By Jim Wild
Towards the end of 1977, six months after our Association of 16mm NG modelling was formed, I put together a railbus. It was built using an Archangel bogie coach and was powered by most of the bits from a Mamod stationary engine.
Graham Lamb, our founding father, asked in his inimitable way whether I would design a basic engine using Mamod and Meccano parts and write it up for the magazine. It should be possible to build using a hacksaw and Grandpa’s 2lb. hammer – on the proverbial kitchen table of course!
A DeWinton was mentioned at this stage, as it required minimum bodywork. Since I was a fan of Welsh Quarry engines I agreed to have a go. The boiler was converted to vertical configuration by boring a 1/2″ diameter hole at each end of the flue, and fitting a sleeve around the base for a firebox. Firing was effected by dropping pieces of the Mamod fuel pellets down the chimney onto a gauze tray underneath the firebox! Lubrication was by way of dripping a couple of drops of steam oil onto the motor before and during running. No safety valve was fitted …… steam pressure (or what there was of it ) would force the cylinder off the port face. The motor was mounted inline so the extended shaft could be used with a knurled knob …. to flick start the engine from the front buffer beam.
Remember that this was to be the simplest of engines!
Amazingly it worked, but the firing system was very messy.
So I turned to trusty methylated spirits with thoughts of a silver soldered boiler rather than the soft soldered Mamod original. I then thought that perhaps I could make a few boilers for those unable to do so for themselves. Then it was suggested that I make the whole thing. I was running a full time advertising business at the time, but embarked upon a run of six engines for those friends that had asked me.
I soon found out that I was not cut out for mass production (not that you could by any stretch of the imagination call six mass). Being limited to evenings and weekends did not help, so by the time that five were finished I could not face the sixth. Thus my prototype went to the last customer, a friend in Exeter, in exchange for two Corris coaches which I still have. That engine is now in the safe keeping of Jill Lemar, making an occasional foray onto heritage metals, where it imposes a severe speed restriction on anyone else running!
Sadly, the promised article was never written, as the model had strayed away from the original Mamod parts brief.
I was then approached by an old friend of mine, Marrice Cross of MLE Services. He expressed an interest in producing some more DeWintons. Being a full time engineer his prototype, whilst keeping the simple approach, was much more professional with a custom made cylinder assembly, working reversing lever and safety valve. A very neat little engine. Speaking to him recently he believes that 18 or 19 were produced between 1979 and the early ’80s. At least one travelled to the USA, purchased by Marc Horovitz – it appears in his book ‘A Passion for Steam’. Maurice recently found a box of original parts and kindly passed them on to me. A start on MLE DeWInton No: 20 has been made………
As a postscript, after an absence of some years I returned to the 16mm fold in 1995 and turned again to the DeWinton, but this time a coal fired version of the Penrhyn loco George Henry. It has subsequently been converted to gas firing for a more relaxed run. This is my favourite loco, and has run extensively on exhibition and garden lines.
To my eye, nothing beats a DeWinton trundling round with a string of slate wagons snaking behind – but then, I am a DeWinton NUT!