Why mess around with steam?
Moreover, why waste time making models, of steam or of anything else?
There are many answers to the first question, probably as many as there are steam enthusiasts.
To some, steam brings back days of their youth, whilst to others it is a reminder of the times when life seemed (in retrospect) less complicated.
Some like the pleasure of making or mending things, and steam is simple, and an easily-understood
technology. Some people just enjoy the sights and sounds (and smells) of yesteryear.
At the same time, it would be a mistake to totally dismiss steam as an outmoded source of power.
Ninety percent of American energy is generated by steam, and it is still used to power some of the largest ships and boats in the world.
At the present time, there are many people and several major organisations, who are working on new developments of the steam engine that may bring it back into more areas of everyday use.
Why waste time making models?
For many people it is the only way that they can enjoy steam.
When one nameplate from a locomotive can sell for £12,000, (Sir Gawain, Ex Southern Railway King
Arthur Class, 30764), * it can readily be understood that the whole engine is beyond the means of most individuals. For this reason, most are owned by syndicates or associations, and whilst being in one of these can be very enjoyable, it does not suit everybody.
Some people may not have a suitable full-size example of their own particular favourite within easy reach, and this may make a model a more suitable option.
For others, the size can be the limitation as models can be of whatever size is suitable to the builder.
Indeed, some people build superb models, literally, on the kitchen table.
Steam locomotives are not the only things that make attractive models. People model traction engines, stationary engines, boats, clocks, aircraft and almost everything that one can imagine.
About the only thing that the makers of models share is that building models, no matter what the
subject, gives a great deal of pleasure and a sense of achievement.
It is, and should be FUN!
There is frustration too.
The frustration of making a mistake that ruins an almost-finished part.
The frustration of several attempts at something that just "won't go right".
However, in the end it does, and another problem has been solved.
To counter the times when the problems seem insurmountable, there are also times of pure joy.
When I built my first traction engine I tested every section as it was made. Then came the day for a final test of the completed model. All appeared well, and it only remained to light-up and see how it worked under steam.
The lateness of the hour persuaded me to delay this until the following day, and when that arrived, I was up and about soon after dawn in my enthusiasm to see the fruits of my labour.
Pushed said engine out of workshop on to lawn, and lit up. Then watched that all was well whilst drinking morning "cuppa". Once it started running and it was clear that all was well, the second "cuppa" was brewed. Sitting on a model that one has built, a model that is gently rocking to-and-fro with the gentle chuff--chuff--chuff of a slow-moving engine, with the sun shining and the birds singing, is, for me one of the greatest pleasures that one can get. Certainly, that particular day will live long in my memory, and such occasions easily compensate for all the frustrations.
And yet these are not the only reasons.
Some people enjoy the competition of making and exhibiting their creation, others attempt to win awards for fidelity to the original, or excellence of performance.
Some like the camaraderie of the many clubs and organisations, whilst others pursue their hobby in a more solitary manner.
Some like to use the latest technology and machinery and others, either by intent or force of circumstance, make working models from scrap with the minimum of expenditure.
It is not just a male occupation, as some of the finest models are produced by the ladies.
Overall, as I said at the beginning, there are as many reasons for enthusiasm as there are enthusiasts.
If you already enjoy playing with models and steam, I hope that you find something interesting in the following pages.
If not, I hope that it encourages you to join in.
I wrote this early in 2001. Recent figures for nameplates include £30,200 for "Knight of the Golden Fleece, £28,200 for "New Zealand Line", £17,100 for "Royal Fusilier", and £13,500 for "Dinmore Manor".
Very expensive items compared to making, or even buying, a real locomotive that you can actually drive.
STOP PRESS. I have just been informed that a cabside numberplate from a GWR King class has sold for £24,200, and no doubt this record will have been broken by the time this appears.