Large Scale Central

Live steam indoors

Ok, that maybe sounds crazy, but bear with me here…

Wife and I are adding on to the house and as part of that work they’ll be building a two-car tandem-style garage–about 14x44 connected to the existing garage. Current thinking is to have the over-height attic space (the addition will have a roof line to match the two-story main house) act as my home office. I figure the usable floor space will be about 13x30, which seems large enough to have a layout in, as long as my desk doesn’t interfere.

Outside we are on sloping ground that is pretty much completely covered in trees. So if I have track outside it will be confined to a similar sized space but will require significantly more maintenance in terms of keeping leaves/branches/weeds out of the ROW than my old layout.

I know there would be concerns about fire safety (though that’s what an extinguisher is for) and that steamers sometimes leave oil/water on the track when running. So there would definitely be downsides to running steamers indoors. I was thinking about lining the indoor ROW with something fire resistant/proof under the tracks.


Check with your home owners insurance company Dan. I’m sure they’ll give you any number of ideas

Your cook stove (gas or electric) is more of a fire hazard. I say go for it. Just make sure you install a good exhaust fan.

We used to run indoors on the Aikenback layouts at York. Big hall, of course, but there is a guy in Merry Olde England who runs with meths and gas on an attic layout. Just follow the fire precautions and you should do OK. I think there are companies offering flame resistant track tables. Also, mind the CO2, might be good to install a sensor.

Best, David Meashey

I’ve run indoors in my basement a few times. Biggest issues is the mess and smell. I don’t think there is much of a fire risk at all so long as you don’t re-fuel while the fire is lit and keep combustibles away from the track.

I’ve been steaming indoors for over 25 years with zero problems so far. I’ve set up my 3 portable layouts at home and in venues large and small. The first two were built from wood and are still going strong with new owners. No special fireproofing measures were taken, some ties have been melted, but the structures themselves are fine. My third was similar to Mike Moore’s that Dave Meashey mentioned, aluminum frame with aluminum sandwich top ( custom track frame) and is virtually fireproof.
In smaller spaces I restrict myself to butane fired locos but have run alcohol and coal and both are regularly used on Mike’s tracks. The obvious issues of ventilation and fire suppression are concerns but intelligent use of live steam locomotives reduces the risks to a very low level in my opinion.

I have run both my gas and alcohol fired engines many times. You definatly want good ventilation if running alcohol fired. Coal fired would probably not be a good idea, I know mine tends to fog the area pretty good as it transitions from charcoal to coal but runs clean once its going on coal.

I agree with Hollywood. If I had a fire (God forbid), even if caused by something unrelated to the steamers, I’d be fearful of jeopardizing our coverage by the insurance company discovering (in their view) unsafe practices. Maybe I’m just a worrier, but that’s my take, fwiw.

Many houses have a garage under a living space built in and cars are way more prone to self ignition and have more burn able mass than our hobby ever is.
But just like the garage, there are building codes that tell you what dry wall to use in spaces with increased fire hazard ( garage). The drywall is thicker and is fire rated.
That would give time to extinguish a fire before it spreads to the rest of the house.
A carbon monoxide sensor would be really good, carbon dioxide is not explosive but would make it hard to breathe.

In the UK indoor running of live steam locos, including 7/8th, 16/15/10 mm scales, is quite common. And not just at shows. The association I am a member of, which numbers c4000 enthusiasts, have a number of local area groups with their own permanent/transportable layouts. These are usually set up for regular meets in village halls if no permanent venue is available to erect them. However, as mentioned by others check you insurers view on operating live steam within an insured premesis.