Frequently Asked Questions


Our coal-fired locos are designed with very long running times in mind (comparable with gas-fired locos). The big advantage of that is that it's much easier to keep the fire and pressure under control as you do not have to fiddle all the time putting up coal on the fire. For that reason our locos are very easy to control not only manual but also RC which is very special for a coal-fired loco. On top of that the loco has a very effective damper to control the fire while running. It opens and closes the firebox door a little, but has a very wide control range. And the damper is even controllable RC.
To make the long running times possible we designed a special boiler that is capable of containing all the water that you need for a run. So there is no need for a water pump that in this scale needs very much energy, shortens running times considerably, needs a difficult to adjust by-pass and is sensitive to pollution and hence not always reliable.
To see our locos running is probably the best way to be convinced. For a demonstration you're always welcome in Son or on a show.

Because the fire is contained within a closed firebox, draught has to be induced. For initial fire lighting, an electric blower is placed on the chimney top to create the draught. When the engine is stationary and steam pressure has been raised, a valve in the cab can be opened to send a small amount of steam up the chimney and create an air draught through the fire. When the engine is running, the exhaust from the cylinders passes up the chimney and does the same. To build a fire you first ensure that the water level in the water gauge is half way. If not top up using the hand held bottle. Next you lay a bed of paraffin soaked charcoal in the firebox. Access is through the firebox door. Sit the electric blower on top of the chimney, switch it on, light the charcoal and close the firebox door. After a couple of minutes, when the charcoal is well alight and burning through, add a little coal. After a few more minutes, pressure will start to rise in the boiler. At a pressure of 30psi the electric blower can be removed and the steam blower valve opened a little to induce the draught. Step by step add more coal and water, keeping pressure above 30psi. Once the boiler is fully topped up with coal and water, the engine can be run. How to build a coal fire needs practice but it is fun. You find detailed instructions in the extensive manual which comes with your locomotive/kit.

Driving our coal-fired locomotives is not difficult and not very different from driving a gas-fired locomotive.
During the run you only have to watch the boiler's water level through the water gauge. Sometimes you have to readjust the damper to keep the pressure on a nominal value (40psi). And if you halt for longer than half a minute or so you have to open your blower valve a little bit. That's all during the run.
When the water level in the water gauge gets low your coal is running low as well and you have to top up coal and water. At that moment you’re really busy with the fire to get the newly added coal burning and with topping up the boiler with water for the next run. However as long as you keep the pressure above 30psi this is an easy job.
You find detailed instructions in the extensive manual which comes with your locomotive/kit.

Links to videos:
Steaming up coal-fired Amy
How to use the (manual) damper
Riverdale 'Irene' and 'Amy'
Darjeeling 'B' with Rob Bennett coaches and BusyBodies
Irene with Slomo fitted

"Relaxing with Emily" in 16mm Today
"Darjeeling conversion" in 16mm Today
"Riverdale Amy" on Garden Railway Club
"Amy" featuring in GardenRail
"Elke Brooks no rival" in GardenRail
Articles in German language:
Riverdale presentation in German
"Riverdale Umbau zur Echtkohle-Lok" in GartenBahn
"Fahnen-Trägerin" in GARTENBAHN profi
"Schwarzes gold" in GARTENBAHN profi
"Roundhouse + Riverdale + Kohle = Fahrvergenügen" in GartenBahn

You will need with our locomotives not much coal: 1 kg will last 25-40 runs.

For filling the boiler de-mineralized (de-ionized) or distilled water is recommended.
Clean tap water, rain water or water from a dehumidifier contains quite often (still) too much salts and will scale water gauges and safety valves over time (those getting white and this will happen to all locos). It can have bad influence on the surface tension of the water resulting in poorly readable water gauges. Keep this in mind and when these things happen shift to de-ionized water as used for irons and the like. Or even better start form the beginning using de-ionized water (eventually mixed with 3-5% tap water if you are afraid for de-sinking of brass fittings). De-ionized water is cheap and easy obtainable, so no problem there.

The wheels of the locomotive are adjustable: the locomotive can run on 32mm and 45mm gauge.

The used Roundhouse pressure gauge is in psi (pounds per square inch). For your information: 30psi is 2.1 bar and 40psi is 2.8 bar. The maximum allowed pressure in the boiler is 4 bar (58psi).


Painting the parts and final assembling is no more difficult than building the Roundhouse Chassis and Body kits. Building instructions of the Roundhouse kits can be downloaded from the Roundhouse site: Roundhouse Kit instructions.
Painting the boiler is no more difficult than painting a Roundhouse smoke-box. The outside temperature of our boiler is lower than a (gas-fired) smoke-box, even under full load.
In all our models you need to make cut outs in the boiler wrapper. If you build Amy with the closed back panel, you also have to make a cut out in the back panel of the body to make an opening for shoveling coal into the firebox. With the open back panel this is not necessary. For Elke and Irene the cut-outs are covered by boiler band and dome (Elke) or saddle tank (Irene). The cuts in the Amy boiler wrapper are invisible behind the water tanks. When used, the cut out in the closed back panel is covered by a brass U-shaped profile.
The cut outs are made with a jigsaw. It is not difficult, but needs some care.

The standard Roundhouse smoke box door is hard soldered to the smoke box. But the smoke-box of a coal-fired locomotive needs cleaning once in a while. The coal-fired boiler kit contains all parts to allow a smoke box door that can be removed. Thus it needs a Roundhouse smoke box with the door not fitted. So ask Roundhouse for 'do not solder door'.

From 2013 onwards new Roundhouse pressure gauges do have a red marking at 40psi, indicating the maximum allowed pressure for a Roundhouse gas-fired loco. The Riverdale coal-fired boiler is however suitable for 4 bar (58psi). It would be confusing to use a pressure gauge with a 40psi red marking and run on a pressure above 40 psi. So ask Roundhouse for a pressure gauge without the red marking at 40 psi.
Alternative: if you already own an older Roundhouse locomotive you could exchange that pressure gauge with the new one for your coal-fired locomotive.

What you need is a medium strength threadlocker. Loctite is a brandname. If you search the internet or ebay for Loctite or threadlocker you will find several hits. Make sure you have a medium strength version. Alternatively, because you'll need only a very minimal amount, a friendly local (car) work shop could help you.
Threadlocker is necessary to seal the water gauge banjo bolt and the bolt on top of the dome (or whistle valve in case you fit the whistle). Further you'll need to lock the M5 union nuts which are used for the regulator and blower valve.

Riverdale plates
"IRENE" can be any name. "43" is any boiler serial number followed by any year of production. Thickness of the plates is 0.5mm.
The length of the builder plate in the drawing above is 18.5mm. The etching proces does not allow for smaller letters. When home-building and you paint the plates yourselves: we're using Humbrol 19 (gloss bright red).
The name & builder plates can be ordered at Narrow Planet. Direct link to the builder plates:  builder plates.

Building R/C

Linkages for the regulator, reverser, whistle and damper need to be bend with a small pair of pliers. The damper linkage needs some soft soldering. Servo arms need to be cut and drilled. Painting the parts and final assembling is not more difficult than building the Roundhouse R/C Fittings Kit.
Because our kits do contain a switch and a charger panel jack electrical soldering is necessary. The rechargeable batteries delivered with Elke, Irene and Darjeeling need to be soldered together and taped with insulation tape. Note: if you do not want to do this electrical work yourself, we can supply these electric parts already soldered at extra costs.

Our locomotives are developed for a Planet T5, Reely HR4 or Spektrum AR500 receiver. However in Amy and the Darjeeling a Tactic TR625 receiver or even bigger receivers do fit. Should you have the option for Elke and Irene, use receivers with the servo connectors in line with the casing such as often used for parkflyers (maximum allowable size is 58*24*12mm with servos connected).
Please take note that you'll need a R/C combo (mode 2) with minimum 3 channels if you want to control regulator, reverser, whistle & damper (whistle and damper are operated with 1 servo). Use the left stick for reverser/regulator with no springs and a ratchet in de regulator direction. And use the right stick for whistle & damper with no spring and eventually a ratchet.
Amy needs 3 Hitec HS81 micro servos. Elke needs 1 Hitec HS81 micro servo and 2 Hitec HS55 feather servos. Irene and the Darjeeling do need 3 Hitec HS55 feather servos.
Good and low priced is the Reely HT-4 (,, or the similar Flysky FS-i4 combo. In Elke and Irene space is very limited but the receiver of these combos fits after it is adapted (the antenna needs re-positioning). We like these transmitters because they are good value, very compact, simple, reliable and have comfortable gimbals (sticks). The Reely/Flysky transmitters do not come with a charge plug. You need to charge the batteries externally. With the charger we use (Conrad 237739) connect a battery box (Conrad 1680423) to the charger. The gimbals do come with an adjustable brake instead of a ratchet which is fine (you could make your own ratchet).
Finally very good value for the money is the Reely HT-6 or the similar Flysky FS-i6 computer combo. Their receivers fit in Elke and Irene without alterations.
Read this in case you're using one of the Reely or Flysky combos.

The "ever ready" rechargeable batteries keep their charge very long as normal batteries. It is only necessary to charge the batteries if empty and not before every use. On top of that, there is no memory effect so charging them after every use is no problem either.


All assembling and painting of the chassis, body, smoke-box and boiler wrapper is already done. The only painting left to the builder is the boiler and the new floor plate. This makes the job easier compared to building yourself. However there are some special difficulties with a conversion.
First you have to be sure your locomotive is in good order: check the running times of your locomotive before conversion. If your locomotive is old, your running gear could be worn-out. In such a case it is sensible to do a full revision of your chassis first, rebuild your locomotive and fully test it gas-fired.
The kit is developed for Roundhouse locomotives with new type cylinders with round O-rings to seal the valve-gear. The kit is not suitable for converting very old Roundhouse locomotives (and it would be a pity to convert these old-timers!). If you have an old locomotive it could be necessary to upgrade some parts of your locomotive to the latest Roundhouse version.
You have to disassemble your locomotive on basis of the assembling instructions of the Roundhouse kits (download these from the Roundhouse Internet site).
For the conversion you need to make cut outs in the painted boiler wrapper. If you build Amy, you also have to make a cut out in the back panel of the painted body to make an opening for shoveling coal into the firebox. For Elke and Irene the cut-outs are covered by boiler band and dome (Elke) or saddle tank (Irene). The cuts in the Amy boiler wrapper are invisible behind the water tanks. The cut out in the back panel is covered by a brass U-shaped profile.
The cut outs are made with a jigsaw. Care must be taken not to damage the paint while making the cutouts. This can be done by fully taping the parts and using supports for the parts to be cut. It’s a job that is not difficult but it needs care.

A conversion of the Darjeeling is relatively straight forward. You need to make one cut out in the painted RH boiler wrapper and shorten it. These alterations - when done with care - are invisible behind the body. You could even re-build the loco to gas-firing (but you will never do that!).
Painting only involves the new lasercut parts and (optional) the coal-fired boiler with pipe-work. Disassembling and assembling is fully described in the manual. This is the most difficult part as the Darjeeling is a more complcated model. So it needs more time compared to the other models.

If you want to make your converted locomotive remote controlled not all your old R/C equipment can be used. A coal-fired boiler takes much more room in your locomotive. With our R/C Fittings Kits fitting R/C isn’t a difficult job. But you need smaller servos and in case of Elke and Irene a small receiver (of course this is good moment to go for modern 2.4Ghz equipment).

In your Roundhouse Lady Anne, Billy or Katie the smoke-box door is hard soldered to the smoke-box. Removing the smoke-box door from the smoke-box is only possible by heating up the assembly to a minimum temperature of 620 °C. You’ll need a professional high-power gas burner for this, an environment where this equipment can be used without fire hazard and experience in the matter. After heating up you have to clean the parts thoroughly and repaint them.
Another solution is to buy a new smoke-box assembly at Roundhouse with the smoke-box door not fitted and paint this.
Our advice is to leave the smoke-box door not removable and spare yourself the extra costs and effort. After all, it is not necessary to clean the smoke-box after every run and to our experience cleaning the smoke-box by removing the complete smoke-box isn’t much more work. After removing 3 screws the smoke-box simply slides off and the cleaning itself is faster because the smoke-box is fully removed. And no worry about cleaning the flues: our boiler design allows for cleaning them through the firebox door. So no need to remove the smoke-box door for that.

From 2013 onwards, instead of the normal exhaust pipes Roundhouse does fit - on the RtR loco's only - an exhaust enhancer as pictured below. When converting a loco with a Roundhouse exhaust enhancer fitted, you need to order a pair of normal exhaust pipes from Roundhouse.
exhaust enhancer

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