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Design

How to Draw a Classic Steam Locomotive From Scratch

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
This post is part of a series called How to Draw Vehicles.
How to Draw a Car From Scratch
How to Draw Transport: Drawing a Historic Plane From Scratch
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Since the 19th century, man has used the steam engine as a means of transport and travel. The design, size and pace of these machines continue to fascinate generation after generation! In this tutorial, come with me as we look into drawing one of these mighty machines from years past.

1. Set Up a Guide in Perspective

Step 1

Firstly, we are going to establish a rough guideline for our train. We are looking to make this train quite imposing, and to do this we are going to have a low horizon, so we shall start by drawing a simple line across our page just below halfway up the page.

First thing to do is to establish your horizon line

Step 2

We then need to set out some vanishing points that will help us with our perspective, and for this particular image we are going to use a two-point perspective setup. I find it best if these are placed quite a distance from each other and, in this case, that means placing points off the page. To do this, you may have to use two pieces of masking tape placed on either side of your canvas and add both of your points using a ruler.

A steel rule and tape are a must have if vanishing points go off your page

Step 3

We can now draw the guide for our engine, and for this particular example we are going to draw a large box using our horizon line and vanishing points. Start by drawing a straight line coming from the right vanishing point.

We are going to start drawing from the right hand vanishing point

Step 4

Then we draw a second line coming from the same point, but this time above the horizon line.

Distance from the horizon will affect the angle of your guidelines

Step 5

Add two more lines coming from this vanishing point, and we will now have the rear of our box.

See how the closer the lines are to the horizon the more straight they seem

Step 6

Now we are going to move to the left-hand vanishing point and draw in two lines below the horizon line leading from this second point going across the page.

Now we move to the left hand side vanishing point

Step 7

Add another two lines above the horizon line, and you can now see that we have two stretched rectangles either side of this line.

Notice the angles of the lines again above the horizon line

Step 8

To complete the box, draw in four vertical lines that will join both rectangles together.

And to complete the box add in four vertical lines

Step 9

Now that we have our first box in place, remember to keep the perspective in mind. Most steam engines of this type are high sided and quite tall so it might look rather unusual at this stage, but don’t worry.

And we have a guide remember not to make your lines to heavy though

2. Construct the Engine and Boiler

Step 1

Now that we have a guideline for our train, we are going to begin constructing the engine and cab car in more detail. To begin with, we want to draw a simple circle.

To start your boiler draw a simple circle either freehand or with a compass

Step 2

Next, you want to extend this circle to become a long cylinder towards the left vanishing point. This will be our boiler and firebox.

Then extend with two straight lines use your vanishing points though

Step 3

Then, at the very front of our cylinder, draw a second smaller circle within the first one.

Another circle inside the first will become the front access door

Step 4

Underneath the boiler lies the chassis and running gear for the engine. To create it, we shall draw a long box that runs the same length as the boiler.

This large box will eventually become the running gear

Step 5

At the very front of the engine, a wide rectangle will become the front buffer beam. Again, keep in mind perspective when you draw this as it is very easy to make a mistake here which might spoil the piece.

The rectangle you can see here will be for the buffer beam

Step 6

Back underneath the boiler, draw in two small triangles that will act as the first of a series of supports that run along the length of the boiler and are attached to the chassis. You can create these with simple triangles.

Next come the supports that hold the boiler to the chassis

Step 7

At the rear of the boiler comes the cab section, and this is made up of a tall box that runs level with the top of the boiler, but notice it overlaps slightly. This will be fixed when we work on the details.

Now the cab section follows

Step 8

Let’s not forget to draw the side window in the cab; a slightly skewed square will make this up.

Every driver needs to be able to look out of his engine

Step 9

The fire box lies between the boiler and the cab section. There is not much to define it, but this particular area has a small sloping section that joins the two parts together, and it runs across the boiler down either side of the locomotive.

The firebox lies between the cab and the boiler

Step 10

Remember to add the funnel and dome on top of the boiler. The perspective we are working with means much of these two will be hidden, but what can be seen needs to be included!

Now we start adding other details such as the funnel and dome

Step 11

Now that we have all of our main details in place, we can start bringing them all together. You may notice many more little details need to be added, but these will come!

Now we have established our basic pulling engine

3. Work on the Tender

Step 1

Behind the main driving engine comes the tender, which is the small second trailer that runs behind locomotives of this type. Because this engine is built for speed, the tender itself is the same height and width as the engine and is designed to run hand in hand with the engine. A simple box will start us off on the drawing.

The tender is simply a large coal box on wheels

Step 2

A smaller box drawn below our first will be for a series of small wheels that support the tender.

Simple box shapes will help you but once again think perspective

Step 3

At the top of the tender, there is an opening to allow coal to be loaded on board. Thanks to perspective, not much can be seen of this opening, but it is still visible towards the rear.

How are you meant to get coal on board with no opening in the top

Step 4

At the front of the tender on this locomotive, there is a slight cutaway towards the top to allow the drivers and firemen to get both on and off the loco easily and to observe things ahead and behind when in motion, so remember to draw this in as we progress.

This little opening helps with both access to the cab and the drivers vision

Step 5

The wheels on the tender do not have any connecting rods or pistons and are only attached with axles and suspension parts. To make some of these, we can draw in a series of downward pointing triangles, one next to the other.

There is no drive on the tender but suspension is a must

Step 6

Then, below the triangles, draw several small boxes that will become suspension springs. The wheels will follow later.

These rectangles will become the spring supports for the suspension

4. Draw the Wheels and Gears

Step 1

Before we begin with this next section, it is a good idea to practice drawing circles and ellipses, as you will need to be comfortable with these to carry out the following steps.

It is good practice to draw ellipses on scrap paper before you start on this section

Step 2

Starting from the front of the train and working backwards, we shall first draw three small ellipses that will be for the leading wheels. There are of course two wheels on the opposite side too, but one of these is hidden by the running gear in the centre of the engine.

Three ellipses will start us for the leading wheels but note the fourth is hidden

Step 3

Behind these leading wheels are the main driving wheels, and there are six of these on this type of engine, with of course three on either side.

Then come the three large driving wheels

Step 4

At the very back of the engine, we now also draw the small trailing wheel at the back. Of course, there is another on the opposite side.

A final trailing wheel gives stability

Step 5

All of the wheels require a second circle inside the first; this will be for an inner rim.

Next up come the inner rims of the wheels

Step 6

Again, as the result of perspective, some of the spokes of the wheels are obscured so it may look as if they are not there, but be assured they are. Once again we shall start from the small leading wheels and work backward.

Train wheels have many spokes but they are very sturdy

Step 7

The larger driving wheels will have even more of the spokes obscured by the driving rods, but it is easier in the long run to draw the spokes in now.

Notice the same principle on the driving wheels too

Step 8

Now that we have finished the spokes, we come to the driving and connecting rods. These are rather complicated as they have to both pivot and rise up and down at the same time. To start creating them, you can draw a small series of long boxes at various angles.

The driving rods are one of the most fascinating parts of a steam engine

Step 9

At the ends of some of the rods are the pivots, and you can draw these using small ellipses and cylinders. Make sure to erase the parts that will be attached to your rods.

There are many different sized bolts that hold the rods together

Step 10

Don’t forget to draw in the many bolts that hold everything together!

Do not forget the nuts though

Step 11

To complete the running gear, we must not forget the trailing wheels on the engine and the tender. Drawing ellipses will help you here again.

Notice the size and spacing difference on the wheels on the tender PERSPECTIVE

Step 12

Once you have all the wheels in place, add all the connecting rods and suspension parts that are fitted to these. Remember, there is no drive going to them, so do not add any more driving rods, but the locomotive has to remain stable as it travels at speed!

Now we can draw in the suspension parts in more detail

5. Add the Details

Step 1

Now that we have all the main parts in place for our train, we are ready to add all the little parts that will help bring our creation together! We shall go from the front of the engine and now draw in the buffers that protect the engine from major knocks.

Start drawing the fine details with the buffers

Step 2

Then, in between the two buffers come the connecting hook and chain, which are all important when towing carriages or wagons.

Then comes the towing hook and link

Step 3

Also in the centre of the buffer bar come the brake hoses and lamp lines. These need to be placed either side of the connecting hook, though.

How can a train stop if it has no brakes or be seen if it has no lights

Step 4

On the front access door of the engine, add in the locking mechanism and name plate—that is, if your engine has a name! On this particular engine, there are also some name plates that go above the middle driving wheel.

Then add in the lock handle and hinges for the front access The name plate is your choice

Step 5

On either side of the front of the boiler are some additional side plates that can be removed if needed, but on this occasion we shall leave them attached.

The side plates are another addition that can be included if you want to

Step 6

Continuing with the boiler, we need to add a series of lines that define the outer sections of this part of the engine. Take note that the size and space of each of these lines is different thanks to perspective, and remembering little points like this will make your drawing more believable!

The outer part of the boiler is made in sections

Step 7

Running down the side of the boiler and tender are several hand rails that need to be included.

How is an engineer meant to hold on to an engine with no support

Step 8

The tops of the main driving wheels have guards which need to be added next.

Exposed wheels are a major danger so we need some guards

Step 9

Funnily enough, there are two sets of steps that need to be added at the front and at the cab end of the engine!

This type of engine is very tall so step access is a must

Step 10

Ahead of the driving rods comes the housing for the piston and cylinder that transfer all the steam pressure from the boiler to the wheels. This may seem like an ordinary box, but is actually "U" shaped in order to let the two large pistons inside work properly.

Inside this box is where steam pressure becomes powerful drive

Step 11

At the front of the cab is a very small window that allows the drivers to see what is ahead. There is one either side of the boiler, so do not forget to draw these in.

The more a driver can see the better

Step 12

Any other remaining finishing touches that are currently outstanding need to be added at this point. If you wish to do so, you can include your own little special touches to make your locomotive unique!

And now we are reaching the end

Step 13

All that is left for you to do now is to tidy up your drawing and remove any remaining construction lines.

After a quick clean up this beauty is ready to pound the rails

Awesome Work, You're Done!

If you are feeling adventurous, you can even add in a little splash of colour to your creation. The choice of colour scheme is up to you!

I hope you have enjoyed this arty trip into rail history. Using the principles and tips discussed in this tutorial, you too can help keep it alive!

A splash of colour can really bring your creation to life
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