Book Page

A list of books which I found interesting and useful.


Title, Author and ISBM number


Building Simple Model Steam Engines


Tubal Cain


A very good book if you're looking to get started in making model steam engines. This book contains instructions on how to build 4 different steam engines. They are all of a simple design and enable working results to be achieved in weeks rather than years. For the more ambitious there is a steam winch detailed as well. All the designs are reminiscent of toy steam engines and require no castings.

This book taught me about limits and fits, machining in the lathe, drawing notation, brazing and general metalwork. My first steam engine was based on a design from this book.

Building Simple Model Steam Engines


Tubal Cain


This second book from Tubal Cain is a follow up to the first. This time the engines are more complex, some use castings, riveting and detailed boiler fittings are also introduced.

A good book but if you only buy one - buy book 1.

An Introduction to Stirling Engines

James R. Senft


This book is a very nice introduction to stirling engines. It covers the thermodynamic cycle of the stirling engine, different configurations and explains clearly how these devices work. Includes some pictures of various commercial engines from the past and talks about heat losses and regeneration. A nice small book with short clear descriptions rather than an extensive essay on the subject. A great book for generating ideas.

The Stirling Engine Manual

James G. Rizzo


A very good book if you are new to stirling engines. There are descriptions of different configurations and linkages to go with them. There is also some good practical workshop advice on building methods, and no heavy maths or calculations.

The back of the book contains plans for 10 different engines.

The design for my stirling engine came from this book.

Model Boilers and Boilermaking

K.N. Harris


The best book I've read on building model boilers. It is the only book I've found which explores all the aspects of model boilers including firing methods, how to make boiler fittings, boiler testing and boiler design. There are 15 contrasting designs in the back of the book which can be made.

Also gives the equations needed to enable you to design your own boiler safely.

Model Statonary and Marine Steam Engines

K. N. Harris


This book compliments the one above and talks about a broad range of steam engines from simple oscillating designs to compound engines. It covers topics such as lap and lead, steam admission and has a good chapter on engine fittings such as drain cocks, lagging, valve design etc....

Model Stationary Engines

H. Muncaster


A nice little book if you need short descriptions of steam engine systems, rather than detailed analysis. It covers, oscillating and fixed designs, reversing, regulation, machining tips and more - all described succinctly and neatly.

The book includes some drawings and a particularly useful table of "Typical steam engine proportions" which can be used to make a 'home designed' engine look right.

The early chapters on steam engine basics are also a good reference.

Steam-Engine Design

Lost Technology Series


Almost the opposite to the previous book, this book is a very detailed technical write up of how steam engines work.

The initial chapters talk about the actual mechanics beginning with component names and then on to the phases of the steam cycle and linkages required for slide valve engines.

Later chapters delve into calculations, phase diagrams and actual steam engine design. Everything you need to be able to design a successful working steam engine.

A beginner's Guide to Model Steam Locomotives

Tim Coles


This book describes the complete process of building a model steam locomotive, from the tools required, through to the final coat of paint. There is valuable advice on buying a complete or part-complete model and help on choosing the gauge and scale of your project. A very well laid out book, easy to follow with lots of pictures. This is an essential read if you're thinking of building a steam locomotive

Steam Engine Principles. Their Application on a Small Scale

N. G Calvert


This book focuses on small scale steam launches, but it's a good read if you want to understand steam engines technically.

It starts explaining the energy transfer of the steam engine to explain how the fuel does the work.

Later chapters explain mechanics, lap and lead in valves, compound and uniflow designs, engine balancing, steam regulation and reversing.

There is also a useful glossary of steam terms at the back.

Soldering and Brazing

Tubal Cain


Everything you wanted to know about brazing and more. This book by Tubal Cain helps you select the right equipment for this joining process, explains fluxes, pickling, alloys and more. Good detail on how to design a joint for brazing and how to achieve the temperatures required for a successful joint.

Model Locomotive Boiler Making

Alec F. Farmer


This book takes you through the entire process of model locomotive boiler construction. It describes the building of two 5"gauge taper boilers. There are loads of photographs and information about forming parts, designing joints and copper-smithing. The only downside for me was that it assumed the use of oxy-acetylene equipment which I don't have

If you want to see how the professionals do it - then this is the book you need.

Boilers. Types and Designs

OCS 1907


This book describes full scale boilers rather than models but is still useful as a source of ideas for different boiler designs and construction methods.

Loads of example calculations on all aspect of pressure vessel design.

Milling. A Complete Course

Harold Hall


A book from the popular 'Workshop Practice Series.'

This book gives instructions on most aspects of milling. The book deals with cutter types and speed selection.

The worked examples used in the book are also instructions to create an entire kit of milling accessories including parallels, a boring head, an angle plate, a dividing attachment, a clamp set and more

Measuring and Marking metals

Ivan Law


A useful book all about marking metals before machining, some of it is obvious but some of it is not so.

If you don't know what Jenny callipers, surface gauges or Sine-bars are then perhaps you should read it too.

Useful chapters on measuring equipment, marking sheet metal and castings, also deals with the tricky subject of making locomotive connecting rods which actually fit !


Ron Poulter & Bob Hines

Published by the Gauge 1 Model Railway Association (UK).

A brilliant book giving plans and building instructions for a Gauge 1, live steam locomotive. The loco is designed to be as simple as possible (single cylinder with slip eccentric), whilst still retaining an authentic look.

An interesting read, even if you don't plan to built it. Clear plans in this 4th edition and some coloured photographs of finished models. This book also contains key dimensional data if you want to build locomotives which comply with the Gauge 1 Association specification.

Stirling and Hot Air Engines

Roy Darlington & Keith Strong


Roy Darlington is a leader among amateur stirling engine designers. This book covers lots of stirling engine designs, some history of these inventions and many examples of Roy's work. In particular his information on workshop practices, material choices and component design are very useful and well explained.

This book has masses of photos of Roy's models, the CAD drawings by Keith are excellent and there are full working drawings for Roy's "Stirling Silver II" model boat.

The Shop Wisdom or Rudy Kouhoupt (Vol 2)

Rudy Kouhoupt


This book was bought by chance but turned out to be a really good read.

Rudy deals mostly with tooling an techniques in this volume, but there are also plans and work instructions for a very nice oscillating engine, a hot-air engine and an engraving pantograph.

The book contains numerous photos and drawings and is very informative, even if you don't build the projects, there's lots to be learnt from Rudy's approach and many tips on machining.

The Shop Wisdom or Rudy Kouhoupt (Vol 1)

Rudy Kouhoupt


As with the previous book, this volume is full of machining tips and advice on making tools and models.

There are 6 steam engine projects fully described as well as plans for a rotary table, a fixed steady, some boring bars, a lever operated tail-stock and more.

Rudy has several examples of fabricated flywheels in this book, which are absolute gems. It is worth noting that none of Rudy's designs use castings and much of his machining is done on a small lathe.

Model Engines and Small Boats

Nevil Monroe Hopkins


A useful book on steam engines for model boats. It covers both oscillating and sliding valve designs, as well as some boiler types and construction.

A good chapter on designing and building boat hulls too.

Building Stirling 1

E.T. Warbrooke


This book gives the plans and working instructions for a stirling engine without a displacer piston. The engine has very few components which makes it impressive to watch.

I haven't built it, but my friend has and it makes a fine demonstration model. The engine power is low, but it runs in either direction and the clear cylinder nicely demonstrates the small number of moving parts.

Elmer's Engines

Elmer Verburg


A real gem. This book has photos and plans for 52 different steam engine designs, all made without castings. As well as fine looking classic engines, Elmer makes good use of rotary valves and scotch yokes to produce some interesting designs not seen anywhere else. The appendix at the back is jammed full of handy tips and machining tricks too.

Currently out of print but if you see a second hand copy make sure you buy it.

If you can't find a copy, the plans are available as PDF files from John-Tom's site.

Working Steam Engines

Rudy Kouhoupt


This book contains plans for 6 of Rudy's steam engines including a walking beam engine, marine engine, mill engine and horizontal steam engine.

The plans are very clear and there is a colour photo of a completed engine at the start of each chapter.

As always with Rudy's designs - no castings are needed. However, please note, this book contains only plans, no machining instructions are included.

Model Stirling Engines

Rudy Kouhoupt


More nice designs from Rudy. This time stirling engines. 3 designs are covered, a simple horizontal engine and then 2 water cooled designs.

The horizontal engine on the cover is particularly nice with its brass radiator.

All the engines are of a decent size and make impressive models.

Please note, there are no machining instructions, just plans and photos in this book.

Fun with Engines and Other things

Rudy Kouhoupt


6 slightly more diverse designs in this 3rd volume including a piston valve steam engine, radial engine and small horizontal engine. The compressed air powered V4 engine is particularly nice.

Steam & Stirling Engines You Can Build

"Live Steam" Articles

William C Fitt


16 articles from "Live Steam" magazine collected and presented by William Fitt.

Of particular note is a very nice V4 oscillating steam plant which is designed for a steam launch, a large half horse-power steam engine and a stirling powered fan, as well as several other less conventional engine types.

The high number of photos make the book easy to read and understand.

Steam & Stirling Engines You Can Build - Book 2

"Live Steam" Articles

Joe Rice


Another compilation of articles from "Live Steam" magazine. In total 29 articles of interest with many plans and building instructions ranging from a simple 'Bash' valve engine, to more complex designs such as a 6 clyinder radial oscilator, a Tesla turbine and a very nice flame licker engine as pictured on the cover. Like the first edition there are hundreds of photos of construction which make the book easy to follow and clear. Book 2 is my preferred book.




Fly Electric

Dave Chinnery


This book is an ideal introduction to electric flying. Chapters include motor selection, gearboxes, model choice, flying safety; also some useful tables on available models and wiring diagrams for multi-engine designs.

A good book to read if you have just started or are thinking about starting in electric flight. The book explains how to tune motors, select propellers and pick the best batteries for your requirements.

The only downside is that it was written before Lithium batteries were fully developed, but the rest of the information is still relevant.


Small Electric Flying Models

George Stringwell


In this book the author describes a selection of flying models which can be made with a simple cheap 400 series motor. Many of the models are small single engine designs but there are multiengine designs here too.

There are chapters on gearboxes and airscrews, batteries, speed controllers, structures and covering.

This is a good book if you are looking for ideas and would like to stay at the budget end of model flying models. Nice simple explanations of technical aspects.

Tremendous Toy Trucks

Les Neufeld


This book by Les has plans and step-by-step building instructions for 12 great looking wooden trucks.

The designs are very clever and yet simple to build, and the results are trucks which look great but are tough enough to play with. Les makes great use of contrasting woods and parts are simply glued together with no complex joinery.

The finished models are very impressive and have a more scale appearance than many other toy designs.

507 Mechanical Movements

Lost Technology Series


A handy reference book and an interesting read if you like mechanical things.

Some really nice linkages and systems described in this book and great for inspiration when designing your own system.