Rebuilding the Shay (part 6) – fiddly bits

In my previous post, I described getting the boiler and gas tank tested, and promised to start putting the loco together. This has proved to be quite fiddly.

The first fiddly bit relates to the bolts in the bottom of the lubricator. The bolts are soldered into the bottom of the lubricator, which is rather useful, as it means they fit and I can’t lose them. As you might be able to see in the photograph below (which is taken from underneath), the holes for the nuts are directly in line with a piece of brass – and they are a bit fiddly to install, and there’s barely enough space to get a spanner in there to do them up. For the record, these are M3 nuts.

“Fortunately”, I told myself, “I only need to do these up once”.

With the lubricator installed, I then looked at installing the boiler next to it. This was relatively easy: two bolts on the angle iron at the back into the frame (also M3), and it fits snugly on the smokebox at the front.

Then I realised I had forgotten to bolt in the burner. So I unmounted the boiler, bolted the burner in place, and re-mounted the boiler.

Then I mounted the steam motor, which is fiddly because there is a steam pipe that comes out the back and needs to fit inside the exhaust pipe that runs alongside the boiler. It is also fiddly because the gap in the frames is only just big enough.

At this point, I looked to see how the pipe from the lubricator connects to the steam motor, and realised that the screw that holds the banjo cannot be done up because it faces the boiler. I also realised that the gas tank has to be mounted before the motor, because of how the gas pipe runs to the burner.

All was not lost. I didn’t need to remove the boiler – just the steam motor and the lubricator. Remember those M3 bolts I said I would only ever do up once?

With the lubricator loose, the gas tank installed, and the motor back in its right place (but not bolted down), I took the opportunity to re-shape the pipes so they are neater. I also checked that they don’t get in the way of the cab.

Bolting everything down again was relatively straightforward. I undid the nuts on the lubricator three times in the end. A few weeks ago, I had looked at the nuts and bolts that hold down the steam motor and gas tank, and found that some of the washers and nuts were missing.

This is the second fiddly bit.

  • The two at the burner end of the boiler are M2, and they only hold the steam motor in place.
  • The two bolts between the steam motor and the gas tank are also M2, and hold both to the frames.
  • The two bolts at the front end of the gas tank are tiny. Possibly M1.6, or possibly 10BA.

I purchased a pack of 8BA washers, and substituted 8BA washers for M2.

I also purchased a small pack of ten nuts, washers and bolts in 10BA from Macc Models (via their eBay shop), but I couldn’t get a 10BA bolt through the hole in the frame, though the bolt that was supplied with the kit does fit. This leads me to suspect that these bolts are supposed to be M1.6 (which requires a 1.6mm hole) instead of 10BA (which requires a 1.8mm hole). However I was able to get a 10BA washer and nut on the bolt-that-is-probably-M1.6 … and it seems to do up.

A note on small bolts – if you are purchasing such a thing, only buy one size at a time. None of my packages came with a delivery note, so it would have been very difficult to tell the difference if I had bought multiple sizes from different eBay shops at the same time.

Oh, and open the tiny bag over a lid (the lid of a Chinese Takeaway container for example) to stop the bits rolling away.

Justin – 16 June 2022

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Rebuilding the Shay (part 5) – boiler and gas tank

Since the last update, I have had the boiler tested by the helpful people in my local model engineering society. They also had a look at the gas tank. 

Garden-gauge steam locomotives, particularly those with commercially-made boilers, don’t normally need annual boiler testing. However, this kit languished in a cupboard for 20 years, and there was no certification paperwork with it. So I felt it would be a good precaution to get it formally pressure-tested before I try to run it.

The boiler is sound, which is a relief. 

The gentlemen who did the boiler testing also inspected the gas tank. Although they aren’t able to pressure-test it (being a gas tank, it is tested in a different way to testing a boiler), they were of the opinion that the gas tank was professionally made. The tank itself seems sound, but there was a leak coming from the valve. There is a slot on top of the valve by which it can be tightened, but this needs a special screwdriver (see picture). In the picture you can also see the screwdriver bit which I modified (with a hacksaw). With some gas in the tank, I immersed it in luke-warm water, and confirmed that there aren’t any bubbles.

The next step is to put everything back together again, complete the assembly, and put some fire inside it.

Justin – 11 June 2022

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Rebuilding the Shay (part 4) – variations

I have been discussing the Steamlines Shay with various other owners of this kit in the 16mm Association. The kit was sold by Tom Cooper in the 1990s under his “Merlin” or “Steamlines” brands. The contents of this kit varied slightly over time.

On some models, the bogie frames have different detail. Mine (on the left) with real (though non-functional) springs and D. Hunt’s (on the right) with fake spring etch detail.

This particular Shay model is powered by a “Steam motor” – a compact two-cylinder device, which is sometimes called an “Osmotor” (because it oscillates). Some “Osmotors” on the Shay included extra step-down gearing to achieve slower running. Mine (on the left, not geared down) and P Mason’s (on the right, showing extra gearing to slow down the motion – there is a third axle hidden behind the lower one).

The universal-joints on most models are different to those on mine (see my previous post). The upper version in the photo below seems to be unique to my Shay, whereas the lower version (also included in my kit of parts) is clearly to be seen on everyone else’s version of this kit.

It is likely that the Shay I purchased in 2020 (as a part-built kit that had sat in a box for 20 years) has been modified from the original plan. Some of the cosmetic parts, such as the lamps, are placed differently to the instructions. The universal joints on mine do not match with any photographs of other Steamlines Shay that I can find online, so I suspect a modification or deviation from the kit here too.

Justin – 19 May 2022

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Rebuilding the Shay (part 3) – The instructions

The Shay kit that was sold by Steamlines in the 1990s was accompanied by a VHS cassette showing how to build it. There are also paper instructions – mostly on A3 – with some guidance, but a lot is left to the interpretation of the builder.

The quality of the video is not great by today’s standards, but was presumably par for the course in the 1990s when it was made. I had it digitised so I can watch it on a laptop (I have never owned a video cassette player).

Maybe this was also par for the course in the 1990s, but I was rather surprised to see the presenter with a lit cigarette whilst discussing how the gas tank works. To be fair, he does explain that you should never do this … but later in the video he repeats the exercise whilst the burner is burning.

The video answers one of my earlier questions: what type of U-joint is used on the flexible couplings. It seems that the later models used a simpler U-joint rather than the prototypical one with outer rings.

Justin – 6 May 2022

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Rebuilding the Shay (part 2) – Linkages

One of the great things about a Shay locomotive is the unique drive train – a flexible axle running along one side of the locomotive from the power unit (crankshaft) to the bogie trucks. This Wikipedia page has more information on how it works.

I purchased a part-built Steamlines Shay model (manufactured in the 1990s) in 16mm scale (approx 1:19). Today I took most of it apart: I unmounted the gas tank, the boiler, the lubricator and the power unit from the frame. Small boilers under 3 bar-litres like this one don’t need annual testing. However, because the boiler is probably 30 years old, I am planning to get it re-tested just to be on the safe side.

The bogies are already made up. The crossbars were upside-down (there should be countersinks in the top to hold the heads of the bolts that fix the coupling arm – but they were in the bottom) so I corrected this, and also mounted the coupling arm on the rear bogie. The kit assumes LGB couplings, but also gives instructions for other coupling types if preferred.

The linkages connect the power unit to the bogies like this (biro for scale):

Several other owners of this same Shay seem to have different universal joints. In the kit that I purchased, there are parts for two varieties. The upper variety are already made up. The lower variety was in a bag of parts and are not pinned together (see bottom left). There are no instructions on how to make them up.

The upper one seems to match the prototype. The lower one is visible in other incarnations of this kit, for example:

So my question is: which one is correct for this model? I will update this page when I have found out.

Justin – 2 May 2022.

Update 6th May 2022: I have been in email contact with a few people over the last week. It seems that the upper image of linkages was the original version that came with earlier versions of the kit, and the lower image shows a later option, possibly more robust. Every other model of this kit that I have seen, including the one shown in the instructions video, use the later (lower) option.

Alongside this discussion, I have found that later versions of the power unit (see picture at the top of this post) had additional gearing so that the locomotive would run slower. More in a future post.

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Rebuilding the Shay (part 1 of many)

About 18 months ago, I purchased a part-built kit for a Shay locomotive. The kit was originally produced by Steamlines (the brass fret is marked “Jan 1990”).

This particular kit was purchased new by Mr Evans of Llangadfan near Welshpool, from Tom Cooper (of Steamlines) on 17 March 1990 as indicated on a receipt in correspondence from the time. It was advertised in “16mm Exchange” (a publication of the 16mm association) of May 2004. Mr Kitchenman purchased it from Mr Evans on 10th May 2004. Mr Kitchenman collected it sometime later on a visit to Wales. When he collected the model it was obvious, sadly, that Mr Evans was in very poor health.

Mr Kitchenman sold it to me in 2020, saying “The only reason I’ve decided to sell is because I find I’ve got too many other loco build projects on my ‘to do’ list“. It was listed in several editions of Throwback Modeller (a publication of heritage steam locos in 16mm scale). I purchased it on 23 October 2020, collecting it two days later at the Bedford Model Engineering Society track. It then sat in my cupboard for 18 months.

Today I put up a large table in the spare room, and set out the loco and parts to see what we’ve got. The main bulk of the loco has been built (it is predominantly soldered brass construction). The two bogies are made up and painted in black. The cab is constructed and painted in primer-red. There are various other parts ready to be installed. Most of the model is still unpainted in brass.

16mm Shay locomotive kit

I worked my way through the instructions to get an idea of what has been completed and what is still to be done. There are several A4 sheets on general operation, oiling guidelines, running and steaming. The instructions themselves are on A3 sheets in clear plastic sleeves, as follows:

* Pages 1 and 2 (both on same A3 sheet)
    Fret contents and front elevation.
* Page 3 
    Assembly Instructions overview, advice on bending, paiting, gluing etc. 
* Page 4
    Step 1, 2, 3: frames (all done)
* Page 5 
    Step 4 make up bunker (installed)
    Step 5 make up sandbox (NOT DONE YET)
* Page 6 
    Step 6 Bunker light (installed)
    Step 7 Servo Assembly (NOT DONE YET)
    Step 8 Bogie Mounts (installed)
* Page 7
    Step 9 Motor Assembly (pre-built, installed)
    Step 10 Lubricator (installed)
    Step 11 Servo (NOT DONE YET)
* Page 8
    Step 12 Boiler Sub Assembly (mostly installed EXCEPT GAUGE)
* Page 9
    Step 13 Banjo from lubricator (NOT YET ATTACHED)
    Step 14 Blast pipe bending (done)
    Step 15 Blast pipe construction (done)
    Step 16 Front Lamp (installed)
    Step 17 Blast pipe installation into smoke box (done)
    Step 18 Smokebox door (glued on - IS THIS CORRECT?)
* Page 10 
    Step 19 Gas tank (pre-painted grey) (installed)
    Step 20 Gas Tap (working)
    Step 21 Regulator (UNCERTAIN - WHERE IS IT ? )
    Step 22 Trial Steaming (NOT YET DONE)
* Page 11 Steps 23,24,25 Bogie assembly
* Page 12 
    Step 26 Assemble bogie and wheels
    Step 27 Over-wheel strip (NOT YET INSTALLED)
    Step 28 Couplings (NOT YET DONE)
    Step 29 Running in using a bench drill (NOT YET DONE)
* Page 13
    Step 30 Mount Bogies on frame (NOT YET DONE)
    Step 31 Shafts (NOT YET DONE)
    Step 32 Fit buffers (already installed too early)
* Page 14
    Step 33 Cab (made up and painted)
* Page 15
    Step 34 Boiler Bands (NOT YET DONE)
    Step 35 Weight (WHERE IS THIS, AND WHERE DOES IT GO?)
    Step 36 Weight diagram (NOT YET DONE)
    Step 37 Motor Cover (NOT YET DONE)
    Step 38 Gear Covers (NOT YET DONE)
* Page 16, 17
    Pages on Radio Control setup

Several points to note:

  • There seem to have been two versions of the same fret: one thicker than the other. Mr Kitchener mentioned that some parts are duplicated.
  • Various bits of fret and brass are left over, which might be useful at some point. Going through these along with the fret contents (pages 1 and 2) I identified a few pieces that have not yet been made up, including the sandbox.
  • There are several bags of parts in packaging that look like components from Roundhouse Engineering.
  • The kit has not been built in the order of the instructions: for example the buffers and steps are already installed though other major parts have not yet been carried out. The steps up to the cab get in the way of the rear bogie motion.
  • I found enough replacement brass angle of the right size to replace the damaged rear buffer beam.

Justin – 27 April 2022

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Slate wagon kit roundup

A quick look at the slate wagons kits available in 16mm/ft at the moment (Autumn 2021)…

‘uss_Raven74656’ on ebay – £8 – https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/194296426551 3D printed model of the steel slate wagon

The Lineside hut – £9 – https://www.thelinesidehut.co.uk/quarry-slate-wagons.html Laser cut plywood 3-plank
(A resin slate load is also avaialble for £5)

PDF models £9 – https://www.pdf-models.co.uk/product-page/slate-wagons Plywood 2-plank
(bulk discounts available)

Binnie Eng (Approx £13, but not currently available) Colin and Peter’s original 3-plank wagon.
Peter’s FAQ says that he’s in the process of making new moulds – https://peterbinnie.com/faq
How Colin Binnie made the originals https://www.colinbinnie.com/slate-wagon.html

Resurgam £18-22, MDF or Plywood – FR 2-ton steel waggon
https://resurgamrollingstock.co.uk/product-category/rolling-stock-kits/ffestiniog-welsh-highland-railways/slate-waggons/

IP Engineering – £20 – https://www.ipenginnering.com/product-page/ffestiniog-slate-wagon Laser cut plywood 3-plank.
(Note: Search engines may give you this page http://www.ipengineering.co.uk/page120.html, listing the Binnie wagon at £13. This page is quite out of date and these wagons are not available)

Slaters – £20 – £26 – https://slatersplastikard.com/wagons/16NGWagons.php – Dinorwic or Festiniog wagons, may contain brass etches.

Bole Laser – £30/£35 – https://bolelasercraft.com/product/talyllyn-railway-slate-wagon/ 3D printed 2-bar as on Tallyllyn

Coast Line Models – from £17 – https://coastlinemodels.co.uk/ various kits for steel and timber slate wagons (requires Slaters’ wheels to complete)

.

This article explains how to make your own: https://www.16mm.org.uk/2018/09/01/september-2018-ffestiniog-railway-2-ton-slate-wagons/

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A list of preserved railways in Britain

Whilst on holiday we visited the North York Moors railway near Whitby. I wondered what the longest length of preserved railway line is in Britain, and does someone have a handy list. The answer seems to be no.

So here is my list, which is neither complete, nor comprehensive. For a complete list, see Wikipedia.

Standard Gauge lines – Name, where it runsMileskm
West Somerset Railway, Minehead to Bishops Lydeard (near Taunton)22.7536.6
Wensleydale Railway, Northallerton to Redmire2235
North York Moors Railway, Pickering to Grosmont (see below)18 29
Severn Valley Railway, Kidderminster-Bewdley-Bridgnorth1626
Mid Hants Railway “Watercress Line”, Alresford to Alton1016
Bluebell Railway, East Grinsted to Sheffield Park (near Haywards Heath)1118
Epping and Ongar Railway610
Narrow Gauge Lines – Name, where it runs
Leighton Buzzard Light Railway (2′ gauge narrow gauge)35
Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon-Porthmadoc) (2′ gauge narrow gauge)2540
Ffestiniog Railway (Porthmadoc-Ffestiniog) (2′ gauge narrow gauge)13.522

Some trains on the NYMR run through Grosmont into Whitby, adding another 7 miles to the route. This would make the NYMR the longest preserved line in Britain, as well as the busiest in the world.

Based on my very limited research, the longest length of preserved railway in Britain isn’t standard gauge, but is the combined WHR and Ffestiniog Railway. Thus the oldest surviving railway company in the world is also Britain’s longest heritage railway.

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Small Tool Caddy

How often have I been working on a project somewhere around the house or garden, and needed a box of screws, a few bolts and washers and some small tools.

During the project I invariably need a few smaller tools, but I only have two hands. So I make several journeys to the workshop or the tool cupboard to get the bits I need.

When it comes to tidying up, I don’t want to cart my entire toolbox to where I was working, but I end up making five journeys back and forth to tidy up.

What I need is a small tool-caddy. Like this:

  • Cost: zero. It’s made of 15mm ply because I have some. Plus a wooden batten for the handle, some wood glue, and two screws.
  • Tools used to build: hand saws, a cordless drill, and a band clamp.
  • Time taken: an hour here, an hour there, over a few evenings.

The lessons I learned here are about squareness. I didn’t really make much of an effort to cut the ends of the side pieces square … and the caddy is slightly wonky. Next time I will take more care to mark and cut square.

The base was cut to be oversize – about 3mm each size, then it was glued on and left to set overnight. I trimmed the base using a Japanese Pull-Saw and cleaned up the edges and corners with sandpaper.

Is it worth oiling it or painting it? Probably not. I’ve already found that it isn’t long enough for my hammer.

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Lego Brackets

I got a new LEGO set recently.

I love discovering new pieces. I go all “Ooh, I’ve never seen one of those before”. Brackets are particularly interesting because they give you options for building things “sideways”

In this set, there are some lovely new right-angle pieces – a 2×2 L bracket, a 2×1 L bracket and a 2×2 T bracket. The 2×2 brick in the photo below I’ve seen before in 1×1 and 4×1 form.

I’m particularly interested in the 2×2 L bracket as the short side is the other way round from the ones I’ve seen before.

The ones I’ve seen before have the studs on the 2×1 side facing outwards – https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?P=44728.

The new ones have the studs on the 2×1 side facing inwards – https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?P=99207

I’m having a go at building the marble run components invented by JK-Brickworks (see https://jkbrickworks.com/marble-run-system/ and https://youtu.be/ls9K1SkRxyQ). Below, you can see two bridge pieces on the left and tower piece on the right. The bridge pieces use 2×2 L brackets with studs out on the 2×1 side

If I use the brackets I found in my new set, I can get the bridge pieces a lot closer to the tower. This might help the marbles flow more easily

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