My name is Peter G. and I had the pleasure of founding Frimley and Ascot Locomotive Club in 1989 with a group of members of the Ascot locomotive Club when , due to re-development, we had to vacate the miniature railway track that we had built at Heatherdown School.
I am now retired, but have been involved in technology and engineering all of my life. During wartime, I was 5 years old and toys were impossible to get in a small mining village in Yorkshire, so I used old clock works and made working model boats myself. I guess this founded my instincts to make my own things, and I soon was cobbling a lathe together using a hand drill and files to make a small steam engine piston. I built model boats and planes until my 20’s. This occupied my leisure time through grammar school – where I was best at art – and university where I ‘did’ physics and maths. This led me to RAE Farnborough where I started (and ended) my career in military surveillance systems and researching and developing all sorts of aircraft systems. At work, I had a friend who was into miniature steam engines and this kindled an interest in model engineering. My first foray was to purchase from a junk shop an unfinished, somewhat battered and abused 2 1/2” gauge LBSC ‘Dyak’ and also a second hand very basic lathe for £10 that I had to motorise. I built the tender and got the engine going eventually and learned a lot…..but I sold it to finance the building from scratch of another LBSC engine, this time a 3 1/2” gauge ‘Mona’. This was my first major milestone in model engineering! I then built a number of other small engines, learning all the while by adapting published designs and eventually doing my own designs. I seem to have built up a large stable of locomotives now thanks to my urge to start another when one is finished, and I suppose my greatest achievement is my 71/4” NER T1 coal locomotive, a 0-8-0 tender engine. I did all the design work myself from ‘real’ drawings and used some commercial castings from other locomotives that were the right size and format. Actually this caused me some problems, as the wheels that I purchased from a catalogue were of very poor quality. This caused some difficulties until I gave in, used one of the wheels, suitably fettled, as a pattern and got a set cast from a commercial foundry. Though this was not the first time I had made my own patterns and had custom castings, this has encouraged me to continue to make my own patterns for later locos. The ‘project’ took me 4 years: I suppose around 2500 hours, and the engine is now a regular passenger hauler at the club open days.
I am a problem solver by inclination, and the best bits for me are designing my own locos and parts and in particular designing them to work, be reliable, be broadly ‘in scale’ and, not the least, how to make them!
I enjoy being a member of a club: meeting people with common interests. In fact, I am an inveterate ‘man in a shed’ from before such a term became popular! My advice to anybody wanting to get into model engineering is just to have a go! Do not be put off by assuming that you need a large and expensive workshop and do ask others and listen to advice of experience!