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A web-site by Rob Speare


The story of 'British & Irish Lines'

In the words of Charles.

My over 30 years of building model engines has included beam engines, an overcrank engine, Rob Roy and Mona, from influences which started very early on.

I was farmed out after the War (at just 4 years old), and my new step father was from a railway family, and home was a flat over the station building at Worthing.  For a while he was a driver of Bulleid's Light Pacifics at Brighton, and there was always talk about boilers and injectors, and he inevitably blamed the fireman for any problems !  Then after a stint as a motorman on the Southern electric units, he finished his working days as a driver at the Works.

So it was probably inevitable that I would be interested in all things mechanical, and eventually choose to model a 'Bulleid'.  I had no drawings, but based my 'Merchant Navy' on LBSC's 'Pamela' which has similar frames, and Bulleid wheels, which I got from Reeves.  I came to a problem with the valve gear, which should be chain driven - but I decided to use my own design.

The Stephenson's valve gear for the outside cylinders is driven from eccentrics on the centre axle via rocking levers ahead of the cylinders.  Drive to the centre valve is from the rear axle using Stephensons link and rocker levers; the separate way shafts from each gear are linked to move together.  The cylinders are modified from Hielan Lassie; the first inside cylinder had a blow hole, so did the second, so in this I fitted a meanite liner.  I used C.I. piston rings throughout, but took the sharp edge off the rings first.

A rod from the cab operates drain cocks for the outside cylinders; the inside ones are automatic, and work well.

The centre crosshead drives a water pump which is very effective, plus there is an injector and the tender hand pump.

The clasp brakes are copied from photos of Blackmore Vale (on the Bluebell); a lot of hard work, - all hand cut pieces.

The boiler as designed for 'Pamela' has a casing which is too high, so I changed the design to be like a Brittania; and shortened the tubes by about an inch.  The grate has an area of 22½ sq ".   I completed and steamed the boiler, but within 18 months 2 of the 4 x 7/8" superheater tubes were leaking in the combustion chamber.

I cut the boiler open behind the tubes, milled out the old tubes and put in a new 3/8" tube plate - brazed it back together and all has been fine since.

The wet and dry headers are stainless.  Firebars come out through the firehole door, and I use a special tool to hook them in.

The Tender is the Mark 2 design, with 3 vacuum cylinders and lower steps, and the brass body is fitted with a well tank.

The Loco and tender were built simultaneously, but the tender was finished first.

The smokebox was made up to a cardboard pattern, which my nephew welded up.  It was designed to sit in the frames and drop over the cylinder where the exhaust pushes up into an 'O' ring.  It houses a 1/4" crane valve regulator using a hollow tube in the boiler.

The blast was designed as a multi-jet with five 1/8" jets with a 2 deg pitch outwards, 1/2" pcd, through an exact scale chimney.  This area has given lots of problems and I've had 2 or 3 goes, including fitting lifted nozzle jets, the height seems quite critical.

The oil should be hydrostatic, but I made 2 oilers with roller clutches working off the rocking levers.

The oiler casing was a nightmare to make from 1/16" brass, it kept twisting, so I had to make a former.

A stainless steel arch is connected to two hollow stays.  The boiler is lagged with lead, with further lead in the side casings to aid adhesion.  The front cowl is formed out of copper over a hardwood former - the oval door is also of copper.

The cab has a regulator on one side, and 2 gauge glasses; when making the cab windows, I threw about 8 away, the good ones were put in with soft solder; the cab and sides can be taken off in one piece.

We had a mishap while travelling to Harlington club; a big shunt from the car behind.  The accident wrote off my car which was well smacked on the rear, with the loco in it's box.  Opened, there was hardly a mark on the loco, just some paint damage !

As regards the colour, back in 1987 I went to a steam rally at Sellinge.  There, a Merchant Navy was being done up, and it had blue wheels.  I asked for some paint and scraped off some - this was an early dark blue experimental B.R. colour, (a King and Schools class were also trialled in blue).

I went to Phoenix Paints who matched it, then sprayed on etching primer, grey primer and 5 top coats of paint.  The lining was achieved with transfers.

The chosen name of "British and Irish Lines" comes from my travelling on the Irish Ferries, with my wife being Irish, while I'm British.

Generally, the loco has been a good performer, is easy to fire, and will steam for a couple of hours and happily haul 5 adults.

However, I did suffer a broken crank-axle, and there has been an on-going issue with the blast arrangment, as even with a good fire, the pressure would not go much above 60 psi.  I have now fitted a single blast nozzle of 7/32" diameter, in a coned chimney with a choke of 1 1/8", and 2" opening at the top.  What a difference, the pressure is right up, and the loco is transformed !