24 October 2019
Garden Rail Editor, Phil Parker, takes a look at Mamod's latest live steam locomotive. Is it suitable for a newbie steam loco owner?
More years ago than I care to remember, my father and I received a Mamod steam locomotive kit as a Christmas present. With it's waggling cylinders (I know, oscillating, but waggling sums the model up better) and more than spirited performance, it got us interested in outdoor railways.
Fast forward to today and I find myself looking at the Mamod “Stirling” locomotive, a very different proposition. Gone are the oscillating cylinders and tablet firing. We now enjoy 14mm diameter cylinders that don't move and slip-eccentric valve gear between the frames. The gas tank in the cab feeds an internal poker-style burner.
A freelance 0-4-0, the design looks plausible and very British. It sits well with G scale LGB stock and will be just as happy with 16mm wagons and coaches. You know those small narrow-gauge locos we all like? It looks like one of them to me.
At 2800g, the model is pleasantly heavy and seems very well made. Poking and pulling at the body didn't reveal anything loose or poorly made. Maybe it doesn't have the finescale detail of more expensive models, but it has all you need and what's there isn't going to be knocked off in a derailment. The maroon body, black footplate and cab roof are powder-coated for exceptional durability.
Looking in the cab we have (looking from the back) the gas tank with a knurled adjuster, the regulator in the middle and then displacement lubricator and pressure gauge on the right. The gauge looks out of the side, something to bear in mind when you put the model on the track.
On the track
I'll admit I'm still a beginner with live steam so I followed the well-written instructions to the letter. All the oiling points were lubricated and then the lubricator topped up with steam oil. Undoing the top of this needs a flat-bladed screwdriver as it's tucked under the top of the cab (the roof slides off for easy access) so getting my fingers in was tricky.
The boiler is filled by removing the safety valve, topping it up and then removing 40ml using the supplied syringe. Finally, the gas tank is filled with a Propane/Butane mix.
Rotating the smokebox door removes it, then the gas is turned on and a long-nosed lighter inserted in the front. The model lit up first even with the gas valve about ¾ open.
I'd filled the boiler with warm water on a mild day so we saw pressure in just over 5 minutes. After a little pushing back and forth, steam, condensation and smoke oil spat out of the chimney (keep your face out of the way) and a few minutes later, I was able to open the regulator and the model started to move. At first, this was jerky, but pretty quickly it was off.
There was no problem with LGB 6ft diameter curves or long USA trains points. A little tweaking of slowed things down a bit but as a new model I'd expect it to be more controllable once everything has run in.
I like Stirling. It might not be the most sophisticated locomotive you can buy but it is well-made, rugged and I think, very good-looking.
As a newbie, I found it easy to fire up and can't see anything that would worry me from a maintenance point of view. Everything seems very easy to get at and the simplicity makes even cleaning up the model after a run a simple job.
For someone new to steam, the impressive collection of accessories in the box is a boon. No need to source a valve for filling the tank, it's in there. So are bottles of lubricating and steam oil, a back-to-back gauge, funnel, even a length of coupling chain!
For the price, made in the UK, this seems like excellent value for money. I'm sure there will be plenty of options to customise the model to please individual owners. This is a model you won't be scared to run, not a shelf queen.
- Length 300mm
- Width 125mm over cylinders#
- Height 145 mm
- Weight 2800 g
- Internally fired Butane/Propane burner
- 14mm diameter cylinders
- Stainless steel steam pipe
- Internally framed regaugeable wheels
- 54mm diameter boiler
- 230ml boiler volume
- 8ml inline displacement lubricator
- 40 psi safety valve
- Bayonet smokebox door
- Sliding roof
- Silver soldered boiler
- 36mm wheels