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May 2003

Archangel 0-6-4T Snowdon Ranger

by Marc Horovitz

The prototype
As articulated locomotives go, I find Fairlies to be among the most interesting. Perhaps the best known of this type are the double Fairlies, developed by Robert Fairlie in the late 1860s and still running on the Ffestiniog Railway in Wales. These are double-ended locomotives with a cab in the middle and a smokestack at either end. Beneath each boiler (actually, a single, extended boiler with a center firebox) is a swiveling steam bogie that allows this relatively long locomotive to negotiate sharp curves.

Less well known are the single Fairlies, which, as the name implies, are basically half a double Fairlie. These locomotives had a single, swiveling steam bogie and a non-powered trailing truck. They were the predecessors to the American Mason Bogie locomotives, built by William Mason. When you start digging, you find that, at one time, there were an astonishing number of both Fairlies and Masons, singles and doubles, in use all over the world.

Snowdon Ranger and a sister engine, Moel Tryfan, were 0-6-4 single Fairlies, built in Britain by the Vulcan Foundry Ltd. in 1875. These were designed by C.E. Spooner under Fairlies' patent and were commissioned by the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways. After much use, the two engines were combined into one in 1917 to form a single, good locomotive. The resulting engine retained the name Moel Tryfan. It was finally scrapped by the Ffestiniog Railway (who had acquired it in the early 1920s) in 1954.

The model
Stewart Browne's Archangel models often freely interpret proportion and detail, and this one is no exception. However, it does capture the feeling of the prototype. It is fitted with two, double acting, slide-valve cylinders. Valves are inside the frames and are driven by slip-eccentrics. The boiler is a simple pot, alcohol fired. Fuel is carried in a tank behind, and attached to, the swiveling steam truck. There is a long filler tube that extends to the front of the engine. While this is unsightly, it does get the filler away from the fire to some extent.

The prototype went through various alterations. Photos show it with a slanting cab rear. Archangel's model is without a back plate on the cab. Side tanks are dummies and serve as flame shields. The drivers are pierced with holes, as opposed to having spokes.

The boiler is fitted with the bare minimum; a throttle, a blow-down valve, and a safety valve under the removable steam dome. A displacement lubricator resides in the cab. Details are also minimal, and include a dummy whistle, some handrails, boiler bands, and a coal load.

The steam bogie is pivoted between the first and second drivers. The steam line contains no special articulation (i.e., no steam-tight ball joints or other arcana), just a long, looping coil that takes up the motion in its length. This loop also passes through the fire and serves as a superheater.

My Snowdon Ranger belonged to Peter Dobson and, I believe, appears on page 2 of his 1980 book, 16mm Scale Live Steam Model Locomotives, Vol. 1 (there never was a Vol. 2, alas). Another example of the same engine appears on page 7. One of the wonderful and charming things about Stewart Browne's locomotives is that there are rarely two just alike.

The run
Steamup day was clear and warm, ideal weather for this sort of thing. The lighting-up ritual proceeded normally, with the various vital fluids appropriately distributed. The fire lit and, as I awaited the rise in pressure, I gave the track a wipe-down with a rag. We'd had rain and hail the night before that left a fair amount of small debris on the rails. After about 10 minutes, a razzberry from the famous Archangel rude-noise safety valve let me know that steam was up.

I opened the regulator and pushed the engine forward, then back, then forward again. After an inordinate amount of hydraulic lock and condensate clearing, the engine finally showed signs of life. I closed the regulator. Then, while pushing the loco forward again, opened it a little. The engine moved off without a fuss. The end beams and couplers had been removed before I acquired the engine and I never got around to replacing them, so I was unable to couple up a train.

This locomotive, like many Archangel engines, is a smooth runner. It is easily controllable and can be throttled down to a walk with no trouble. Even in warm weather it puts out a nice plume of steam.

Another characteristic of Archangel locomotives, especially pot boilers, is that they get really HOT. This one is no exception. The fuel tank is immediately behind the fire and heat is transferred to it by the frames. It doesn't take long for the temperature inside to rise high enough to boil the meths. The result of this is fairly rapid fuel consumption (since some of it is boiling off) and frequent ignition at the overflow vent. None of this really hurts anything, as the engine is built to take it. The worst thing to happen is a little (more) burned paint. However, refueling was exciting. With the fuel tank empty, or nearly so, when I injected more alcohol into the long filler tube it exploded with a "whoosh" as soon as it hit the hot tank. Once enough meths was pumped in to cool the tank, things calmed down.

This locomotive performs admirably. It has a rolling sort of gait, due to the way its chassis is set up. Its progress around the line was audible, thanks to frequent but momentary flatulent noises from the safety valve. After a run of nearly 40 minutes, with several topping-ups of the fuel (and the associated minor explosions), I let the fire die a natural death and the engine gradually came to a stop. Given the fact that the safety valve was almost always popping off, some wick adjustment might be in order. And I really need to fit some buffer beams and couplers. The engine would look wonderful with a train of long coaches.

Builder Archangel (England)
Date built September, 1977
Gauge 0 (32mm)
Scale 16mm = 1'-0"
Boiler Pot
Fittings Throttle, blowdown, safety valve
Fuel Alcohol
Blow-off pressure 75 psi
Cylinders Two, double-acting D-valve
Reversing gear Slip eccentric
Lubricator Displacement
Dimensions Length, 12-3/4"; width, 4"; height, 6"
Archangel's Snowdon Ranger is actually a pretty plain locomotive. Detail is minimal, as is the sheet-metal work. There is no rivet detail and the boiler fittings are the least possible to provide a functioning engine.

In the upper picture of the right side of the engine, you can see the fuel filler pipe under the side tank, extending all the way forward from the alcohol tank behind the rear driver. The lubricator is in the cab and the drain screw can be seen between the handrails.

Below is the left side. You can see the pivot behind the first driver. The valves are between the frames, giving a cleaner look outside.

Right: Not much is going on inside the cab. The long-stemmed knob is the throttle. The one on the left is the blowdown. If this had an extension on it, it could be used as a vacuum tap to refill the boiler. As it is, the residual steam is just exhausted into the cab. The lubricator's filler cap is at the right.

Below: Even the nameplate is plain, with the letters stamped into a brass plate. Later engines had etched-brass nameplates.

Left: In this pair of shots, you can see how the swiveling bogie moves. It doesn't look like a lot of movement, but the engine will happily negotiate 6'-radius curves. The steam pipe, which is coiled in a loop above the fire, just flexes to accommodate the movement.

Right: A closeup view of the works. The valve rods to the eccentrics are visible between the frames. The copper pipes between the cylinders are the exhaust lines to the stack.

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