Living with a MamodBrianDominicmarkstheofficialreturnofagardenrailwayclassic.
When it was announced that the original Mamod Company (rather than the MSS and derivative ‘Mamod’ type offerings) had restarted production of steam locos I was interested. When I heard how much the introductory offer was, I was more than interested!
Locomotive No 17 of the Mid Derbyshire Light Railway – named Errol because he’s small, green and fiery – is one of the new Mamod oscillating-cylinder gas-fired steam locos, launched in June 2009. While broadly a similar style to the original low –pressure Mamod type now sold by MSS this, with gas firing and high-pressure boiler, is actually a different kettle of fish entirely.
Raising steam for the first time. I found it easier to adopt my normal practice of filling the boiler brim-full, then taking out 30cc of water with a syringe than relying on the water level window in the back of the boiler – it’s badly obscured by the regulator valve. The instructions suggest adding a squirt of steam oil to the boiler water every so often – something I haven’t done for years! That chimney will improved (mainly by cutting it off and making a new one). As one would expect with a brand new loco at this price, Errol needed a fair bit of running-in before comfortable control was reached.
The regulator needs opening a number of turns, rather than the quarter-turn you’d expect on, say, a Roundhouse loco and you have
Photos by Author
Above: Good value budget live steam – even if (with that chimney) it is as ugly as a robber’s dog. It is much the same size as the original series and would be nice with the smaller Andel rolling stock or the ‘Lollypop’ range’ from IP Engineering.
Left: This is what you get – a polystyrene box with a locomotive, a bottle of oil, a funnel to fill the boiler (a syringe is much better) and instructions – LOTS of instructions!
to be careful when you screw the safety valve down, as it’s easy to distort the rubber washer and lose all the steam. I replaced mine with an O-ring and I’m careful to only tighten it down finger tight – less is certainly more in this instance. Some people take the gas tank out to fill it, but I prefer to leave it in situ and hold the loco down FIRMLY with the other hand whilst I fill it. Lighting up is ‘interesting’ – I find I need to hold the loco in one hand whilst lighting it from below with the other – rather like you did with the meths-fired version. Once it’s lit, you need to put it on the track fairly quickly.
A REASONABLE RATE OF KNOTS I took Errol to the Elsecar garden railway show last year, to give him/her a chance to stretch his (or her) legs. To start with, the loco wouldn’t do a full circuit of the layout and always stopped at a certain point where the flange resistance was enough to overcome the small amount of power being generated. As the runs continued and the loco freed up and bedded in, it got a little further around the circuit each time, until eventually it was happily lapping the track at a reasonable rate of knots.
Since then, Errol has come on in leaps and bounds and will now run for a good 20 minutes or so (I don’t bother to time it) pulling a rake of half-a-dozen wagons with no fuss or bother.
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Top: ErrolOn test with a short rake of stock – I will do something about that white gas pipe...
Above: The original couplings are a problem – fine for pulling Mamod stock, more-or-less useless for hauling anything else and will uncouple at the slightest excuse.
Right: Mods include new coupler, Roundhouse lamp brackets wedged between the buffer beam overlay and bodywork, and a Chuffed 2 Bits bucket on the dart, that can be safely unscrewed as it doesn’t go into the boiler!
The fact that the exhaust steam comes out under the loco takes a little getting used to – when I get around to doing something about the chimney, I’ll get the exhaust routed up it by an additional length of copper pipe.
I made a number of improvements for Elsecar. The ‘Mamod’ stickers went from the tank sides and smokebox door, and I fitted new multi-height couplings from Brandbright, which brought the coupling height up so something approaching the accepted standard. To do this, I took off the buffer beams (and in the case of the front one, the pressing that covers the reversing valve) and bent the hooks back in line with the steel bodywork. The hole for the multi-height coupling was then drilled before the whole was reassembled. Unfortunately, the holes for the brass buffers are so big that I couldn’t replace them with nuts and bolts!
BUY A MAMOD So, what’s this loco like? In this life, you only get what you pay for, and you don’t pay a lot for a Mamod – something like half the price of other builders’ basic engines. Because of that, you should expect to have to run the loco in rather more than you would otherwise, and it also cries out for being made less toy-like. Adding the couplings makes it more user-friendly – I won’t tell you how many times it uncoupled on its first test run! However, when I started in 16mm twenty-mumble years ago, it was always said, “buy a Mamod – you’ll learn a lot from it,” and with this offering, that advice now holds good as much as it did then.
There are several pluses. Unlike other ‘Mamod type’ offerings, this model has a gas-fired and a silver-soldered high-pressure boiler running at 40psi. The cylinders and reversing block seem well engineered and running, I suspect, will continue to improve with use. The bushed wheelsets seem to be a tight interference fit on the axles and, unlike the original ‘peened-on’ wheelsets, are man enough for a job of work on a garden railway.
With a few kit-built wagons one will have an effective live steam railway at comparatively low cost – and those who enjoy fiddling will, for a reasonable price, have an excellent steam unit for building their own models – how about a nice little tram locomotive?
GardenRail Resource Mamod Ltd Tel: 0121 500 6433, e-mail email@example.com Web: www.mamod.co.uk. Price: £199.00 plus £8.50 carriage
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