By Mike Dockery 

At the risk of upsetting Roger and my other good friends in Doncaster, I am going to voice the opinion that a standard Roundhouse Millie is not the prettiest 16mm locomotive ever produced. True, it does not plumb the aesthetic depths represented by, for instance, a Cheddar Ivor or a Class 70 diesel-electric as currently favoured by Network Rail and perhaps its mother would love it, but I don’t. When my old (well, he’s older than me) garden railway friend Mike ‘Bonfire’ Morris announced that he had bought a second-hand Millie as a low-cost first-train-of-the-day locomotive I voiced my opinion regarding its looks and offered (rashly, after a bottle of wine, or maybe two) to modify it into something more visually pleasing.

A Standard Roundhouse Millie

I hit on a plan of modifying the loco to represent a typical, mid-1920s Peckett 0-4-2T and set about gathering information and producing drawings for the proposed changes. Unfortunately other demands on my time (the RH&LLR locos, Anne’s hillclimb car, and paying the tax man) meant that the Millie went onto the back burner for a while, to the extent that after three years Bonfire started sending it Christmas cards. Pangs of conscience lead me to take it off the back burner (actually take it out from the back of a drawer) in mid-January 2012 with a target of finishing it and entering it in the Roundhouse Trophy at that year’s AGM MOTY.

The main objectives were:

  • Make it look something like a Peckett
  • Get rid of all the ‘gubbins’ (massively over-scale controls and large amounts of copper pipework) in the cab area ~ this is a pet hate of mine
  • Add at least the appearance of Walschaert’s valve gear whilst maintaining the original slip-eccentric set-up
  • Introduce an element of humour in the way that the locomotive was to be finished in order to repay Bonfire for all the Christmas cards

The work was, once I had finally started, completed in just under two weeks with some of the intermediate stages and the finished product being shown below:

As with most of my locomotives, the footplate is 1/16” aluminium since this is easy to work and cheap. This means that it is easy to modify (important with one-off locos that inevitably involve a degree of ‘making it up as you go along’) and not a disaster if you have to start again.

Giving some recognition to Bonfire’s completely justified reputation for pyrotechnics involving locomotives, stock, track, and garden sheds the loco was lettered for the entirely fictional St. Blazey Timber Company. A blank space in the Peckett works list was selected and suitable plates etched including those numbering/naming it as No 25 JANUARY (January the 25th? Burns Night? Geddit? I’ll get my coat…).

The rebuild was finished in time for the AGM and was successful in the Roundhouse Trophy section of the MOTY before it was handed over to Bonfire for its intended purpose. The image at the start of these notes shows it running on John Brittain’s line with a reasonably impressive discharge of steam from the chimney. Bonfire is convinced that I cunningly redid the exhaust plumbing to produce these effects but, truth be told, this is probably the only part of the loco that I didn’t touch (I do, however, otherwise have a large collection of redundant Millie parts left over from the conversion that must have some use, or maybe they don’t?).

Having conjured up the St. Blazey Timber Company this livery will now be used for another loco for Mr. Morris. This will (sometime in 2014-5) be one of a batch of four 2-4-6-0T Mallets that I am building (compounds for Bonfire and Dave Pinniger and a compound and a simple version for my own RH&LLR). The challenge is how to follow on with the date-based theme of JANUARY No 24 since most options would appear to be either too obvious or in extremely bad taste. I’ll probably go for the obvious……or perhaps not?

Mike Dockery, Somewhere in Middlearth (Worcestershire)