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A web-site by Rob Speare

   

'Clan Line' - a Merchant Navy class in 7¼" gauge.

words by Clifford Perry

All members of the Merchant Navy class were rebuilt starting in the late 1950s, replacing the distinctive casing, and the Bulleid valve gear with three sets of conventional Walschearts gear.

'Clan Line' was was the last to be modified in 1961 and then withdrawn from service in 1967.  Fortunately, it was not scrapped but has been preserved in working order, and 'Clan Line' is probably in the finest condition of those saved, being last overhauled in 2007.

The 7¼" gauge model was built by John Morgan and first steamed in August 1988.  It has three cylinders and a high degree of faithfulness to the prototype.  John ran his own specialist machine making business, at the end of a career which started on the footplate on the Southern, and followed his father's interest in steam engines.  He was clearly a superb modeller and the quality of the workmanship in the model is very high across a wide range of skills.  The copper boiler is by John Ellis.  The lining of the model is by John Morgan's wife Jan, who learned her skills in the drawing office of Eastleigh works where the full size 'Clan Line' was built.

The model is of 35028 at the end of her life after rebuilding with AWS, speedometer and with a red background to the nameplate.  It is the only model John ever completed prior to his untimely death in 2004.  At this time he was well into the construction of three T9 4-4-0s; these are currently being finished off by another fine modeller.

John took the model frequently to Frimley and other clubs in the south, including more than one visit to the Great Cockcrow Railway.  He had a dodgy back, which did restrict the length of each run.  Coupled with the care the model received, this means it is in almost as new condition.

Following John's death in 2004, his widow Jan understandably took a while to part with the model, being emotionally attached to it.  Eventually in 2006 she let it be known that she might sell to the right buyer; and I was selected as the potential candidate through a series of interviews, eventually taking ownership in 2006.

The model has a number of features which reflect the care and skill John lavished on it during the build.  It is very faithful to the prototype, representing almost perfectly the real dimensions and arrangements.  For example, John gave it scale size cylinder lubricators that provide (just) the necessary feed of steam oil to the cylinders.  Using the arrangement and scaled down dimensions of the original loco leaves the oiling on the edge, but it works, and it looks exactly right.  Some builders may have relaxed the dimensions to get bigger volumes of oil, and less worries, but John Morgan did not.

The model has working sanders, and also working front and rear dampers, these make a real difference to the fire regulation, giving a high degree of control over the fire temperature for an engineman good enough to use them.

Compromises have been made to deliver a reliable working model, and the injector arrangement is horizontal instead of vertical.  There is only one steam valve in the injector supply, instead of one on the manifold and one under the fireman's seat as on the real loco; and the water valves are on the tender.  The result is that they work every time, as if switched on, rather than having to be coaxed into action.

The whistle on the boiler is a dummy, and the working one under the running plate is just a little high pitched.  There are 7.25" locos about with the right tone for a M.N., and one day when the owner finds the right whistle, (or some kind friend makes one for him), the model may sound just like the real thing.

Its exhaust beat does this already, and the three cylinders faithfully reproduced give the right beats in the bar, (6 chuffs per revolution).

The generator and the electric lights are also dummies, as is the valve for the cylinder drain cocks just in front of the drivers side of the cab, on the running plate.  The model's drain cocks are steam operated, but not through this valve.  The other dummy item is the wheel just in front of the firebox on the driver's side, which isolated the main steam manifold in the cab in full-size.

Vacuum and steam brakes are fitted, independently operated.  The handles get really hot so, on the occasions of running at the Spinney Railway, I use a light for tunnel working as there is a stop signal at the end; and groping around in the dark trying to find the brake lever is not a recommended procedure !

The boiler steams really well, has thermic syphons, and carries a "Bishop Ellis" builders plate.  The platework and paintwork are of a high standard, and have been lovingly cared for during the life of the loco, giving a finish that belies its age.

Altogether a very fine model, which I count it a priviledge to own, and I get a real buzz from seeing others enjoy it too.  I am sure that's partly why John made it, and as long as I can look after it, with a lot of help from my friends, I hope it will stay that way for some time to come.