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Alec Farmer

Model Engineer - Model Railways; Live Steam; Model Boilersmithing

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Alec F. Farmer
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Titles to Look Out For:
1988. Model Locomotive Boilermaking [Model Engineering Guide]

About the Author
Alec Farmer seems to have always had an interest in railway engines - he demonstrated what a firebox fire looked like to his mother and set fire to their chimney (causing a chimney fire), which from all accounts sounded rather spectacular, made the house windows rattle and resulted in the fire brigade arriving with stirrup pump to extinguish it!

His dad was a builder and the builder's yard at the rear of their house gave him lots of experience with burning coal - he was fascinated with fire from an early age. He constructed furnaces from brick and sand and used coal from the coal hole or picked up in the street. Anyone reading this is probably asking, "OK, so what was he doing with the furnace?" - melting lead; and then later aluminium, casting them into bars.

Limited by the coarse building sand available to him for the furnaces, the author turned to building small boilers constructed form soldering sheets of zinc together, and whilst this shows the direction Alec Farmer was heading, it was a copy of Model Engineer from King's Heath Library that contained an article written by LBSC ("Curly" Lawrence) on building 'Maid of Kent' that made him realise there were people out there actually building real working model steam trains. This was the start of great things. He was surprised to find that burning coal in a small firebox could actually generate steam pressures of 90lb (pounds) per sq. inch (square inch)

In essence, Alec Farmer believes that model steam engine boilers should be as simple and uncomplicated as possible to increase the probability of having a successful and faultless working boiler at the end of the process. Alec Farmer and Don Crisp acquired the world's largest model engineering supplier, A. J. Reeves & Co. (Birmingham) Ltd in April 1968 and is described by his friend Don Young (in the foreword to 'Model Locomotive Boilermaking' as an expert coppersmith; he was also the pioneering force adopting the minimum step on the boiler brushes (particularly at the dome) and developed the use of 'coaxial' superheater elements and castellated joint (inspired by the coppersmith's joint on the cladding of the vintage locomotive Old Copperknob at the Museum of Transport at Clapham (this was closed down when the National Railway Museum was set up at York).

Farmer, Alec. 'Model Locomotive Boilermaking' published in 2014 in Great Britain by TEE Publishing, in paperback, 191pp, ISBN 1857611357. Condition: New and in stock. Click to buy for £23.00, not including post and packing, which is Amazon UK's standard charge (currently £2.80 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
2014, TEE Publishing, pbk
In stock, click image above to buy for £23.00 (£2.80 p&p, UK)
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Farmer, Alec. 'Model Locomotive Boilermaking (Model Engineering Guides)', first published in 1988 in Great Britain in paperback, 191pp, ISBN 1852600071. Sorry, sold out, but click image or links to right to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon UK
1988, PSL, pbk
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  • Model Locomotive Boilermaking (Model Engineering Guides) [top]
    Written by Alec F. Farmer; Foreword by Don Young
    First published in 1988 in Great Britain by PSL (Patrick Stephens Limited, part of Thorsons Publishing Group), in paperback, 191pp, ISBN 1852600071
    Original retail price when first published: £9.95
    Proofreading by John Crisp; photographs of the completed locomotives provided by Ken Toone; photographs illustrating the steps in the book were taken by Peter Wardle
    Publishing in 2014 in Great Britain, in paperback by TEE Publishing, 191pp, ISBN 1857611357

About this book/synopsis: Alec Farmer was a member of the Birmingham Society of Model Engineers, and given his knowledge and experience in building boilers, he was often asked to give talks on the topic, but declined, not believing he had enough material to base a talk or make it instructive. When in 1967 two members of the society went ahead with constructing two locomotives to the Torquay Manor design in 5 in gauge by LBSC (the Great Western Railways 78XXs, the 7800 class), he was asked to make the boilers for them and realised that here was the perfect opportunity to compile a photographic record of building the boilers for these locomotives; and that is what this book is - the published photographic record of that process. The two boilers pictured in the book are Garsington Manor and Granville Manor; and the author worked the whole process so that as they progressed, photographs were taken. If any proofs were unsatisfactory, then he'd take new shots on the second boiler. When it was confirmed that the 2nd set of shots was up to scratch, then the work on the second boiler would be brought up to the stage of the first boiler.

So what can the reader expect to get from this book? In well-illustrated, step-by-step instructions, the author explains the process of constructing a model coal-fired locomotive boiler, from the selection of tools and materials through the working of the metal, to the testing of the finished job. As well as being a satisfying project in itself, boilermaking also provides plenty of opportunities for improving general model engineering skills. Alec Farmer draws on his many years of practical experience to create an invaluable guide to this absorbing craft, highlighting the pleasures yet at the same time warning where the problems may arise and advising how they can be avoided. Readers should note that this book will help build model boilers, but it's not an instruction manual to build multiple types of boiler. The type of boiler this builds is shown on page 14 and 15 in side, front and rear elevations and the book then takes 302 steps over 191 pages to construct this boiler and show the finished article (a picture of the boiler diagram from pages 14-15 is included below)

The boiler is then shown at work on a 4-6-0 steam engine (No. 7818) at Illshaw Heath, home of The Birmingham Society of Model Engineers. Castings and boiler materials were originally supplied by Reeves (now Reeves2000), with drawings (supplied by MAP, Argus Publications, "Torquay Manor". MAP is sadly now defunct, but many of their titles have been and are being reprinted, e.g. by TEE Publishing). There are 16 colour photographs in the centre of the book and the finished locomotive can be seen gleaming in the final of these.

The Boiler Design

Longitudinal Section of Boiler Showing Principal Features; Cross-section of firebox; and Backhead, showing position of bushes and stays

Other Books on Model Locomotive Boilers


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