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Tender locos for a beginner?

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William Ayerst06/11/2020 22:30:41
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132 forum posts

(Preferably in 3-1/2", though I may consider 5" if there is a compelling argument)

I'm looking for information on building my first live steam locomotive. I am strongly considering a G1 loco, but I feel as though if I'm going to go to all the trouble I may as well do it 'properly' and have it with a proper reverser, boiler, coal firing, etc. so I am hoping to get a sanity check here.

Everything I've read says that a large scale loco should be:

  1. Something I personally want to build - this rules out anything 0-4-0 or narrow gauge
  2. Should not be a small tank loco, so tender locos or big tank locos ideal

Browsing through the AJ Reeves and Blackgates catalogue I can see there are plans/castings/parts for the following locos that I really like the look of - in no particular order:

  • BR Britannia "Britannia"
  • LMS Black Five - "Doris"
  • LSWR S15 - "Greene King"
  • Saint Christopher "GWR Saint"
  • SECR L1 "Maid of Kent" - 5" Gauge
  • LCDR Asia-class "Asia" - 5" Gauge

Are any of these more or less beginner friendly? I'm really not interested in the LNER/Scottish prototypes (i.e. the LBSC Maisie, Martin Evans RobRoy/William).

I don't have space for a track but I have half a dozen clubs within an hours drive with both 3-1/2" and 5" tracks. My gut is telling me that 3-1/2" is lighter, smaller, cheaper, can still pull people and can in theory be in a display case or plinth in the house.

I have an ML7 lathe and I'm going to assume at some point I'll need a decent sized mill, but haven't got one yet.

Any thoughts or opinions gladly taken.

IanT06/11/2020 23:28:39
1816 forum posts
177 photos

Well William, I'm not sure I'd consider a 3.5" Britannia a beginners engine exactly

You also mentioned Gauge 1, saying you'd like a reverser and coal firing etc - and then promptly jumped straight up to 3.5" gauge.

Why not consider 2.5" gauge? Plenty of locos to choose from as listed here:

2.5" Gauge Locomotive Designs

And this list doesn't include some of the newer designs (like Dick Allan's Gauge 3 'Dee' )

A fairly straightforward 2.5" 'tender' loco to build is Martin Evans 'Eagle' . There is at least one example I can think of that runs very nicely at our GTGs. It's a GNR (Ireland) prototype and looks very good in blue. It wouldn't bring the chimney breast down either if you plonked one on the mantelpiece.

Nor will a 2.5" loco damage your back or bank balance as much as a larger gauge loco either!

I am a bit biased of course!

Regards,

IanT

PS One of these would look good on display... (Dicks G3 "Dee" at a GTG in 2018)

Gauge 3 Dee

Steviegtr06/11/2020 23:37:50
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1969 forum posts
268 photos
Posted by William Ayerst on 06/11/2020 22:30:41:

(Preferably in 3-1/2", though I may consider 5" if there is a compelling argument)

I'm looking for information on building my first live steam locomotive. I am strongly considering a G1 loco, but I feel as though if I'm going to go to all the trouble I may as well do it 'properly' and have it with a proper reverser, boiler, coal firing, etc. so I am hoping to get a sanity check here.

Everything I've read says that a large scale loco should be:

  1. Something I personally want to build - this rules out anything 0-4-0 or narrow gauge
  2. Should not be a small tank loco, so tender locos or big tank locos ideal

Browsing through the AJ Reeves and Blackgates catalogue I can see there are plans/castings/parts for the following locos that I really like the look of - in no particular order:

  • BR Britannia "Britannia"
  • LMS Black Five - "Doris"
  • LSWR S15 - "Greene King"
  • Saint Christopher "GWR Saint"
  • SECR L1 "Maid of Kent" - 5" Gauge
  • LCDR Asia-class "Asia" - 5" Gauge

Are any of these more or less beginner friendly? I'm really not interested in the LNER/Scottish prototypes (i.e. the LBSC Maisie, Martin Evans RobRoy/William).

I don't have space for a track but I have half a dozen clubs within an hours drive with both 3-1/2" and 5" tracks. My gut is telling me that 3-1/2" is lighter, smaller, cheaper, can still pull people and can in theory be in a display case or plinth in the house.

I have an ML7 lathe and I'm going to assume at some point I'll need a decent sized mill, but haven't got one yet.

Any thoughts or opinions gladly taken.

All i can say William is that when you decide, take lots of pictures of your build & maybe start your own thread on here of the complete build. You will definately get lots of help & support as you go along.

I take it you are preparing for this to take a few years to build. A friend of mine (now extremely ill) has built many. He used to make a lot of boilers for Blackgates. His last 3 Foden trucks he built took i think 8 years to complete.

He was a slow but methodical worker. He even did his own cad drawings from full size & then scaled them down.

Good luck with your project.

Steve.

Dave Wootton07/11/2020 06:16:45
148 forum posts
46 photos

I do know that the Locomotive Asia on your list has a reputation for many errors in the drawings, I belonged to a club that had an experienced builder constructing one and he had many problems. I don't think it ever got finished as a result. David Scott who posts here occasionally is I think using CAD to try and sort out the one he is constructing. You are doing the right thing in asking for opinions, building a loco is a long and sometimes frustrating process, and mistakes on drawings don't help, I think it's appalling that there are well known errors on many of the popular drawings that the suppliers are aware of, but they have never been addressed . Some of these designs have been around since the 1940's.

I would agree with Ian T that 2 1/2" gauge is worth a look, but I am biased as well! These smaller loco's are very easy to transport too, I know from experience that a large 5" gauge engine can be awkward to move about on your own.

The range of loco's by Polly engineering always seem good to me, and having done some machining on a few of the larger parts for a friend I thought the casting quality was excellent, something that can't be said for all suppliers. I don't believe he found any significant errors in the drawings.

I'm not sure if there is a supplier of castings still but LBSC's Princess Marina in 3 1/2 always seems a good runner and is a fairly compact tender engine and not too complex. I've seen a few around at rallies over the years, there is a black one around with lot's of added detail that looks good and goes well.

Good luck with whatever you decide on.

Dave

John Rutzen07/11/2020 08:18:05
314 forum posts
16 photos

LBSC's Lion is quite a simple loco to build and in 5 inch gauge its a real puller. I've just built a 31/2 gauge one and it only took about a year and a half. But then i like the old engines. A 5 inch one won IMLEC a few years ago. It's not too heavy even in 5 inch gauge.

Simon Collier07/11/2020 08:18:39
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400 forum posts
58 photos

Maid of Kent gets my vote. As already suggested, not Britannia.

Anthony Kendall07/11/2020 08:41:11
102 forum posts

Nobody mentioned Netta yet.

Available in 5 gauges

0-8-0 - all the weight over the wheels, "pulls like ell!"

2 cylinder

proven design

J Hancock07/11/2020 09:10:12
558 forum posts

Martin Evans 'Green Arrow' ticks all the boxes except 'size' but at least you will have 'done everything', boiler and all without a huge outlay.

Then do the big stuff.

Nick Clarke 307/11/2020 09:11:14
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1154 forum posts
48 photos

First a general comment that I regret having to make and that is that there are errors in many, if not most sets of drawings and if you are able to 'buddy up' with another constructor who is building the same model you may well be able to help each other avoid them.

In general LBSC's designs tend to be simpler and have less true scale detail and therefore can be an easier and quicker build - unfortunately for you an exception is Britannia.

Doris has piston valves which demand more accuracy than slide valves, but what about Betty? Reeves do the castings and there is a constructional manual available which might be useful.

There are several variants of the Maid of Kent - inside/outside cylinders, different valve gears. The version with inside cylinders and Stephenson's valve gear has problems and there are at least two 'corrected' versions that don't always answer all of the issues, but the versions with Joy valve gear I have seen have been great.

Where do you intend to run you loco? If there is a 2 1/2" track nearby then this is an option, but these are less common than they were.

Peter Simpson 107/11/2020 09:39:46
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199 forum posts
9 photos

I went with a 5" gauge BR Standard 2. Castings from Reeves and also a good build guide from Reeves.

Peter Simpson 107/11/2020 09:39:47
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199 forum posts
9 photos

I went with a 5" gauge BR Standard 2. Castings from Reeves and also a good build guide from Reeves.

IanT07/11/2020 09:58:46
1816 forum posts
177 photos
Posted by Nick Clarke 3 on 07/11/2020 09:11:14:

Where do you intend to run you loco? If there is a 2 1/2" track nearby then this is an option, but these are less common than they were.

There are still quite a few MES 2.5" tracks around Nick - and there are also of course Gauge '3' Garden railways too. Something rarely mentioned is that most G3 Society "Live Steamers" are also members of the National 2.5 Gauge Association and so run their larger (e.g. tender) locos both in driver-hauling (MES mode) at Rallies and in a Garden setting with carriage and wagon stock (Scenic mode) at GTGs.

I am a member of both organisations. The N2.5GA has a very good range of castings at reasonable prices by the way...

There has been a clear move to larger engines over the years, because folk have access to better & larger equipment and are generally more affluent. Of course, many MESs are reliant on 'Public Open Days' where the ability to haul heavier loads of (fee-paying) passengers is often a key part of the Clubs continued existence, something which I am sure is causing many great concern at the moment.

But there were (and still are) good reasons that folk used to build in the smaller gauges at one time - including the smaller equipment required, much lower material costs and ease of handling, transport and storage. I made the decision to 'down-gauge' a long time ago and I don't regret it. Things change (you get older for a start) and so do your priorities. Martin Evans made a comment once that 2.5" was too big to run "uncontrolled" and too small to pull passengers. That was before the advent of radio control and assumed that passenger hauling was an important criteria for everybody.

One other thought, whilst I attend (or at least used to) a number of GTGs every year and enjoy the social side of these events (meeting old friends, drinking tea and eating far too much cake ) the majority of my hobby time (99%) is spent alone in my Shed. Just me, the radio and my ageing machinery for company.

Fortunately, that's one thing that hasn't had to change much this year

Regards,

IanT

Edited By IanT on 07/11/2020 10:01:27

Baz07/11/2020 11:16:18
524 forum posts
2 photos

Nobody has yet mentioned Don Young’s Derby 4F 0-6-0 or his 2P 4-4-0, both 3.5 gauge tender engines and beginner friendly. 4F was written up in model engineer mag and the 2P was written up in Locomotives large and small. Castings for both locos are available from Reeves.

William Ayerst07/11/2020 16:37:01
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132 forum posts

Hello all, apologies - I had a very long reply written out and then I hit a button and the whole bloody thing got lost. I have read everyone's replies and am very thankful for your thoughts and suggestions. If I haven't replied to a comment you've made directly please know that I have read it and it's forming my response.

Without wishing to inflict chapter and verse maybe it is best to ask a question to inform the next conclusion:

Large Scale Boilers - Am I going to need to buy-in pre-made? I'm alright at soldering and will presumably have to learn silver soldering. The reason I ask is that the extra £1200ish for someone to build for me would be a huge contributing factor on choosing smaller scales.

Gauge and Scale - I have thought long and hard about gauge and scale based on the thoughts here. I've yet to make a really solid decision.

I am leaning towards 3-1/2" gauge. It seems the perfect size to have a proper boiler and controls, to coal fire, pull a few people, sit inside the house on a mantlepiece, with a great balance of cost, weight and size. I would rather a Pacific in 3-1/2" than a 0-6-0T in 5", I think. However, any time I find videos of 3-1/2" locomotives there are comments that it's declining in popularity, that it's not seen as often as 5", etc. and can't shake the feeling I might be misunderstanding something. Can anyone help? 2-1/2" gauge is there also, but feels less likely.

Loco Choices - It appears I have a fair 'shopping list' of criteria:

  • Avoid tapered boilers and piston valves if possible
  • Be a large tank or tender loco if 3-1/2"
  • Have a construction book
  • Have castings available
  • Have drawings with no errors or very clear corrections

I'm going to have my work cut out digging out a plan that meets all these

Edited By William Ayerst on 07/11/2020 17:09:19

John Alexander Stewart07/11/2020 17:25:51
798 forum posts
53 photos

There's always Nick Feast's Q1 as described in the Model Engineer.

Polly Models/Bruce Engineering sell castings and laser-cut bits, from what I remember. A fairly quick build, "different" locomotive, and not a lot of time making little brass bits!

Nick Clarke 307/11/2020 17:57:22
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1154 forum posts
48 photos
Posted by William Ayerst on 07/11/2020 16:37:01:
  1. Avoid tapered boilers and piston valves if possible
  2. Be a large tank or tender loco if 3-1/2"
  3. Have a construction book
  4. Have castings available
  5. Have drawings with no errors or very clear corrections

I'm going to have my work cut out digging out a plan that meets all these

Edited By William Ayerst on 07/11/2020 17:09:19

Your first four points seem very sensible, but number 5 (Apologies I numbered them to make them easier to identify) is harder. A great many designs have errors and even having the magazines does not help as a fault discovered a couple of years after a design was published may not be in the plans you buy or mentioned in the original edition of the magazine!

If in doubt ask here or there are other websites as well, or if you are a member of a club ask there.

Many successful locos have been built from drawings with errors in them with support from the model engineering community.

IanT07/11/2020 18:24:18
1816 forum posts
177 photos

I can see you have set your heart on 3.5" gauge William.

You keep mentioning "coal fired" - well all my current G3 boilers are coal fired - although I may use gas firing for one of the smaller designs on my list, which has a very small grate. Out of curiosity, I've just quickly measured my Pacific boiler (it's about 410mm long x 83mm diameter) and a quick back-of-fag-packet calculation says that it would be about 579mm x 117mm in 3.5" gauge (assuming 3/4" scale) just to give you some idea.

'UK' loco construction books tend to be by LBSC or Martin Evans, plus the G!MRA books and various 16mm N/G ones. Otherwise you may have to widen your choice to include designs serially described in ME or EIM.

However, if I was building in 3.5", wanted a really detailed and wonderfully illustrated construction book (and was willing to consider something a little different) then I think I would be very tempted by one of Kozo Hiraoka's engines. His books are really the best I've ever seen, a blend of science and art. The "New Shay" might be a good choice, it's his most recent design I believe.

Drawings with "no errors" - well that might also be a bit of stretch. I think there will always be some on older designs, so it's best to 'sanity check' as you go along or just re-draw the whole thing in CAD (or even better find someone who already has done so).

Anyway, good luck with your engine build.

Regards,

IanT

William Ayerst07/11/2020 19:01:54
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132 forum posts

IanT - My heart is really not set at all. I can look at a meths-fired Gauge 1 loco and find it wonderful, and I can look at a 5" Evening Star and find that equally enthralling. I think that's my problem - at the moment I'm struggling to find a differentiator to steer me one way or another.

Your (?) line is certainly wonderful, if it's the one I see in the background for your Dee picture. In fact it's so beautiful that I can't help but notice it in almost all of the 2-1/2" running session videos I've seen on YouTube!

If this were any other type of endeavour I would be considering a staged approach starting from the smallest and least expensive i.e. a G1MRA Project, then something in 2-1/2", and so on - until I found my sweet spot. As it stands though, everyone is telling me these are projects that can be upwards of multiple years and so I may not have the luxury of experimentation either in years or financially.

How would you categorise working/machining/etc. in 2-1/2" compared to G1 or 3-1/2" for someone who has no hands-on experience of either (yet)! What I don't want, is to be caught in a situation of being neither fish nor fowl with regard to tools, jigs, equipment, etc.

What would you recommend as a loco to build with the aforementioned criteria?

John Alexander Stuart - The Q1 does look lovely, but by gosh the drawings are in metric...

Nick Clarke 3 - That is frustrating, I would hope not to have to rely on the good will of the kind folk in this forum (for example) to help me vet a potentially problematic design i.e. Asia listed above. As I narrow down my focus hopefully I can get some feedback that isn't too onerous on everyone's generosity

 

Edited By William Ayerst on 07/11/2020 19:02:40

alan-lloyd07/11/2020 19:21:16
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173 forum posts

You could consider the southern Q1, available parts from Polly

Perko707/11/2020 21:35:24
372 forum posts
30 photos

From what I understand there are quite a few LBSC Virginia's running around the world, that should indicate a relatively straightforward project with easy access to build logs, corrected drawings etc.

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