A growing number of live steam engines and locomotives are being offered for sale on Ebay.
Some are no more than toys, Hornby OO gauge for example, some are much more sophisticated scale replicas of the real thing with high pressure steam boiler and coal firing.
Although all need to be handled with care for obvious reasons, (hot parts can burn) the larger replicas are a different animal altogether.
Nobody produces live steam coal fired locomotives ready to run for off the shelf sale, they were all built by model engineers, most of whom have, or had, a great deal of knowledge and understanding of the techniques involved in building and maintaining high pressure steam boilers.
A lot of these builders have sadly passed away over the years and some of these model engines have found their way into the hands of less experiences owners or dealers, some of whom dont have a clue about the condition or safety of the boilers and fittings they are selling, most of which have come into their possession via deceased estates.
If you are thinking of buying such an engine, the first thing you should do is take advice from a model engineer, preferably one who is an approved boiler tester, and get it checked before you buy it or light a fire in it.
If you dont it could be the last fire you ever light. They do go bang !!
You can find such a person with the help of your local ME (model engineering) club.
It would be a good idea to join such a club and seek advice before you spend any money on a "Bargain" on Ebay. Clubs also normally have a track for you to run steam locos on if you join and members often know where good, safe, certified locos can be bought.
As a minimum any locomotive or steam engine should have a current hydraulic test certificate and a current steam test certificate, but before you hand over the cash, check they are valid and issued by a recognised boiler tester. Again your ME club will put you right on this.
It is not unknown for some dealers to offer boiler certificates which would be about as valid as an Arthur Dailey MOT...so be warned, get it checked. All boilers are required to be stamped with a serial number, build date and the pressure in PSI it was tested at. It should also have a CE mark stamped into the backhead.
If you buy a loco with an unstamped boiler and no valid paperwork, most ME clubs will not allow it on their track, so unless you have your own track and you are buying something akin to a chocolate fireguard or an ashtray for a motorcycle...be warned.
Model steam engines are not toys, they need to be handled very carefully and you need to know what you are doing. Skin grafts are very painful and eyes dont grow back.
So to summarise, Join a club. Buy only from a reputable dealer. Check the certificates. Learn how to use and enjoy your purchase and stay safe.
No checkable boiler certificate or boiler stampings .............WALK AWAY.