The Pigsty Hill Light Railway - a Very Small Garden Railway
The Coffee-Pot or ‘WILLIE RUSHTON’ - A Geared Steam Locomotive
After some effort, I managed to get hold of a Brandbright steam tram to replace the
one that I had so ill-advisedly sold more than ten years previously. The beast is
gas-fired with a vertical boiler that feeds oscillating cylinders driving the wheels
through 2:1 reduction gearing.
The panned photograph gives a misleading impression of speed - it was a very dark
day and a very long exposure! When well fettled it runs at a maximum scale speed
of about 25mph and will pull remarkable loads.
The steam tram was given the new running number 8 and named "Willie Rushton" after
a great comedian and very likeable man.
It was originally intended that it should run under radio control and this was added,
but later removed when the PHLR was extended to allow for manual steam running. The
method is described here, just to show how small a space is needed.
The design of the loco leaves a space between the frames at both ends, just sufficient
for a radio control receiver and a 4 x AA battery pack. U-shaped pieces of brass
sheet were fashioned to fit between the frames, to which they were bolted, to hold
the battery pack and receiver.
I decided to control just the reverser, and this proved to be a wise move, as the
loco is controllable enough by this method. A bracket* was made out of a piece of
scrap brass sheet to hold the servo firmly between the roof and the motor block.
The operating lever was removed from the reversing block and replaced with a cunning
device made out of thick wire which held a bolt, on which was pivoted the wire connected
to the servo arm. The picture should make this rather less opaque.
* The simple bracket in the picture was replaced by a much more sophisticated item
after the photo was taken.
As I said, the radio control was stripped out after I modified the railway so, was
it worth it? Yes, in the sense that I'm a lot more confident in my bodgelling now
and that, having made those changes, I'm prepared for more radical surgery in the
I've already raised the lubricator slightly to improve the oil flow and bodged a
solid brass fitting to hold it clear of the footplate (and had to re-solder the steam
inlet to the motor block as a result). The next job will be to improve the gas burner,
which is fine in a dead calm but tends to blow out at the first light breeze. The
final job will be to build a tram body similar to the Sentinel once operated by the
North Borneo Railway and currently in the museum at Kota Kinabalu.
Well, so much for plans!
It was an irritant that the wheels were uninsulated, which meant I couldn't use
the station lighting while this loco was on the track, so I asked on the 16-millimetre
E-group where I could get insulated wheels to suit. Colin Binnie, the Sage of Wookey,
very kindly made me a set, which I set about fitting.
I stripped the beast down to change the wheels, and finding that the running gear
was very worn, decided that the time had come to replace it. I experimented with
Delrin (plastic) chain drive, which worked well and looked good. I also tried Meccano
metal chain drive which, perhaps surprisingly, was less effective.
However, I was rather taken with an Australian Coffee-pot with a half-cab and rod
drive, so I bought a set of fly-cranks from Essel Engineering and fitted these. I
had to make my own connecting rods from brass strip and drill them out for the crank-pins.
Much to my amazement, the second set I made worked - the first steam moving parts
I'd ever made. The chassis ran freely, and when I raised steam, mirabile dictu, the
wheels went round!
Now I decided to re-build the superstructure as a half-cab. I am quite pleased with
the appearance, and it makes running and maintenance much easier. It took a fair
bit of courage to take tin-snips to the roof, though! This was thoroughly stripped
with Nitromors and primed with Hammerite Special Metals Primer. It was then painted
with Hammerite spray Gloss Black, in several coats. The result is very much to my
The name and number plates were re-affixed using silicone adhesive (Maplins part
number RE89), which doesn't wreck the paint finish and, so far has held them tight.
The beast now runs beautifully and is currently my only steam loco. It is happy with
my 18" radius return loop despite its 3.75" wheelbase, although it does give the
impression of a crab, and will pull anything I can put behind it. The gas burner,
however, is still a little temperamental, and will be the object of my next Round