- Paul Brien from Nashville, TN was definitely a mentor to most of us who grew up in the South. He was an exquisite machinist and boiler maker, and built many different types of engines. He loved not only steam locomotives, but also hit-and-miss models, and also the atmospheric (sterling cycle) engines. He would show or tell you how to do a particular operation and always made it sound very easy. He built probably 5 or 6 steam locomotives over his lifetime, in addition to all the hit-and-miss, stationary engines, etc... and all steamed well and performed well when he was done with them.
- He was also a Charter member of the Mid-South Live Steamers, which was founded in 1966, and was a great inspiration to everyone in the early years. The first steam locomotive that I ever ran was his 4-4-0, which was based on the Backyard Rails 4-4-0. It used those castings, but Paul modified the locomotive extensively to make a better performing and better tracking locomotive. The thing had that coke-bottle boiler on it, and was painted red at the time. It was an excellent steamer, and was the locomotive that many people cut their teeth on.
Paul Brien's builders plate on an 0-6-0 switcher he built in 1970. Bob Gray of Mississippi owns the locomotive.
Paul passed away in 2009.
Nashville Locomotive Works
- Paul Brien completed his 0-6-0 and started the Nashville Locomotive Works, producing miniature boilers for live steamers. Paul's first boiler was finished in 1974 and delivered to Norman Gracey in Orlando, Florida. Paul's careful work and attention to detail enabled his products to be certified, stamped, and accepted by the State of Tennessee as Code Boilers. Paul also built many other locomotives and stationary engines, in addition to building most of the steel bridges, steaming bays, and the original turntable at the club track. The club lost a true asset when Paul passed away in 2010.
Experience with Nylatron
"Southern Steam", June,July,August 1970 Newsletter of Mid-West Live Steamers
Paul Brien had his Southern Pacific 0-6-0 under steam in time for the Spring Meet in Arkansas.
Trying to allow himself ample time to correct any faults before running at the meet, Paul fired up about a week prior to going to Arkansas only to discover severe binding due to the use of a new plastic compound for his bearings and packing. The terrific co-efficient of expansion of the plastic, called Nylatron, when exposed to heat, practically locked up the pistons and valve gear of the loco.
The plastic is a nylon/graphite compound and was thought to have good bearing qualities, which it still may, at room temperature! Anyway, back to Paul. That last week was the fastest loco re-shop I ever saw, with all new packing, bearings and even pistons going in four or five nights work. Anything that could have been affected by the heat was replaced. The result was an excellent running and terrific steamer. The last phrase is an understatement because after four or five firings her builder has gotten to know her and it's now a chore to keep water in the boiler.
In the last couple of months detail work has been going on and the basic engine should see completion before the end of the year. However several accessories are planned for the future, such as vacuum tender brakes and a steam driven water pump.
A note on the use of new ideas (such as Nylatron). Paul Brien related to me a story which I by coincidence had read, that appeared in an issue of the Model Engineer. It was about the late Gem Suzor, a well known Frenchman, who was a pioneer in the model boat circles. When visiting or corresponding with another modeler, and in his own work, Suzor was not so much concerned about what you had done that someone else had already proven, but what you were experimenting with, what you had done new. It was in this spirit that the decision was made to try this new plastic. So now we can provide by someone elses experience.
For the record: Nylatron is a good wearing bearing material. Terrific expansion and contraction occur when its termperature is raised to anything above room temperature.