By Journeyman

The last few weeks of this year have not been favourable for me for our favourite hobby. Some five weeks ago my ride-on mower and I had a dramatic and alarming parting of the ways, of which said the less the better.

It could have been a lot worse than it was, and the outcome was severe bruising that has immobilised me for some weeks and so I have spent a  large amount of time browsing through back numbers of Model Engineer magazines. I have already been through them ( from 1944 ) and computer-catalogued what I thought might be useful sometime in the future, but this time I have read articles and features for their leisure value.

What has struck me about many of these is their quite old fashioned, but very gentlemanly, literary style with much rather waffly preamble before the subject is addressed, and a certain amount of self - congratulation on being rather clever. “I have built 3 locos in the last five years as well as doing fire watching and holding down my job”  Where on earth did he find the materials to do all this during the war?

During these years there was a preference for writing under a pen name, much more so than now and so we had, “Bathwallah”, “Crankhead”, “Jason”, “H.C.W”, “Old Gaumless”, “Arty”, “Morse Taper”, and my favourite, “The Leveret”. How fast did HIS models go?

The resurgence of activity following the war is highlighted by the announcements of club revivals and the establishment of new ones, and a matching increase in trade advertisements, all featuring home produced machines and tools, no evidence at that time of imported goods; doubtless the country was just too burdened by war debt to be able to indulge in anything other than essentials such as food and fuel and regenerating the economy as quickly as possible through our own efforts and skills.

22nd April 1948 announced the death of Percival Marshall, founder, and Editor of Model Engineer Magazine for 50 years. He made it what it is today, writing Smoke Rings every week, and creating the fraternity that is now world wide.

The publishing house he set up has long since been subsumed into faceless organizations where the profit imperative is much more evident, and such was his grasp of the needs and interests of model engineers that his style and content have not been bettered. I for one regret the separation of workshop projects and modelling projects into two magazines, but I suppose if you can double your advertising revenue by so doing, then it’s a no brainer! I always found it all interesting under one cover.


The aforementioned mishap has brought into sharp focus the fact that I am rising 70 and we can’t stay here in the Styx for ever, there is already more to be done than we can manage, so the great upheaval has begun. The first task is to clear out all the ‘stuff’ connected with the blacksmithing days, “every thing must go” as they say in the sales.

My steel is going to the Robey Trust , a dynamic group who will make good use of all 3 tons of it. Everything else will be sold or scrapped for as much  it will raise.

Thirty years  of building and accumulating the means for a life’s work is hard to part with. We aim to move locally to stay with our friends, and the good services we enjoy, and will increasingly need as more bits of us fall off!

Apart from the house, the other big packing up job will be my workshop. Inevitably, there will be a gap between its removal and its reinstatement, and storing it in a rust free environment will probably be difficult. Many years ago there was a method of protecting machine slideways and other sensitive surfaces featured in the Model Engineer magazine. Melt some lanolin in an old saucepan and then pour in 4x the lanolin volume of white spirit. Apply to the surfaces needing protection whilst hot and it will form a perfectly rust resistant surface as it cools. Remove with more white spirit when needed.

I went looking for lanolin on the web and ordered some from one of those anonymous vendors. Two weeks later it arrived, from Miami, Florida! With all those sheep nearby on Dartmoor, you’d have thought that some would have been available from a local source !

Stop Press! Feb. 6th 2014  

Bravo Dr. B!

The news pictures of the wrecked railway line at Dawlish called to mind our holiday there last year, when it was so calm and sunny, and the trains whistled through on their way to Newton Abbot and Plymouth (see Styx 16). This line always makes me think of our local line, closed by the infamous Dr Beeching, being the alternative line from Exeter round the north of Dartmoor, and then running south via Tavistock and Bere Alston to Plymouth.

Plans have been afoot  for some years now to re-open from Tavistock to B.A. joining up with the Tamar Valley line from Gunnislake, a scheme tied in to the building of hundreds of houses on the edge of Tavvy. Inevitably this idea has ground on with the occasional announcement to the effect that “ line to reopen in four years”, but of course nothing ever happens.

Now MUST be the time to restore this line, already kept by the powers that be as a strategic route and maintained as such, and downgrade the coastal route to single track local use. This side of Dartmoor is in desperate need of a proper rail route to remove the need for an hour’s travel to Exeter or Plymouth to catch a train. The ghost of these crazy decisions in the 60s has come back to haunt us and must be exorcised by bold leadership and decisive decision making.

9th February

We heard this morning that the whole of the West Country is now devoid of rail services due to a landslip at Crewkerne and the flooding of the line north of Taunton, further congrats. to Dr. B. and the dumb politicians who followed his advice ! Looks like some of the old North Devon lines need to be reopened to keep things moving via the Exe Valley line through Dulverton, Bampton and Tiverton to Exeter.

15th February

Further flooding has now closed the line from Penzance to Bristol, with no prospect of that much-loved replacement bus service !!

Back to old Model Engineer magazines. October 28, 1948. A review of Araldite by T.A.Brown, F.Fr.Ae.S.  To my surprise he states that is  supplied in two forms, rod and powder, and two colours, silver or light brown, not the twin tubes we are used to. Amazingly, it works like soft solder and is applied in the same way, but that heat must be continued to be applied for 2hr. at 180 degrees C, or proportionally less time for higher temperatures, down to 10 min. at 240 degrees C for the resin to cure properly. Applied properly, it penetrates as well as solder, with the advantage that it will not remelt. It must not be continuously used where the highest temperatures are constant, just like the modern stuff. I can remember my Father’s delight when the twin tube packs became available, as here at last was a glue that would stick to glass and metal like nothing before.

So no Styx photos this time, as I have nothing to show. The changes we are undergoing are astonishingly disruptive, and so many things have to be dealt with that there is no space for  the right kind of time to concentrate on precision engineering, or indeed painting Boxhill with it’s  fiendishly complex livery, not the best choice for a first attempt at painting a loco at the best of times.