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     I'm what you might term a 'returning modeller' I've been out of it for forty years, and some things at least have changed. We now have the easy ability to include sound and tiny lights - yet - I see relatively little use of smoke. My interest is in 4mm steam era - so the scale may be a disincentive as there is precious little space available inside some small tank engines for example.

     Certainly, I have seen some of the larger American and European models producing prodigious amounts of smoke. Not only that - it's being 'chuffed-out' at a realistic rate in puffs. Over fifty years ago, Triang had a basic unit - which they later enhanced with a simple piston to give a puffing-effect. It seems this basic and excellent idea has fallen by the wayside.

     When my son was a kid - he used to watch the original Thomas the Tank series. I watched one today to refresh my memory - and the smoke effects were generally superb - and that was over thirty years ago.... Admittedly - these were at a larger scale (7mm...?). I wonder if anyone on this website knows the scale and how they achieved the effects...? There are a few clips from behind the scenes on You Tube which give some hints. It looks like a piston or diaphragm mechanism.

 

     Here is en example of some serious smoke - admittedly at G-Scale, but what I've seen thus far at 4mm is the merest wisp compared with this;-

 

 

KM1 locos, Gauge-1...? The dogs-danglies methinketh...!!!

 

 

     Here is an informative YT video about the unit's used in the American Lionel locos;-

 

 

The German KM1 locos - these have to be the best out there - but bear in mind - these are Gauge 1, 1/32 scale. If only we had this level of effect at 4mm scale....!

 

 

 

     Back in the real world - here is more, this time in 4mm - very worthwhile effort - and with sound, it really brings the loco to life ;-

 

 

 

The excellent Roco puffer-unit in HO scale to show what is possible. Hornby and Bachman please take note...! Note the smoke-bleed to the cylinder areas etc. Could this unit be used in UK 4mm-scale locos...?

 

     I purchased a Seuthe unit to experiment with, and to be frank - was rather underwhelmed. I experimented with some commercially-available smoke-fluid, as well as Baby-Oil, with similar results.

 

     Since I couldn't see much discussion of this subject when I searched this website - I thought it'd be useful to start one to pool knowledge and experience. I have noting to offer - but I'm all ears... :-)

 

Questions to discuss;-

  • Which are the best and worst units at 4mm scale?
  • Which are the best smoke-fluids to give the densest smoke? Oil-based or water-based best...?
  • Have any forum Members adapted or copied the old Triang/Hornby Synchrosmoke 'puffer' units into other models?
  • What about the use of increased reservoir sizes to allow longer smoke-runs without having to refil every couple of minutes...?l (The old Triang/Hornby puffer-units came in several sizes - how did this effect running-times...?).
  • Has anyone used the Roco puffer-unit in an OO/4mm loco...or adapted any other units...?
  • Can DCC allow a fan-based unit to synchronise with the sound using the existing decoders that are currently available...?

 

I do not claim any knowledge of this subject - but I'm betting some of the subscribers to this website will have some fascinating and informative insights to share. Any videos of the effects achieved would also be very encouraging....!

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Thinking of how theatrical smoke machines work it would be more effective to have a heated chamber under the chimney and a separate reservoir for the fluid with a small pump (it only needs to deliver tiny amounts of fluid at a time) 

 

if the chamber is hot enough then the fluid should vaporise very rapidly giving a good blast from the chimney, and the pump could be driven to deliver a stream of tiny amounts of fluid to create puffs of smoke at different rates. 
 

Andi

 

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Size and relative space is the problem in 4mm scale generally; easier with 7mm. Some models have been designed from the outset to have a fan driven smoke unit, the Roco for instance, but there's not much if anything available for retro-fitting to 4mm and few models with enough free space to fit such a device. The simple 'boiling tube' Seuthe will never, alone, produce sync'ed puffs and chuffs. The heating/cooling cycle is just too long to produce realistic 'puffs' at any speed.

 

The last two videos you have linked to are mine. They use Seuthe units and ZIMO sound decoders, a combination which is capable of producing different densities of 'smoke' depending upon how the loco is operating but not sync.

 

Yes, some decoders are able to drive and sync fan assisted smoke units, all ZIMO's for example, (that's what Roco and Fleishmann use from the factory) where the puffs (fan accelerated) and chuffs (sound) and wheel rotation are all synchronised by the sound project loaded onto the decoder.

 

ZIMO has a fan assited smoke unit in its range, but it will not fit 4mm.

 

The last thing that a 4mm plastic bodied steam locomotive needs is a constant high temperature component in such a restrictive space, with little air circulation to provide cooling. Seuthe make a couple of 'rubber' coated units designed for fitting in plasctic models, but that insulation is very thin and I would suggest that you run them for a short duration only (ZIMO decoders have a smoke generator timer which the user can adjust to suit) before a period of cooling.

 

Talking of ventilation, remember that you will be breathing this vapour, so ensure you are able to purge your railway operating room.

 

Also bear in mind that the condensed vapour will settle everywhere, including the track, which may increase the amount of  time you need for cleaning and maintainance.

 

Best regards,

 

Paul

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I have never seen a steam/smoke effect in 4mm that impressed me as properly realistic, though some almost manage it.  I think there are several reasons for this, some of which have already been pointed out.  If you look at a real steam locomotive working, there is a huge variety in the appearance of what comes out of the chimney, from wisp to the full Vesuvius.  The colour changes according to the state of the fire and the exact mix between coal smoke and steam.  Steam is invisible until it cools and condenses into water vapour droplets, which you can see for yourself by observing the spout of a boiling kettle.

 

So, point no.1.  Smoke comes out of the loco chimney according to how much cold coal is producing it in the firebox, but nothing else visible does.  The condensed white clouds of steam begin a few inches above the chimney lip.  

 

Point no.2.  Real smoke and steam from a loco chimney varies according to the state of the fire, the position of the cut off, and the regulator; sound varies according to the last two factors as well.  It is very thick when the loco is working hard and comes out with a considerable blast.

 

Point no.3.  Steam comes from other parts of the loco, injectors at specific times and various leaks and glands at other times, even when the loco is in light steam and has been sitting on a shed road for several hours.  

 

Point no.4.  For use in an indoor environment, whatever you are using to produce the exhaust effect, it must either be odour free or a pleasant but not overwhelming odour.  it must be non-toxic and dissapate completely into the ambient atmosphere; any fallout mist or dust is unacceptable.

 

Point no.5.  Producing the effect by heating inside a 4mm plastic loco is probably a non-starter in practical terms.  There isn't room in smaller locos, and if it can't be done in a Hornby Peckett there's no point, and the material is not designed to be in proximity to a heat source.  There is also the point that there is a risk of injury, both to yourself if you pick it up and to the loco when you drop it!

 

It is a very big ask to attempt to solve all of these problems at a price acceptable to the market, but there are people trying and we may get a result one day.  But even then...

 

Point no.6, the killer.  The movement of the cloud of exhaust does not obey the rules of scale; it needs to be slowed down by a factor of x76.  This is a physical impossibility in ambient atmosphere at the pressures that human beings can survive at.  You could achieve a very realistic effect by videoing the exhaust and playing back in slo-mo at 1/76th speed!

 

So, to sum up, we need an exhaust effect that can distinguish between smoke and steam, not appear as visible steam until a few mm above the chimney especially when the loco is not working hard, allows steam to escape from 'leaks' even when the loco is 'switched off', that does not smell or produce fallout that will pollute the atmosphere, require cleaning, and affect electrical pickup performance, is small enough to fit in a Peckett, produces the effect at no more than room temperature, and behaves in exactly the same way at the same 'speed' of movement as real steam loco exhaust.

 

Live steam does not produce anything like the correct effect in 4mm, and is a bit of a gimmick with no real relevance to this discussion.  Whatever effect is used, it will be more effective and easier to use and fit in larger spaces, so matters become easier in the larger scales, but by the time you get to live steam LGB size, the real steam effects are pretty good and the is no point in using anything else.

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This is an Airwick "Essential Mist" air freshener:

 

IMG_20190406_095556.jpg.dfb65c5e3b71b0643200068e446e9c6d.jpgIMG_20190406_095804.jpg.a0c656adaf4c8c2a68c0cb9dc341ae01.jpgIMG_20190406_095652.jpg.ed570b33b22e08f1edac7b6382eb9b10.jpg

 

  • Solid state, no pumps
  • Instant on off control of vapour generation, so it should be able to "chuff" under electronic control
  • Low temperature, no heating element
  • Low voltage
  • Reasonably compact
  • Produces a lot of mist from a small volume of liquid
  • There doesn't seem to be any residue and the odour is, in this case, lavender (@The Johnster :wink_mini:)
  • Cost about £10 in all good supermarkets

You can see in the vapour generating "chamber" there's a coil around the perimeter and a metal cap with a small dimple in the middle. There's possibly a minute hole in the centre of the dimple. When the unit is put together a wick from the bottle of liquid presses against the underside of the metal cap.

 

Does anyone know the principle behind this?

 

Now, if the hardware couold be miniaturised and the electronics built into a decoder...

 

Edited by Harlequin
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No idea how this works, but I'm impressed!  Not really thick and dense enough for a steam loco exhaust, though...

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25 minutes ago, Harlequin said:

This is an Airwick "Essential Mist" air freshener:

 

https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/uploads/monthly_2019_11/IMG_20190406_095556.jpg.dfb65c5e3b71b0643200068e446e9c6d.jpghttps://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/uploads/monthly_2019_11/IMG_20190406_095804.jpg.a0c656adaf4c8c2a68c0cb9dc341ae01.jpghttps://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/uploads/monthly_2019_11/IMG_20190406_095652.jpg.ed570b33b22e08f1edac7b6382eb9b10.jpg

 

  • Solid state, no pumps
  • Instant on off control of vapour generation
  • Not hot
  • Low voltage
  • Reasonably compact
  • Produces a lot of mist from a small volume of liquid
  • There doesn't seem to be any residue and the odour is, in this case, lavender (@The Johnster :wink_mini:)
  • Cost about £10 in all good supermarkets

You can see in the vapour generating "chamber" there's a coil around the perimeter and a metal cap with a small dimple in the middle. There's possibly a minute hole in the centre of the dimple. When the unit is put together a wick from the bottle of liquid presses against the underside of the metal cap.

 

Does anyone know the principle behind this?

 

Now, if the hardware couold be miniaturised and the electronics built into a decoder...

 

Thd vapour is produced using ultrasonics.  We have humidifier that works the same way.

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Ultrasonic indeed. It puts a water mist into the air, which of course comes down...... surfaces can get damp near such things. I had an ultrasonic mister, and it did no harm where it was, but I wouldn't want it sat on a layout that wasn't specifically made to be moisture proof.

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White hot fire, a blistering summer's day and we're already there, save perhaps for a slight blue haze!

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3 hours ago, Giles said:

Ultrasonic indeed. It puts a water mist into the air, which of course comes down...... surfaces can get damp near such things. I had an ultrasonic mister, and it did no harm where it was, but I wouldn't want it sat on a layout that wasn't specifically made to be moisture proof.

Not our experience.  My wife has dry eyes and at this tine of year the RH falls below 40% which is not good for her.  The humidifier puts moisture into the air rather than falling around the unit, no damp patches here :D.

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And it still wasn't thick or dense enough to look real...

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7 hours ago, dhjgreen said:

Not our experience.  My wife has dry eyes and at this tine of year the RH falls below 40% which is not good for her.  The humidifier puts moisture into the air rather than falling around the unit, no damp patches here https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/uploads/emoticons/default_biggrin.png.

Oh, that's good - I had one that worked more like dry-ice in the way it sat at low level, like morning mist in a field.

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I'm a bit surprised nobody has used e-cigarette technology in this way.  After all they aren't much bigger than a model loco, although I don't know much about what goes on inside them.  I'd've thought it would be possible to use the vapour producing bits of them, without the potentially harmful additives that are put into them.

 

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Hi,

 

Its possible alternative liquids used in a smoke generator may produce carcinogenic chemicals.

 

At the very least it could get you banned from exhibitions, at the worst...….

 

 

Regards

 

Nick

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10 hours ago, NIK said:

Hi,

 

Its possible alternative liquids used in a smoke generator may produce carcinogenic chemicals.

 

At the very least it could get you banned from exhibitions, at the worst...….

 

 

Regards

 

Nick

 

I was just thinking in terms of producing harmless water vapour (do they do that?) without any of the potentially carcinogenic additives.

 

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5 minutes ago, 31A said:

 

I was just thinking in terms of producing harmless water vapour (do they do that?) without any of the potentially carcinogenic additives.

 

Hi,

 

The original poster mentioned trying baby oil in a smoke generator so that was what triggered me to sound a note of caution.

 

Water vapour ought to be the ideal if it wasn't for the effects of scale (please excuse the pun)  and the possibility of damaging scenery (real moss on artificial moss anyone?).

 

Regards

 

Nick

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12 hours ago, 31A said:

I'm a bit surprised nobody has used e-cigarette technology in this way.  After all they aren't much bigger than a model loco, although I don't know much about what goes on inside them.  I'd've thought it would be possible to use the vapour producing bits of them, without the potentially harmful additives that are put into them.

That is a brilliant idea!

 

Use the vaporizer section of one of those with commercial entertainment-grade "fog fluid" rather than the oil based or whatever stuff normally used with model rail smoke systems and it ought to be extremely effective.

 

And those bulk liquids are very cheap compared to many smoke fluids, as well as having all the appropriate safety data etc. for use in public spaces.

https://www.gear4music.com/PA-DJ-and-Lighting/Dense-Fog-Machine-Fluid-5L-by-Gear4music/2JR1?origin=product-ads&campaign=PLA+Shop+-+GENERIC&adgroup=GENERIC&medium=vertical_search&network=google&merchant_id=1279443&product_id=118909d1&product_country=GB&product_partition_id=309292131805&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsJ_UnvXh5QIVxbHtCh0JywYZEAQYASABEgLmV_D_BwE

 

The only other bit needed would be an ultra-miniature fan or bellows of some sort to force air through the vaporiser?

 

Edit - possibly something like this, 10mm square by 3mm thick?

https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Mighty-Mini-SUNON-Micro-1003-10x3_60170338698.html

http://www.sunon.com/pro2_page.php?pkid=6

 

Or even smaller, 9mm centrifugal?

https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Mighty-Mini-SUNON-Maglev-0903-9x3_62009823719.html?spm=a2700.details.deiletai6.9.48bb545ej5qWHQ

 

Edited by RobjUK
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Guys, see my post above about the Airwick technology. It's simply a vapouriser for water so no dangerous chemicals (they add scent but it's not required.)

It is not a humidifier, so doesn't produce vast quantities of vapour. Not much danger of things getting wet.

It produces a strong jet of "steam" despite having no moving parts, unlike e-Cig technology.

 

I tried putting smoke machine fluid in the Airwick device but all that happened was less vapour and eventually it stopped producing any - I guess the hole got clogged up.

 

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14 hours ago, 31A said:

I'm a bit surprised nobody has used e-cigarette technology in this way.  After all they aren't much bigger than a model loco, although I don't know much about what goes on inside them.  I'd've thought it would be possible to use the vapour producing bits of them, without the potentially harmful additives that are put into them.

 

 

There's a video on YouTube that I can't find now by Adam Savage (of Mythbusters) where he modified a steampunk model kit using a vape pen and a fish tank air pump to create a chuffing effect.

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