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Hackfly Requires a Rebuild says LBSC

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SillyOldDuffer13/12/2017 12:33:03
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My collection of old Model Engineer Magazines is full of gaps. Too often I end up wondering what happened next, as with this example.

ME January 15 1964 carried an 8-page fold-out drawing of a 3½" gauge 0-4-0 Contractors' type tank engine called Hackfly. I don't have a copy.

I do have a copy of ME №3292 4 March 1966 in which LBSC writes of Hackfly: 'it was one of the worst designs that I had seen, and that if anybody built an engine to the published specification, and got it to work, it would be a miracle!'

LBSC then proceeds to 'put the boot in' under the following headings. I've added some quotes to give the flavour:

  • Not a Giesel Ejector - 'clear proof of inexperience in boiler design'
  • Boiler - 'badly proportioned', 'The designer's statement about super-heaters is entirely erroneous'
  • Boiler Fittings - 'as to the dome - it's just too awful for words!', 'No boiler inspector in his right mind would pass ... "safety" valves consisting of ...
  • Cylinders and Motion - 'The arrangement of cylinders and motion is absolutely the worst and most inefficient I have ever seen, and that's saying a mouthful.'

Now my problem is that I don't know what happened next. I suspect what LBSC said about Hackfly was controversial. Unfortunately I don't have any more magazines from 1966.

LBSC's piece is from what I call his 'grumpy' period. Early LBSC is light, friendly chat full of convincing technical advice. Late LBSC is often thin sour stuff, relying heavily on colourful claims of experience rather than logical answers to good questions. In the Hackfly article I find it hard to tell if LBSC is making valid points or simply indulging himself in a mix of abuse and grey drizzle!

Was Hackfly a truly dreadful design, or is LBSC throwing a tantrum? Did Hackfly's designer, a Mr H J Turpin, or anyone else respond to LBSC's comments? Did anyone ever build a Hackfly and how well did it run?

It's as if I've read a truly exciting detective story only to find the last chapter missing. Can anyone help?

Dave

Neil Wyatt13/12/2017 12:48:46
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H J Turpin was the designer of the Sten sub-machine gun, so he had some engineering credentials.

www.model-engineer.co.uk/forums/postings.asp?th=104837

LBSC had a lot in common with James Watt - brilliant and revolutionary at the start of his career. Reactionary and resentful of other's innovation towards the end.

I think this may be a question Julian Atkins knows the answer to, he has encyclopaedic knowledge of the merits of various loco's valve gears...

Neil

Neil Wyatt13/12/2017 12:54:11
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hack1.jpg

hack 2.jpg

hack3.jpg

Edited By Neil Wyatt on 13/12/2017 12:57:31

Neil Wyatt13/12/2017 12:59:32
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The third page of letters (including the one headed 'Locomotive Design' suggest readers were getting a bit fed up of such 'attacks' by this time.

Neil

SillyOldDuffer13/12/2017 13:48:48
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Many thanks for finding and posting that letters page Neil. Glad to see that others had the same take on what LBSC said as me.

I'd never have guessed that Hackfly Turpin was the same man as STEN gun Turpin - possibly LBSC took his life in his hands when he insulted that particular author!

I agree with J R L Orange when he advises LBSC to look to Edgar Westbury as an example. Everything I've read by Westbury is consistently good. Perhaps LBSC was unwell when he wrote his 'Candid opinions on a recently published design' - we're all human. I'm certainly getting irascible as the years slip away.

Dave

julian atkins13/12/2017 22:30:24
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Hi Dave,

Hackfly was indeed an atrocious design. It was perhaps the worst point in the history of the ME magazine.

It was atrocious and awful in virtually every design detail.

Given that 'tyro' model engineers often build miniature locomotives that are not the best designs and end up disappointed after spending a great deal of money and spare time, I think LBSC was quite correct to criticise the design. He did exactly the same some years earlier when Jack Austen Walten described with drawings a boiler that would have been quite unsafe for 'Twin Sisters'.

Anyone can look at the Hackfly drawings in ME and would no doubt completely agree with LBSC's criticisms, as I do.

Cheers,

Julian

SillyOldDuffer14/12/2017 10:16:05
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Posted by julian atkins on 13/12/2017 22:30:24:

Hi Dave,

Hackfly was indeed an atrocious design. It was perhaps the worst point in the history of the ME magazine.

...

Cheers,

Julian

Real life is so much more complicated than detective stories and their simple endings!

It's interesting that I had trouble accepting with LBSC's 1966 comments whereas I have no problem believing Julian's equally damning assessment in 2017. I reckon that's because LBSC attacked the designer as well as the design. For example:

'To design a successful locomotive requires lots of practical experience and that the designer was lacking. This fact stands out like a colour-light signal on a clear night, as evidenced by the many faults shown in the drawings of Hackfly.' I wish LBSC or the editor had blue-pencilled the part in bold, and similar statements elsewhere in the article.

It's curious that editor published Hackfly in the first place if was so bad. Martin Evans 1966 - not the chap standing in for Diane Carney - was also a loco designer and it's surprising he didn't spot problems with the design. After all it got special treatment on publication; it featured as an 8-page fold-out plan! Evans didn't defend Turpin - he adds a footnote to LBSC's article starting: 'While we agree with LBSC's criticisms...'

Perhaps the plan all along was to spice up the magazine by stirring controversy; if so Mr Turpin was handled roughly.

Many thanks to Julian. If you come across the original plans for Hackfly, don't build it! (Presumably Hackfly as modified by LBSC is a better bet?)

Best Regards,

Dave

julian atkins14/12/2017 11:23:52
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Hi Dave,

You have to bear in mind that when Hackfly was published in ME, Martin Evans was desperate for any miniature loco articles to fill the pages.

Issue after issue contained articles and letters by K N Harris, who at every opportunity criticised LBSC.

K N Harris and Turpin were friends. Turpin himself had written about his 5"g loco 'Hybrid' in 1956 in a manner that was not exactly 'modest'!

Note that K N Harris acquired 'Hybrid' from Turpin.

LBSC was very well informed and knew of the link between Harris and Turpin.

LBSC was wrong to resort to personal criticism of Turpin, but that was LBSC!

Cheers,

Julian

Neil Wyatt14/12/2017 11:34:52
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I've speed-read some of the Hackfly instalments.

It seems to be an exercise in innovation for innovations sake? The backhead is sloped, introducing complications in construction and severely restricting the firebox and combustion space - justified simply as it allows the firebox door to stay closed without a latch.

That said, I suspect Martin Evans may have been more concerned about keeping LBSC on side than Mr Turpin...

SillyOldDuffer14/12/2017 13:29:02
3995 forum posts
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I've got the impression that ME suffered from behind the scenes drama in the sixties! Quite often there's more than a hint of tension in the magazine. Far worse than metric vs imperial! I've tended to put the outbreaks down to personalities, but was there more to it than that? I can imagine fireworks resulting from a falling circulation coupled with no obvious way to get new readers onboard without upsetting the old ones. It can't have been easy to be ME editor when hobby interest in Radio Control, Aircraft, Boats, Military Modelling et al were spawning their own specialist mags.

Whatever caused the turbulence it would be wonderful to know more about the real people behind the bylines. What were they really like as human beings? It might make good telly - better than the Big Bang Theory!

Dave

Jon palt30/08/2018 08:47:42
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Hi. I have the full set of articles for Hackfly and having thought it through I can see what Mr.Turpin was aiming for. There is mention in a couple of places of the Festiniog Princess being used as a "muse". Obviously very different in detail but the character is kind of resembled. In addition though the outside steam chests drew criticism, for machining it must have seemed a better idea than the inside steam chest between the frames of the FR prototypes. Overall it is an "odd" design, and it has made me wonder how many, (if indeed any) were ever started and completed.

Regards,

Jonathan

Hopper30/08/2018 09:23:56
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Hmm. So that's how model engineers carried out their "spirited discussions" in the days before internet forums. I vaguely remember GH Thomas and others exchanging small broadsides on the letters pages in the 1970s too. Seems the technological platform has changed today but the content is often somewhat familiar!

Edited By Hopper on 30/08/2018 09:26:45

Nick Clarke 330/08/2018 09:27:13
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In the early 1970's a member of the Nottingham SMEE built a Hackfly (Sorry if you read this but I can't remember your name) working full time in a gap between jobs I believe.

It certainly ran on the Valley Road track and I drove it once but I never saw it loaded to capacity to see just how much it could do.

Incidentally there were other articles by Turpin in ME on 'innovations' during the 1950s, and he had been a contributor since 1921.

Nick

larry phelan 131/08/2018 16:44:33
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I seem to remember reading somewhere that the sten gun,while cheap to produce,was not the most reliable design,being prone to jam at the most important time,like when you needed it most !

Seems to prove that "You get what you pay for "

On the other hand,the AK47 appears to be highly regarded everywhere.

Nick Clarke 331/08/2018 17:26:03
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Posted by larry phelan 1 on 31/08/2018 16:44:33:

On the other hand,the AK47 appears to be highly regarded everywhere.

But not presumably if it is pointing at you!

Nick

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