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Some tips and tricks about how to run the steam engine in DV:Simulator safely and efficiently.
Derail Valley Running Steam Engines Efficiently
One frequent user comment that I keep seeing is that the steam engine in DV is very expensive to operate. And while it is true that coal is an expensive fuel in the game, the overall running costs of the locomotive can be massively influenced by how one operates it, to the point where it really isn’t all that more expensive than diesel engines of comparable pulling power and speed (say three DE-2s in MU operation).
This guide aims to show some tips and tricks on how to run a steam engine in DV without it costing all that much. This is heavily based on my own preferences and play style, so YMMV.
Coal Consumption, Fire Temps, Boiler Pressure
Coal consumption varies greatly depending on you fire the engine.
When doing a cold start, you probably want to build steam quickly and so it’s best to fill the firebox with the usual three shovels of coal, light the fire, open the dampers and the blower and wait for the pressure to rise.
From that point on, you really want to plan ahead to determine how much steam you will actually need for the next trip/mission:
- How heavy will the train be?
- Will there be long and/or heavy uphill grades?
- How fast do you want to travel?
My general rule of thumb is to always run with as low fire temperatures and steam pressures as you can get away with. The hotter your fire burns and the more steam you produce, the faster you consume your coal and water — with really quite drastic differences in consumption between pulling hard and running light.
You should figure out what suits your play style best — the advice below is what works well for me but might not for you (for example, I generally don’t go after the delivery time bonus).
I usually try to run the firebox/boiler somewhere around the values below (suitable for light loads without heavy grades or flat switching like at the harbor):
- Keep the boiler temps just above 200°C. At this point, it will hardly ever require more coal.
- Boiler pressure of 6-9 bar is totally suffificent for many tasks, including switching.
- Keep the dampers firmly shut (but open them a bit before longer stationary times to prevent the fire from going out completely).
Dampers and Blower, Steam Consumption
The dampers feed fresh air into the firebox. Opening them will raise your fire temperature — and in turn coal consumption.
A typical use case would be to open them in advance when an upcoming move/mission requires more pulling power (and thus steam).
Dampers work much more effectively when traveling at speed, so you’ll usually want to close them when moving to prevent your fire from burning too hot. That is, unless you really need the boiler pressure, like when going up a long grade.
The blowers use the engine’s own steam to generate a strong draft in the firebox, thus raising fire temperature and steam production quickly also while the engine is stationary. Use them sparingly, as they not only get the fire really hot quickly, but also waste the engine’s own steam to do so. Unless you’re pulling extremely heavy loads uphill, you probably won’t ever need to activate them during regular running.
To prevent wasting resources, you should always aim to keep your boiler pressure under the maximum pressure where the pop-up valve kicks in (the safety valve on top of the boiler that blows off every few seconds when you’ve reached max. pressure), blowing your precious steam straight into the air (and your money straight out of the smoke stack!)
To reduce steam consumption, just go easy on the throttle. Ideally, never open the regulator completely but only always as far as needed to get moving/accelerate. Even more importantly, reduce the cutoff as you pick up speed. When you’re rolling along on level ground, you can easily to to something like 20% forward on the cutoff wheel.
Other Cost Factors
Even when one has coal and water consumption under control, the steam engine can still be a costly thing if one mistreats it.
To prevent excessive repair bills, try and remember:
- … to always activate the lubricator before moving. I usually just keep it running all the time as the added cost in oil is nothing compared to wrecked running gear. And don’t forget to top up on lubricant frequently.
- … to always engage the cylinder c.ocks when starting from a standstill. You’ll also want to activate them after coasting for some time. When you can hear a “sloshing” sound after opening the regulator, you must open the cylinder c.ocks immediately to drain the water from the cylinders.
- … to prevent wheelslip by using the sander liberally. Topping up on sand is much cheaper than repairing your wheels.
And always keep an eye on your boiler water level.
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