By Stacey Baker
Ten of these very unusual locomotives were started by Bruce Peebles and Co. for the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway. Sadly this venture collapsed into bankruptcy before the loco’s were finished. For a full history of these locomotives I shall refer you to J.I.C Boyd’s “Narrow Gauge in South Carnarvonshire” (2nd edition 1988) and “Narrow Gauge and Industrial Railway Modelling” (No. 57).
The locos were nominally 90 b.h.p. (but were capable of producing 180 b.h.p. for short periods before overheating), which would have allowed them to climb the planned 1 in 28 out of Beddgelert. They weighed 8 1/2 tons with a normal speed of 18 m.p.h. (although two may have been built as goods locomotives to run at 10 mph) and it was claimed they were capable of hauling 20 tons up a short gradient of 1 in 20 (initial plans were for a gradient this steep). They were to run on a three phase system of about 630 volts collecting power from twin overhead cables. The motors were in effect fixed speed and starting was to be effected by using a liquid rheostat (probably a tank of salty water). Driving them could well have proved “interesting” as there was a distinct possibility of the liquid boiling!
My good friend, the late David Newham built one of these locomotives around an I.P. Engineering deluxe chassis. I was very impressed with David’s rendering of this loco and I decided that I would like to build two for myself, why two? According to the research David carried out (NG&IRM No. 57) they were probably designed to run in pairs to provide sufficient traction to meet the expected need.
Construction was very simple, thick plastic card for the body and a simple brass ‘skate board’ chassis. This is a brass strip with simple tube bearings a Maxxon motor gearbox from eBay and a redundant Li-Po battery from an RC helicopter.
Bodywork under construction
Dummy interior showing the motor in the centre with the liquid rheostat tank to the left
Completed ‘skate board’ chassis
Paint was Phoenix precision LMS crimson lake with simple vermilion lining. The collectors are made up as none were fitted to the originals before they were scrapped. Figures are from the P&J range and the transfers are from DJB Engineering.
As I started the locos Colin Binnie and his wife passed away quite suddenly. I decided to name the locos after them as a tribute. So they became “SIR COLIN” and “DRIAG DDOMESTIG” (Welsh for Domestic Dragon, Colin’s pet name for Marjorie). Only one of the locomotoves is powered so they cannot be run separately.
Here is a short video of the two locos hauling a Colin Binnie memorial train on my line…