I was introduced to model engineering at the age of 14 when I built an oscillating steam engine at school without the use of a lathe. This was followed by a 10cc glow plug i.c. engine which introduced me to the school’s Southbend lathe.
My first locomotive was a 3½in. gauge Bond’s Royal Scot built using my own Drummond lathe and Pools milling machine. The Royal Scot was followed by LBSC’s Juliet, also in 3½in. gauge for which I built the boiler using a gas and air blow torch. Juliet still runs well and has won LittleLEC twice.
I built LBSC’s 5in. gauge Maid of Kent with Joy valve gear next followed by Martin Evans’ 5in. gauge LMS No. 46103 Royal Scots Fusilier that was started when the series began in Model Engineer magazine. This locomotive was awarded a Silver Medal in the 1980 Model Engineer Exhibition. Later, it won IMLEC at Guildford and again at Bristol.
By this time I had started a railway apprenticeship working at Feltham Marshalling Yard where I encountered the LSWR 700 Class Drummond Black Motors which I thought were very handsome. With the experience of building several engines, I decided my next project was to be a super-scale locomotive. Don Young’s design for the Aspinall ‘A’ Class locomotive in 5in. gauge fitted the bill perfectly because it had a very similar appearance to the Black Motors that I admired.
I bought a set of Don Young’s drawings and was so impressed with his draughtsmanship that I bought the castings. Unfortunately, Don was unable to supply the drag box casting so, to complete the frame assembly, I had to make a fabrication. It consisted of eight silver-brazed steel components that made a fair replacement for the absent casting. Don’s wheel castings, with their very thin spokes, were really nice.
The double frame tender was a bit of a headache because it wasn’t easy to work out the order of assembly for attaching the inner frame angles and spacers. Spring hangers and working leaf springs were also a challenge and I made but never fitted the water pick up gear. The original locomotive was fitted with vacuum operated gear.
I made the boiler but was unable to cure a leaking blowdown bush on the throatplate. Meeting Don Young at the following Guildford MES Rally, I explained my problem with the blowdown bush and the following week had a card from him telling me to take my boiler to Alec Farmer at Reeves who would sort it out for me. I took a trip to Birmingham with my father, left the boiler with Alec and visited my uncle while the work was done.
Don Young was always there offering help, support and advice in any way he could and loved to see the end product. I shall never forget the day Don said “Les could get me a Gold Medal and win IMLEC with this engine.” I never did get the Gold Medal – only a Silver – but I did win IMLEC! (In memory of Don Young).
This is an example of the benefits of being a member of a club – in my case Harlington – to meet like minded individuals and discuss with them their experiences and techniques. The best advice that I can offer Newcomers is to join a club that reflects your own interest – locomotives, road vehicles, boats. There will be a wealth of knowledge and experience in them.
Finally, what do I like most about Model Engineering? One of the best things is the satisfaction and pride that I get when a new locomotive, which may have taken years to come to fruition, runs and looks good and continues to do so.
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