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:) Malgus; Just feed me that great Southern BBQ I learned to love when I was stationed in the deep South. There are a LOT of sources for steam power out there. Heck, I’ve even seen full-sized engines offered for sale on Craigslist. the dangerous part is the boiler- don’t skimp on safeties or water level controls. What is most important is water level. There are automatic controls, but the boiler should still be watched. Where I live, a low pressure (<15lbs psi working pressure) boiler with automatic controls only needs to be checked every 2 hours (depending on BTU output <2,500,000 being typical), so constant attendance if you have the proper controls isn’t an issue. If the water gets too low, or the pressure too high, and auto system will shut off the fire and/or release excess pressure.
To build a proper boiler, there’re a lot of sources out there, but realize before you start you will need (and these are NON-NEGOTIABLE) two safety valves of the correct rating,
a sight glass with control valves, or..
three test pet cocks, one for high water, one low, one for ‘just right’
two automatic shut-off valves activated by water level,
a blow-down valve – just a ball or gate valve, really.
Also be prepared to do a lot of research into chemical treatment. You want your water to be slightly acid (say 7.5 – 8 on the scale) and treated with the right chemicals to precipitate solids out so the tubes don’t get calcified.
Also realize that there is the fire-tube design and the water-tube design. Fire tube is the most popular, because it’s the most forgiving.
If you go with a smaller unit, just enough to run say, a 3″ bore, 8″ stroke mill engine, you could get away with a smaller boiler (you can calculate the needed capacity using Goggle-fu) and fewer safeties, but I wouldn’t try, personally. Google SS Sultana disaster. Greatest loss of life in an Industrial accident, and loss of life on the water until the RMS Titanic. Estimated 1,900 dead. Also look up boiler explosion on YouTube. You’ll get an education.
Steam is very useful, don’t forget it got us where we are now; just respect it and take nothing for granted when using it.
Sorry to be a bit of a Nerd {O_O}
Hope this helps….:)