A popular feature of many country shows and events is the line-up of steam engines both large and small. Although the use and history of the full-size steam engines is quite well known and understood, a source of confusion and some rather unusual questions often comes from people admiring the range of scale live steam models. Tom Allen from Legacy Vehicles Ltd explains more about these scale models and answers many of the questions often received when exhibiting one of these beautiful machines.

One of the most common questions we hear is “What was it used for?” It is not unusual and perfectly understandable for people to assume scale engines were produced back in the early 1900s as a smaller offering from the original manufacturers. Most scale models we see on the rally field have been built in the last 30 years or so, normally by individuals or specialist companies. The simple answer to the question though is for fun and enjoyment, whether that be the enjoyment of running and exhibiting the engine or for the challenge of building one.

There are very rare examples of scale engines built by the steam engine manufacturers, in fact we have one for sale on our website from Wallis and Steevens of Basingstoke. This example was built by an apprentice and includes all the original scaled drawings, wooden casting patterns and boiler. This tradition continues to this day with several engines coming from the apprentices at modern engineering companies.

Often a source of confusion for the public and some newcomers to the hobby is the way the size or scale of the model is referred to. When referring to an engine as “half size” the terminology is quite self-explanatory but often the term 6” (inch) will be used instead. This is a reference to the scale factor of 6” to the Foot. So, any part on the full size which is a foot (12”) long would be 6” long on the miniature.

Common references and their inch scale:

The picture above, taken from shows a line-up of Little Samson Steam Tractors all built to the same design but of different scales 3”, 4” and 6”.

A popular question from both the public and fellow enginemen/ women is did you build it? How long did it take to complete? There is no set rule for how long an engine should take to build, some people are able to work surprisingly fast and within 12-18 months could have the finished article whereas others could be working on their project for decades. If I had to put a number on it, from the many conversations I have had with builders over the years I would say around 5 years is the average. The work involved should not be underestimated, in every model is literally thousands of hours and once completed there is also the ongoing task of keeping the engine running in tip-top condition. For those without the engineering facilities it is possible to buy engines in kit form, these kits require final fettling, painting and assembly and offer a great solution for people short of time or the necessary skills but would like the satisfaction that comes with building their own engine. I should add here I have never built a miniature engine, and to be honest have no desire to, my personal enjoyment of the hobby comes from running and maintaining engines, but I have great admiration for those with the knowledge and patience who do.

However, all engines of the same scale are not the same overall size, it is all dependent on the full size engines they are based on. The picture below shows two machines built by well-known manufacturer Aveling and Porter, the Road Locomotive is possibly the largest, most powerful engine to come from the Rochester based builder and the steam roller one of their smallest offerings (not the smallest) Standing on these engines you notice everything is very similar even down to the proportions of the boilers, cylinder block and motion work. The roller is my father’s engine and a few light-hearted comments suggested we should turn the roller into a half size version of the road locomotive, not something we will ever do!!! However, we do have a spare cylinder block for the roller which would be a great starting point for the project.

10 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 call 01295 404077 to advertise or email

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