Tom Miller's Live Steam Operation - MRH Theater


Tom Miller's Live Steam Operation

You've seen Tom Miller's indoor Fn3 Little Colorado, now here's his 7" gauge outdoor live steam layout, shot April 26, 2009.

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Click to play the Tom Miller interview segment 1. (you may need to allow popups)Tom Miller's Live Steam Operation - segment 1 (12:32) -  Watch the live steam operation on Tom Miller's 7" gauge outdoor layout, complete with a huge trestle! See Tom's scratchbuilt D&RGW K-36 Mikado under steam and at its ride-along finest!

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Click to play the Tom Miller interview segment 2. (you may need to allow popups)Tom Miller's Live Steam Operation - segment 2 (13:07) -  Watch as we ride along on Tom Miller's 7" gauge outdoor live steam layout. We ride behind a C-16 over the trestle and through the tunnel on Tom's huge layout. Finally, we watch an engine being serviced, glimpsing the intricacies of live steam loco operation.

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  • Train Mountain Train Mountain located in Chiloquin, Oregon is a mecca for live steam enthusiasts. It features 13+ miles of mainline and 25+ miles of other track and the ability to run your train from a spur next to your living accomodations.
  • Model Railroad Hobbyist - Issue 1 MRH issue 1 (free download!) has an extensive article on Tom Miller's Little Colorado.


Tom Miller's live steam program

Wow! This looks like it would be a great experience to operate. The photography and production were first rate as always. Just curious about live steam...I have a large HO railroad (approx. 1700 square feet) but unless I "operate" it becomes pretty boring after a while watching trains go in circles even though it's a large circle. Do Live steamers "operate"?

The only thing I would like to see changed about the production is the background music. It competes with and drowns out the sound of the trains which are really the focus of the piece. A 15 second musical interlude at the beginning would be OK but for me the repetitious soundtrack is an annoying distraction.

Looking forward to part 2


Rio Grande Dan's picture

Now thats what I call Playing with Trains!!!

That's the Train set I want under the Christmas Tree this year!

Another great Monday Video and you look like you were having a great time. is there going to be a interview with Tom on the next Monday Video?

It must be really ruff having to go on site and film these Videos.

How long did it take Tom to build the Trestles?

Did he have the rails made or are they commercially available?

Is the Passenger platform and the engine house the only structures or are there others like a water tank or sand house?

Rio Grande Dan

joef's picture

Not a lot of ambient sound in this video


There's not a lot of ambient sound in this video - without the music, much of it would just be silence - in other words, pretty boring! The places where you do hear sound over the music are the only places where's there's some ambient sound.

In other words, the music isn't drowning out anything ... there's nothing on the video recording to drown out.

In part 2, the camera's riding along on a train, so you get to see the trestle and tunnel from the perspective of a rider - plus we interview one of the loco operators, and we see the train shop where they "steam 'em up".

Joe Fugate
Publisher, Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine

Joe Fugate's HO Siskiyou Line

joef's picture

As to operation ...

As to operation, Tom's layout doesn't have a lot of switching possibilities. But at Train Mountain, they have some time where they do operation with a dispatcher, and switching - so the full operations deal.

Joe Fugate
Publisher, Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine

Joe Fugate's HO Siskiyou Line

JeffShultz's picture

That K-26 gets right with the program, doesn't it?

It was interesting looking at the riders during the first half of the video... "Okay, the bearded guy is Joe, Patty's behind him... who is... oh, Charlie's videotaping, that's Betty!"

Do the other locos belong to Tom, or does he host "bring your own live steam" sessions as well?



Jeff Shultz

MRH Technical Assistant


Live Steam

This is genuinely interesting. However I must be a bit jaded because live steam isn't that attractive to me unless it's full size.

I do have one observation to make. That layout must have cost him a good sized fortune to create and maintain. I won't even go into what the size of the land he owns is.



dfandrews's picture


As usual, Movie monday did it again.  Great.

Most live steam tracks are ride only with little or no switching or proto-operation.  It is sufficient for the engineer, to run the train, watch the track ahead, watch your water glass, maintain draft, watch the track, adjust the fuel valve (or stoke coal or wood), watch the track, take a peek back to see if you still have a train, oh, and watch the track.  It is a thrill to be able to open the throttle and start pulling up to thousands of pounds.  You can really feel the locomotive's power.  (With a friend's 1½" scale std. guage 750 lb. Consolidation, I was able to start and pull 10 car train with 26 people up a 1½% grade.  Wow!).

Switches are similar to smaller scales in that they are the big money and time user.  The least time I ever spent constructing a 7½" guage switch was about 4-5 hours.  Then it takes two people to lift it.  No wonder most clubs build just enough to get into operation; just enough to run the locomotives.

Aluminum rail is available from several sources in the U.S.  Steel rail is harder to get, because the steel mills require a much larger run to justify the setup.  Ties are 2x2 or 2x4 on edge.  4-8 screws per tie.  Every 10 to 20 feet is a rail joint with 4 to 8 bolts.

You really must visit a live steam operation.  Go to, click on "Helpful Links", go to the seventh item down:  "   7¼" and 7½" tracks  ", and find a club in your area to visit.  It is a fun thing!



Rincon Pacific Rwy, 1960.  HO scale std. gauge - interchange with SP.


skiloff's picture

Another place I must see

My list is getting longer... 


HO Scale '70s/80s era

bear creek's picture

Train Mountain

Train Mountain is apparently (I driven by but not gone inside nor ridden there) quite the place for 7.5" gauge stuff. They have a pseudo-motel capacity where you can stay in your own (full size) caboose. And they have op sessions where cars do get delivered around there huge mainline.

The place is located in Chiloquin Oregon (about a 20 minute drive north of Klamath Falls).



 Contributing Editor, Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine

bear creek's picture


Actually that's a K-36 (one of two that Tom built himself). In person it's very impressive (and massive).

The other locos (C-16s) in the video were guest locos. Their owners (and wives) drove about 8 hours from the San Francisco Bay Area to attend Tom's steam up. The next day they were head off to Train Mountain for some more running.


 Contributing Editor, Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine

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