My interest in steam started when I was quite young and I had the usual meths fired steam engines and a Mamod steam roller. I had always been mechanically minded and enjoyed the metalwork classes at school. I eventually made a single cylinder oscillating engine of my own when I was in the fifth form, although I never got around to making a boiler for it. I remember some years before, the father of my best mate had bought the plans and some of the castings for a 3 1/2" gauge Britannia and we used to get them out and look at them when his dad was at work. Unfortunately, his father passed away before he could start work on the loco so nothing came of it.
When I was in the sixth form at school I scraped up enough money to buy a small lathe (a Flexispeed in kit form), put this together and turned up a few bits and bobs. The metalwork teacher gave me a few pieces of tool steel so that I could make some lathe tools. I drew up some rough plans for a 2 1/2" gauge freelance 4-4-0 tank loco but didn't get very far with it. In 1970 I started reading Model Engineer but couldn't afford to do very much but dream!
I then started work in 1973 and bought a brand new Myford ML7 and various accessories from Reeves, when they were still in Birmingham. It cost me £150 and the chap from Reeves delivered it personally to Derby! This was installed in the small boxroom of my parents house along with a bench and various hand tools were bought as required.
I took a fancy to the Allchin traction engine 'Royal Chester' that was being described in ME at the time so bought the boiler materials, some castings, and a full set of plans. I thought a traction engine would be more practical than a loco as they don't need tracks! I started all full of enthusiasm and machined the axles, wheel rims, hornplates etc. I nearly completed the boiler but had the usual problem of not being able to silver solder the ends of the stays inside the firebox and eventually I lost interest and moved onto other things ( making telescopes, rebuilding motor bikes etc. ) The Allchin was put away and forgotten about. The lathe etc was still used for various other jobs.
My late father had worked for the railways since he left school and when he retired he decided to build the 2 1/2" gauge Flying Scotsman described in ME by Paul Wiese and Derek Collin but I didn't really take much interest at the time. I inherited the loco when he died but just put it away with a view to perhaps finishing it 'one day.' I bought my own house and moved the lathe etc to its new home, although I didn't set it up at the time.
Then one day I went to the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley with my brother and I think the smell of steam and hot oil must have re-awakened my old interest and I'm now well and truly bitten by the bug again. I live on my own so have converted the rear bedroom of the house to a workshop and one of the front bedrooms to a study and office. The office is gradually being filled with back issues of ME as I am trying to get a complete set as far back as Volume 45, when LBSC first started his various writings (Now accomplished)
I'm gradually collecting various unfinished locos and bits, mostly 2 1/2" gauge as this gauge needs supporting and they are a lot cheaper to build than the larger gauges!
Whilst I was looking in the loft for something else, I found the steam engine that I had made at school:
It's a very basic double acting oscillating cylinder engine of about 3/4" bore and 1" stroke. I connected it up to an air supply and it chuffed away quite happily! Not bad for 37 years old. Perhaps I should put it on Ebay as an Antique!
I'm a member of North West Leicester SME and also secretary of the National 2½" Gauge Association.
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