What is live steam?

Live steam is steam under pressure, obtained by heating water in a boiler. The steam is used to operate stationary or moving equipment.

A live steam device is one powered by (you guessed it) steam!

But the term is usually reserved for those that are replicas, scale models, toys, or otherwise used for heritage, museum, entertainment, or recreational purposes, to distinguish them from similar devices powered by electricity or some other more convenient method but designed to look as if they are steam-powered. Commercial steam-powered machines such as mainline and narrow gauge steam locomotives, steamships, and power-generating steam turbines are not normally referred to as "live steam".

Ridable railroads and railway systems

Ridable, large-scale live steam railroading on a backyard railroad is a popular aspect of the live steam hobby, some people are lucky enough to build and have their own home garden railway, however many people choose to be part of a club where they can take and run their trains.

Make no mistake, it is time-consuming to build a locomotive from scratch and it can be costly to purchase parts piece by piece. Garden railways, in smaller scales (that cannot pull a "live" person nor be ridden on such as our Gauge 1 and 3), offer the benefits of real steam engines (and at lower cost and in less space), with the only down side being that they don't provide the same experience as operating one's own locomotive in the larger scales and riding on (or behind) it, while doing so.

The live steam hobby is especially popular in the UK, US, and of course Australia. All over the world, there are hundreds of clubs and associations as well as many thousands of private backyard railroads. The world's largest live steam layout, with over 25 miles (40 km) of 7 1⁄2 in (190.5 mm) trackage is Train Mountain Railroad [1] in Chiloquin, Oregon. Other notable layouts are operated by the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum and the Riverside Live Steamers.

Although not technically live steam, the hobby embraces other scale model locomotives whose prototypes are diesel (gasoline) and electric (battery). A few tracks restrict operation to only live steam engines, such as the Riverside Live Steamers mentioned above, but a visit to most tracks will reveal a mixture of locomotive types.

Want your very own live steam locomotive?

Browse our scale model locomotives and enquire for additional information prior to ordering online.