the advice I wanted.

So...I started visiting and asking question...and I do mean asking questions. I visited Vic Shattock, Bill Brower, Paul Erbacher, Harry Dixon, Ray Wieber, "Doc" Sangster and several others. I also made a trip to the Los Angeles area and looked over some engines. I borrowed a year's issue of The Miniature Locomotive magainzes from Paul Erbacher and read them from cover to cover. I finally decided that for a rank beginner the Cliff Blackstaffe's Beginner's Locomotive was the one for me to build.

Upon making up my mind, I immediately sent you my subscription for your magazine, including all back issues together with an order for the castings wich arrived on March 1. However, as yet I had no shop so I resurrected an old 8-inch South Bend lathe about 30 years old, sanded off the rust and set it up. I also dug up a drill press and emery wheel and my "shop" was complete and ready to go.

On March 17, I celebrated my wife's birthday by starting to make the engine.

On May 17, exactly two months after starting the engine, I had the thrill of seeing it turn over on air. Boy, what a thrill that was!

I guess you remember my frantic phone call to you asking you to send me a copy of the boiler plan as The Miniature Locomotive magazine was late getting out. You sent the plan by return air mail, so with the help of Bill Brower I was able to finish the boiler in time to display the engine at the Golden Gate Live Steamers Spring Meet on May 29.

On June 9, just two months and 21 days from the time I started, she ran for the first time on steam as shown by the enclosed picture, with my left hand on the "blower" valve. The "throttle" is just an old automobile valve feeding the steam outboard around the left side with a displacement lubricator hooked into the line. The following Sunday we had the first "official" run. I fired her up again and when I was ready, Larry Duggan led off with Bill Brower next and with their whistles blowing I followed making 2-1/2 laps of our 1/4 mile track non-stop. Since then I have made nine laps non-stop pulling two people, and could have kept going but had to stop for oil. She runs fine and will spin her wheels any time I open the throttle too fast.

I worked on my "Pride and Joy" from early morning until late at night, seven days a week. I wanted to get my engine "on the track" as fast as possible. I am far from being a youngster and you know time does run out on us too soon.

I cannot praise your magazine too highly for running the article. Mr. Blackstaffe did a remarkable job of writing, as it was his words that guided my hands in their every move. Without his explicit instructions it would have been utterly impossible for me to have made the engine, as I did not have the slightest idea how to begin.

If there are any other rank "greenhorns" at machine work who want to build a live steam locomotive, I heartily recommend this one. It is small enough to lift around easily and yet pulls two people with ease, and probably would pull four people if the track is clean to give traction.

As you can see by the photo, she is "in the rough" and no time was taken to dress up the outside finish, but when this is done and she gets her cab and trimmings she'll be a good looking switcher.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the members of the Golden Gate Live Steamers for their patience in answering my many questions and a million thanks to your magazine and Mr. Blackstaffe for giving me those splendid instructions and plans, without which I never could have built my engine.