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Black Five, Jinty or 4F - 3½" or 5" gauge - for a Beginner?

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Dithering25/01/2012 17:40:18
20 forum posts

Like many people, I've dabbled in Model Engineering for many years and I've built up a fairly comprehensive workshop comprising a big lathe (6½" centre height), a Boxford CUD, a Mini lathe, a 626 turret mill, a drilling machine, a bandsaw, a compressor and even a shaping machine. Plus a basic set of hand tools.

You could be forgiven for thinking that I just like collecting machines and tools and you might be right.

However, I have recently retired and I want to make something worthwhile with the equipment I have collected (and in some cases, refurbished from a very poor state).

It has to be something that I would really like to own rather than something built just for the sake of building it.

In my heart, I would like to build a 3½" gauge Black Five like LBSC's Doris (what a name for a Black Five!) but that might be a bit too much for me. There doesn't seem to be many people working in 3½" gauge so help might be hard to find.

I would quite like to build an LMS/BR 3F (or, possibly, a 4F) in 3½" or 5" gauge and I can find drawings and castings for LBSC's Molly and Martins Evans' 5" gauge Jinty. What I can't find are any books or constructional articles that would take me through the building process and I have seen it written on the web that Molly is not a good first engine to build (which might be because LBSC has a habit of saying "I'm not going to describe this operation because I did so last year in ...." which is all very well if you have the appropriate text from that particular series of articles - but I don't).

I prefer working on large components rather than small, fiddly ones so perhaps I would be better off with the 5" gauge Jinty.

Does anyone have an opinion to express on which of my ideas are practical if, indeed, any of them are? Can anyone point me towards a good source of information to help me build any of these models?

I'm about to take out a subscription to Model Engineer (I currently have one to Model Engineers' Workshop but I'm giving that up) so I will have access to the digital back issues. I'm not sure how far they go back so I don't know what I'll find there.

Any help will be much appreciated.

Brian Thompson.

Another JohnS25/01/2012 20:57:56
832 forum posts
56 photos
I have just been going through Nick Feast's articles on the "Q1" in 3-1/2" gauge.
I'm impressed, quite frankly. It should be a fairly quick, inexpensive build, and should give lots of enjoyment. When you subscribe, you should have access to the back issues to Model Engineer.
My first locomotive was a little Tich, which is a hoot, but is a bit small for much running.
I have a 3-1/2" gauge Shay locomotive 90% complete, but, there's a ton of little parts to make, so I put it to one side, and am making a 7-1/4" gauge Stourbridge Lion, ("Rocket" locomotive in appearance, if you squint) which is going well.
The Q1 interests me because it has few-ish parts. Not lots of flowing curves, etc, and quite a few of the difficult bits are available as laser cuttings from Polly Engineering.
Another thing to think about is moving the locomotive; I have a 3-1/2" gauge continental 2-8-2 that is a heavy lift for 2 people; the Q1 comes in at less than half the weight, so should be a good size; not too big, and not too small to have difficulties getting the load up the grades.

Nick was chastised for a couple of his pictures showing a real workshop; read through the digital editions in the "Postbag" to form your own opinions. think his writeup is great.
Another JohnS.
NJH26/01/2012 14:34:02
2314 forum posts
139 photos
Why not look up your local model engineering club? When you finish your loco you will presumably need somewhere to run it and they will have a track! You can see how different designs perform, speak to the builders about construction tips, gain access to boiler testing etc. From observation 5" locos are better for passenger hauling and, as you say, are less " fiddely" With your equipment extra size isn't a problem but, Iguess, castings etc may cost a bit more. It is worthy of careful consideration as you wll put a lot of time, money and effort into the build. You want to like it when you have finished it. !
Good luck
Tony Martyr26/01/2012 17:56:53
210 forum posts
41 photos
When I faced your dilemma I opted for a 31/2" loco, largely because of cost and the capacity of my lathe; but I would have preferred to have built a 5" model for two practical reasons:
1. There seem to be many more decent 5" tracks around than 3 1/2"
2. The 'fiddle factor' - 5" is nicer to work on particularly the copper pipework.
So I would go 5" if you can get everything in your machines.
Incidentally the weight of a finished 3 1/2" loco will give you just as bad a back as 5" if you try to get it into the back of a car - I speak from experience.
Another JohnS26/01/2012 19:39:27
832 forum posts
56 photos
Tony is right, of course.
But, my 3-1/2" gauge Tich flies as cabin baggage, my 3-1/2" gauge SNCF 2-8-2 is 5-1/2 feet long, and about 160 pounds, so the model chosen also has a bearing on this.

Please tell me what's wrong with this reasoning:
Assuming all things being equal; a 5: gauge model of a locomotive "X" is 1.33 times as long, 1.33 times as wide, and 1.33 times as high. (*)
So, if Mr. Feast's Q1 is 25kg in 3.5" gauge, that works out to 58kgs in 5" gauge.
I'm tending more towards the smaller gauges again, as you can most likely see.
Note: I took the ratio of 16:12 for the scaling. Take 7-1/4" gauge, 16:8, and Nick's Q1 would come in at 200 kilos!
Another John.
Dithering27/01/2012 19:33:10
20 forum posts

Thanks guys for your help although I'm still not sure where to go next.

Michael, I was born in Nuneaton and got my degree in Rugby so I'm a confirmed London Midland Region man. That's why I listed the locomotives that I did - I used to see them all the time and Nuneaton had quite a decent shed that I used to sneak in to. I live in Hertfordshire now surrounded by LNER weirdos but I'm not letting that change my allegiance!

John, For the reason above, the Q1 wouldn't interest me. I saw the bit about you having lots of little parts to make for your Shay. Why aren't you making them? Do you find them difficult or boring or what?

NJH & Tony, There are two clubs nearby (St Albans and Welwyn Garden City) that both have 3½" and 5" tracks. One problem is that they only meet one evening a month, for 2 hours in non-workshop environments. I'm prepared to give it a try but I'm not over-optimistic. My only experience of such clubs has been photographic societies which, frankly, nearly make me cry with frustration at all the things they don't do. What's your general experience of clubs - are they really willing to help beginners or are they full of cliques? Both clubs have web sites but they don't really give a "happy feeling" regarding new members.

I'm not too fussed about having a track to run it on (or what it will haul) because I don't have much confidence in my ability to make a boiler. I'd be very happy to build something that looked good and ran on compressed air.

Overall, there seems to be a bias towards 5" rather than 3½" and really, that means a fairly small locomotive. That brings me back to the Jinty rather than the Black Five. (Is it easier (less fiddly) to build a locomotive with outside cylinders rather than inside cylinders?)

To confuse the issue, I just bought a copy of The Best Of Model Engineer Volume 2 and that includes drawings for a 2½" gauge Black Five. I'm currently investigating those drawings to assess the degree of fiddly-ness. This is complicated by the fact that the drawings are at about one-third scale which makes things look a lot smaller than they are. Is this common for locomotive drawings or would you expect them to be at full size?


Brian Thompson

Another JohnS27/01/2012 19:51:06
832 forum posts
56 photos
Hi Brian;
The Shay - there's 3 sets of Stephensons valve gears; the headlight needs fabricating from a few bits and pieces, and I need to finish the boiler fittings. The Stourbridge Lion has slip eccentric valve gear, no cab, etc, etc! The Shay is so close to completion, it'll get done; I just needed a break.
If a Jinty is about the same size as a Simplex; there are 3 in our club, and they weigh in at around 140 lbs, from what I understand. These are not a one person lift.
BTW - I make all my own fittings, including union nuts and nipples, most of my own model bolts, and, really, anything I can. From what I have been able to gather from builders, the Stourbridge Lion should take 1/4 the time to complete than the Kozo Shay design takes - and I believe it.
Good luck, and keep us informed of your choices.
Another JohnS.
Dithering28/01/2012 10:20:52
20 forum posts
My last post started a train of though within my dithering brain.
The valve gear on an outside cylinder locomotive looks complicated whereas that on an inside cylinder loco doesn't - mainly because you can't see it. Presumably, it is, in fact, just as complicated.
So, if I'm going to have to make complex valve gear I might as well be able to see it on the finished model. Don't you think?
So, perhaps, an outside cylinder model would be a better bet.
I've seen references to a Don Young designed Black Five in 5" gauge but I can't find much information about it. Any suggestions?
Brian Thompson.
Peter Simpson 228/01/2012 10:46:47
28 forum posts
1 photos
I'm in a similar situation to yourself. Not long retired, good workshop with a lathe, milling machine, shaping machine and drill. I have made a start on "Speedy" in 5" gauge. One of the main reasons for this loco was the availability of a book to help with the construction. Yes I have come across the statement." I'm not going to describe this operation because I did so last year in" which is no good to a raw beginer. As I live close to Rydale Railways model engineering site there are always a good number of very experienced loco builders to ask opinions of, and loads of loco's to examine in detail.
clivel28/01/2012 23:40:38
343 forum posts
17 photos
I also dithered for ages before settling on a loco. It is such a long term commitment and there is so much choice that one wants to be completely sure that they have made the right decision.
The first decision was gauge. 3 1/2 or 5" ? Although I prefer the more compact size of 3 1/2" gauge engines, what finally swayed me to 5" is that with the closest club track over 2 hours away there is the future possibility of being able to put in a short ground level garden line. 3 1/2' gauge doesn't seem to lend itself to ground level, and an elevated track would be a much harder sell on the domestic front.
Next decision was the engine. Once I had managed to convince myself that a SAR 4-8-2+2-8-4 Garratt was probably a trifle ambitious for a first model, I whittled it down to a short list of five: Sweat Pea, Scamp, Gemma, Y4 Dockyard tank, Don Young Rail Motor No1.
Sweat Pea has a number of advantages; a well proven and popular design resulting in a large and powerful passenger hauling engine with a readily available construction manual. Personally, I am biased against a freelance design nor do I want something quite as large.
Scamp, serialised in the "other" magazine a few years back is probably the most straightforward build of all, a bit like a 5" Tich but once again discounted by me as a freelance design Scamp 0-4-0T.
Gemma, by the same designer as Scamp and also serialised in the "other" mag, is based on a GER Y5 shunter. A quirky looking engine, not too everyone's taste, but to my eye the model is spoilt by the lack of prototypical Salter safety valves GER 0-4-0 "Gemma".
LNER Y4 Dockyard Tank - a good scale representative of the prototype that makes a compact but powerful engine. Drawings, castings and laser cut bits are available from Doug Hewson, whom from all my interaction with him appears to be extremely helpful.This engine seems to meet all my criteria, except, as much as I try, I just can't learn to love her GER/LNER Y4 0-4-0 Tank.
Rail Motor No1, which was my eventual choice, was serialised in ME around 1968. This Don Young design is supposedly a fairly good representation of a Rhymney Railway Railmotor but with a tender in place of the carriage. Rail Motor No1
Concurrently with the description of No1, Don Young also described a simpler tank version which he dubbed Rail Motor No2.
As a beginner, starting with the Rail Motor tender seemed to me to be the ideal place to hone one's skills, and that is what I am doing. Progress is slow at the moment due to other commitments but bits and pieces are slowly appearing.
Dithering29/01/2012 12:38:21
20 forum posts
Thanks for the encouragement. It's nice to know that other people don't start until they've retired. Best of luck with Speedy.
I've had a look at your short list and I must say that I like the Y4 more than the others - not enough to want to spend my life building it though! Rail Motor No 1 is quite pretty but not my style. Hope you enjoy it though.
Now, here's a question for everyone: Is my first locomotive also going to be my last? I mean, I'm 65 and reasonably healthy so how many can I build between now and when I get too feeble? How long does it take - 2 years? 5 years? I don't have any other major committments other than keeping the house running.
The difference it makes is that if I can only expect to make one locomotive then it must be my heart's desire. If I can make more than one I can afford to build something that is a bit simpler as a learning excercise.
I had a message from Mike who posts under the name MAC and I've had a look at his web site ( where he has documented his build of a 3½" gauge Don Young Derby 2P.
Now that looks a very nice, straightforward locomotive with components of a size I could cope with. He started in 2009 and has got a fair way so perhaps I could do that too.
At the moment, it's top of my list of probables so thanks Mike.
clivel30/01/2012 00:44:46
343 forum posts
17 photos
Posted by Dithering on 29/01/2012 12:38:21:
Now, here's a question for everyone: Is my first locomotive also going to be my last? I mean, I'm 65 and reasonably healthy so how many can I build between now and when I get too feeble? How long does it take - 2 years? 5 years? I don't have any other major committments other than keeping the house running.
The difference it makes is that if I can only expect to make one locomotive then it must be my heart's desire. If I can make more than one I can afford to build something that is a bit simpler as a learning excercise.
My father 89, as demonstrated last week, is still capable of climbing a ladder and welding up a grape vine trellis. I have no doubt that if his interests stemmed to Model Engineering he could happily still be working on a loco. So with a combination of luck, attitude and healthy living (although my father smoked heavily for years) there is no reason why you shouldn't have many years left to enjoy your hobby.

Regarding ones heart's desire, one thing to consider is that a fairly high percentage of constructors lose interest and never complete their model. I would guess that many of those are first time builders who may have had more success if they had of chosen a simpler model to start with. But then again, those incomplete projects may just as likely be as a result of the constructor not having their heart in their chosen prototype.

Bazyle30/01/2012 14:07:01
6324 forum posts
222 photos
Trouble with a tender engine is you think you've finished and there's still that tin can on wheels to do.
You really should get along to your local Model Engineering club as even in a non-workshop environment they are full of friendly people who will give advice (and free coffee and biccies at St Albans). Next meeting is 8 Feb and is going to be well worth attending. You needn't worry about getting harassed into joining and they may be able to put you in touch with a 3 1/2 black five builder if he's back in the UK this year. Also by the way club meetings are only the publicsed events; lots of members get together other times too.
Dithering30/01/2012 14:24:42
20 forum posts
Clive, I'm glad your dad's still going strong - I'll be happy even to make it to 89.
Regarding why people give up part way through making something - it would be interesting to do a survey only, if they've given up, they won't be on the forum!
I'm going to carry on looking around.
Thanks, Bazyle, for the recommendation - I take it you have some experience of the St Albans club.
I'll try to get there on the 8th. I don't mind the cost of joining so long as there's some point to it.
As I said, my only experience of clubs is in the photographic world and there every second meeting was an internal competition or a "slide battle" with another club. I was never very interested in whose photos were better than mine - only in trying to make mine better!
mgj30/01/2012 15:02:57
1017 forum posts
14 photos
Well whatever you get, might I suggest one that has a reputation for accurate drawings. Its a real pain ot build something with great care, only to find it doesn't fit!!!.
I'm aftraid I'm a Sweet Pea man. Well Metre Maid, because I preferred the 060 layout and I had never built a loco before.
Simple to make, cheap(er) boiler, darned good drawings, excellent book. Everything is fairly easy to get at and maintain, and being "narrow" gauge, everything is chunky and easy to hold, so one is not trying to munch metal that flexes and bends. Pipework is pretty simple too. And it has a reputation for pulling like hell and thats no bad thing for a punter who is not so experienced managing tiny fires. (I'm OK with a 3" TE, but having driven the odd 5" on occasion, these small fires need a bit more managing. )
Next loco will be a Schools class, inside cylinder and all the grief that goes with it - and busted 10 Ba bolts too. But for the moment, plain Jane Metre Maid seems a darned good starter for 10!
How long to build. 17 July 2010 I started. It will be going for its hydraulic test shortly, and completed and  in steam end of Feb. I'd have done it a lot quicker if the boiler had arrived on time.

Edited By mgj on 30/01/2012 15:08:46

PETER AYERS31/01/2012 16:10:39
25 forum posts

Why not try Don Young's 4F and do what I did with my first loco. I built the tender first, it gives you experiance of making frames, axle boxes and wheels etc.
Peter A
Another JohnS31/01/2012 17:46:22
832 forum posts
56 photos
I'll second Peter's suggestion of building the tender first;
- I have done that twice; it's easier to get your teeth into a project by building the tender;
- also, when you do your first steaming, you'll not have unsightly bottles and jugs and whatnot, because, when you get your locomotive boiler/frames/valve gear together, you'll want to give it a steaming!
Another JohnS.
Dithering01/02/2012 17:55:05
20 forum posts
MGJ, Less than two years to make your Metre Maid is very encouraging - particularly as you encountered delays not of your own making. I can see the advantages of driving a locomotive of that size but I remain committed to standard gauge because, spending my childhood on the West Coats main line, that's what I remember.
Peter A and John S, I've had the same advice about starting with the tender from another source recently so that seems to be the favoured way and I can see the point - you don't have to buy expensive cylinder castings for a start.
The Don Young 4F is high up my list but, as usual, it seems that no-one supplies the construction notes for it. I believe it was in ME Vol 141 and I'm currently looking on eBay for it. If anyone knows another source of construction notes I'ld like to hear about it.
NJH01/02/2012 18:07:55
2314 forum posts
139 photos
If your ebay search is fruitless you might try here :-

He has a good stock of ME back issues ( and some very tempting S/H tools too!)
( Sorry I couldn't get the link function to work)
Old Elan09/02/2012 15:59:00
92 forum posts
34 photos
Posted by Dithering on 29/01/2012 12:38:21:
Thanks for the encouragement. It's nice to know that other people don't start until they've retired. Best of luck with Speedy.
I've had a look at your short list and I must say that I like the Y4 more than the others - not enough to want to spend my life building it though!
Now, here's a question for everyone: Is my first locomotive also going to be my last? I mean, I'm 65 and reasonably healthy so how many can I build between now and when I get too feeble?
The difference it makes is that if I can only expect to make one locomotive then it must be my heart's desire. I
Oh, yes, how I understand all this dithering!
Speedy was the engine that inspired me. That was when I was at school and the loco was exhibited in a local hardware shop window. I bought the book about 5 years ago but I have yet to cut metal.
Why? I was still working at the time. Now at 60 I too ask the question as to if my choice of model will be the one and only. My preference is for outside gear and a prototype, a la Speedy. Now, though, they seem to have become a bit common place.
The Y4 seems a good bet with lots of support from the Hewsons. However, it's not my cup of tea either.
I am now tempted to try a Midge simply because it looks relatively simple, similar length to Speedy and less fiddely for my stumpy fingers. It will be easier to drive on a ground level track too.
I suppose it will work out more expensive and a tad weightier but if it's to be the only engine.......
It should be one's heart's desire but could one, must one, compromise?
Brian, I sympathise!

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