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Getting Started

Being new to this, I'm not sure where to start

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AntT13/07/2014 12:41:02
5 forum posts

Hi, I am newly subscribed to model engineer and have been wanting to take it up for a while. I am soon to be trying to "work out of the garden shed" so to speak and there is a local blacksmiths although not sure exactly what they can do.

I have briefly looked through several back issues and followed some of the builds back through the archives. This is fine but understanding the methods of fixings and assembly methods and required tools etc is a bit of a loss on me so far.

I know how to solder to some degree with learning plumbing at college on copper for domestic installations as well as cast iron pipes so hopefully this will aid me. I have had no use of a lathe/ dies or taps although shouldn't struggle with milling.

Can anyone suggest what would be my first port of call with regards to getting drawings/ component details to produce drawings as well as any good starter projects from the archive?


Nobby13/07/2014 16:38:02
587 forum posts
113 photos

Hi Tony
Welcome to this forum . There is a wealth if info on here . what are your main interests? I see you are ok with milling that's a good start. Whatever you are making there comes a time when you need a tool so to help your skills why not make it ? I am interested in vintage machines .


mechman4813/07/2014 19:52:26
2915 forum posts
454 photos

Welcome Tony,

There is a mine of information on this site, from beginners to the very experienced, from all walks of life so don't be put off by any doubts as to your capabilities, we all had to start somewhere. You infer that you don't want a lathe or have I read you wrong? there are a lot of starter projects that are eminently suitable for beginners which would require a lathe for some of the machining of parts prior to assembly as well as some milling work so give it some thought.

There are plenty of members who, I'm sure, would be happy to pass on drawings that would help you via pm methods. I would suggest that you start on a simple oscillating engine as a first project as I have done, there are hundreds to choose from & plans aplenty. I have been involved in Engineering all my working life & now being retired have some time to potter in my 'man cave' now I have it to my liking & have built a double acting oscillating engine as a first project which I thoroughly enjoyed making, but has sadly been 'removed' by some low life along with quite a few other items in March, but that's another story so don't let me put you off.

Decide what you want to do, plan your budget, & go to it, it's a great therapeutic exercise once you get in there & start 'pottering' about, I have made a few tools to make things with, as Nobby says it will help your skills & If I can help in any way re.advice / methods etc. drop me a pm.

Happy Pottering.


AntT13/07/2014 22:47:03
5 forum posts

Thanks for the advice from you both.

I am awaiting the engineers handbook to hopefully give me a bit more information and ideas.

George - I do need a lathe however finding one I can fit into my garden shed is what concerns me. I know there are mini lathes available but do these restrict you on the components you can fabricate?

With regards to interest I like traction engines but steam locos are my great admiration, particularly the GWR 14XX.

I hope to build many various locos but Rome wasn't built in a day.

An oscillating engine seems like a good starting point.

Thanks Anthony

OuBallie14/07/2014 04:39:05
1151 forum posts
661 photos


If you are within commute of me, South Norfolk, you are welcome any time.

Geoff - Sleep eludes me.

Bazyle14/07/2014 09:00:22
5898 forum posts
218 photos

Start by bulding a bigger shed cool

Russell Eberhardt14/07/2014 10:19:57
2673 forum posts
86 photos

A mini lathe such as the C3 would certainly enable you to build a loco of up to 5" gauge. A milling machine would help but is not essential. Do be aware though that building a loco is a long and expensive project.

As you suggest a small oscillating engine would be a good start, perhaps following up with a more realistic stationary engine. The one pictured on the left was my first modelling exersise.

"Bon chance" from here.


Gary Wooding14/07/2014 12:29:27
836 forum posts
213 photos

Hi Anthony,

Welcome to ME Land.

If you stated where you live you might get some local help or mentoring - with some valuable hands-ons experience.

Personally I'm not a club person, but some years ago, rather against my will, I decided to humour a friend and went along to a meeting of his Model Engineering club. I was a total beginner and felt completely out of my depth, but several members made me feel, sort-of, welcome. I had ordered a lathe and needed help with getting it into my cellar workshop, and several of the members volunteered to assist; which they did, very successfully.

The club was in the process of installing their dismantled miniature railway track on a new, green-field, site, and, because I felt somewhat beholden to them 'cos of their help with the lathe I decided to help with the railway and join the club. That was about 15 years ago and I've never regretted it. Its the only club I've ever joined, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The amount I've learned and the friends I've made is beyond price.


GaryM14/07/2014 15:15:35
314 forum posts
44 photos

Hi Anthony,

Not sure which book you've ordered but one I found useful when I started was:

"Model Engineering: A Foundation Course" by Peter Wright.

It has a broad coverage of the techniques and skills you will need.

Two useful web sites for beginners are:  **LINK** **LINK**

Best of luck with whatever you decide to have a go at building.


Edited By GaryM on 14/07/2014 15:17:54

AntT14/07/2014 23:23:53
5 forum posts

South Norfolk is a bit far as I'm in the Cambridgeshire/ Lincolnshire areas. I think a mini lathe is definitely my first piece of equipment along with a brazing torch.

The oscillating engine on Steves workshop page seems like a nice straight forward project. Depending how I fair, I might take a shot at the spirit boiler too!


AntT19/07/2014 08:49:13
5 forum posts


I've been looking at the C3 lathe as Russell suggested although I have also come across an Axminster SIEG C0.

My concern is that it wouldn't be sufficient for engineering a 5" gauge loco or large parts for other models when the time comes?

It is also missing one of the supports but surely these are relatively easy to make?



Bob Brown 119/07/2014 09:26:04
1020 forum posts
127 photos

I feel you will be pushed to make a 5" loco with the smallest of the mini lathes due to the limitation on swing. Some parts on a 5" loco require a swing of around 6" or larger, I'm not saying you can not build a 5" loco with a smallest mini lathe but you may be restricted in the model you pick if you go this route.

The suggestion would probably be when buying a lathe is buy the biggest you can afford (with in reason) as the story goes you can machine small parts on a large lathe but you can not machine large parts on a small lathe.


Bazyle19/07/2014 09:51:55
5898 forum posts
218 photos

The C0 looks a bit small so don't rush into it but don't get fixated on 5in unless you have a specific need to pull passengers as there are great designs in smaller sizes too. If you make a 5 in where would you run it? For most people this means joining a club so you can look for one now before you leap into the loco building task.

You shouldn't think you need to wait until you are an experienced engineer before joining them. There are clubs in Cambridge and Peterborough but probably more nearby. Just google 'Model Engineer YourTown' which will come up with several or look at **LINK**

Edited By Bazyle on 19/07/2014 09:53:21

Nigel Bennett19/07/2014 14:09:09
405 forum posts
11 photos

I thought Roger Thornber had described a Gauge 1 14XX in EIM not long ago. Certainly there are several G1 designs which would be a good starting point without spending too much. If you make a decent job of it, at least it can sit on the mantelpiece when you're not running it! You'd certainly learn about the more "fiddly" aspects of modelling.

Good luck whatever you decide to build.

merlin19/07/2014 18:03:16
141 forum posts
1 photos

Dare I, as a non-subscriber, say that time and time again there are appeals for help and advice from newcomers and the first thought is; whereabouts in the world are you?

I would be more happy to pass on my thoughts, for what they are worth, if the enquirer were near to me and I could actually meet her or him, so much easier that typing.

AntT19/07/2014 21:03:29
5 forum posts


i think the best club for me to join locally would be the one in Abbey Park Leicester.

I have an open mind as to scales and would like to build an inch or 2" traction engine and probably 3 n half" locos but the dream is a 5", I've wanted my own since first going to a public running day in peterborough a long time ago.

Merlin- I am not far from Lincoln.


john kennedy 119/07/2014 21:27:42
214 forum posts
24 photos

AntT, If you live near Lincoln,have you had a look here ?

Bob Brown 119/07/2014 21:58:34
1020 forum posts
127 photos

If you intend to build a 2" traction engine you will need something bigger than a mini lathe and that then opens up a 5" loco. These things are not cheap, the castings and other parts can soon add up, just try adding up the parts listed on somewhere like AJReeves and you'll see what I mean.

Ian S C20/07/2014 13:25:19
7468 forum posts
230 photos

I'm no loco builder, but until recently I had a chassis, cylinders, and the boiler shell of a 5" Simplex, and it did not seem overly big in my view, things like the smoke box door would be 4"dia or less. There were no wheels so can't comment. The lathe requirement would be modest. A traction engine would be a bit more demanding on lathe size.

Ian S C

Bob Brown 120/07/2014 14:46:52
1020 forum posts
127 photos

A 5" Simplex wheels are 4.375" dia but a Maid of Kent are 7" so there are some 5" locos that could be built on the smallest mini lathe but you would have to make the selection taking the size of parts into account. Not forgetting you have to hold the parts so allowances for chuck jaws may have to be made.


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