While unpacking boxes in the basement recently, I dug out my 7/8″ scale (1:13.7) live steam model of a Decauville Type 1 and posed it for photos in the garden. As the lead photo shows, Jack was very interested. I think he’s demonstrating that classic “rivet counter” look that will be familiar to most fellow hobbyists.
According to the manufacturer (Accucraft) the prototype is “Bathala”, a 3 Ton 0-4-0T built in 1899 for the Dombe Grande Sugar Estates in Angola. Bathala was retired in 1930, but preserved and restored to working operation in 2003. It currently resides at the Sandstone Steam Railroad in South Africa.
I bought my model in 2017 when it was first offered by The Train Department, an American supplier of garden railway equipment which commissioned this model from Accucraft. I thought this pint-sized Decauville would make an excellent locomotive for an estate railway. (As the term implies, these railways served large estates such as Eaton Hall in Cheshire UK. They would typically connect with a nearby public railway and be used to transport guests and goods to and from the estate. They might also be used to transport workers and equipment around the estate to maintain the property.)
The model, as delivered, had a number of engineering issues, which have been well-documented online. Fortunately, my friends Jeff Young and Peter Foley were able to help me address these. (Peter acquired one at the same time as I did.) Some other smart people in the live steam community developed a fix, and in July of 2018 the three of us spent a day in Jeff’s workshop to retrofit our models.
I’m now 3,000 km west of Jeff and Peter, but I had a number of enjoyable outings with them and the other members of the Wednesday Night Water Boilers, often involving raising steam and raising pints of craft beer. I would love to build a garden railway at our new estate to rekindle those memories. That said, winters on the Canadian Prairies are notoriously brutal: Typically, we “enjoy” a few weeks of -40C temperatures and I’m not sure how well an outdoor railway would survive that kind of freeze. Some experimentation is in order.
Fortunately, I have the space to store a portable steaming track and that’s something that could be set up and left outside all summer long. I’ve added that to the “to-do” list.
Meantime, I have a few 7/8″ scale projects to work on. A suitable engineer for the Decauville is en route from the UK as I type this, and he will need painting. I also have a couple of estate coaches that I built years ago and finished in blue – and I’d like to repaint those red to match the locomotive.
And of course there’s an indoor layout to plan… and projects in the smaller scales to finish.