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I’ve been toying with ideas for the gender reveal of our next child. I was intrigued by a Facebook post showing someone using the real MILW 261 (4-8-4 steam loco) for their reveal... I don’t have any connections with any real steamers, so I can’t copy that, but I do have an Atlas industrial rail 4-4-2 with smoke (piston-driven puffing smoke)...

Anyone care to help me brainstorm how I can either make blue or pink smoke, or make the smoke appear blue or pink?

The only criteria is that I don’t damage the locomotive. If a particular method had the potential of causing health issues or staining things inside I could potentially set up and film outside...

FYI I will know in about a month which color I will need...

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I read on here that black smoke isn't possible. I don't know if that's true but I recently read that our "smoke" is actually the condensing of vapor. On that note, I would venture to guess you can't color smoke. 

At any rate, grab yourself a CO2 cartridge or an air compressor and some plastic hose. I prefer an air compressor. You'll put either blue/pink powder or blue/pink liquid in that hose in front of your compressed air. Then secure said hose on the hidden side of your locomotive. When the moment comes, pull the trigger or turn the valve or whatever and POOF! you get a little cloud of color. You'll need to test it ahead of time to dial in the pressure but it works. We use it to spray the blood in the movie industry when someone gets shot. I have also used it to create the very real looking illusion of an immense sneeze using glycerin. Glycerin and food coloring might be your ticket here but I would go for the powder so you can just swab it off your locomotive. 

If you want the engine moving when this happens, you'll just hide the CO2 cartridge in a boxcar and run the hose along the hidden side of the locomotive. I'm not sure how you'll trip it. I also assume the locomotive will need to be moving given it's piston puffer. 

As far as that colored smoke....good question. I guess look up what makes smoke bombs colored? Maybe that's a good spot to start but the issue is that smoke bombs are combustion. I think we're vaporizing. 

Interesting thoughts! My idea was to have the train come out of a tunnel puffing smoke like normal, but have the smoke be blue or pink instead of white...

 I don’t know if a single puff of color would be what I was looking for, and getting it to trigger on a moving train would be interesting. Could be made to work, but the technical bits would be interesting...

Combustion is too risky, not really interested in setting an engine on fire accidentally, so I think that the colored smoke bomb idea is disqualified... side note, I think this is probably how they got the real 261 to put out pink smoke, it didn’t look like the engine was steamed up at the time...

I wonder if an LED in the smokestack could be used to light up the “smoke” with blue or pink (red) light. Would it block the flow? Would it be visible enough? I might try experimenting with this idea...


My Monday Monday Idle Idea: Wonder if Lionel didn't attempt to experiment with the possibility of producing blue and pink "SP" smoke pellets back in the 50s before they released their Boys and Girls train sets...LOL

N5CJonny: Sounds like you just might happen to be a Pennsylvania Railroad fan/modeler?  Love the Bible verse.  Amen Brother!




@BillYo414 posted:

The LED is a really good idea!! It wouldnt be too difficult I think. You could mount it in a number of place.

As near as I can see, the LED is the only practical idea, you ain't gonna' color the smoke without some really noxious chemicals!  You can probably get colored smoke, but you wouldn't want to be in the room with it. 

I know you can get green, but the chlorine kills everything in the room.   I've seen red smoke, but there were guys with Hasmat suits keeping everyone away, so I suspect that wasn't all that healthy either.   I can't imagine blue or pink would be any different.

N5CJonny: I've rediscovered* my interest in the Pennsy and other Northeast railroads, as well as N&W, which the PRR had an interest in.  I currently enjoy watching the Virtual Railfan cams on the Strasburg Rail Road.  

Has your layout ever been featured in OGR?

* Got pretty much burned out on Colorado narrow gauge.  Too much Over Kill to suit me.  Of course, standard gauge #90 on the S R R is former Great Western of Colorado 2-10-0.  But that's another story...however, it's not THE Greatest Story Ever Told!

Item: I still love Psalm 23 the most!

N5CJonny: ...Has your layout ever been featured in OGR?

Item: I still love Psalm 23 the most!

Unfortunately due to lack of room I am only able to have a very modest floor layout with minimal scenery. OGR would never be interested in my setup that is for sure!

My favorite is John 3:16

Back on topic- The use of the led is quite effective. Perhaps a combination of the led (blue or pink) plus the hidden colored spotlight might add to the effect since you lose the color as the smoke trails away from the smoke stack with just the led only.. 


You bet!

OT Psalm 23

NT John 3:16

Re: Blue and Pink smoke ideas:

Why not put together a Boys or Girls Set instead? 

Since I haven't followed the Tin Plate Trail that close, have any builders offered affordable B&G sets in recent years...

...and what about colorful Gerber's Baby Food reefers?


Please Pray for World Peace.  Our children and their children's children deserve it!

@Mike23 posted:

A little later to the party here but, blue/pink food coloring? 

As an Example, the MSDS for MTH Proto-Smoke, and Blue Food Coloring are about the same as far as safety.

The MTH is primarily White Mineral Oil.   The Blue Food Coloring is primarily Propylene-Gycol with Blue #2 added.   The viscosity of the food coloring is juts a little less than the Smoke Fluied.

While the Propylene is not normally soluble in mineral oil, you could make a test.

Get some MTH or Lionel Smoke fluid.   Get some standard blue food coloring liquid, ready made liquid.

Put 1 part food coloring to 2 to 3 parts smoke fluid in a test tube or good glass and shake/mix thoroughy

Then heat it from the bottom.    NO worries about fire... the flash point on food coloring is   little over 200 f

Flash point for MTH smoke is 260 f       Auto-ignition for both is around 600 degrees f

Anyway see if it work...  The food coloring is thin enough you won't clog anything if mixed sparingly.


Of course these are my thoughts only.   You inherit any risk in experimenting.

Well, I stuffed the appropriate color LED down the stack, and it was really disappointing... there was only a slight hint of color right at the stack, and it didn’t work with video... that approach just isn’t gonna do it, and it was the only one that seemed remotely plausible...

Colored “smoke” just ain’t gonna happen, so it’s back to the drawing board... I don’t have time to get one of the boxcars posted, so I’m thinking more along the lines of the train delivering an appropriately colored crate...

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