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A new approach to building a loco!


One of our members – Alan Whatley took on a challenge to build a new loco, but not using Plastic or metal, please find his story below


“Before retiring as a pastry chef, I was a keen competitor in culinary competitions and having been quite successful over the years was asked to be a judge.

From time-to-time judges are asked to exhibit items at shows where they are judging. This occurred recently when I was judging at a 4-day culinary salon at London's ExCel in Docklands.

Being a steam enthusiast and a member of Taunton Model Railway Group I opted to make a locomotive from sugar. Being a GWR fan I opted to make it a star class.

My starting point were the drawings of F. J. Roche which are excellent but rather small for my purposes, so I measured each piece of the drawing and scaled it up by four, re-drawing the whole thing again in the larger size. The plan was to make the entire model in a medium called pastillage. This is a firm paste made from icing sugar, egg white and gum tragacanth (a natural product with fantastic setting properties). It can be rolled, shaped, or cut and when dry becomes quite brittle.

Having cut a baseboard, which fitted into the back of my car I cut, dried, and coloured the sleepers and set them in place using icing. Next came the ballast, 4 colours, cut, dried, and then mixed before applying around the sleepers. Finally, the rails were made and attached.


At this point, I needed to put a small structure in place to hold the weight of the boiler and cab. This was achieved with a thin strip of wood held in place at the correct height and secured with thin metal rods, bolted securely in place. This was necessary to ensure the integrity of the piece and is the only part not made from sugar.


Having started planning in July, it was now getting near to Christmas and the various components were being made (it’s really like a big Airfix model).

Every item needed to be made to scale or the finished product would not look right. Each wheel was made by cutting individual spokes, attaching them to a rim then covering with a final tyre. Rivets were piped in icing (please don't count them). Wheels were coloured then dusted with a cake decorating dust called dark silver to give a metallic appearance. Each driving wheel took 3-4 hours to complete. Imagine my horror when, having made 6, I discovered they were all 1cm too small. I binned them and made 6 more.


By January, most items were ready for assembly, and it was starting to look like a locomotive. Colouring was done with food colouring paste, which was diluted down to brushing consistency with alcohol, the right shade of green being critical I made numerous test batches then one large batch sufficient for the whole engine. Once coloured it received a coat of confectioners’ varnish.


Coal was made in individual pieces, sprayed black and dusted with black cake decorating powder (a good item for weathering by the way) before being arranged on the tender.


Boiler banding, lining, splasher lining, lettering and crests plus buffer numbering were all achieved using 2.5-inch gauge waterslide transfers from Fox Transfers (always great products). Each side of the tender took 5 hours to dress with transfers. Once all transfers had dried, I gave the whole thing another coat of varnish.


I originally planned to make no. 4036 Queen Elizabeth, but events overtook me, so it became no. 4025 King Charles.


I had a perspex cover custom made by Dave Poole of Just in Case which helps finish it off nicely.


By end of February, it was finishing touches then packing for transport to London (Taunton to Docklands at about 40mph. - 5-hour journey)


It has now returned from London and will be on show at Taunton Model Railway Group clubhouse, Platform 1, Bishops Lydeard station where it can be viewed on open days this year.”

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