by ‘Kev’

AFTER playing with numerous engines belonging to other people, I decided to get my own. Railways being my main interest at the time, a railway loco was what I was after. I duly bought the almost completed chassis of a 7 1/4" gauge 0-4-0 Hercules. A powerful and robust engine, capable of yanking heavy loads round a track. Perfect. I made a few bits and pieces for this loco, then got bored.

Then one day, an idea appeared in my brain about the possibility of using the the loco chassis as an engine for a steam lorry. The idea went thus: ask my mate if I can build it in his shed, make engine unit work, attach to a gearbox of some sort, plonk into a road-going chassis with Ackerman steering and a shaft-drive diff
rear axle, attach drive shaft, squeeze in a boiler, make a water tank, pipe it all up, make bodywork, paint, test, insure, register for use on the road, then set off at top speed for the nearest pub! Dead simple!

Well, four years of "dead simple" later, I'd finished the waggon. Some of the components that went into the lorry were sourced from a series of scrapyards, such as the rear axle, driveshaft, gearbox and wheels, which all came from Reliant Robins. I'm quite proud that as my lorry is a four-wheeler, more than one Reliant Robin had to die to make it! The steering box is from a Land Rover (Series unknown), handbrake lever and bits from a Mini, and other associated oddments acquired from other vehicles, including a jet aircraft. This rare combination of bits earned it the name ‘Wrong 'Un!’

The chassis is standard channel section steel, shaped and formed to accommodate the Reliant back axle, and the home-made front axle. My attempt at Ackerman steering has turned out very well, but could have been more sophisticated if I had read the book on how to make it before I built it! As it is, it works very well.
The boiler was ordered and eventually collected, and this was shoe-horned into it's designated space. Likewise, the recently improved and runable engine and gearbox assembly was fastened into place. With the driveshaft in place, a number of runs on compressed air were made up and down my mate's garden in the various gears to see if everything married together. The next-door neighbour was quite perplexed on seeing me scoot up and down with the compressor roughly tied to the chassis!

With the pipework completed, I did my own hydraulic test to see that everything was bottle-tight, and to set the pop-type safety valves. Pop-type being an understatement, because as I pumped the boiler up hydraulically, one of them opened with an explosive gush that sent a fountain of water up into the rafters of the shed like a water cannon; I got wet! Thank God I hadn't put the cab roof on!

Satisfied that all was tight and safe, I was now ready to steam it. The first few steamings were done carefully, so as to be on the lookout for any more leaks, defects, or any other problems that might occur. With steam up, the regulator was opened and the engine tried for the first time on steam. Success! Everything went round the way it should, with no awful clonks or bangs. My setting up of the valve gear using highly specialized finely tuned and calibrated equipment (my eyes) seemed to have worked. Amazingly, my home-made pump worked, and even the injector picked up without problems. I climbed aboard and set off down the garden and onto the drive. It moved, and chuffed it's way along the grass. I then chuffed it back to the shed. This dance was repeated several times in the various gears. I was never sure that it would run in top gear (4th) but it seemed fine. Double success!

Now it was time for the boiler tests. As the lorry had been designed to go in father's trailer, I had of course cut the tolerance to the bone. So much so, in fact, that we had to let some air out of the front tyres to get it in. The lorry fitted in the trailer so tighly that it was practically wearing it!

We got to Weeting and duly unloaded the lorry ready for the hydraulic and steam tests. The members who were present descended upon it, and came out with all the questions under the sun. With the hydraulic passed, I set fire to it and raised steam. The ‘safeties’ did their stuff and we passed the steam test as well. The moment of truth beckoned, and the waggon was clonked into gear using the patent Molegrip method (this was as far as development had got on the gear change!) and off we went. This successful event was recorded on video camera, including the copious amount of suprised Anglo-Saxon that I came out with!

So there we are. The waggon worked, and proved my wacky theory. Since then I've added the cab, dropsides, a roof, canvas sheets, and had it signwritten. I've attended several rallies and events, and I've been lucky enough to be awarded the odd trophy for my efforts. I've probably covered over one-hundred miles on the road since it's completion, including driving from home to my local rally at Rougham Airfield in 2011.

I hope these ramblings will encourage others to have a go at something different. I don't consider the lorry to be a fine piece of model engineering, simply a piece of "let's make something that's fun to make and fun to play with". I didn't want to make anything from drawings, so I amused myself. So give it a go, and see what happens!

This article first appeared on the Brandon & Dist Model Engineers website.