Preface by TRLOTTTE co-editor J. Gratton, 4th March, 2010

New mysteries sometimes come to light just as you are trying to find answers for a different one. When I was first made aware of this article's existence, I naively hoped(!) that its subjects were in some way related to the notorious Lime Grove live-television broadcast of The Three Railway Engines on the 14th June, 1953 - as chronicled in Brian Sibley's biography of the late Rev. Awdry. Though my doubts increased after reading the article in detail, the true purpose for why these models were commissioned is a new mystery unto itself. Were they to grace Edmund Ward's office to publicize the RS books? Created to guide illustrators? And moreso, as Martin related to me after reading the article - Where are they now? So many questions abound!

Before we begin, there are a number of people Martin and I must first thank and are grateful to for making this very interesting article available to you.

Firstly, our thanks go to John Bridger, of Gwynedd, Wales (UK), who has spent a number of years exhaustively cataloguing and researching P.R. Wickham's contributions to the Modelling World.

Next, to Ron Chernich of Australia, a model engine enthusiast who kindly provided me with scans of said article from the March, 1953 issue of his tomed Model Maker Magazine archives.

Special thanks go to Paul Freshney, editor of Model Boats - worthy successor to Model Maker Magazine, for permission to reproduce and share this article with you exclusively on TRLOTTTE.

Thanks also to correspondent Ceri Jenkins for his assistance in searching for said article and providing overall good advice for where it could possibly be found.

And of course, our eternal gratitude to Peter Wickham...


THE series of railway stories written by the Rev. W. Awdry and published by Edmund Ward, Leicester, will no doubt be familiar at least to those readers with young children. Having been commissioned by the publisher to produce models of the locomotives featured in these books, it occurs to me that photographs of the results might interest, and perhaps amuse, readers. After all, although every railway enthusiast knows that the steam locomotive is the most "human" of all machines, it is not every day that one finds oneself modelling locomotives of, shall we say, such "expressive" aspect as those illustrated.

The models are to 7mm. scale and are non-powered, although provision is made for the fitting of motors at a later date if required. Scale elevations had first to be prepared from the artist's illustrations, and this presented some difficulty in capturing the "character" of each engine. However, before we go any further let me introduce you to the individual members of this — unusually — happy locomotive family.

PR Wickham's models of Edward and Thomas

No. 1 "Thomas" is a 0-6-0 tank loco. who attained the dignity of his own branch-line and train. Although he is based in no particular prototype, his air of bustling self-importance with more than a dash of impudence is surely typical of dozens of actual small tank locos to be found conducting their important affairs on country branches up and down the Kingdom.

No. 2 "Edward" is an example of that classic "maid-of-all-work" of British railway practice, the inside-cylinder 4-4-0. I always have a feeling that this type of engine is the most benign of all locomotive classes, and I am delighted to find that the Rev. W. Awdry shares my opinion, for "Edward" is the most good-tempered of the "family."

PR Wickham's model of Henry

No. 3 "Henry" has recently been completely rebuilt; he previously had a very shallow fire-box, and present-day coal (so-called) had an unfortunate effect on his "internal workings." In his new form, he bears a striking resemblance to the Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 design of immediate "pre-Nationalisation" days. "Henry" shares express duties with:

PR Wickham's model of Gordon

No. 4 "Gordon" who is the aristocrat of the locomotive stud and does not let the other engines forget it. He closely resembles an L.N.E.R. A3 Pacific.

PR Wickham's model of James and Percy

No. 5 "James" is an old-fashioned 2-6-0 (based actually on a G. & S.W.R. prototype). Although most of his time is spent on secondary duties, there have been glorious occasions where he has hauled "Gordon's" express. The engine with which, in Photo 4, he appears to be sharing a private joke, is:

No. 6 "Percy", an 0-4-0 saddle-tank. In suggesting the basic design for this engine, an effort was made to "capture" the authentic character of the small "industrial" shunter. "Percy", as you will gather, is as cheeky an imp of a locomotive as ever ran on rails and a constant irritant to the other locomotives.

It should be noted that, where an actual prototype is used as the basis for one of the designs, the characteristics of the original have been to some extent "exaggerated" by the illustrator to suit his particular purposes.

The main frames of each loco, are cut from 1/16 in. nickel-silver, two "blanks" being soldered together for drilling all holes and shaping to outline. Frames are then bolted together with with countersunk 6 B.A. bolts screwed into frame spacers specially turned from brass and threaded internally. Cross-stretchers are then soldered in where needed to carry bogey-pivot, footplate fixings and other attachments. Driving-axle bearings are slotted out downwards and the axles retained in place by keeper strips bolted on below, so that the complete set of driving wheels can be "dropped" as a unit when required. Bogies and pony trucks are bolted and soldered up from strip brass and nickel-silver and are pivoted on the "radial-arm" principle with a weight-bearing spring rubbing on a stretcher approximately above the bogie centre.

Below the footplates, in fact, construction follows more or less orthodox lines, with metal the predominating material. But above the footplates, I have followed my usual practice of using whatever material seems likely to give the best effect with the greatest facility of construction, and the superstructures are largely non-metallic; although no one could guess this from the finished and painted appearance. Footplates, for instance, are of hard fibre sheet, the correct thickness for the edge to form the valance depth. This causes almost no loss in appearance over the correct "angle-edged plate" while giving a very strong and neat job. Where the ends drop at an angle separate pieces are joined on, but where they are curved the plate is bent after soaking in hot water. "Gordon's" reverse-curved footplate called for many soakings before the correct curve was achieved as the fibre very quickly hardens again, but it has the great advantage that, when it has hardened, it will keep to the shape produced when wet.

All superstructures from footplate up are removable. In the earlier models they are fixed down by to bolts in the cab floor and two through the front buffer-beam, but in the last two models the front bolts are dispensed with. In the case of "Henry", two fixed pegs in the vertical section of the front footplate "drop" engage holes in a frame-stretcher. In "Gordon" the section of the footplate ahead of the cylinders is mounted permanently on the frames (the joint being just ahead of the steam-pipes) and a wood block mounted below the removable section and fitting between the frames engages under the fixed footplate (Fig. 1).

Figures 1 and 2

Boilers are made by rolling layers of Bristol board on a wood former of suitable diameter. the layers are glued together and each boiler shell consists of three or four layers. When wood "bulkhead" discs have been fitted and the boiler treated with shellac varnish it has great strength and rigidity. "Henry" and "Gordon" have taper boilers made as shown in Fig. 2. A parallel tube was first made, rather smaller than the smallest boiler diameter, on the smokebox end of which other layers were rolled on to make up the correct diameter for this section. A second tube was then rolled on to the first, to the smallest boiler diameter, but without gluing it to the first tube. when partially set, but before the glue had hardened too far, this second tube was slid off, slit down the bottom, and glued in place on the first tube with a shaped wood former to keep it at the correct diameter for the larger end.

Cabs are built up from 1/16 in. fibre sheet with celluloid windows. All the locos. have dummy cab fittings.

The "faces", which occupy the position where more conventional locomotives habitually keep their smokebox doors, are modelled in "Plastone", a form of Plasticine which hardens when exposed to the air. Unfortunately, it shrinks very considerably in setting so cannot be used for modelling on a solid "core" or serious cracking will occur. For uses like the present one, however, where parts can be moulded separately and allowance made for shrinkage, it is quite a useful medium.

Altogether, these models have provided one of those out-of-the-ordinary commissions which help to enliven the professional model-maker's life.