|NUMBER THIRTY THREE||
© January 08, 2013
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“The Whistle Blast”, the club newsletter of the New Jersey Live Steamers
Designers, Publishers & Builders form a Successful and Historic Partnership
Article by Gary Madlinger,
Of course, it wasn’t always like this. In the early years of this century those interested in building steam locomotives in miniature either worked in the railroad industry or tinkered away in their own shops. Prototype designs were scarce outside of the large locomotive manufacturing plants, and plans built especially for scale were normally seen only by the designer and the builder, usually the same person.
Then, in the 1920’s, things started to change with the publication of specialized magazines such as “The Modelmaker.” Patterned on the well-established English publication, “The Model Engineer,” this new magazine began publication in 1924 and quickly became known as the only American magazine that regularly published articles covering the construction of miniature Live Steam models (along with tinplate model railroading, model airplanes, and gas powered speed boats). It was no surprise, then, when in March of 1925 they started a series of articles that would change the face of the Live Steam hobby. Written by Harry J. Coventry of Baltimore, this first series of articles detailed the construction of the Pennsylvania RR K-4 Pacific in ½” scale.
Coventry, at the time working in the design office of the B&O Railroad, wrote a series of articles with plans for a model of a B&O P-7 Pacific. In fact, he began drawing up the plans for this model at the same time he was working on the prototype drawings for the Baldwin Locomotive Works. He finished the model drawings before the real engine plans were finished. Coventry went on to write a number of increasingly popular series on locomotive construction in hobby magazines. He developed plans for a ¾” scale P-7, PRR K-4, and a USRA 0-6-0 switcher. Then he moved on to 1” scale, where his designs included those for a B&O 4-6-0 Ten Wheeler and a 4-4-0.
Into the 30’s, more magazines began to publish plans for scale locomotives. For example, “Model Craftsman Magazine,” later renamed “Railroad Model Craftsman,” began to publish articles and locomotive plans developed by Martin Lewis of Lomita, California, who later founded the Little Engines Company. Lewis was a talented mechanic and designer of after-market speed equipment for Model T Fords, and in his spare time he built many model Live Steam locomotives. Following his plans in “Model Craftsman,” the steam hobbyist could now build models of a Pacific, Hudson or Northern in both ½” scale and ¾” scale, along with “O” Gauge locomotives still in the Little Engines’ catalog.
After Lewis’ death, his widow hired designers such as Bob Harpur to design even more locomotives to add to the Little Engines product line. It was Harpur who designed the Wabash Mogul kit. Harpur also designed and built NYC Hudson #5272, which is still running today, 34 years after it was built.
Also during this period, Lester Friend, the well-known and respected owner of a miniature locomotive company in Topsfield, Massachusetts, the “Yankee Shop Machinists,” began publishing articles in “Model Craftsman” on the construction of several models available from his company. These included a ¾” scale Atlantic designed by Alan Armitage, who later wrote many articles for the “Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette, ” and a Boston and Albany 4-6-6-T designed by Harry Sait of Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Later, Lester Friend included his own ¾” scale model of a UP 4-6-6-4 Challenger.
Around the same time, “Modelmaker” magazine was featuring plans by L.“Curly” Lawrence for an “O” Gauge 4-8-4 Live Steamer, with instructions on how to convert it to ½” scale. Like many British designers at the time, Lawrence gave his model a name, the “Lucyanna” (Bill Morewood would follow this tradition years later when he named his locomotive the “Raritan.”). The variety and quality of locomotives and designs in the hands of enthusiasts was increasing.
By the early 50’s the “Model Craftsman” magazine had changed owners and direction, so both Lester Friend and Harry Coventry began to write for “Miniature Locomotive Magazine,” a publication from California owned by Dick Bageley and Robert Day. Friend’s contributions included articles on his own 1” scale Atlantic that began appearing in May of 1952. This was followed in September by a series of articles detailing the work of Cliff Blackstaffe of Vancouver, BC. Blackstaffe had developed plans on the construction of a beginner’s 0-4-0 with a slip eccentric valve gear.
By now, Lester Friend had established a reputation and Live Steam legacy that is evident to this day. Examples of models built to his design and that of his company abound at local area Meets. Besides the popular “Tom Thumb” design, there is the 1” scale narrow gauge 0-4-0 side tanker built to run on 3-1/2” gauge tracks, and the ¾” Boston and Maine Atlantics. Friend’s article on Harry Sait’s ¾” Boston & Albany 4-6-6-T Tanker has proved influential as well. The original pilot model is owned today by Charles S. Purinton, Carl Purinton’s son. A Pacific was also developed from the same design, but stretched to add another driver. Friend’s Steam Models also bought the design for a ¾” scale NYC Hudson from it’s developer, L.D. Langworthy.
Harry Coventry’s contributions to “Miniature Locomotive” began in April of 1954 with a series of articles on his USRA 0-6-0 in ¾” scale. Before the series of articles were completed the magazine went out of business, so later ”The North American Live Steamer” magazine completed the series. Coventry was also advertising his 1” scale model collection in a newsletter that began appearing in the early 60’s. Coventry was advertising instead of including plans because of the poor reproduction quality of the newsletter. Produced in Iowa by Pershing Scott and called the “Live Steam Newsletter,” this publication featured an informal mimeographed format with the pages stapled together between a construction paper cover. This made the inclusion of readable drawings almost impossible. (Live Steam legend Pershing Scott passed away in July, 2002. To learn more about him and his newsletter see the November-December, 2002 Issue of “Live Steam.”)
These limitations, however, were about to end. In August of 1966, Scott gave the publishing rights to his “Live Steam Newsletter” to William Fitt. Fitt immediately set about getting a complimentary copy of his newly formatted newsletter to everyone on Pershing Scott’s mailing list. Within a year, the newsletter had grown into a professional looking and well-printed magazine. At that point, Bill Fitt changed the name to reflect that growth and, since 1967, it has been known as “Live Steam Magazine.”
In May of 1968, “Live Steam” began a multi-part series on the construction of a new ¾” steam locomotive called the “Raritan.” Designed by Bill Morewood, an Honorary Member of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania Live Steamers, this locomotive would come to be known as one of the most copied locomotives of all time. Patterned after a 2-4-0 built by Baldwin in the 1870’s for local service and switching, here was a design that was relatively easy to build for a beginner, yet it wasn’t an 0-4-0. At the time, most prototype 0-4-0s were owned by construction companies instead of railroads, so even hard-core Live Steam builders really liked the idea of building a railroad locomotive – a Raritan - instead of a piece of “contractors’ equipment” like the 0-4-0.
The genius of Bill’s design was that the finished Raritan was a long, elegant looking tender engine that was not too much more complex than the beginner’s 0-4-0s. It could be completed using a 9” lathe and was priced right for the new Live Steamer. While the many versions of the design have grown in complexity over the years, the essential Raritan has remained as fresh as the original.
One of the many people impressed with Bill Morewood’s Raritan was a master craftsman from Japan named Kozo Hiraoka. In fact, he was so impressed that he built the model based on Bill’s design. He wrote about the experience, and the article turned out to be the cover story for the September 1971 issue of “Live Steam Magazine.” In the article, Hiraoka was already showing signs of being a superb design engineer. His small additions to the Morewood plan included a balloon stack, a mechanical lubricator, and a different arrangement for the cylinder drains.
Hiraoka then went on to develop a complete set of drawings and instructions for a ¾” scale Lima Shay. This was the early version with a separate base for each cylinder. Bill Fitt heard about the plans, and prevailed upon Hiraoka to publish his design in “Live Steam.” Hiraoka’s clear descriptions and drawings were an inspiration to many would-be builders, and it seemed the entire Live Steam community was excited to finally be seeing some of the freshest designs for locomotives since the 1920’s and 30’s. Before long, modelers were referring to Hiraoka and his designs with a uniquely American sign of recognition and respect – the singular name of “Kozo.”
His first Shay design had proven to be so popular that Kozo now set out to design and built examples of other American geared locomotives. Plans for a Heisler and Climax followed, and then another 0-4-0 for beginners, noteworthy in that it did not require the use of any castings. Kozo’s newest design, a later version of the famous Lima Shay that started it all, features a one piece engine bed upon which all three cylinders repose. Fortunately for Live Steamers, his plans are still evolving.
Today, magazines such as “Live Steam,” “Modeltec” and “The Model Engineer” still offer a valuable outlet for good designs and designers, which is great news for many Live Steamers. Past issues of the older magazines are also often available through club libraries and swap tables. Of course, not all locomotives come from published plans; many locomotives in use today were built from prototype plans, models, kits, photographs, or just the vision of the builder. So, if you have the urge to build, there’s plenty of material and people to follow, quite unlike the early 20’s. If you’re not ready for that just yet, still be sure to take a closer look at the locomotives you see running at nearby live steam clubs. Like every engine and person mentioned in this article, they’ve got a lot of proud history to share.
Article by Gary Madlinger,
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