By Chris Dowlen

Talyllyn Railway Locomotive No 1 – Talyllyn
Model by Archangel, 1989

One of those archetypical narrow gauge railways has to be the Talyllyn Railway in Wales. Not only is it in typical narrow gauge country, but it carried typical narrow gauge cargo of slate for most of its working life. Of course, it also has a place in every steam railway enthusiast’s heart as the first preserved railway, acting as the first of many, particularly in Wales.

There’s something very special about the way it seems to work as well. The visitor is welcomed and made to enjoy the experience of a visit in a gentle, personal manner. And the locomotives and stock look, well, so very narrow gauge. As this cartoon by Laurie Maunder (Published in 009 News, April 1981) shows, they have a certain character.

It is then a bit of a surprise that there are so few 16mm models of any of the locomotives. And what there are all seem to have been made in small quantities. Locomotive No1, the subject of this review, seems to have been made commercially only by Phil Jones and Archangel, with some rumour that there was a Mac Muckley one at some point in time, but whether that can be called commercial is questionable. Maybe someone can put me right on this. Locomotive No 2, Dolgoch, has existed in a Finescale version, with again one or two Mac Muckley ones and at least one Archangel example. Steve Acton has recently made some 16mm models of No 3, Sir Haydn, and there seem to be a few examples of No 4 around. Most of these have been either made by Hugh Saunders or are copies of his design, using an internally-fired meths burner arrangement. I have one made by Granville Askham. There are a few examples of No 6, Douglas, and Roundhouse have recently produced their No 7, Tom Rolt.

The real one

Not surprisingly, No. 1 was the first loco on the Talyllyn railway when it opened in 1866. It was ordered in early 1864 from Fletcher, Jennings and company of Whitehaven in Cumberland and seems to have been delivered in September 1864. As delivered the loco was an 0-4-0 saddle tank with both axles under the boiler barrel and no cab.  A trailing axle was added fairly quickly to cure rough riding tendencies, and the cab added at some point and all the photographs I have seen have the cab in place. The outside cylinders are 8” diameter and 16” stroke with inside Stephenson valve gear. Driving wheels are 2’3” diameter with a coupled wheelbase of 4’. The trailing wheels were first of all fitted to give a total wheelbase of 8’6” but then changed to 8’ to stop the loco damaging the track. Trailing wheels are 1’9” diameter.

The model

The one I have is an Archangel one, made in 1989, making it one of the later Archangels built.  I do not know how many were built, but it is probably in single figures and I know of only two others. It is gas fired, with the normal single flue arrangement and a poker-type burner. The outside cylinders are real working ones and the inside valves are operated by slip eccentric gear.

The loco looks as if it is to 16mm scale, but when it’s measured there are a few discrepancies – the trailing wheels are a little too far to the rear and the overall length comes out a bit wrong, but comes out about right for both height and width. In spite of these differences, the loco just seems to look right. Compare it with the Jones model and the main things that are missing are the details: rivet counters should simply go home when they meet the Archangel – there aren’t any – compared with a full set on the Jones model. The main things on the model that are missing are the large cover on the driver’s side of the cab that covers the forward position of the reversing lever and the footplate between the front of the cab and just above the cylinders. This seems to have been present at some points in the loco’s life and missing at others. The model is painted in a slightly bright green with lining and Talyllyn crests painted on. My model has a painted dome: one of the other examples I know of has a brass one – but I feel that the painted one looks better and fits better with quite a number of the photographs.

I bought the model second hand in 2002, and it still has most of its original paint apart from a small bit on the top of the cab which seemed to have been blown off when it was filled with gas. I managed to repaint this in approximately the same colour so it looks as if it has just gently been merged in rather than repainted. It hasn’t been blown off again.

The workings

So how does it run? The gas tank sits in the top of the cab and looks rather small. It is, relatively speaking. The gas valve sticks out of the right of the cab door with a pressure gauge just under it and the regulator is in the left cab door with the lubricator underneath it. So there really isn’t very much space for the driver, although I’ve recently managed to get one to fit in by moving the pressure gauge a little. So that’s the controls.

I normally leave locos with water and oil in them, so all that is needed to run is to fill the gas tank and light the fire. The gas tank has a normal filler valve so is no difficulty to fill. Turn the gas valve on until second line is vertical and light the fire at the chimney. It usually pops back into the flue and there’s a fairly noisy burner at this setting. The boiler only has a capacity of about 145ml, so it only takes between five and ten minutes to get up steam. Because I think the gas tank is a bit small I frequently shut the gas valve directly after reaching about 40psi and then refill, and then set the gas valve onto a low setting for running. Then the regulator can be opened a bit and after a very small amount of priming (and not to forget the push to get the valve gear into position) the loco will move off. If the regulator and gas valve are set exactly right you will get almost exactly half an hour of run out of the loco, without the safety valve lifting and good slow running – but it does take a fair bit of practice to get it to behave this way so sometimes I will need to play around a bit with the gas valve so that it doesn’t blow off and doesn’t turn the burner off, which is done all too easily.  Blowing off the safety valve causes too much steam to disappear and you end up running out of water which is not to be recommended, especially as the only way of filling is through the safety valve. That doesn’t normally happen, thankfully: a half-hour run will typically use about 90ml of water.

After the gas has run out the lubricator needs draining, which is done by releasing a small screw at the bottom and watching the slightly oily water drain all over the footplate – it can be mopped up reasonably easily with a tissue but is a little annoying. It needs to be topped up with oil. I tend to use thick oil but I am told that the thin variety is just as good in this loco. Then the boiler needs refilling through the safety valve as there’s no other method of filling. And we’re ready to fill up with gas just before another run.


The loco is used regularly – perhaps once or twice a month. In four and a half years, what’s needed doing? To start with, there was the paint on the cab roof and I changed the cone angles on the regulator and gas valve so they weren’t of the on-off variety, and added an extra link into the cab-end coupling chain to give more freedom round layouts with corners without buffer locking. Thereafter it’s generally performed well, but the main fallout has been the superheater tube. Originally it was copper, and burnt through a few months after I got the loco. I have so far made two replacements by sleeving the copper and the next time it went after that I decided to take the plunge and make up a stainless one, which hasn’t given way yet. When I did the first replacement I modified the lubricator end of the tube so it could be taken apart at that point. The accident to the lubricator lid came about when I got it too hot during tube replacement and I made a new brass one to replace the original nylon. Recently there was some trouble with the gas valve and I had to replace it with a considerably modified Roundhouse version, which is rather less sensitive than the original Archangel one but isn’t as neat.

I don’t want to add too much detail to the loco – the Phil Jones loco has a totally different feel to it from this one and I think something of the charm it has could be lost easily if I started to tidy it up too much. So it stays as is, and is a good runner if you get all the settings right. It’s great to have at exhibitions – so many people know the real loco and it becomes a talking point for both casual onlookers and 16mm experts – well loved by all. Some time I might add the missing footplate bits but I don’t regard this as a priority.

Chris Dowlen