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March 2005

Roundhouse “Pooter” 0-4-0T

by Marc Horovitz

The prototype
There was no full-size prototype for this engine, but it could be considered a full-size model of a model -- sort of a second-generation locomotive. The original "Charles Pooter" locomotives were designed and built by Jack Wheldon and are chronicled
here. When Jack became swamped with orders, he asked Roger Loxley of Roundhouse Engineering if he would be interested in taking over the production of the Pooter.

The first Roundhouse Pooter appeared in 1984 and was discontinued in 1990. During its life it went through some minor changes, but the last Roundhouse Pooter was the same as the first in all of its essential features.

The model
For three years (1984-1986), I was the Roundhouse distributor for the US. During that time I ordered a total of 15 Pooters from Roundhouse. They were popular engines, and for good reason. Jack Wheldon’s original engineering, combined with Roundhouse’s production methods (and technical tweaks), produced an attractive locomotive with superior performance characteristics.

Roundhouse's earliest locomotives were all alcohol fired. Today, they are all gas fired. During the mid 1980s, Roundhouse was making the transition between alcohol and gas. This developed over a period of time and, during that time, most engines could be ordered either way. The engine being examined today is alcohol fired and arrived early in 1986, part of a batch of eight locomotives that included three Pooters.

In those heady, early days, Roundhouse allowed me to name each of the engines I ordered. If the engine was a special order for a customer, the naming privilege was passed along to the customer. If I was just ordering an engine for stock, I chose the names. Since this was the time of Halley’s Comet, I named my own Pooter Edmund Halley.

The engine has a large pot boiler with a four-wick alcohol burner inside a Wheldon-inspired firebox. It has a factory-installed Futaba radio system that controls throttle and reversing. Boiler fittings include a safety valve on the steam dome, a throttle, and a pressure gauge. There is an additional plug on the backhead that could be used for a blowdown. The engine is painted in a beautiful gloss black, hand-lined in red (hand lining was something else that Roundhouse used to offer with all their engines).

The large fuel tank has a filler tube in the cab, with an overflow tube at the rear, beneath the buffer beam. This engine is built for gauge-1 track. Back in those days, you had to order the gauge you wanted -- wheels were not regaugeable.

The run
It was bright and sunny today, though still a little cool. After preparing the engine in the usual manner, I lit it off. In a little while, pressure was up to blow-off at 45 psi. I switched on the receiver and the transmitter, put the engine into forward gear, and opened the throttle. The engine lurched and spluttered. I reversed it and tried again . . . a little better this time. Then forward again, and we were off.

The run lasted maybe half an hour or so, with a couple of stops for fuel. With the radio, the engine is amazingly controllable. It will creep right along, or run at highway speeds. Prototypical starting and stopping -- even running light -- is no problem, and the Hackworth valve gear is lots of fun to watch.

I noticed, after a while, a leak developing in the right-hand cylinder. While the engine still runs OK, this will have to be attended to, as it is getting serious enough that it is beginning to rob the engine of power. All in all, though, it was a great run.

As mentioned above, this is one of the last meths-fired locomotives that Roundhouse produced, before going exclusively to gas. That, coupled with Jack Wheldon’s design, makes this engine one of the last, classic, narrow gauge, garden-railway locomotives, to my mind. It encompasses everything that one could desire in an engine -- excellent performance; quiet, alcohol-fired running; a pot boiler; a simple design and robust construction based on decades of experience; and pleasing proportions. The only thing that, perhaps, separates the engine from this golden era is the radio -- but that could always be removed. . . .


Builder Roundhouse Engineering (Great Britain)
Date built 1986
Gauge 45mm
Scale 16mm = 1'0"
Boiler Pot
Fittings Safety valve, throttle, pressure gauge
Fuel Alcohol
Blow-off pressure 45 psi
Cylinders Two, double acting, D-valve
Reversing gear Hackworth
Lubricator Displacement
Weight 6-1/2 lb.
Dimensions Length, 9-5/8"; width, 4-1/2"; height, 5-7/8"
Clean, simple lines characterize the Pooter-class engines. The unusual Hackworth valve gear adds further interest.


Left: Access to the cab is gained by lifting the hinged roof. Batteries and the radio's on-off switch are housed in the roof. The receiver is stuck onto the back wall. The throttle is attached directly to the steam dome, reducing priming.

Above: The rear of this compact, little engine looks as nice as the front. The extra plate atop the roof acts as an antenna. The rear coupler got lost somewhere in the mists of time.



Left: The burner and fuel tank dominate the underside of the engine. The burner is enclosed in a Wheldon-type firebox that improves its efficiency. The very narrow wheel treads had a little trouble with my trackwork at one point. The wheels are not regaugeable.

Above: A closeup of the Hackworth gear. The pivoting link is partially concealed in the side tank. This engine was built in the days when Roundhouse still used real crossheads.



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