By John Campbell

I have recently had two Sabre Steam locomotives through my workshop one of which was the First Prize locomotive from the Stoneleigh 2011 Association Draw.

As recently reported in SMT Sabre Steam ceased trading in June 2011. This has been a sad story for customers, suppliers and the proprietors. It has also been the subject of a lot of commentary on 16mm egroups, some of it ill-considered and very negative. Over the course of its existence, Sabre supplied about 80 locos, to customers in both the UK and overseas.

The prize draw loco certainly had its problems and it didn’t run properly so Nigel Town who knows a few things about coal-fired locos stripped down the Sabre loco on his workbench. In his view, it was basically a sound model that had been poorly assembled. In amongst a number of things that Nigel fixed were a wobbly wheel, a leaking by-pass valve, a poorly-positioned axle pump yoke and a misaligned blower pipe. The painting of the locomotive was also very poor.

I was discussing the locomotive with Nigel after he had completed his work on the locomotive when he mentioned that she still didn’t steam quite as well as he had anticipated. I then offered to take a look at the locomotive and see if I could improve it further before it was returned to the prizewinner.

In summary the work I performed includes:

  1. Lowering the blast pipe to approximately center line of boiler using the theories of full size steam locomotive draughting
  2. Reducing the blast nozzle diameter to 1.4mm
  3. Removing the blower pipe and reducing the inner diameter of pipe from 1.3mm to .4mm by annealing, reducing with my trusty hammer and re-drilling it. I then refitted it lowered to approximately the centre line of boiler
  4. Sealed some small leaks in the smokebox using automotive silicon sealant
  5. Reseated the inlet clack valve on the axle pump
  6. Re-soldered the water feed pipes with sliver solder
  7. Removed the gauge glass, drilled out the bushes and retapped 1/4×40, made new gauge glass fittings with water passages of 4.5mm instead of the original 2mm
  8. Moved the ashpan and grate back by 3mm
  9. Stripped and repainted loco body, using etch primer this time around

Then I test ran the locomotive (see video below)…..

…. and stood back and looked pleased!!!!!!!

Finally, as Nigel said recently “Buying a steam loco is an exciting time for most members – and an experience that is usually highly rewarding. But this is probably the time to remind you all of some simple advice: always inspect before you buy (I’m amazed when I hear of people spending a lot of money on locos they’ve never seen, or just seen a photo on the internet or the likes of ebay); if you don’t know much about steam locos, only buy a product made by one of the long-established manufacturers; ask other members for their advice if you’re uncertain; don’t part with a sizeable deposit; pay with a credit card if you can; and, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. All part of that old maxim:  Buyer Beware.”

If anyone owns a Sabre Steam locomotive and would like to talk to me regarding the modifications I made please contact me through the webmaster at

John Campbell