By Derek Wiggins
Most people tend to remember Mike Chaney for a whole range of engineering modifications for the ubiquitous Mamod. You could deal with him directly, or buy through such people as Salem Steam Models. He has, however, built a whole range of locomotives, of which ‘Hero’ is one.
I knew nothing about the model, but was sent a photograph by the previous owner as he was about to sell it. It struck me as a really well proportioned model, with plenty of character, so I went to have a good look at it. I have photographed the model with the Archangel four wheeler coaches, to give a perspective of size.
Tony Willmore of Rhos Helyg Locomotive Works had carried out a few small jobs, and repainted everything bar the boiler. Gleaming in black, with the red lining, flycranks and bufferbeams, it just looked superb. Hadley is one of the Christian names of the seller.
There is a fair bit of weight in the model – it is five and a half pounds (2.5 kilos), so traction is no problem. I reassured myself that I would find a way to cover the oscillating cylinders (for which Mike was well known), only to discover that Hero’s are fixed! Happily, I am not the only person to have wrongly assumed this. Mike’s other model at the time, Kitten, had this type fitted.
Perhaps this is the one Achilles’ heel with ‘Hero’ – small cylinders mean that you have to carefully assemble a train that will allow slow running without slipping or stalling.
‘Hero’ comes with an extensive list of refinements usually only found on more expensive models. The pipe on the nearside frame just before the cab is the boiler filler. It is threaded to take a union on a pipe connected to a trigger bottle. You pump in the water, and of course have the benefit of a working gauge glass to reach the correct level. Meths is poured into the tank, which lives between the frames below the cab floor, via the long curved pipe again in the left doorway of the cab. There is an overflow pipe in the tank, and when meths dribbles out onto the side of the track, you stop filling. It is therefore easy to keep the loco in steam for very long periods, just by regularly topping up.
Steam raises very quickly, as there is a four wick burner. The pressure gauge nestles in the doorway in full view. In less than five minutes ‘Hero’ is ready for work.
Forward and reverse is engaged by the lever on the right of the footplate. However this does not connect to a rotary valve, but cleverly sets the slip eccentrics mechanically without the need to move the model in the chosen direction by hand. There is a substantial and progressive regulator, and just opening this a small amount sees the loco take off gracefully. Very little condensate is ejected, and with a steady but not overly loud exhaust beat, ‘Hero’ is off.
The lubricator, as can be seen in one of the photos, is located on the running plate in front of the left hand side tank. It is neat, has a drain screw and a knurled filler which is easy to release, and leaves the footplate uncluttered. The cab roof is fixed – helpful when lifting the model.
With just enough brass to satisfy me, I have become a very happy owner. Whilst it is not a model that you see many of, if you have the chance to buy one, do not hesitate. It is very well engineered, and you will get a lot of loco, and pleasure, for a smallish outlay.
I would like to thank Keith Skillicorn for helpfully improving the quality of my photographs that accompany this piece, though he was unable to remove the very light dusting of snow that I failed to see falling!