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Building Harry's Southern Q1

Taking on the Challenge         . . . Words by Harry

It was not uncommon for engineers to say " What do you want to build an 'Ugly Duckling' for ? - It's hideous !"

It was obvious that these model engineer's comments would only come from someone outside of the S.R. Area, and those who failed to understand or appreciate the sterling work and contribution these engines played in moving freight, troops and equipment during the later years of WW2, as well as their contribution to peace time passenger and goods traffic, up until their withdrawal from service in the 1960's.

The first of the 20 Q1s started to roll out of the Brighton works in 1942, (same year as the author rolled out of the Shoreham W. Sussex works [ hospital ]. He then spent the next 7 years at Hassocks and Newhaven sheds [ or home ], but that's another story ! )

The other 20 Q1s were built at Ashford locomotive works in Kent. Any connoisseur of the Q1's would be able to spot the differences.

As a model engineer, I developed an interest for building locomotives a little out of the ordinary. These have all required a considerable amount of research, initiative, sleepless nights working it all out, etc. These include a London Transport Underground, a Sentinel, and currently the LSWR Adams Radial tank on the bench.

I was living in the South East at the time of my embryo interest to build a Q1, and in the position to travel to the Bluebell Railway where the only surviving Q1 was on shed.

In the late 1970s it was far easier to access the preservation railway's sheds than it is today to take photographs, measurements etc. (no digital cmeras then.) With a prepared 'patter' to give the shed foreman, that I was a former railwayman at Eastbourne - albeit a Goods Guard, and now a member of the Emergency Services, it usually smoothed the passage of permission !

Commencing Construction.

First of all, the decision as to what scale I was going to build the engine was dictated by having a ML7 lathe and a Rodney milling attachment - the decision was made for me, it had to be 3 1/2" gauge.

Unless one made the special BFB wheels, driving and tender, the only commercial ones wheels in 3.5" gauge were for the 'Reeves' S.R. West Country Class. The only difference being on the wheels is flat shoulder on the driving wheels as against a round shoulder. Would anyone notice ?

If you measure up the 3 1/2" gauge Derby 4F, other than the valve gear and the cylinders, the wheel spacing will muster past, to the less than purist, including the tender dimensions. For the rest of the finer points and super detail, you will have to gain dimensions from the full size engine.

You can design your own Stephenson's valve gear and don't forget the steam reversing cylinders midway on the near side top of the frames.

To assist you now in getting permission to go now into the shed at the Bluebell, you will now need to write in and arrange; I suggest you go outside of the peak running times, but indicate that you will go equipped with safety boots, high viz orange coat, safety glasses and a hard hat. It will demonstrate to the railway organisation that you are prepared to respect their H&S requirements, but this is no guarantee of entry.

The Boiler and Plate work.

The boiler is a standard one, but be mindful of the entire range of backhead fittings, cab floor and cab layout you will need to include, if you are going to make your engine resemble a full size one.

Again, plenty of detailed photographs and sketches will be a must. Whilst you are up in the cab, don't forget to take plenty of pictures of the tender front that faces into the cab if you are going to faithfully follow the original.

Having made and put the boiler on the frames, and then added most of the plumbing and lagging (I used asbestos from an old fire blanket !), next came the very challenging part of building the smokebox and side plates with its numerous radii and steps. First the framework to hold the top and side plates. In line with full size practice these plates were bolted on.

For 3.5" gauge these bolts had to be 10 ba with 12 ba heads, each of the 60 holes were drilled and tapped at 1/4" centres, (and honestly I only broke one tap). When it came to the painting, I oil blackened them to save the tedious job of individually painting them.

The stubby chimney was made from a combination of photos taken at various angles and then profiling the shape whilst turning a large chunk of cast iron in the lathe. The cab roof and plate work was another exercise in working from cardboard cut outs until it looked right before cutting metal. With so many fittings, plumbing, reversing gear etc. to go into the cab, combined with a very low headroom top height, you will find it is not easy even in 3 ½” gauge. You also have to remember that the front of the tender roof also had to marry up with the main cab roof.

And, don’t forget to include the hooks and eyes in the two sections of the roof, that held the ‘Air raid’ black canvass cover that linked both cab tops. No self-respecting builder of a Q1 should omit to provide the engine without one, including the two sliding side shields. Why, it was to prevent any glare from the fire being seen by enemy aircraft when the firehole door was opened – now you know. The plate work on the tender including all the cupboards, the rear running windows And the trough for the firing irons will have to be designed and built from detail sketches and photos.

Having built the engine and tender, you will now need to make sure it works before painting. First under very low pressure air, although you will have already done this when timing the valve gear, cylinders etc. Next, to run the engine on a static rolling test chassis, up on the bench. All being well, to actually fire it on steam, I usually use a small LPG gas torch to raise steam so as to test for steam leaks, the injector, and gauges and then to set the safety valves, yes you will have the temptation to see if the whistle works. If you have the odd steam leaks, don’t worry; even the full size engines had steam leaks – lots of them ! You may even have to take it to the club for the Society’s boiler inspector to pass it fit for public running.


Now on with the painting, decisions will have to be made to the paintwork and lettering. You should have already decided that the engine was to be built to include the modifications And lettering as per BR days or wartime Southern. My engine was built to, painted and the lettering was to 1942 era, just as she was newly shopped out at Brighton works, raring and ready to go. As the Americans would say, “Ready to kick arse for the war effort”.

The paint for the buffers and the inside of the main frames between the boiler throat plate and the cylinders was the standard buffer beam red. The back head and hot parts of the boiler were in satin heat resisting black. Everything else was in Henry Ford black; the nearest I could obtain commercially to the Brighton paint shop black specification.

Grey etch primer/filler to start and then a litre of black paint was used, sprayed on using an old ‘Badger’ spay brush using a 25% paint to 75% thinners. All in one of the little glass pots, about the size of those little jam pots you get to go with your toasted tea cakes at the motorway service cafes.

The lettering and number including the ‘Southern’ on the tender was to Bulleids’ yellow lettering, shaded green and shot with golden yellow - basic wartime livery perpetuated. The ‘C’ with the number, was on the cab sides and the front buffer beam only – not on the back. Remember NO shed number on the smoke box door.

The entire painting operation and re-assembly took nine months, painting during the 3 main summer months. Building time including research, plus two quick house moves, 5 years.

References : -

Ballentyne.H. 1985. ‘Southern Steam in Colour’. Jane’s Publishing. London.

Day-Lewis. S. 1964. ‘Bulleid – Last Giant of Steam’. George Allen & Unwin. London.

Fairclough. T. & Wills. A. ‘Southern Steam Miscellany’. D Bradford Barton Ltd.

Click. G. C. 1982 ‘Bulleid, the designer who dared to be different'. Steam World Publication. Number 19 – October 1982. High Bentham. Lancs.

Haresnape. B. 1982. Railway Liveries – Southern Railway’. Ian Allan. London.

Jolliffe. Ted. 1989. ‘North wales Ren-Enactment’. Model Engineer Vol 163 No 3854. Argus Specialist Publications. Hemel Hempstead. Hertfordshire.

Trevena. N. 1992 ‘Steam for Scrap – The Complete Story’. Atlantic. Penryn. Cornwall.