David L O Smith - Home

How I Came To Be Mutilating 0 Gauge Collectors’ Pieces In The 1960s

Like many boys of my generation, I was overjoyed to be allowed into the ‘sacred’ front room on Christmas morning when I was three or four years old to discover an 0 gauge tinplate railway laid out on the floor; father, two grandfathers and an uncle were already just ‘checking that all was working properly’.  There was an oval of track with one internal siding ending in sprung buffer-stops all held together with little black clips that gripped the less-than-prototypical-looking sleepers.  

The loco was a second-hand Bassett-Lowke 0-6-0 (I believe like the one below) but with a little brown 4-wheel tender; there were half a dozen goods wagons, including a battered brake van, a hopper (filled with dried peas), a crane, bolster, box van, and two new Hornby 4-wheel coaches.  These toys saw much use and stimulated my imagination in my young childhood and, a little later, outsized additions in the form of various freelance Meccano locomotives joined them.  One I remember was a very narrow gauge looking bogie electric with overhead ‘wire’ (flat strips on edge), which worked quite well once I had sorted out all the shorts - insulating steel components with Sellotape takes a boy a bit of time!

So far, so good.  I know that the next bit of the story is not unique, because I have heard it many times from others.  Not long after I had taken the 11+ (remember that ogre held over your head in primary school?), I came home to find that my mother had given away my ‘old toy trains’ to the jumble sale because I was a big boy and I wouldn’t need them now that I was going up to big-school. Hmm, that did not a lot to improve the mother and son relationship and had repercussions for some years to come.

Even before I went to big-school, a much older boy (he was probably two years older than me) came to our house and said that his boys model railway club had been given the list of new boys at the big-school (would permission for that be feasible today?) and would I be interested in joining them.  Remarkably, this was not an 00 layout in a church hall squeezed in next to the table tennis but an extensive outdoor 0 gauge railway in a wood with dozens of clockwork (we didn’t call it spring-drive then) locomotives and copious rolling stock. There were properly laid out stations and the trains were correctly signalled using genuine block instruments (This was Brambleton and it is still running today).  So, after a hiatus of a few months, I was back in 0 gauge.


Peckett 0-4-0ST, Invincible

Clockwork loco, Peckett 0-4-0ST by Bassett-Lowke, Invincible

This clockwork loco, a Peckett 0-4-0ST by Bassett-Lowke, was actually the first that I bought to replace the ‘train set’ that my mother gave away when I went up to big-school.  I remember that I bought it for 1/3 from a boy there but I later discovered that it actually belonged to his much older brother!

It was in a terrible state, missing its buffer beams and chimney and, originally missing its coupling rods, conrods and cylinders, although these ‘turned up’ later.  There was still some light green paint on it and I think it was lettered for LNER but, to me, it looked very much like Invincible, the Hawthorne Leslie that I saw working at RAE Farnborough (see a video clip at: www.britishpathe.com/video/invincible-locomotive)  So, after a makeover, Invincible it was named and put to work on a small garden railway and on at a much larger outdoor railway operated by the boys club (still active today: Brambleton www.brambleton.org.uk).

Former clockwork loco, Peckett 0-4-0ST by Bassett-Lowke. Now 12v 2R electric, Invincible

Many years later, after leaving university and deciding to get back into 0 gauge and turning to fine standards, I took this loco as an exercise in conversion (see: My Entry Into 0 Gauge Fine Standard).  I turned up and fitted steel tyres that were insulated from the turned down cast iron wheels with a sliver of acetate held in place with Araldite.  I made new frames from steel (well, I’d always worked in steel before!) and fitted an indifferent motor and a home-made 2BA steel worm and a 2BA hobbed aluminium worm wheel - I know now, but we all have to learn - and it did work well enough actually, although I later replaced the motor with a Sagami and the gears with a set from Ultrascale.  As you may see (above), I also turned up some reasonable sprung buffers, chimney, whistles and safety valves; I made some decent rods and slide bars - from steel, of course - and fitted a false smokebox front.  A bit more finer detailing and a coat of paint, and I had a new loco.

It has been in this condition for over 40 years and my niece, who now has it on long-term loan, used to take it proudly to run on an extensive garden railway each summer before she grew up and moved on to other things.


GER 0-6-0, Viking

0-6-0 clockwork 0 gauge locomotive made from a Hornby 0-4-0T

In the early 1960s, it was possible to pick up examples of the Hornby 0-4-0T (right) for anything between 6d and 1/- but of course they were nothing like a real engine.  So I set to with my tinsnips and soldering iron to rework the body with a firebox and a new cab. I made a chimney and dome by shaping brass off-cuts in the drilling machine with a file and I turned around the clockwork mechanism so that I could add an extension with another set of wheels to make an 0-6-0.  I made the tender from scratch from tinplate recovered from empty polish tins that I acquired from the cleaner at school; the wheels were from even older 0-4-0T engines (I have no idea what these were but they were 3d or 4d each, had clockwork mechanisms without reverse and with their extensive lithography were even more toy-like so the wheels were about the only useful bits to me).  Although it has darkened over the years, I painted my model in Humbrol GER blue with a school paint brush and I lettered and lined it using my father’s drafting pen.  I was 13, or possibly 14, at the time.

 LB&SCR 0-6-0, Dane
0-4-2 clockwork 0 gauge locomotive made from a Hornby 0-4-0T

I built this loco and Viking at the same time and very much in the same way, I think with the idea of making them an 0-6-0 + 0-6-0 Fairlie (I had been a volunteer on the Festiniog Railway for a year or so by then) but I thought better of it and made Dane into an 0-4-2, rather than an 0-6-0.

The dome is from a Hornby tank wagon, I seem to recall, and I used because it reminded me of one of the Fairlies that was running without its dome cover on the FR.  I made the tender from scratch, as for the one for Viking.

I made up a mixture of Humbrol paints that looked to me like Stroudley’s ‘Improved Engine Green’ of the LB&SCR.


North Stafford Railway No. 8

This is another example of a Hornby model that I ‘improved’ as a teenager.

It was in a rather poor state so I set to with my tinsnips and soldering iron to modify the cab and smokebox saddle, replace a missing chimney and add a few details. Looking through my primary reference book at the time (A Pocket Encyclopaedia of British Steam Locomotives in Colour by O S Nock, 1964), which was to be the source of inspiration for a number of my tinplate conversions, I choose to make a resemblance of a North Staffordshire Railway, Adams 4-4-2 superheated tank locomotive.

North Stafford Railway No. 8 Adams 4-4-2 superheated tank. Formerly c1934 Hornby 4-4-2 LMS No. 2 Special Tank Locomotive

Relatively recently, I adapted this model to run on ‘universal’ scale track on a friend’s garden railway.  The profile of the bogie and trailing pony truck wheels was acceptable but the flanges of the driving wheels needed to be turned down and the back-to-back widened with spacer washers behind the wheels. On machining the first wheel, the flange completely disintegrated and I said “Oh my word; that’s unfortunate!”, or words to that effect.  However, I was able to machine more of the back of the wheel away without incident so that I could pin and Araldite on a machined aluminium ring to form a new flange. It is not overly clear in the picture but it is the leading driving wheel.

c1934 Hornby O gauge 4-4-2 LMS No2 Special Tank Locomotive

I bought the original model with pocket money from a jumble sale and it would have looked something like this, a circa 1934 Hornby 4-4-2 LMS No. 2 Special Tank Locomotive.


LNWR George V Class, Coronation

I acquired the tinplate model (right), for 1/3 if I remember correctly, in rather poor condition without a tender, the upper part of the cab or a front bogie.  Most of the paint was missing and much of the exposed tinwork was rusty.

The bogie I found in a jumble sale box and it certainly looked far better to me than the original.  I soldered up the cab and the tender from tinplate that I obtained from my trusty supply of school polish tins.  I had no drawings to go by, just my O S Nock that I referred to earlier, and by modern standards, I wasn’t even close but I was pleased with it at the time.  I smile now at the tender springs, made from curves of wire soldered in place, and the lumpy brass axle boxes, but this is how my learning began.  Needless to say, spending all this time with tinsnips, files and soldering iron, not to mention paint brushes and lining pen, I was not a very sporty teenager but I was quite accomplished in physics and chemistry practicals.

Reworked Bing for Bassett-Lowke LNWR George V - O gauge clockwork with scratch-built tender

Bing for Bassett-Lowke 0 gauge LNWR George V

The model was actually a Bing for Bassett-Lowke LNWR George V and would have looked very similar to this (left) but I didn’t like the prominent ‘BING’ embossed on the smokebox door so I swapped the whole smokebox front for a plain one that belonged to a collector.


LMS Royal Scot

I bought this Bassett-Lowke unrebuilt Royal Scot from a boy at school for 15/-.  However, I had to apply for a ‘matching grant’ of 7/6 from my father to raise such an amount (he always said that if I saved up my pocket money to buy something sensible, and not spend it all on ‘consumables’, he would contribute half the finance).

Basett-Lowke 0 gauge LMS Royal Scot 6012 Black Watch

Again, this model was in poor shape and, despite the price demanded, was missing its bogie.  I stripped off the remaining paint and added detail such as lubricators, vacuum ejector, cylinder drain-cocks and a vacuum pipe/hose.  I did add smoke deflectors at first but then thought better of it and removed them a year or so later.  The top of the tender was a plain slope from back to front so I added a filler dome and coal rails fore and aft.  I remember that, as I was about to start the repainting, the boy at school came to me with the missing bogie and said “I’ve found this, do you want it?”  He made some suggestion that I should pay for it but, unusually for me, we argued a bit about this until we compromised, I got my way, and he gave it to me. 

It became Black Watch because, being a Scottish engine, it was one of the few I had not seen (or, at least, it was not underlined in my ABC).


Three 4-4-0s

Hornby GWR 4-4-0 County, Hornby SR 4-4-0 Schools, Bassett-Lowke 4-4-0T

I have put these 4-4-0s together as, apart from some straightening and repainting, I did very little to them other than to repaint them.

The Hornby GWR County was missing its cab roof and it needed a replacement driving wheel; there are still hints of blue on the rim, front left.  I added smoke deflectors to the Hornby SR Schools.

Both the County and the Bassett-Lowke 4-4-0T have bicycle spokes for their clockwork control rods, which often seemed to go missing.  The Schools is 20V AC so I have never been able to run it.


Great Northern Railway Railmotor No. 2

Having got the idea of rebuilding and reworking Hornby and Bassett-Lowke models, I built this model from scratch as a middling teenager.


The inspiration for my model came, not from the source of most of my inspirations for tinplate conversions (paintings in A Pocket Encyclopaedia of British Steam Locomotives in Colour by O S Nock, 1964), but from a painting in a companion volume: The Pocket Encyclopaedia of World Railways - Steam Railways of Britain in Colour by O S Nock, 1967.  The caption to the picture stated that No. 2 was designed for the Edgware branch of the Great Northern Railway.



Scratch-built, course scale Great Northern Railway Railmotor No. 2 in 0 gauge

As you may see, the bogie units are rather crude: I made use of some Hornby 0-4-0T engine parts for the dummy power bogie, and I made up the powered coach bogie from parts of a Lima Big Big Train mechanism, a Hornby 4-wheel coach underframe and wagon wheels from I remember not where.  The coach bodywork was made from balsa wood and it sat on an underframe of coarse scale flat-bottomed brass rail; unprototypically, the underframe continued to become the loco running plate.  The body of the loco was soldered up from tinplate with boiler fittings from oddments; the chimney was brass tube with a flattened wire rim and the steam dome was the end of a Sparklets soda siphon gas bulb. The buffers look as if they were scavenged off something else but the coupling and vacuum pipe was certainly home-made.  There were batteries in the floor of the coach compartment and a control switch hidden underneath somewhere so, although it did technically run, you can well imagine why I felt the need to improve the under works when I was a bit older.

Scratch-built Great Northern Railway Railmotor No. 2 - 0 gauge

So, the railmotor went into 'the works' for a new two-rail powered front bogie and a decent interior; the photographs above were taken then.  I recall that I completed the decent interior but that ‘other interests’ took over before the two-rail plan was accomplished.  I am fairly certain that this is the condition that it would have been in when I sold it nearly thirty years later on the Bring & Buy at the Bletchley Gauge 0 Guild show in March 1995, according to my records.

I do wonder where it is now.  If anybody knows, or has seen it even, I would be most interested to hear about it.


Today, modellers often refer to a ‘shunting plank’ to mean somewhere that was not really intended to be a complete layout but rather somewhere to try out and ‘amuse’ but which has matured into something rather more.  I had the garden equivalent: a shunting wall.

Pecket 0-4-0ST Invincible on garden railway

Here is my Peckett, Invincible, again in its first rebuilt form trundling along The Wall with a few Hornby tinplate wagons.  Of course, I lie - it was still clockwork at the time, so it would have been stopped for the photograph, otherwise it would have been fair batting along at quite an undignified rate.

A friend and I built a small garden railway at ‘his house’ down at ground level - well it was not an issue when you were twelve, was it? - but I never took any pictures there probably because my 120 B&W film camera had a huge field of view and would focus right down to (maybe) ten feet so it was truly hopeless for such things.  It was not brilliant at 12” to the foot either with just its two aperture settings: ‘Cloudy’ and ‘Sunny’.  It was nearly always cloudy or very cloudy/raining, or in the shade, so I never used the sunny setting.  However, later I was invited to bring one of my locos to another friend’s garden railway and I took this photograph on Kodachrome II transparency film with my second camera.

Bassett-Lowke 0 gauge 4-6-0 Royal Scot, Black Watch, on garden railway

I took my Bassett Lowke Royal Scot (No. 6102 Black Watch) but his railway was a goods only line so an ignominious goods train it had to be.  Notice how I very artistically arrange the galvanised steel dustbin just off-centre in the background.

More 7mm scale railway models
My entry into 0 gauge Fine Standard