I am fortunate that I live just around the corner from The Rand Society of Model Engineers in Florida. Its not the sort of place I do visit often, but when I do get out there I am always impressed by what I see. This past weekend of 24/26 September they hosted various SAR Steam Locomotives in a static and running display.
To say that that the models were amazing would be an understatement, I had never seen some of the locos before and they did not disappoint at all. I think the star of the show was the very impressive 15F that was running. Its a huge model and is just like its real life sister.
The part that amazes me is how such a small loco can pull such large weights. Realistically the cylinders of these machines are not very big, yet they easily pull themselves, a grown man and the tender, as well as any attached rolling stock and their passengers. In fact, given how small some of the locos are, it is really astonishing how effective steam can be as a propulsion medium. Granted though, there is always the problem of carrying your coal and water wherever you go.
The other thing is, these models are not the sort of thing you buy out of a shop. The majority of them are handmade, and some take years to complete. The one model that was about 30% completed had already taken over 7 years to get there. And, once completed, you still need to get that boiler certified. No wonder the hobby seems to be dominated by older males. Youngsters come into it by inheriting their father or grandfather’s locos, they don’t sit down and make their own, unless they have a very highly developed machine shop and engineering bent.
The other problem we have is that the pool of real live steam engines in South Africa is very small, so being able to build a model based on the real iota is often almost impossible because the real thing is no longer around. Fortunately model engineers are a very skilled group so they can still do an amazing job of recreating the real thing in miniature. All I know is, I really admire their talent, and am even jealous when I see those loco’s hurtling around the track. Yet I am fortunate to be able to see this, just think how many youngsters spend their days indoors glued to their playstations and computers and miss out on the heady smell of smoke and steam.
DRW © 2011-2018. Images recreated 19/03/2016