By Pat Brewer

“She runs like a Sewing Machine”

I had a request from Derek Wiggins to put pen to paper as it were, regarding a loco that I acquired fairly recently, so in response to many requests (one actually) here it is.

The loco in question is a Shay, this was built by a gentleman who lives in East Anglia by the name of Mr John Singer. He has built a number of locos and in my books is a bit of an unsung hero when it comes to 16mm locomotives. A full report of another of his locos “Lady Mary” can be found on Marc Horovitch’s website by clicking here. I first came to know about his locos when I bought another loco built by him off Ebay. On picking it up it was in a very sorry state and not as advertised, but it brought about a love for his locos. This loco will be the subject of another article should Derek like it produced. However I digress, what about this Shay?

A friend (or should I say fiend) of mine in the Two Moors Group brought to my attention a number of locos that were up for sale from the Woodward Estate, knowing my interest in Singer locos, one of which was the Shay built by Mr Singer.  Now Mr Woodward was a very prolific writer in the past in both the Garden Rail Magazine and SMT on the subject of radio control of models in our world. As a result of this I have found out a considerable amount about the Shay following reading an article in issue 6, May 1994, of Garden Rail, this dealt with the actual Shay in question with a photograph of it on the front cover.

Apparently Mr Singer built the Shay as a manual control loco and was having considerable problems over the steaming of it. Following this it would appear that Mr Woodward made an offer for the loco and having bought it set about sorting out the firing problem. This was done and as Mr Woodward liked to have all his locos radio controlled he then set about putting radio control into the Shay. Mr Singer helped him in this venture turning up the relevant fittings to turn the loco into radio control.

Following selling a couple of my locos I then made the trip from Devon to darkest Suffolk to collect the Shay, I was told that it ran okay but with problems relating to the radio control. As it turned out it was a comparatively minor problem. On checking the reciever batteries it was found that they were warm when switched on, and as the working lights on the loco also operate from this battery it indicated a possible short was in the offing. A rewire of the lights, front, rear and cab soon sorted out the problem.

Now to the actual loco itself, she is a big brute weighing in at seven kilos, yes seven, two cylinder driven with full radio control on forward and reverse. The dimensions are 22 inches in length and 8 inches to the top of the cab, and 4 and half inches across the buffer beam. Yes, I know it shows my age when I give the size in this way! A steam whistle has also been built in, also radio controlled using the forward / reverse gear. The scale is 16mm with 32mm wheels which are not regaugable. The water supply for the boiler is housed in the tender with a manual pump to supply the boiler, there is a built in water gauge which means you can keep her in steam as long as you like. There is a very large oil tank which is valve controlled, and the gas tank is also on the large side, both these tanks are concealed in tanks which are part of the original loco, so there is no obvious gas tank. There is also a blow down when needed. Also as previously stated it has lights in the front and rear, together with lights in the cab, all LED’s. In steam the loco runs, as the makers name suggests, like a sewing machine.

The only thing I have changed apart from the rewire is to fit 2.4ghz radio control and had a makers plate with date on it. Based on the original article about this loco it would give a date of 1993 for the original manufacture, and because of the solid build there are no signs of wear in any of the bearings.

In conclusion I would like to say that this is a model of an actual shay which was built in the early 1920’s and it is believed that the original is still in existence albeit on a plinth outside a museum in California. Until you have seen a Shay in action you cannot really appreciate the pure beauty of the thrashing cylinders when they are in operation, if only on one side, and that alone is worth seeing even if on a apparent British narrow gauge line, ask any Shay lover!

Pat Brewer