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March 2010

LBSC's "Sir Morris de Cowley"

by Marc Horovitz

The work of LBSC ("Curly" Lawrence), the legendary British model-locomotive designer, has appeared many times in these pages. The engine presented here is, arguably, one of his most interesting. It is a 4-6-2 tender engine in 0 scale in the style of a Southern Railway locomotive. It was initially published in Model Engineer magazine in 1926. Curly's own example of the model would haul passengers! I recall reading somewhere that the name, Sir Morris de Cowley, was derived from the Morris Cowley automobile, but I do not recall the connections. Perhaps someone can help me out on that one.

The model
The model in question was built around 1935, according to a slip of paper that came with it, by a builder unknown. The paper says:

Sir Morris de Cowley. 4-6-2 Coal Fired, Steam Loco designed by 'LBSC' and built by ---- about 1935.

The builder's name was neatly clipped out -- infuriating! The paper goes on to explain, in minuscule handwriting, the workings of the locomotive, which has evidently never been fired.

Although designed as an 0-scale locomotive, this particular model has had its proportions changed slightly. The cab has been lengthened and the height of the tender has been brought down a little, giving the locomotive more of the look of the 15"-gauge locomotives that run on the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway. So, the scale could be construed as either 0-scale (if the model is taken as that of a standard-gauge engine) or 1" scale (if interpreted as a 15"-gauge loco).

This engine is beautifully, though plainly, made. It has a slide-off cab roof, revealing a fully fitted backhead, including everything anyone could wish for: a pressure gauge (with a hand-lettered dial!), a pull-out-type regulator, a whistle valve (the large whistle is concealed between the frames, under the boiler), a water glass with a blowdown, and a blower valve. A pair of tiny safeties ride atop the boiler and there's a clack valve on either side of the boiler, just aft of the smokebox. One is plumbed into the engine's tender pump while the other is connected to the axle pump, driven off the middle axle. A bypass valve stands on the footplate.

The smokebox door opens with a proper dart, revealing the usual smokebox plumbing. Behind this is a locomotive type, coal-fired boiler with five flues and a larger superheater flue. A high firebox door resides on the backhead to maximize the depth of the fire. There's a miniature coal grate above the trailing truck.

Valve gear is Baker. The is one of the very few models of this size (or even larger) that I've ever seen with Baker gear. The gear is controlled by a nicely made reversing quadrant on the right-hand floor of the cab.

As mentioned above, this locomotive has never been run since it was constructed, 75 years ago. This brings up a philosophical question. Should the engine be left in its pristine, virginal condition or should if be fired up as was intended, at least by its designer, if not its builder. My inclination is toward the former, so I'll not be firing the locomotive. However, I did put some compressed air to it. It runs beautifully.

Builder Unknown (UK)
Date built Unknown -- likely mid 1930s
Gauge 0 gauge
Scale 0 scale or 1" scale, depending (see text)
Boiler Locomotive type
Fittings Safety valves (2), pull-out throttle, water glass, blower, blowdown, whistle, pressure gauge, tender pump; axle pump
Fuel Coal
Blow-off pressure 60 psi (estimated)
Cylinders Two, double-acting D-valve
Reversing gear Baker
Lubricator Displacement
Weight 8 pounds, 2 ounces (loco and tender)
Dimensions Length over end beams, 22-3/4"; width, 2-5/8"; height, 4"
Sir Morris is long and elegant. Its wide firebox is reminiscent of a Wooten firebox. Its cab has been extended back and its tender lowered so that it more resembles a 15"-gauge Pacific.
The smokebox door is secured in the traditional manner. Inside, the usual plumbing can just be seen.
The displacement lubricator is located just under the smokebox, between the cylinders.
Inside the cab everything is neatly arranged and very well made. Note the pull-out style throttle. Above it is the whistle valve. The pressure gauge has a hand-lettered dial. Perhaps it was scratchbuilt, too. Below the throttle lever the firebox door can just be made out. The water glass is fitted with a blowdown at the bottom. This little locomotive is as sophisticated as many much larger engines, and moreso than most.
The unusual Baker valve gear gleams in the sun. All rods and valve-gear parts are finely crafted of steel.
The tender is plain but finely crafted. The trucks, evidently commercial castings, are a little crude. Oddly, they are mounted upside down. They don't mount properly when installed right-side up. The tender carries water. The top of the pump-handle stub can just be seen. If ever there was a hatch cover, it is gone.
Underneath, the complexity of this locomotive is apparent. There's plumbing everywhere, including lots under the tender.
The engine has an axle pump, driven off the second axle. Behind it, the whistle can be seen. Everything is very clean because the engine has never been fired. The chassis is sprung.
The grate is just above the trailing truck. There is no ashpan. If the engine were to be run, an ashpan would probably need to be provided to prevent the rear axle from ash and clinker.
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