Senate passes Sheldon mini-boiler bill – boosts model railroaders, hobbyists

OLYMPIA – A bill approved by the state Senate Wednesday night gives the high sign to model railroaders and other hobbyists across the state who use miniature steam boilers for power.

Senate Bill 6240, approved 48-0, exempts hobbyists from state rules requiring annual boiler re-inspections. A single state inspection and certification would suffice.

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, was prompted by model-railroad enthusiasts from the Port Orchard area. Members of Kitsap Live Steamers, Inc., operate one-eighth scale-model locomotives on a one-mile track at South Kitsap Regional Park. The trains carry 1,000 or more passengers daily on a weekend-and-holiday schedule, roughly 20 times a year.

“These model railroaders, and other hobbyists who use scale-model boilers, don’t need the frequent inspections we give to industrial boilers that are in constant use,” Sheldon explained. “Yet they are covered by the same rules. It’s time we back off the pressure and give our support to this delightful hobby.”

Miniature hobby boilers are used not only in scale-model locomotives but also model boats, tractors and stationary engines. By law, miniature hobby boilers cannot be used for commercial or industrial purposes, and cannot operate under more than 150 pounds per square inch of pressure.

Ken Olson of Kitsap Live Steamers testified last week in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee that boilers used for model railroading purposes are typically built to handle more than 2200 pounds of pressure. The certification and inspection process is extensive, and for hobby purposes, it need only be done once. Annual inspections are onerous overkill for model boilers that see occasional use, he said, particularly for hobbyists who bring their scale-model locomotives from other states for an occasional run on Washington trackage.

Sheldon noted that this was the third time the Senate has passed the bill. In previous sessions the measure ran out of steam in the House.