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Puffafish14/06/2019 15:03:22
17 forum posts

So I was considering the idea of doing a miniature traction engine of some sort. Because that’s just how I roll.

It looks to me like there are two ways to build your own engine: buy a machined kit (Maxitrak or Steam Traction World) which are lovely and expensive. Or buy a set of castings, and machine them yourself (such as the Clayton wagon or Atkinson wagon from A J Reeves), which is less expensive, but requires to tools and skills to machine them out properly.

While I’m usually a jump-in-the-deep-end kind of person, it is probably sensible for me to consider my machining experience (zero) and skill before I go down the less expensive route. So my options are: try and find a machining course near me, which appears to be very tricky, Gloucester College and Worcester College don’t appear to do anything suitable, but I may just be looking in the wrong place. Or get a simpler first project, such as one of the more basic, stationary engines, from A J Reeves.

What advice do the friendly people on this forum have for me on this topic?

Brian H14/06/2019 15:16:30
1637 forum posts
108 photos

Welcome to this Forum, someone more knowledgeable may come along soon but these people might be able to help.

You could try **LINK**.

They are almost bound to be rail enthusiasts but there may be some traction engine fans and either way, they will know if there are any courses or they may even have their own workshop.

As a previous builder of the Clayton Wagon, I can confirm that it is a good one to build and runs very well. You can always start on easy parts and work your skill level up to the more complicated items.

All the best with it,


Edited By Brian H on 14/06/2019 15:18:37

AdrianR14/06/2019 15:35:19
476 forum posts
23 photos

Myfordboy does a beginners stationary and also a traction engine. He sells the castings at what I regard very reasonable prices too. I have not built one yet but have watched all the videos and I am thinking of doing the stationary engine.

Myfordboy blog

No connection, just impressed by his videos.


Neil Wyatt15/06/2019 20:12:28
17896 forum posts
706 photos
77 articles

Hi Puffa,

Welcome to the forum. You will probably find that equipping a workshop costs most of the money you save - but it will leave you with a great deal of satisfaction and the means to do a lot more and maintain your engine.

Do expect a self build to take long time.

Most people prefer to start on a simpler subject or two to learn some skills without making expensive castings into scrap... but there are people who have started on the easy bits like Brian suggests - a big, complex model is best considered as many small models - the trick being they have to fit together properly!

The other hazard is getting half way and deciding your early stuff wan't up the scratch, ending up in a cycle of constant improvement and never reaching the end.

Another route is to buy second hand or part-finished and develop you skills bringing it up to scratch.

Just make sure you don't end up buying a second hand boiler without proper paperwork that you can't insure.


Boiler Bri15/06/2019 20:56:03
833 forum posts
197 photos

First engine i made was John Hainings Suffolk Dredging tractor in 3” scale. I chose this as it is mainly made from standard bright bars sizes and generally fairly easy machining. I did most of it at Penistone grammar school on a evening class over two years. By eck that brings back memories 🙄

Puffafish15/06/2019 21:21:20
17 forum posts

Thanks guys!

The myfordboy blog looks very useful and interesting! I may start there, as it looks like it gives all the support I could want in videos! But I think you're right about the cost of a workshop being enough to put me off. As for a constant cycle of "the previous stuff I did isn't good enough", that's probably the story of my life and I'd much rather improve than never learn it.

I'm still looking for evening courses, but I'm not holding my breath just yet. I did use to work somewhere which had a lathe I could have used for my own stuff, but left there a year ago or so. But that would have been really handy.

That John Hainings Suffolk Dredging tractor looks really interesting. Where did you get the castings from for it? Always nice to do something unusual like that!

If I do start thinking workshop, how much space do I need to be sensible? I am planning on a 6ft x 6ft shed... Enough for a lawnmower and hedge cutter... Maybe enough for a small later or mill too.

Jon Lawes15/06/2019 22:28:45
371 forum posts

I started with a Stuart 10H, I learned a lot and gained confidence, not to mention a nice looking model at the end of it. Worth a look.

Graham Swales15/06/2019 22:39:56
28 forum posts

If you are in the Gloucester / Worcester area look up MSRVS via Google. A really friendly bunch. Grum

SillyOldDuffer16/06/2019 11:31:23
5781 forum posts
1230 photos

I recommend Stewart Hart's PottyMill as a starter engine.

Made from stock metal - no castings. Inexpensive. I found it a good balance between simplicity and difficulty. Pushed my machine skills without frustration making it necessary to kick the cat or take to alcohol! Didn't find any errors in the plans, plenty of others have built it if you run into trouble, and Stewart himself is active on the forum.

Certain lucky chaps are workshop naturals. Their saws cut straight, taps never break, holes are always in the right place, perfect finish, and they never crash the saddle or cut a wrong thread. You might be one of them.

I'm not like that at all! As a clumsy novice I found it best to start simple and work up. Much practice, forum advice and cursing has made me the advanced bodger I am today. Although I can do good work, it takes forever and I regularly spoil lashings of metal on the way. Every time I do something I get a little bit better, it's just taking a decade or two longer than expected for me to reach exhibition standard!


Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 16/06/2019 11:31:49

Antony Price17/06/2019 09:45:38
31 forum posts
27 photos

Re: machining experience (zero)... some thoughts

The SMEE run courses on “Basic Training for Model Engineers” , “Lathe Tool Grinding” and “Milling”. I’ve done the lathe tool grinding and milling courses both of which I found useful in raising my knowledge base

The SMEE run a Building a Simple Steam Engine (“The Polly Course). I haven’t done this one, but those that have give it a ”thumbs up” .

The bad news is that the Polly Course only runs one a year and has already started


Edited By Antony Price on 17/06/2019 09:46:17

Daniel17/06/2019 09:58:34
301 forum posts
48 photos

Dave (S.O.D.),

Thank's for reminding me I'm not alone. smile



Puffafish17/06/2019 15:30:44
17 forum posts
Posted by Antony Price on 17/06/2019 09:45:38:

Re: machining experience (zero)... some thoughts

The SMEE run courses on “Basic Training for Model Engineers” , “Lathe Tool Grinding” and “Milling”. I’ve done the lathe tool grinding and milling courses both of which I found useful in raising my knowledge base

The SMEE run a Building a Simple Steam Engine (“The Polly Course). I haven’t done this one, but those that have give it a ”thumbs up” .

The bad news is that the Polly Course only runs one a year and has already started


Edited By Antony Price on 17/06/2019 09:46:17

I had not realised SMEE did courses! That is interesting to know. I'm not sure how practical it will be to do the Polly course, but the first workshop overview kind of course might be good to get a look in. Thank you!

Puffafish17/06/2019 15:32:20
17 forum posts

All of these ideas look good. Is there a list anywhere of projects which require no castings, so just made from off the the shelf stock metal? That way, when I muck up I'll at least be able to replace the part without too much strain on the wallet.

Lainchy17/06/2019 16:05:33
244 forum posts
95 photos

I haven't seen the SMEE courses, but have signed up to a two day course on small lathe engineering at Axminster, from recommendation. Mine is in Aug, but there are more.

Plasma17/06/2019 16:41:32
414 forum posts
50 photos

I'm not sure how much knowledge you have of the processes involved in even a project not involving castings.

If you dont have a lathe or mill or access to them you may as well save your money.

Hemingway kits are about as basic as they come, with a box full of metal cut to rough size and the engineering drawings to turn them into the required parts for the finished project. If you have no machining experience and no machines I dont think you will get very far. There certainly would not be enough time on an evening class basis to learn the skills and machine each part.

I do hope you were joking about the 6ft square shed, you need a lot more room than that for the things you are looking at building.

Former Member17/06/2019 17:16:50

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Former Member17/06/2019 17:34:10

[This posting has been removed]

Malc17/06/2019 20:32:56
70 forum posts
5 photos

I was in the same position as you. I fancied building a beam engine but, not knowing how well I would manage not being an engineer. I didn’t fancy shelling out on a castings kit because of the cost. I finally decided on building the beam engine by Julius de Waal. It was built totally from scrap or basic metal stock. I started it about 3 years ago and have had it running on air. I am in the process of painting it and making a suitable mounting block to finish it off. It was a wise decision as I had to re-make several bits and have scrapped a fair bit of metal in the process. I found the drawings online and I did depart from the spec on occasions. I haven’t added up the cost but I’m sure it was way cheaper than a beam engine casting kit and of course there was no initial outlay, I bought the bits of metal as I needed them. Hope that is some help.


Boiler Bri17/06/2019 21:13:47
833 forum posts
197 photos

HI, there is no castings in the Suffolk that's why i liked it at the time. All square edges to work from.


Jon Lawes17/06/2019 22:56:10
371 forum posts

I'm building a 3.5 inch gauge britannia in a shed with no problems. It's snug but if you are organised it isn't an issue.

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