“First Steam Run” by Ron Nelson

LALSRM member Ron Nelson is the new owner of this Allen Mogul steam engine.

In February 2020, I noticed an Allen Mogul listed for sale on “Discover Live Steam”. I jumped on it and made a deposit. It was shipped from Virginia in early March and I received it on March 18, just as the Covid-19 quarantine started. With some help from member Tim LaGaly I was able to set up it up at my home shop to get it ready it for running. 

The Mogul ((2-6-0 wheel configuration) was built by Ken Hammer in Virginia. He is an avid steamer and has built a number of locomotives. Ken’s father worked for the Western Maryland (1852-1983) so the loco is painted and labeled in their colors. Ken told me that his dad had a couple of gallons of red paint from the Western Maryland and the roof of the locomotive was painted with some of that paint. The locomotive was received in good condition and only required some minor repairs (broken brake equalizer bar, O-rings in steam pump and sealing the tender).

 Since I had never run a live steamer, Bill Schirmer was kind enough to take me under his wing and help me. On July 19, Bill got out the hydro pump and it passed boiler inspection first time! We buttoned everything up and lit a fire. I had some anthracite coal to use but we could not get the darn stuff to burn. Nick Guzman kindly traded me for some coal he had and it burned just fine. We finally had a good fire going and built up the pressure. We rolled the loco onto the tracks and Bill gave me a few last minute pointers (keep stoking the fire, stir the bed, keep the water level up and have fun). So off I went on my initial live steam run with a new locomotive and a grin from ear to ear.

Inside the locomotive.

At first, I would have liked two more arms to keep up with everything. Running steam with coal really puts the engineer into the process with lots to do. As I ran, I got more comfortable with my locomotive duties and began to establish more of a routine. The initial panic had subsided and I had grown comfortable in running the engine. I made a run out to the West End and on the return got to enjoy the sound of the engine pull the grade up to Nelson Summit, it was music to my ears. After a couple of hours, I was low on oil, low on water and my back was aching. It was time to stop.

 All I can say is what a thrill it was. If you have not run a steamer, add it to your bucket list and go out of your way to try it some time. Also, special thanks to LALSRM members Brandon Ruiz, David Lazarus, Richard Ronne and everyone else that helped me along the way. I tend to have lots of questions and everyone was very patient with me and offered great advice. My experience was a testament to the comradery and support of the LALS membership. 

Check out this video of what it was like behind the throttle, running on the LA Live Steamers track:


Leave a Reply