My name is John C. and I have been a member of Frimley and Ascot Locomotive Club since the 1990s. I retired about 10 years ago now. My earliest recollection of things engineering was when I was 5, pulling apart a clockwork engine to find out how it worked…..I don’t suppose I was the only one to do this…or fail to reassemble it! I was always making things and in those days ‘Keilkraft’ balsa airplane kits were handy and I made a few of these before moving on model railways and train spotting! Dad helped by allowing me the use of his hand tools! I left secondary school and went straight into my first job in a car garage where I started ‘on the petrol pumps’. I was lucky in having an attentive boss and he moved me into the repair shop where I joined in mending cars: just about the only thing we didn’t do was regrinding crankshafts! This was a really great informal apprenticeship because I learned how to do things ‘hands-on’ and yet also learned the value of precision. During my leisure time then I was into rebuilding motorbikes (125cc James Villiers) like many young men! My career involved moving around other companies, becoming a foreman and getting involved in buildings and construction and then service manager at a car main dealership. Although not Model Engineering, I gained much from being an active member of a small angling club…..catching fish, but first working with a small team to dredge a lake using steam ploughing engines….and mending a large conical bearing on a drag line bucket right in the middle of the lake!
I found out about Model Engineering from a friend and I got my first very much second hand lathe (in bits) in my 30’s. Another friend let me have a much used 5” Britannia with a defunct boiler and, as it transpired, many other defunct parts too. I rebuilt this from the ground up, learning all the way and the loco has been a public running stalwart at my club for many years. 25 years ago, I also started my ‘piece de resistance’: a 71/4” Standard Class 2 tender locomotive. I made the frames and axle boxes first and then other things intervened (rebuilding a couple of other locos, club, family etc!). I came back to this a few years ago and I have got it about 70% completed. The most satisfying thing I can remember is making the connecting rods about 20 years after the axle boxes and doing it purely by measurement. For those in the know, making connecting rods and achieving a smooth operation after wheel quartering is a dicey business! My measured connecting rods went on immediately and ran without shake and without binding.
I suppose my main enjoyment comes from thinking through how to make something (sometimes at night with my eyes shut!) and then putting it into action the next day. I admit I make mistakes, but then that is how you learn. The club is really useful for me. I enjoy the chatter, the club projects and learning from others. If you are thinking of Model Engineering, then all I can say is join a club, get making things, don’t be afraid of making mistakes and ask others for advice. My Dad said (handing me a hammer when I was small) you will hit your thumb with this and it will hurt, but that is part of learning!