Other model reviews and posts you might like
Model Steam Engines: Explaining Scales
Model steam engines are manufactured according to a variety of scales and gauges. The choice of scale and gauge is crucial as they are the major differentiating factors between the model steam engines. What makes things more confusing is that many model steam engine enthusiasts, and even seasoned fans, often use the two words ‘scale’ and ‘gauge’ interchangeably. However, they are two distinct attributes.
For starters, scale establishes the size relationship between the model engine and the real one. It is often represented as a ratio, such as 2mm:ft or 1:148 scale. This means that every part of the model engine is one-one forty eighth the size of the original steam engine. On the other hand, gauge is an attribute of the railway track. It is the distance between the inner edges of the track rails. Gauge is a more important attribute to consider, when purchasing a model steam engine. Let us understand why by looking at the main gauge types.
O Gauge model engines were produced from the beginning of the 20th century, and were among the most popular models for a long time, until the 1960s. Since then, they have lost their popularity and are difficult to find. They were manufactured in multiple scales from 1:1.48 to 1:43.5. But, they eventually lost their fame to smaller scale models. O Gauge model steam engines are not known for their finer details and accuracy. In fact, they were designed for pre-adults and therefore, cost-effectiveness, and durability were given more importance. Although they are valued by some collectors because of their rarity, most of the collectors and enthusiasts, with an attention to detail, do not prefer these models.
OO Gauge or Double-O Gauge model steam engines belong to a family of model railway systems, which follow the standard gauge model. The OO Gauge has a railway track that is 16.5mm wide, and is built at a scale of 1:76.2 or 4mm:ft. A highlight of OO Gauge models is that they rank very high in terms of realistic appearance and finer details. For this reason, they are of great value to serious collectors. Moreover, many of the manufacturers also place a lot of emphasis on durability and affordability. Naturally, they are among the most popular model steam engine categories today.
G Gauge models are big in size. They are manufactured on a scale range of 1:22.5. Because of their relatively huge size and highly durable construction, they make the best garden railway models. Their extensive use as garden models have led to modern train enthusiasts to believe that the G in G Gauge stands for Garden. The truth is that the G comes from groß, which means “big” in German. Oh yes, the G Gauge models were born in Germany, just like many others. A large scale means that the parts are not as intricate as the other models, say O Gauge for instance. Therefore, they are easy to produce and are readily available.
As you can see, the choice of gauge will be quite obvious to you based on the purpose of your purchase of a model steam engine. If you want a garden mode, then G Gauge is what you need. If you are a collector who enjoys the finer details, then OO Gauge is what does the job for you. However, if you are buying a model engine for your kid, then O gauge is just the thing.
Review: Mamod TE1a Green Traction Engine
Review of the Mamod TE1a Green Traction Engine
When is a toy not actually a toy? When it is an actual steam engine in full working order, powered by its own boiler. This is the 1313 Steam traction engine from Mamod (model number TE1a Green), a replica model of a Victorian era English tractor engine that comes in black, with a British racing green boiler, and cheerful red wheels. There is also a version in brass with black wheels. This engine is modelled on the traction engines made by the iconic Doncaster Works, which also produced the famous Mallard and Flying Scotsman steam engines.
Traction engines powered their way along the roads, such as they were in the late 1800s, earning them the name of road locomotives, to differentiate them from railway locomotives. They pulled heavy loads and were a crucial cog in the industrialisation of nations. Their demise came in the early 20th century as the internal combustion engine replaced steam.
The 1313 is Mamod’s standard model traction engine in its range. It’s hugely popular and for good reason – this working model is affordable and perfect for beginner collectors, or as a gift to a youngster keen on Victorian engineering. It’s been made by Mamod in England for 50 years now, using the exact same design, although early models used methylated spirits for fuel. It isn’t unusual for owners to still have, and use, engines that had been brought 30, 40 or 50 years ago. These have become almost heirloom toys, with parents handing them down to their children, who also pass them on.
The Steam traction engine comes fully assembled and ready to go. Because it gets very hot, and has lots of sharp bits, not to mention the potential dangers of the steam and boiler, this toy is recommended for children aged 14 years and upwards.
The boiler is stoked through the solid fuel blocks provided with the engine, and once it gets sufficiently hot, the little engine will power along quite quickly. It also comes with Mamod oil for lubrication. You only need to add water to the boiler. However, you really need to put water in that is already boiling. Otherwise, you’re in for a bit of a wait for the steam to get up.
The engine is really robust, being made of heavy gauge steel and brass and a reasonable size at 10 inches long. For the metric minded, its full dimensions are 178mm x 137mm x 270mm. It’s also reasonably hefty at four pounds, or 200 grammes, but not as weighty as you might expect from such a little powerhouse.
This is simply a fun toy to play with. There is a sense of excitement from the steam coupled with the smell of the fuel burning, and the power of the traction engine as it moves along. It is also educational, helping youngsters understand the power and engineering of the great steam engines of our past.
Exact replica of a Victorian road locomotive
Steel and brass
Working steam engine with boiler
Moves at speed along the ground
1 x packet of solid fuel tablets
1 x bottle of lubrication oil
Weighs 200 grammes
Measures 178mm x 137mm x 270mm
For ages 14 up
Review: Wilesco D5 Steam Engine Model Kit
Review of the Wilesco D5 Steam Engine Model Kit
This is a gorgeous, highly detailed steam locomotive engine that is also a working model that produces actual steam. It’s ideal for beginner steam enthusiasts, especially younger ones as it can be used by children as young as eight years old. There is always something very special about steam engines, and the way they powered the industrial age. Models like this are a good introduction to this time period, and a hand-on way to learn about history and engineering.
If you are giving this to a child, bear in mind that it will require adult supervision and is most certainly not suitable for children under three years old. It is also a working steam engine and it does turn the flywheel quite fast.
The D5 Steam Engine from Wilesco is in kit form, so you’ll have to assemble it, but that’s more than half the fun of having a working model. Assembly is straightforward; there’s an easy to follow manual, which includes illustrations so you don’t feel lost trying to work out what goes where. No soldering is needed; the components are put together by screwing them into place.
It’s an attractive model, with a faux red brick platform and chimney stack, rather like a Victorian factory might have had. The boiler has a shiny, brass effect thanks to the nickel finish, as does the oscillating cylinder and the piston. There is also the red and brass effect fly wheel. There’s an inspection glass that is the water level indicator at the front of the boiler, with a dome steam powered whistle on top. The spring safety valve is also located here, and this is where you need to insert the water using the funnel. The piston and wheel generate power, and once in motion it gets quite a speed up. This is a noisy toy, and you do get a lot of steam, all of which makes it quite exciting to watch in action. The engine used a dry fuel to heat the water for steam. There is no need for additional batteries.
It really does bring to life the age of steam, and it has identical specifications to Wilesco’s D6 steam engine. The D5 is the kit version, and the D6 comes fully assembled.
The Wilesco D5 Steam Engine Model Kit is quite light, weighing just 739g.
This is not a huge model, even though it is fully powered. But it is a good enough size for an entry level type of kit at 21 x 15 x 15 cm. It should be possible to use the engine to power small devices by connecting to a dynamo too. There are lots of possibilities, and you are only limited by your imagination. There are other Wilesco models that you can attach to the engine, and you can drive other Wilesco models from its range.
Comes in kit form, no soldering required
Has a brass effect boiler with nickel finish
Boiler house has a brick finish, brass oscillating cylinder and also pistons
There is a dome steam-powered whistle
A driving pulley powers the flywheel
Uses a dry fuel
Review: Wilesco Showman’s Engine D409
Review of the Wilesco Showman’s Engine D409
The Wilesco Showman’s Engine D409 is a fully working scale model of a steam-driven farm engine, the likes of which would have been used to power agricultural machinery such as threshers and ploughs before the modern tractor.
You can still see a small number of engines of this type in the UK today, powering old-fashioned fairground carousels and other rides, as well as at shows and fayres around the country, where they often draw a large crowd of fascinated onlookers.
This technically perfect scale replica is painted in traditional colours and carries traditional writing on the side of the canopy indicating its origin in Middlesex, England. It is delivered ready-made, with no assembly needed, and will look stunning either as a static model or a working demonstration of times gone by.
On the model itself, the boiler measures 7.3” by 1.8” and has a water volume of 14in. A water gauge glass is included, and the boiler vessel itself is chemically painted black, giving a durable protective finish.
A powerful, double action cylinder powers the engine alongside the red-painted, 3.2” flywheel. Depending on the direction of rotation of the flywheel, the engine can be run in forward or reverse.
Traditional chain steering as would be seen on a full-size engine of this type is included along with a spring loaded safety valve, steam regulator, steam jet oiler, footbridge, and steam whistle. A clutch engaged gear wheel allows the engine, and dynamo, to be used while stationary as well as when moving.
A dynamo lights the eight LEDs mounted on the canopy of the engine. Water is condensed and reused from the engine, just below the chimney.
Users will be able to run the engine for up to 15 minutes on each charge of fuel.
Each individual part of the engine is carefully constructed from finely painted, high quality, metal. The model is a total of 13” long, almost 6” wide, 8” high and weighs 4lbs.
Fuel, in the form of dry spirit tablets, as well as other consumables, are available from specialist retailers as well as online.
As a working steam engine, this item is not a toy and is not recommended for anyone aged under 18. Where the engine is being used in the presence of children, close supervision by a responsible adult it required. Steam engines can be dangerous, and if not properly maintained there is a very real risk of explosion. Users should be certain to follow all operating and maintenance instructions provided by the manufacturer.
High-quality, steam traction and show engine
Manufactured from high-quality metal parts
Technically perfect, fully working engine
Clutch gear enables stationary as well as mobile use
Dynamo powers LED lighting around the engine canopy
Delivered ready-made, no assembly needed
A stunning static model, or fascinating demonstration of technology from times gone by
Variants of the Wilesco Showman’s Engine D409
Many Wilesco products are available in different variants – the D409 reviewed here is a working steam model that can be upgraded with a radio remote control.
The model also comes in two other variants:
Wilesco Showman’s Engine D499 – which is the same fully-built model, with remote control.
Wilesco Showman’s Engine D419 – which is a kit for the model (which requires assembly).