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May 2008

Archangel Hercules

by Marc Horovitz

The model
Archangel locomotives have been featured several times in these pages, as Archangel Models is one of my favorite manufacturers. The company's products range from crude to sublime. Generally speaking, the lower-end production models run toward the former and the upper end and one-offs lean more toward the latter. Stewart Browne, the company's owner, produced an astonishing number of locomotives over the years. No one knows how many -- including Stewart.

This month's offering is called Hercules. It is a boxy 0-6-0T that, in many ways, resembles the company's Sgt. Murphy engines. The primary cosmetic difference is the windows, which on the Sgt. Murphys are round and on Hercules are rectangular with rounded corners and arched tops. The primary mechanical difference, which is significant, is that Hercules has two D-valve cylinders outside the frames, whereas Sgt. Murphy has but one, inside. Thus, Hercules is a more fully realized locomotive and has the attraction of being self starting.

Reversing is via Archangel's usual slip eccentrics on the rear axle. Motion is brought to the outside valves atop the cylinders by rocker arms set into the frames. The boiler is a pot type, fired by a three-wick burner. The fuel tank resides beneath the cab floor. There's a filler pipe and overflow on the left side of the tank.

Boiler fittings include a safety valve under the steam dome; a throttle valve, the handle of which projects through the cab's back sheet for easy access; a pressure gauge and a whistl (attached to the same line from the boiler); and a blowdown valve. The whistle, unsupported except for the steam line to which it's attached, has a screw-type valve of dubious utility.

Side tanks are Archangel's usual solid chunks of aluminum. The locomotive is finished in gloss black paint neatly lined in white. The engine has seen some use and paint is flaking off in places, particularly from the cab floor. Buffers are Archangel's standard nylon turnings (so you can pick up a hot engine) and, typically, one shows signs of a fuel-tank fire.

The run
Run day was cool and breezy. I prepared the engine in the usual way and lit the wicks. I opened the screw valve on the whistle to let me know when steam was up. After a while it started hissing, so I closed the valve. In a few minutes more there was 20 pounds on the clock.

I opened the throttle pretty wide. After a minimum of sputtering the engine took off. I closed the throttle so that the engine was running at a reasonable pace. Hercules, like all of Stewart Browne's engines of this sort, is easily controllable and sweet running. When the safety valve lifted abruptly for the first time, it blew the heavy, solid-brass dome clear off the engine!

After running light for a few laps, I tied on a train of three Accucraft ballast wagons, full of ballast. This was a fairly heavy train, which gave the engine something useful to do.

With the train in tow, the exhaust beats were now distinctly audible, whereas before they could not be heard. I found the engine to be pretty thirsty, requiring fairly frequent stops for fuel. I suspect that the wicks could be packed a little tighter, which might ease this problem. I had to keep a close eye on the fuel level as, if it got too low, the fire would go out.

Altogether, the run was most satisfactory on this crisp spring day. Today's session reinforced my reasons for favoring Archangel locomotives.

Builder Archangel Models (UK)
Date built 1981
Gauge 32mm
Scale 16mm
Boiler Pot
Fittings Safety valve, pressure gauge, throttle, whistle, blowdown valve
Fuel Alcohol
Blow-off pressure 50 psi
Cylinders Two, double-acting D-valve
Reversing gear Slip eccentrics
Lubricator Displacement
Weight 6 pounds, 0 ounces
Dimensions Length, 11-1/8": width, 4"; height, 6-1/2"
Hercules is virtually a mirror image of itself from side to side.
Looking into the left-hand cab door, the most prominent feature is the whistle, which is supported only by the steam line to which it is attached. The knob below the whistle is supposed to be used to blow it, but you try turning it when the engine is hot!

Coming off the same steam line is the lead to the pressure gauge. The knob below and to the left of the whistle is the blowdown valve.

A short length of silicone tubing has been stuck on the fuel filler pipe to extend it away from the cab a little in case of fire. The overflow pipe is just to the right of it.

The front of the cab is adorned by a dummy whistle and the builder's plate. The plate reads, ARCHANGEL * LOCO BUILDERS * HIGH WYCOMBE. Windows are just punched from the sheet, with no adornment, such as frames or glass.
The rear. Neither the rear wall nor the roof comes off easily. To compensate for this, the throttle control protrudes from the back of the cab. I suspect that the throttle handle was added later by a frustrated owner in lieu of the standard control fitting -- a small brass knob.
Cylinders are hewn from the solid -- no castings here. Note the steam line coming into the front of the valve chest. The valve is controlled by a rocker arm, the other side of which communicates with the eccentric on the rear axle. Paint on the cylinder has taken a beating.
The underside of the engine is straightforward. The three-wick burner is separated from the fuel tank by a long feed tube, but that doesn't prevent the tank from heating up and catching fire on hot days. The tank sits very low to the track, as is evidenced by the multitude of scrapes in the paint.
Hercules takes its train of heavily loaded Accucraft wagons across the temporary bridge on the Ogden Botanical Railway.

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