A Tale of a Burrell 4.5″ Traction Engine

A Tale of a Burrell 4.5" Traction Engine


As a boy, as we all no doubt did, I had the normal Mecanno, Lego, Airfix and Mamod to play with. It all faded into history until later. Having joined the RAF in 1975 I felt I had time on my hands and turned to radio control to pass the evenings and built several cars and planes, some of which were more successful than others. Marriage claimed me at the tender age of 25 and all time for models was lost. Time past until my eye was caught by a car. A kit car. 6 years of toil and saving and very dirty hands ended with a Shelby Cobra replica which went like the wind and I was happy.

It was, thinking back, the early 80’s when a work colleague asked if I would like to attend the Model Engineering Exhibition with him and I thought ‘it’s a day out’. My interest in steam began during this visit. I had money in my pocket and I wasn’t going home empty handed so the lot was blown on a set of Stuart Turner 10V castings. Upon getting home and admiring my purchase I did wonder how I was going to do this with a claw hammer, a set of wood chisels and a tenon saw? It took 2 years, with the aid of a second hand Unimat, to finish – and it worked, I was chuffed. 
Time moved on and the Cobra was sold in deference to an MGC which was built and fettled to hillclimb and sprint. But during this period several more trips to model shows ensued and a set of Stuart Turner half beam castings seemed to have crept into the house (they must have followed me home). Ah. That won’t fit on a Unimat! Under the bench it went for 3-4 years until we moved into a property that had been the house of an architect. Said architect worked from home and so had an office attached to the garage – I had a workshop at last. No time was wasted in the purchase of a Chester 3 in 1 machine and the beam engine was started and, a year later, finished to my satisfaction.
Due to work commitments my modelling was put on hold. It was further hampered by my ‘domestic engineer’ deciding that she would like another car – yes, I was on the kit car trail again…………..
The next year was spent in the garage producing for her a Porsche 365 Speedster from the Chesil Company. Being VW Beetle based it was a little easier than the first time round and so completed in a fraction of the time, AND I’d earned significant brownie points into the bargain…..with these brownie points in the bank my thoughts turned to modelling again when I started going to steam rallies as well as model exhibitions. Rather liking the idea of a little traction engine I started looking and finally deciding, for my first attempt, on a Durham and North Yorks in 2” scale as this could be machined on the Chester Model B. Plans were purchased and avidly perused. I then took my wife to a steam rally and she liked the little engines but when I showed her the one I was going to build she was not very impressed with it, saying ‘I thought it was that size’, pointing to a 4”. Nough said. I was going to cash in my aforementioned brownie points. 2” drawings sold on fleaBay,
Plans for new workshop drawn up and approved, and new workshop built. All I had to do now was fill it with the required items of machinery and look at the several 4” scale engines on offer. The workshop slowly filled with big bits of ‘stuff’ as she called them. Right, the Plastow 4 ½” Burrell it is. Seemed to be a proven design and looked reasonably easy to build (well, on the drawings it did). I was ready to start ‘the big build’ until my eye caught an ad in a copy of Old Glory for a 4” Burrell SCC. A full set of castings, wheel rims, spokes, set of drawings and a boiler, it was all there. It was a good price so I went down south to have a look and returned home with a very heavily laden, suspension-less, Volvo estate car. I was on my way to heaven (or was it hell?). It’s been about 10 years since I embarked on this project now with a few hiccups along the way it’s looking like an engine rather than a pile of bits. One thing I did not reckon with though was the purchase of a new boiler. The one supplied did not come up to scratch. Having been a bit worried with its appearance in general I sought the advice of a professional inspector who realised my worst nightmare – ‘not fit for purpose’ in his opinion. Bugger………….. AJB supplied a new boiler and I was sort of back on track.
So basically, apart from a few bespoke engines scratch built from various drawings in magazines and books, this will be my third attempt at a ‘proper’ model and I hope it works when I’m done.
Written by Steve – Jan 2017

London MEX at Alexander Palace

London MEX at Alexandra Palace

The following pictures were taken by Kev B ay the Latest London ME show.

1) Three views of a 3 ½” gauge US Challenger, an enormous engine in full-size so it makes an enormous model this gauge.
 i) The valves on the steam fountain are worked by radio control servos; clever!
 ii) A very long tender with many many wheels!
iii) Side view of the loco; note the length and shallowness of the fire box.
2) 5” gauge standard gauge Beyer-Garratt similar to the full-size version “William Francis” that is in Bressingham museum.
3) A beautiful 2” scale Fowler Z7S ploughing engine as seen on the excellent Chelmsford club stand. These were the largest of the Fowler ploughers made by this famous firm form Leeds. The “S” stands for superheated. Superheating was very rarely used on overtype road steam vehicles. The model was displayed with some of the patterns made for the cylinder block.
Written by Kev B – Feb 2017

Charles Burrell Museum Closing Event

Charles Burrell Closing Event

The following photos give a feeling for what happend at the closing event last year. We have been asked to bring engines the opening event this Easter Sunday the 16th of April 10 oclock until 3pm, it’s a very informal event and anyone can come (your engine does not need to be a Burrell!) Please make an effort to come it’s a great start to the season, around lunchtime we can have a quick run down to the “Dads Army” museum, about half a mile away mostly not on the roads.

Written by John M & Chris H – April 2016

Charles Burrell Museum Opening Event

Charles Burrell Museum Opening Event

Easter usually marks the opening of museums and attractions around the country, and the Charles Burrell Museum in Thetford is no exception. Dedicated to telling the story of the St Nicholas Works where nearly every Burrell engine was built, the museum occupies the former paint shop of this world-renowned engine maker.

The adjacent car park saw many full size and miniature engines in steam. Chris H had been instrumental in the organising of the miniature traction engine contingent, and his efforts were duly rewarded with a good array of engines turning up. Club members’ engines included Peter G’s 3” Aveling & Porter tractor, Derek’s 4” Burrell DCC, Andy’s 4 ½” Burrell agricultural, and of course Chris’s 3” Minnie “Scallywag”. Roy was also exhibiting his latest creation, a 6” scale single chain Burrell steam wagon. It was the first time I’d seen this wagon in steam and together with its matching Gold Medal traction wagon it made a very impressive sight.

Other miniature engines included a 4” Burrell Scenic showman’s road loco, a 4” Garrett agricultural, and a pair of 6” Foden wagons. One of the Fodens had been modelled with a brewers dray body; a rare and splendid thing to see. The other Foden had been recently completed and was carrying the livery of Fred Darby of Sutton, the sand, gravel and engine dealers. It ran beautifully and looked stunning with its well-executed sign writing.

The full size engines comprised the whole Burrell museum engine fleet of showman’s RL “Queen Mary”, 7nhp single crank compound traction engine, and rare DCC roller. These engines were joined by two of Richard’s Burrell traction engines, namely “Century” the oldest working Burrell in the world, and “Princess Royal”. Garrett showman’s tractor “Little Billy” from the Saunders Collection had also come along to mark the opening of the museum.

Inside the museum were displays of model railways, some wonderful prints and paintings of traction and showman’s engines, and the whole array of the museum’s own collection. Also on show was a model of the Burrell-Boydell steam tractor. This was a very interesting exhibit as it shows the complex system the “Patented Endless Railway System” of the wheels. The idea never really caught on, but we must all be grateful that someone is researching and building a miniature version of this unusual machine.

At around 12:30pm some of the miniature engines gathered outside the museum in preparation for a road run through Thetford, just as the weather took a nasty turn and the rain started; typical! The museum’s roller also went along for the run, with “Little Billy and the Foden dray also taking to the road. With most of the engines out on the run we thought we would head for home. We can only hope that those who went out on the run got back safely, enjoyed themselves, and managed to dry out quickly! (See note below).

A great opening event for the Charles Burrell Museum, with many members of the public admiring the engines, taking photos, and chatting with the engine crews. Many thanks to all those who helped to make it happen.

Kev B

Note: The road run wasn’t a huge success in that the rain came down in buckets damping enthusiasm somewhat! The route could have been planned a bit better as well, but on the whole it was a laugh, I guess that’s the main thing and best of all no one was crushed by a twenty ton lorry! It will be better next time, the last week in October, one for the diary.

CMH – April 2016