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By David Argent


I am very interested in the Tinplate concept, finding that it reminds me of my childhood growing up in England in the 1940’s. For the past ten years, in my second childhood, I have collected O scale trains, scenery, accessories and vehicles and placed them in a large operating layout of about 100 sq. ft. in my basement. My train collection includes Hornby, Bing, Leeds, Ives, Lionel, American Flyer, Paya, JEP, Sakai and Dorfan.

I am always buying restoration parts with no particular end in mind except to build up a supply for future but unspecified projects. A couple of years ago I purchased two very large (2”) drive wheels on EBAY and then looked for a suitable project. Thus, the Stirling Single adventure started.


The primary thought in my mind was to build a model easily recognized as the Stirling, but with the simple charm of other British outline engines such as those made by Hornby in the 1920’s and 1930’s.


There is a magnificent example in the National Railway Museum, York, England.

"Locomotives - Stirling Single"

PHOTO courtesy National Railway Museum, York, UK

You can read all about this historic locomotive on the National Railway Museum's site by clicking here.


To get some ideas I did some digging to see what had already been done in terms of modeling and here are three examples:

1. Aster Models - This company made a spectacular live steam Gauge 1 model shown below.


Aster's "Great Northern Railway Stirling Single"

Photo courtesy

You can read more about this fine model on the Southern Steam Trains web site by clicking here.

2. Carette Stirling Single - A friend sent me this picture of a No. 2 gauge Carette Stirling Single. Obviously a very large, robust and well made model, probably dating to the early 1900’s.

Carette Sterling Single

Photo used by permission of the owner.

3. Emily Stirling Single

PHOTO: David Argent

For the next generation of train collectors the Thomas Tank Engine series now features Emily the Stirling Single. I have no idea who makes these engines – whether they are scratch built or modified commercial products, nor do I know the scale. In the TV series the model is well done and the scenery and buildings are exceptional.

For very young children Tomy offers a Stirling Single, driven from the tender. Start them young and hope they keep our wonderful hobby running when we are gone.


Drawings by David Argent

With some intense Googling I was able to get enough pictures to create drawings to form the basis of a fairly accurate O Gauge model. Much consideration had to be given to the placement of the drive mechanism, since space is very tight. A small can motor and NWSL gear box fit the bill. Another notable task was drawing the delicate wheel splasher openings which add to the visual appearance of this engine.


PHOTO: David Argent

Before attempting any brass work I decided to make a mock up of the model in paper and wood. This would allow many attempts and corrections to get every part in place and to check dimensions and proportions. It became apparent at this point that weight distribution would be critical that a neutral point along the axis of the large drive wheels would need to be achieved. I had visions of the engine rocking back and forth and derailing at every curve and switch. It was important that the design would allow for easy assembly and disassembly of the finished model to facilitate painting and servicing of the drive mechanism.

PHOTO: David Argent


Making the brass parts and test fitting the components was the next stage. I will confine my comments to the loco itself and not go into the making of the tender.

The boiler was made from brass tube stock and is very heavy. As a result it was necessary to pay careful attention to the weight forward of the drive axle. Much of the tube ahead of the axle was cut away in areas which would not show in the final model.

PHOTO: David Argent

There was constant reference to the mock up for measurements and to the numerous pictures to make sure that the model looked like the real thing. The hardest part of the brass work was making the wheel valences. I printed these to scale on thin paper and then glued the paper to brass stock. This gave an accurate pattern for careful cutting with small drills and needle files – a long and tedious task.

One thing you find out when you are scratch building without specific instructions and detailed scale drawings is that many of the steps, parts and pieces have to be made up as you go along. It helps to have a strong mental picture of the whole project ahead of time and be thinking several steps ahead at all times.

The drive mechanism was built in a separate detachable frame. It was then possible to test it mechanically and electrically before placing it in the loco chassis. A small rectifier was wired in to convert the current pick up from AC to DC. It was a milestone to see those large wheels revolve for the first time.

PHOTO: David Argent

The moment of truth came when all of the pieces were assembled. I have to admit that the assembly/disassembly process happened multiple times while small adjustments were made. Lead weights were needed in the rear of the loco to set the balance. Finally, the Stirling Single made a whole pass through the layout with no problems. No derailments at all. Another potential problem with this set up was said to be wheel spin. This did not happen, even with start ups on slight grades.

PHOTO: David Argent


The model is one again disassembled ready for finishing. All the parts are carefully cleaned to remove all traces of contaminants. This is a step that cannot be rushed otherwise paint defects will spoil the appearance. I use automotive primer and lacquer in aerosol cans, and find that I get results comparable to air brushing with much less effort.

PHOTO: David Argent

The first coat of primer reveals all surface imperfections. Several rounds of primer and wet sanding take care of these and provide a receptive surface for the final finish. The main color green is applied first and allowed to dry for several days. This ensures that the use of masking tape in the next step does not cause the paint to lift when the tape is removed. Black is then sprayed on the unmasked areas. I let the paint dry to touch and then carefully remove the masking tape. At this stage the paint is somewhat flexible and you get a sharper line at the edge of the tape. I make my own lining material from paper adhesive labels cut to the desired thickness. I use the same technique for numbering.

PHOTO: David Argent

Yes it does !


As you can see there is nothing special about my workshop. I do have plenty of room, which is a real plus. The most important general items are good lighting, a dust collector and a sink with running hot and cold water. The most important tool is the Dremel.

PHOTO: David Argent


Many people in our community have helped me along the way:

Colin Duthie from New Zealand, a contributor to Tinplate Times, introduced me to can motor and worm drive systems at a time when I had never heard or seen such devices.
David Collinson, from England, who has built an incredible Johnson Single, and helped with construction tips and pictures of the Stirling
Roland Digilio, from USA, who helped with Stirling pictures.
Anthony Piscitelli, from USA, for his help in selecting the actual can motor and gearbox for this application.

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