The Denver Area Small Scale Steamers (DASSS) is a new organization dedicated to all things related to small-scale steam locomotives.

Members of the club build, maintain, and operate their locomotives and trains.  The railway shown in the photo will be in use at this year’s maker faire.

 

Tell us about your organization.

Small scale engines run on tracks made from two rails that are 1-1/4, 1-3/4, or 2-1/2 inches apart. These distances are known as the gauge of the track, and they are named 0, 1, 3 respectively.

Many of the members have commercially available locomotives, and some members build their locomotives from scratch, using machine tools (lathes and mills), as well as hand tools.  Metals such as brass, copper, steel, are used extensively; and wood often is used to build trains.

Steam locomotives of any size are wonderful machines. They seem almost alive, and each has its own personality that must be learned and mastered.

There are all levels of locomotive complexity, from beginner engines that can have their fires lit, then left to run until they are out of fuel, to complex, sophisticated machines that require a lot of ongoing attention, but can be kept running all day long.  Miniature engineering of steam
engines is a fascinating endeavor that is as broad as it is deep. You’ll never hit bottom.

The club members are of all ages from 17 to 80. Many of them have been making things since they were kids, slowly building their skills and attending workshops to accommodate their growing interests.

 

What is your big audacious goal?

We want to expand our club and get out the word about this wonderful hobby. We want to see more people learning about steam and taking the plunge into building their own locomotives.

 

What do you want to accomplish in the next one to two years?

DASSS’s immediate goals include meeting new people who are interested in (or would like to become interested in) learning about miniature steam locomotives: how they work, how to run them, and how to build them.

And we will be setting up a mentoring program, where our more experienced members take newcomers under their wings and teach them the arcana of steam.

 

What is your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge that we have had so far is getting the word out to people living in the area who are steam locomotive enthusiasts but are unaware of our organization and encouraging them to get involved.

That’s why we’re so excited about participating in this year’s Maker Faire Denver, where we hope to expose a lot more people to miniature steam locomotives.

 

What is the one thing that would surprise people to learn about you?

The thing about our hobby that most surprises people is finding out that our locomotives are real steam engines. They burn fuel (butane gas, alcohol, or coal) to heat water into steam, which is then used to propel the locomotives and pull trains, just like their full-size counterparts.

 

You can visit with DASSS members and see their fantastic small scale steam locomotives at the 2017 Denver Maker Faire on October 14-15 at the Denver Mart. For tickets and details go to denver.makerfaire.com/faq.