By Pat Brewer
Whilst at the National Railway Show I came across a loco on the Member to Member sales stand that was certainly a bit unusual. It really falls into the heritage area of things although at the time I did not fully realize this. We are talking about a Garratt made by Salem Steam.
The company of Salem Steam was based in Llandiello in Carmarthenshire.
Firstly on checking up in one or two areas I found out that Salem Steam is no longer in existence but was superseded by Locobox, although their Garrets are nowhere near the same. It would appear that Salem Steam evolved in the early 1990s and as far as I can find out only produced two types of locomotive. One of which is the subject of this article and the other is a tank engine. On checking in the back issues of the 16mm Association magazine I can only come up with advertisements for Salem Steam and a review on the then tank engine produced by them. There is no mention of the Garratt. From the design of the Garratt and that of the tank engine there are marked similarities in the bodywork and motive power units. It can be seen on the Garratt that the body work of the tank engine was merely split at the cab and placed on a longer chassis and even the chimney is the same on both. The production of the tank engine followed the Garratt and it would appear that not many of the Garratts were ever made. So much for the history of the production of the loco as I can find out, now we will now turn to its life since being bought.
A telephone call was made to the seller of the Garratt using membership details in order to find out a bit more about the loco. The previous owner was extremely helpful in all respects, even coming up with photographs taken back in the early 1990s, and I am indebted to him for all his help. From what I was told the loco was purchased new about 1992 and used on the owners line under the guise of being the next loco the Donegal Railway Company would have bought had they needed it. This is borne out by the loco number of 23 and the colour scheme. The name on the loco reflects a local name in Donegal. Now the owner had a brother in law who was getting into 16mm railways and as a result of this the loco was loaned to him, but subsequently an interest in bowling took over. The loco was unused for about ten years until the brother-in-law died and the original owner had the Garratt back along with his brother-in-law’s 16mm equipment to sell.
The loco was cleaned up and then put up for sale on the Member to Member stand at Peterborough where I bought it. The only thing the owner did to it before putting it up for sale was to lubricate the motion to free it up.
On purchasing a loco of this age one usually expects some degree of problems with it, not so. On getting the loco fired up on my line she ran beautifully the first time. The only work as such that was carried out was to put the Enots water filler valve in some vinegar to clean it and to oil the safety valve to make certain it was working.
Now lets us look at what is “under the bonnet” as they say. The overall length of the Garratt is just under 30 inches. The boiler for its time is quite advanced sporting a water level gauge and an Enots filling system as already stated. Two oilers are also in place, one at each end of the loco next to the power units. There is also an overflow valve fitted to prevent over filling the boiler. The firing is done by butane gas and operates as a semi enclosed pot boiler within a mesh box on the underneath of the boiler. The steam is piped through to the two power units using silicone tube (a supply of which came with the loco). The two power units have a rotary valve that you set via a lever on the buffer beams for the direction of travel, with of course no valve gear to worry about, being basically an oscillating engine. The two power units do not display any real wear considering the age of the loco. The gas tank is housed under the dummy load of logs at one end of the loco; undoing just two screws the top lifts off to get at the tank should it be required. The loco at some point in its life has been radio controlled on the throttle only, with a servo mounted in the cab; whether or not this is original it is not known. The receiver is mounted under the front tank again accessed by two screws. It has been decided to leave to loco on manual control as one has to set the direction manually anyway. The only other extra fitted to the loco is the surround for the logs (Roundhouse) and the logs themselves. Perhaps it should have been peat, bearing in mind where the loco was meant to be operating in theory. The loco came in its own carrying box which I have been given to understand is the original box as supplied with the loco. It is quite quaint with half barn door at one end to get the loco out, the whole box being open. The carrying box was lined with newspaper that dates from 1995 by the way.
Well there you have it a loco still going strong after twenty years one wonders how many of the current locos will be in such a good state of preservation in twenty year’s time. In due course this loco will be displayed on the Heritage stand at 16mm shows, and if any reader has any further information on these locos it would be most gratefully received, my 16mm association membership number being 1468.
Since writing this article, the only further thing that has been done to the loco is to replace the gas filler valve, the original was found to be faulty. It was one that was not a standard fitting being smaller than the Ronson one that we usually have. So the gas tank filler was drilled out and retapped to take the new sized Ronson one. That apart she still runs as good as new.