By Tony McManus
In the Association ‘Bulletin’ late in 2009 Derek Wiggins appealed for anyone who had information on locos made by A.H. Collins. I have one which is a “Victoria” (saddle tank version), the side tank version was “Victor” although mine came with “Victor” nameplates which I removed but still have attached to a plastic Novo. My model is named “Melissa” and carries the number 4 in my roster.
I purchased the locomotive direct from Mr. Collins sometime around 1987 there was a considerable delay because he got involved in making the “Pixie” model which at £99 created considerable interest. I think my loco cost around £400. Initially the locomotive would not run because the cylinders were too tight, Mr Collins offered to mill them down, but on advice from other members of the Bedfordshire Area Group I ran it jacked up on bricks and they bedded in very nicely. It still runs very well and is run at least once a year at the Group monthly meetings where it puzzles a number of members especially those new to our Group as to what it is, not helped by the fact that it has a Roundhouse box, they made boxes at the time.
Mr Collins at the time got a rather bad reputation among the 16mm fraternity and I think for this reason he gave up. His problems were as follows:
- To compete with Roundhouse on price he did not test locomotives, hence my cylinder problem (see above).
- This in particular effected the “Pixie” models as they had oscillating cylinders, often the ports were not drilled in exactly the right place so they would not run or only one cylinder would function.
- There were reports of the boilers being faulty, although I think this was only on the “Pixies”, for that reason the then Chairman of our Group insisted that it was one of the first engines to be tested at the Association AGM. I think he was rather disappointed that it passed.
- He was accused by Roundhouse of copying their cylinders (on Victor/Victoria models) but there were differences. I have to say when my cylinders started leak a few years back and one of our Group Members Tim Barrett offered to look at it. I bought a Roundhouse cylinder repair kit and Tim said the gaskets etc. fitted perfectly
I think if he had more modern machinery he might have been all right. In some ways he was ahead of Roundhouse, at the time. I purchased my engine which is a 0-6-0, internally gas fired and with Hackworth valve gear. I believe from memory that the Roundhouse “Lady Anne/Dylan” locos were only 0-4-0, meths fired with slip- eccentric valve gear at this time.
The “Victoria” did and does have some faults most of which have been fixed by Tony Sant of Finescale Engineering:
- The regulator arm held by a single screw kept slipping, cured with replacement from Finescale which grips much better
- Gas tank was difficult to fill as it was on bottom of footplate, Tony Sant replaced tank and gas valve with filler on a column and his brake standard gas valve.
- The smoke box door was only held by the centre screw and a lug, as lighting is via the smoke box , not the chimney, this was very difficult when hot, Tony added a hinge.
- The chassis is rather light causing slippage especially on our Group layout (all the oil dropped by engines running) O.K. on my garden layout. Maybe I will get around to adding some weight one day.
Despite being over 20 years old its specification and performance is very comparable with current locomotives available on the market.