By David Pinniger
The first Hugh Saunders “Edward Thomas” I saw was one which John Bartlett brought to run on my Ambledown Valley back in 1992. Since then I have seen a few others, notably one which I purchased for Marc Horovitz in 1995 which I ran on the AVR and the Boyn Hill Railway. This has since been featured on Marc‘s website and also in his Atlantic book “A passion for steam”. In late 2009 I met John Bartlett at a GIMRA meeting and he asked if I knew anybody who might be interested in buying his “Edward Thomas”. I told him to look no further, and the engine is now on the books of the AVR 18 years after it first ran on AVR rails.
The locomotive is a classic Hugh Saunders design based on the Kerr Stuart Corris locomotive built in 1921 which eventually became “Edward Thomas” on the Talyllyn Railway in 1951.
It has an internally fired boiler with a large flue and cross water tubes. Rather typically of Hugh’s engines, he fitted his standard well tried boiler which is however, a bit overscale in size. The water supply is carried in the saddle tank and there is a hand pump in the RHS of the cab.
The engine has two cylinders with valves operated by Hackworth gear with a reversing lever in the LHS of the cab. The water gauge glass is also on the LHS and is pretty effective although it does not have a blow down valve. The lubricator is a dead leg mounted between the frames in front of the smokebox. There is a very interesting meths tank and burner set up unlike any other I have seen. The meths tank is set between the frames under the boiler and feeds back to a tray burner with eight circular air holes. This can be lit through a neat firehole door in the boiler backhead which also allows you to see how the fire is burning and if it goes out at any time.
You need a battery blower to raise steam and then at 20psi you can switch to the loco’s own steam blower which has the valve on the top of the backhead. The regulator is just below this and can be a bit tricky to get at. Hugh made the top of the cab rear removable which does help when steam raising, or operating on a ground level line. Other details are nice chunky sprung buffers and a rear truck which moves sideways for removal and access to the burner. As it is internally fired, it can be very tricky to run. The balance between meths flow, wick setting and blower adjustment is crucial. If any one of these is not right, then the engine will just sit and sulk and spit hot water at you.
All in all, I am very pleased to have acquired this engine for my historic AVR operating collection. When going well, it is very powerful and satisfying to run and a testament to one of the talented builders of 16mm steam locos who are sadly no longer with us.