New future for Stuart Models

by Ray Nightingale

WHILE the collective attention of the nation was focusing on the excitement surrounding the Olympic Games, some of us were quietly wondering about the progress in a West Dorset market town.

Quietly and efficiently, Stuart Models has moved from its home of 21 years in Guernsey to Bridport.

Created at Shiplake Court, Oxfordshire in around 1899 by Sydney Marmaduke Stuart Turner, the company moved to Tuns Lane, Henley on Thames in 1905 and then settled at 43 and 45 Market Place during 1908 where it remained for many years.

From around 1930, Stuart Turner Ltd started branding the range as Stuart Models to distinguish it from the other activities of the business.

In 1987, Stuart Turner Ltd acquired Morewood Model Engineers and the Stuart Model range moved to Cheddar. Still branded as Stuart Models, it was a wholly owned subsidiary of Stuart Turner Ltd. In 1991, the brand and range was sold to David Jones of Jones and Bradburn and it moved to Guernsey. It was managed by David’s son, Bryn.

I am sure that all model engineers and customers appreciate the efficient and friendly service provided by Bryn and his team in Guernsey for over two decades.

As such, Stuart Models is the oldest Model Engineering supplier still operating under its original business model of providing castings, boilers, parts, kits and completed models across a wide range of fully working model steam engines. This move marks the fifth move of the business and only the second change of ownership throughout its long history.

Very interested in the progress, I managed to have a conversation with Andy Meakin, the new manager. He was a very busy man in the midst of preparing the first Stuart Models sales stand in many years for the Great Dorset Steam Fair. I detected he was still slightly bemused by the sheer volume of “stuff” they have acquired.

Andy has spent most of his working life in the motorcycle industry as an engineer working on engines, frames and production. He left BMW Dorchester late last year to join Bridport Foundry.

There has been a foundry on this site at the western edges of the town for over 300 years. John and Steve Lambert’s parents moved the family-owned foundry from Surrey in the 1990s. They took over from their parents in 1998 and have made very significant investments in furnace equipment over the past 14 years.

It is a jobbing foundry capable of casting in a range of metals and techniques producing one-offs, prototypes and short production runs for a wide range of customers. They have more than sufficient capacity, skills and experience to produce all the castings for the entire Stuart Models range. For many model engineers, they very handy people to know!

In 2006, Bridport Foundry acquired Plastow Traction Engines from Stuart Models. The foundry had been supplying castings for Stuart Models and Plastow for a number of years, there was a longstanding relationship between the two companies. Now they are under the one roof – Bridport Foundry.

Late last year, negotiations with David Jones had moved from speculative to serious and were progressing well. By the middle of this year the deal was done.

During June, John, Steve and Andy started the daunting task of moving everything to Bridport.

Andy sniggered when I suggested this was a classically planned and executed logistics exercise! Well perhaps not, it did achieve what it set out to do and everything was moved effectively, Andy recalls it was very hard work with only minor damage to a single storage unit.

The whole lot was transported by sea in three 40 foot and six 20 foot containers from St Peter Port to Southampton.

Since arrival, some unpacking has taken place. The stock is now in the bespoke storage units and sales side of the business is now up and running. The workshop machinery is safely stored and is awaiting future use.

The patterns have been checked and safely stored, although further work is planned to update the patterns to more modern casting techniques.

The drawings and documentation are still waiting to be unpacked – there are only so many hours in the day!

Stock shortages have been identified. Components of the 10 series (the 10V, 10H, Double Ten and Score) are working their way through the foundry to replenish the depleted stock.

Andy outlined his plans for the future which includes the re-introduction of older models from the range.

The Sirius (left) will be re-launched.  Perhaps, some time in the future we may see both versions of the Sun (below left) and the long lost Star returning to the range. All three engines were designed by Alec Plint who was an extremely gifted design engineer and the engineering backbone of Stuart
Turner Ltd for over forty years. Only last year I was discussing a scaled up version of the Sirius with Alec Plint’s grandson, George.

The Williamson (in action below) will also return. This is a very elegant engine and unusual in the Stuart range being based on a real engine. It was

researched and designed by Tom Walshaw (Tubal Cain), another excellent engineer, during the Stuart International Model Engineers’ Club (SIMEC) years. It will be nice to see it return.


Below: Cherry Hill’s first model, a Stuart No 9.

Above the great Stuart 5a.

The No 1 will be back in the catalogue, some work is required on the patterns to improve the castings. This was Sydney Marmaduke Stuart Turner’s original, prize winning, engine which led to the formation of the business. Who knows, perhaps this might lead to the re-introduction of the No 3. Who knows?

Above the iconic Stuart Major Beam engine

Andy says there are no plans to open a shop in Bridport, the business will continue to have a website and will produce regular high quality catalogues. The website will be upgraded as the technology is now dated.

The office area is displaying a number of engines and Andy is slowly building up this display. A number of visitors have popped into the office, either collecting their orders or just curious.

I managed to catch up with Andy after he returned from the Great Dorset Steam Fair to find out how things went. He says it was a great venture, most enjoyable and successful as a first outing. Although the weather was poor for a few days, the Saturday and Sunday were fine with good crowds. There was a lot of interest in the new ownership of Stuart Models and it was well worth the effort.

Having successfully completed their first show outing, Andy is looking forward to attending all the major UK Model Engineering shows and exhibitions. It will be interesting to see if Stuart Models can regain the original Stuart Turner Ltd position at Stand No 1. The next stand is now being planned for Midland Model Engineering Exhibition, 17th to 21st October.

I look forward to meeting up with John and Andy and watching the progress of the company.

OK, perhaps no great Olympian feat, but somebody deserves a gold medal for effort!