The Welsh Dragon

I can’t resist the unusual, and this certainly qualifies:

Live steam at speed.

In 2009, I acquired a second-hand Accucraft live steam model of an NGG-16 class Beyer-Garratt. This is one of the larger garden scale (1:19) live steam models I’ve encountered, at 31″ long and almost 7″ tall. It operates at roughly 60 psi.

The prototypes were originally built for two-foot gauge lines in South Africa, but a number of them now survive on the Welsh Highland Railway. My model is lettered for WHR 138. The model bears the nameplate “Millennium” and wears the Edison Energy Green scheme that was applied to the prototype with funds from a UK power company. However – and this is how I remember the story going – the paint colour was incorrect. It was too pale and too blue. The real locomotive was soon repainted into a darker, greener tone – but Accucraft had already okayed the teal colour you see here.

At one time I thought about repainting it, but that’s a big job and when it’s running, I don’t really care. It’s marvellous. This butane-powered beast is big, beefy, and beautiful in motion – which is why I refer to it as The Welsh Dragon.

I do wish I had some appropriate WHR or South African rolling stock for it to haul. Unfortunately, to date, I haven’t found what I’m looking for so the Garratt often operates light.

While the Accucraft Garratt is impressive model as delivered, I’ve made a whole series of after-market modifications to it. I’ve added a resonator whistle, a steam diverter to heat a water bath around the gas tank so it can run in cold weather, and a blowdown valve for the water glass. I’ve also diverted the exhaust from the rear cylinders into an expansion tank to drain some of the water out of it, as I noticed a running issue that resulted when spent steam from the front and rear engines vied for space in the exhaust pipe. It’s complicated and I won’t delve into it except to say it runs much better now.

One of the biggest upgrades, though, was adding a swing-out seat on the engineer’s side of the cab, and having a crew member custom-made to sit on it. I actually had two identical crew members made, but posed to sit in different directions. I call them the Al Fresco Twins, and they allow me to run the locomotive with the engineer always facing the correct direction.

I wrote about that modification for the January 2012 issue of Garden Rail magazine. It’s my only UK byline, but I’m very proud of it. You can read more about Al and Al Fresco in my next post.

Fun fact: I took the lead photograph for the article in my garden, which had no model railway in it. The locomotive is sitting on a piece of plywood.

I’ve acquired quite an eclectic collection of live steam models since I picked up this locomotive. Someday, I will build a garden railway.

Published by Trevor

Lifelong model railway enthusiast and retired amateur shepherd who trained a border collie to work sheep. Professional writer and editor, with some podcasting and Internet TV presenting work thrown in for good measure.

5 thoughts on “The Welsh Dragon

    1. I have NO idea. Winters are long and brutal here. One would have to be very committed to have a permanent outdoor layout. But there might be portable tracks. If not, I could build one and set it up seasonally in the garden. I guess I’ll find out!


  1. This was interesting, Trevor. I’m sure there must be some live steam group in Saskatchewan. Based on sports and the arts in the prairies people are willing to drive great distances to take part in live events. Great model. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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