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December 2007

A Carette Storkleg

by Marc Horovitz

Some history
The firm of Georges Carette & Cie. has an interesting history. Georges Carette, a Frenchman, moved to Germany as a youth or young man. In Nürnberg he opened a toy company in 1886, backed by his German foster father. (Georges was then, and would always be, a French citizen.) The firm did well and made toys of all different types, including railways. It competed with the likes of Bing, Märklin, and other large toymakers of the time.

Because of his nationality and politics, Georges fell afoul of the German authorities upon the outbreak of WWI and had to flee Germany, through Switzerland, back to France, where he spent the rest of his life. The toy company was run by a partner until 1917, when it closed.

Carette, like the other toymakers of the time, produced a wide variety of railway equipment in several different gauges. The “storkleg” locomotive was typical of its time and similar ones were made by a variety companies. They were given this appellation because of the very long drive rods powering a single large wheel on each side. When in motion, this gave them the ungainly look of a stork walking. Storkleg engines were commonly available in gauges 0 and 1. Carette, and perhaps others, even made them in gauge 3. Storklegs could have either oscillating or fixed cylinders.

The model
My example of this locomotive is definitely showing signs of its age. The paint is blistered, the cab roof has been bent and (sort of) straightened, and the cowcatcher is gone. The fact that it even had a cowcatcher indicates that it was made for the American market. That, though, was the engine's only concession to American railroad tradition. Aside from that, it is purely German.

The engine has the usual low-pressure pot boiler. Boiler fittings include a safety valve and a whistle. Every toy engine must have a whistle. The boiler is fired by an alcohol burner with three flat wicks. A large fuel tank is clipped in place beneath the cab.

Two, single-acting oscillating cylinders power the engine. These are reversed by a rotary valve between them, controlled from the cab by a long rod on the right side of the boiler that actuates a rocker arm that takes the motion inside, between the frames to the valve.

The tinplate tender has no practical function and is just there for looks. It has a formed-metal coal load. There is an apron on the engine that folds down to cover the gap between the loco and tender when they are coupled, which is a nice feature.

A trio of 0-gauge-size coaches, mounted to gauge-1 chassis, came with the engine. This practice was not unusual with the old toy makers. It lowered the cost of an already cheap set and kids never seemed to notice the difference. It does make for an odd-looking train, though.

Storkleg-engines were made in the thousands. Many were destroyed by young hands, but a few survive. Of those, most languish in private collections, spending their time sitting silently on shelves. However, a few enlightened souls, like Murray Wilson, continue to play with these trains. Every year at the fabled Diamondhead steam meet in Mississippi, Murray has shown up with a handful of ancient engines that he makes live again. It’s magic!

The run
To prepare this engine for running took a lot of cleaning, adjusting, and lubricating. Finally, however, it ran well in both directions on compressed air. It was time for the track.

I took it out and gave it some food and drink, then lit the fire. The weather was warm but there was a breeze, the bane of old pot boilers. Steam came up and I put it into gear (there is no throttle) and gave it a push. It limped a couple of feet and stopped. I let the steam come up a little more and tried again. It was better this time, but not great.

The engine, running light, managed to keep itself in motion, at least until it hit a switch. The old toy-train wheels on the engine didn't like my handlaid switches, and the tender and coaches were worse. There was no way the train was going to get through, so it was limited to running back and forth.

The best it would do was to pull the tender. The coaches were just too much. I'll give it another try next summer when it's 100 degrees out and dead calm.

Builder George Carette & Cie. (Germany)
Date built Circa 1903
Gauge 1 (45mm)
Scale None
Boiler Pot
Fittings Safety valve, whistle
Fuel Alcohol
Blow-off pressure 10 psi
Cylinders Two, single-acting oscillators
Reversing gear Rotary valve
Lubricator None
Weight 2 lbs., 11 oz. (with tender)
Dimensions Length with tender, 14-1/8"; width, 2-5/8"; height, 5-1/8"
The locomotive has a kind of simple elegance about it. Boilers on this type of engine were usually left unpainted so that there was no finish to burn off. Even so, the metal becomes discolored. The attractive tender is purely ornamental.
The large, delicately cast drivers gave these engines a stately gait. They are usually smooth runners that, with a train, have no tendency to run away. The single-acting cylinders are 180-degrees opposed. The rod and linkage above the driver controls the reversing valve between the frames. The fuel tank is held in place beneath the can with a clip.
The obligatory whistle atop the boiler. Control is simple and direct -- a nicely turned wooden handle operates the whistle's valve. This one works pretty well, giving a high-pitched "peep. "The safety valve, ahead of the whistle, is the typical toy-train type.
Left: On the rear of the tender is a size designator. The "I" indicates gauge 1 while the "48" is the gauge in millimeters. Toy-train track was sometimes measured from the centerlines of the rails, which may be why it says "48" and not "45." Below: The company's logo. The lettering says GCCoN, or Georges Carette Company Nürnberg.
The burner is a simple tank with three flat wicks. There may have been a cork or other kind of stopper to plug the filler hole.
The underside of the engine is pretty straightforward. At the front, the rotary reversing valve and its linkage is visible. There's lots of air space around the wicks and the boiler has little shielding, making the slightest draft deadly.
The entire train, including the three, odd 0-gauge-size coaches on gauge-1 frames. If you squint, you can almost make it work.

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