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Butch - can it come back to life?

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phil Smith 317/01/2021 22:21:08
5 forum posts
3 photos

I inherited Butch years ago from my uncle - who built it with his father in Kent. I shipped it to Canada and have brought it with me through several moves but I have never done anything with it.

It has obviously been fired in the past (there is soot in the smoke stack and ash in the pan etc) but not for at least 40 years and probably closer to 50!

I am a professional mechanical engineer, but a complete newbie at model engineering with no tools or equipment other than a decent work bench with standard tools. Is it possible to clean Butch up and bring it (him?) back to life? Am I crazy to even contemplate this as a project I could undertake? I do understand that a pressure test of the boiler and confirmation of the safety valve reliability and settings would be a pre-requisite to actually lighting a flame!

Any thoughts, advice or other comments will be gratefully received. Thanks, Philbutch.jpg


Brian H18/01/2021 09:05:30
2032 forum posts
111 photos

Hello Phil, I've put an answer (of sorts) on to your other post. It would be best to just use one post so that all the correspondence stays in the same place.

Hopefully one of the loco builders will be along soon.


norm norton18/01/2021 09:38:50
143 forum posts
7 photos

The Butch is a good, sturdy design and several are giving good service in the UK. Ideally, you will strip it down to the last nut and bolt, then rebuild to the standard you want.

The big question is whether the boiler was made to a reasonable standard in the first place, and there is a good chance it was. Over time, there will have been minimal corrosive effect on the copper or silver solder used in its manufacture. Bronze bushes and fittings will be fine, but if any brass was used anywhere that might have become porous from dezincification.

When stripped and plugged with screw in plugs and o-rings, the boiler should be filled with water and hydraulically pumped up to one and a half times its normal working pressure of 90psi. If there are no leaks you are clear to go on to the next stage which is to see how to get it registered and tested with a Canadian authority. I will leave a transatlantic cousin to explain that as I have no idea.

Best wishes


Edited By norm norton on 18/01/2021 09:48:43

Clive Brown 118/01/2021 09:49:18
611 forum posts
23 photos

Hi Phil;

The Butch design has a good reputation.Your's looks to have been well constructed, with plenty of detail etc. so a fair guess is that she was a good runner in her day., and perhaps could be once again with plenty of TLC. With luck the motion-work will still be in reasonable fettle but cleaning and adjustment will be required. Your main task will be examining and testing the boiler. It looks a bit shabby, probably really needs to be taken off the chassis for a proper look, given its age.

All in all, quite a task, but mainly hand-work rather than machining.

Best of luck, esp. with the boiler.

phil Smith 318/01/2021 21:47:56
5 forum posts
3 photos

Thanks a lot for your helpful comments and suggestions.

It sounds like the next step is to start stripping Butch down and cleaning her up. My thoughts are: go slow, use the right tools, take lots of pictures, label and carefully stope everything and do no harm!

Is there anything else I should know before starting? Any special tools, techniques etc that I should be aware of?

J Hancock19/01/2021 09:38:25
537 forum posts

In view of it's age, just be careful if you find ASBESTOS in the lagging.

Nice locomotive , definitively worth the effort to get back on the rails again.

Weary19/01/2021 09:59:27
323 forum posts

If you get stuck or would like advice at any time then it may be worth having a look on Model Engineering Clearing House forum as one regular poster ('Doug'  )  there has restored (his thread on the topic includes many descriptions photos) and runs a Butch, and another is building 'Twin Sisters' which is a very similar design. From memory a few of the posters have had experience of 'Butch' as it used to be a popular and rugged club loco'.

The forum is very locomotive oriented.



Edited By Weary on 19/01/2021 09:59:57

Alan Donovan19/01/2021 10:21:51
34 forum posts
24 photos

Hi Phil.

I have just been through a similar experience myself so maybe my experiences may help you. My experiences relate to the refurbishment of LBSC's 'Betty'.

To aid the rebuild I purchased the plan set, so that I would know how the engine internals were constructed. Reasonable logic, but the original builder had his own design of regulator. I didn't realise this until I had managed to damage it. One of the main cylinders had a different size bore (much more than a couple of thou.), that may have been a machining error, or more likely to remove a 'blow hole' in the casting. There were other items that had that 'individual touch', but these were obvious before being dismantled.

So to sum up, my advice would be to buy the plans, but be VERY aware, that whatever the plans may say the actual build could be VERY different. As you said earlier, label everything and take plenty of photos and go slow - so you can think through the 'problems'.

You will have both frustration and fun, but you will learn so much. But the main achievement will be you will have a loco to be proud of and to remember your uncle by.

Best of luck. Alan.

Clive Brown 119/01/2021 10:45:00
611 forum posts
23 photos

Not really many special tools required but you can expect the fasteners to be British Association threads so BA open-ended and box spanners will be needed in appropriate sizes. Note, in models, hexagons are often one size less than nominal, eg a 6 BA bolt having a 7 BA hexagon.

You would find nut-drivers very handy, if they're still available in BA sizes. Very helpful in awkward, confined spaces.

You will also find Model Engineer, ME threadsat 32 & 40 tpi on items eg boiler fittings, so taps & dies might be needed for cleaning up any threads.

Redsetter19/01/2021 11:49:02
150 forum posts

Butch is a good working design. They are almost always well built, perhaps because the design was not aimed at beginners. They steam well, and are powerful and easy to drive and fire. Perhaps lacking in adhesive weight, but on the other hand light enough for one person to lift. I wish I still had mine.

Clearly your boiler will have to be inspected and tested, and for this it has to come out of the chassis which is not a particularly difficult job.

Do not dismantle the chassis just for the sake of it. If it turns over freely, there probably isn't much wrong with it and you can test it on compressed air. Many locos end their lives taken to pieces for an overhaul that never happens. .

Jeff Dayman19/01/2021 12:17:52
2058 forum posts
45 photos

Hi Phil Smith 3. Congratulations on acquiring the locomotive! As far as boiler testing it depends if you are running on your own track at home, or at a club track. There are several clubs and tracks in Canada. If you plan to run on a club track, you should enquire with the club you want to run at about their requirements for boiler testing, which is in cooperation with the local authority in your province. I would NOT advise an individual to contact a provincial government agency / ministry on your own, there will be a hundred uninformed bureaucrats who only know how to say NO and don't bother to check on anything for you. If you are running in Canada in private at home, NEVER in public or at a club, you just need to do a 2 x working pressure hydrostatic test (water only) on the boiler and later, check your safety valves are opening at the correct pressure.

If you PM me with info on what province you are in and what city/major town you are near, I may be able to put you in touch with some club members.

br19/01/2021 13:07:32
457 forum posts
3 photos

I suppose the starting point is to decide what you want to do with it ?

Using at home on a 5 inch track involves no major re-gauging problems.

If you iintend using on a club track at your quoted 4.75 inch gauge then a local club, etc as advised by Jeff above.


phil Smith 331/01/2021 20:36:18
5 forum posts
3 photos

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful and helpful responses. I really appreciate the heads up on the asbestos.

I live in Ontario, about 75 km north east of Toronto. There is a live steam club about 20 km away called the Richmond Hill Live Steamers. I have reached out to them. I don't believe they have a 5" track so I may have some difficulty running Butch but I'm getting way ahead of myself!

I have the original prints so I should be good for the design.

A couple of questions - one response says pressure test the boiler to 1.5X working pressure, another response says 2X. I assume there is a standard? Also a question about testing the chassis on compressed air - is there a need for lubrication? Or is that just for sustained operation?

Thanks again,


duncan webster31/01/2021 22:35:55
3035 forum posts
36 photos

2* is for new boilers, 1.5 for retest. If you haven't got any paperwork it's up to the boiler inspector, no point arguing with him!

If your local club only has 7.25" track you could make a converter truck. Google Guinness railway they had such a device for running narrow gauge loco on Irish standard gauge

John Olsen31/01/2021 23:34:03
1139 forum posts
92 photos
1 articles

For running on air, just give it an oil up before you start. Unless you plan to run for hours, that will be plenty.


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