By Keith Skillicorn
Stewart Browne produced Sgt Murphy as an entry level meths fired pot boiler locomotive which could give good performance in all weathers.
Though not in any way a scale model & only bearing a slight resemblance to the prototype, the loco was none the less a very good performer. The water capacity was such that he could be kept in steam for up to an hour on one fill of the boiler. The meths however has to be topped up two or three times during that period to keep the fire going. This can be done easily through the convenient filler pipe on the left hand side.
The engine is a much cleverer design than meets the eye.
For instance, the exhaust actually draws the fire. When the engine is standing still the flames from the three wick burner go straight up & the heat passes out through the gap in between the boiler & the side tanks.
However when the loco is in action the exhaust passing up the chimney causes enough of a vacuum to pull the flames forward under the front part of the boiler increasing the heated surface area.
The single inside cylinder (The outer ones are dummies) is also a good bit of kit, in fact more to the point it is the way the steam is controlled as it passes in & out that makes it good. Very early on Stewart discovered that you don’t need big steam ports in a model locomotive of this size because if you do the engine wants to rev hard & to go fast. So small ports & steam pipes are employed & this coupled with a little lap on the slide valve gives a slow running, efficient & powerful machine.
I bought my engine in 1979 & it was the first 16mm scale locomotive I could afford.
Because I only had one engine, the Sgt ran & ran, until about 4 years later he was worn out. John Wenlock came to the rescue by rebuilding the chassis over a period of time. Linda had arrived by then so at least I had another engine to run.
Today my locomotive is as good as it’s ever been. Harvey Watkins had a look over the engine recently & with a couple of tweaks has made it run as well as it did when new. Harvey is seen below test running the loco on the Coleford Minimal railway.
Below, the Sgt has returned home & is in his element with Archangel Passenger coaches in tow.
There are at least a couple of examples with dummy outside valve gear which does improve the looks. Mike Morris owns this engine which was modified by Steve Bell. The cab has also been lowered & in addition has a flat topped dome as per prototype.
Later on Stewart offered a two cylindered version of this locomotive & called it Hercules. You can see an example of this on Marc Horivitz’s website.
To conclude, Sgt Murphy has been a long lived friend & is unlikely ever to be sold. He continues to give good service on my latest garden railway.
Should you want to see the Sgt in action along with some other ”Old Engines” I have put several clips on youtube. Watch the video below and then follow the links once it has finished for more