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A Firebrick Burner Modification 

on an Aster K.P.E.V. P8 / BR 38

By John Garrett


I built a KPEV P8 Aster kit in the fall of 2001.  Jerry Reshew said it best in his Jumbo review, "The burner in an alcohol-fueled locomotive is a critical partner in the success of the locomotive.  It appears to be simplicity in itself, but it is a subtle beast and you’ll have to get to know it to really understand its quirks".


The recommended insulating material for the burner wicks were used with disappointing results.  The material would change after being fired and very rich runs on a treadmill of 20 -25 minutes were normal.  The wicks were replaced with firebrick material that is used to make pottery kilns.  As for locating firebrick in your area, , look in phone directories for "BRICK-FIRE", "REFRACTORIES" and "POTTERY".

Conventional round wicks can be made with K&S brass telescoping tubing with teeth filed in the end, trepanning to remove a cylindrical core.  Work the tubing through the brick by twisting with your hand.  Leave the brick slightly larger then the tube and press it in for a tight fit to the tube.  The bottom end can be flat or contoured around the feed tube.  I start with a larger area exposed and trim with a file or old worn hack saw blade so that the safety valves are not blowing during a run.

Trimming the wick is easy and can be accomplished with a coarse file, emery paper or old worn out hack saw blades. The brick was fit as tight as possible to each side of the air vent tube with only about 1/16" exposed above the top edge of the burner box.  A coil of 0.041" stainless steel safety lock wire was placed above the burner to provide some radiant heat.  

Lighting the burner was difficult until I used a pipette to squirt several drops of alcohol up between the firebox and the burner just prior to lighting.  (Use caution, if alcohol drips onto the track move the locomotive before lighting).  

Another potential problem is the placement of the burner in the firebox.  The forward mounting plate is thin stainless steel that flexes easily.  When the silicon alcohol feed tube is disconnected from the burner the burner may move aft and the air vent tube may pop out of the hole in the stainless steel mounting plate.  


Before starting, check that the air vent tube is not blocked off.  The firebox insulating material was removed from the sides up to the top edge of the burner to allow more air to flow up the sides.


A positive operating aspect of using firebrick for wicks is that it can be left to smolder at the end of a run with out any adverse effects in future performance. 


Following the above modifications my engine has run for 95 minutes on the treadmill with the initial filling of the alcohol tank.  (Bear in mind that the engine has had some break in time since the initial runs with the insulating sheet wicks).  Runs over one hour pulling 13 six wheel Marklin cars with the temperature in the mid 40's (F) are normal.  The fuel tank valve is opened only 1/8 to 1/4 turns.  A 1/3 turn may be required toward the end of the run.

I have since used firebrick in the following Aster locomotives with success: Lion, Mikado, Grasshopper, Alisan Shay, B1 Baldwin and a "London Transport" Pannier.

If you have trouble-obtaining firebrick for the wicks please do not hesitate to contact me by email.



I used 0.051" diameter stainless steel lock wire for the coil that extends down to two opposite corners.  Thicker wire should work fine.  I just wrapped it around a dowel or tube to form it.  Coil OD is the same as the burner box width.  The fire brick is from a pottery store that sells kiln supplies.  It is a kiln brick.  Very light stuff that can be formed with just about anything, even finger nails.  After forming the slabs, tap to get the dust out of the pores in the brick.  The brick slabs should seal to the burner box sides, ends and air tube.  If there are any gaps use some small pieces of the insulating material used for lining the smoke box.


I also made a conventional three tube burner that is much easier to light but does not seem to get the great mileage that the stock burner gave.  I also run with the alcohol valve just cracked open ~ 1/4 to 1/3 turn.  Toward the end of the run the fuel valve is opened to 1/2 to 3/4 turn.

To light the stock burner, I squirt a few drops of fuel from a pipette up the side between the burner and the fire box.  Roll the engine forward to get away from any fuel on the track and then light.




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