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1804 Trevithick Steam Engine - 1:38 Minicraft

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1804 Trevithick Steam Engine
1:38 Minicraft


In 1804 the first successful load carrying journey was carried out by a steam engine running on rails, designed by Richard Trevithick. On February 13th, the un-named engine carried five coaches from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon in South Wales pulling five carriages containing 10 tons of iron and 70 men almost 10 miles in just over 4 hours at a painfully slow average speed of 2.4mph. in doing so, he ushered in a new age of travel, and won himself a wager of £500 - an astronomical sum in those days.

The engine ran on a continuous L-profiled metal track with an undulating vertical face, and relied on the weight of the engine to provide traction between the wheels and rails, rather than the previous wisdom that insisted that gears interfacing with the track would be the only way to climb an incline.

The Kit
This is an unusual scale, but it results in a pleasingly large model that is close enough to the standard AFV model scale to make little difference. It arrives in a slim top-opening box, and inside are four sprues of styrene in black, grey and brown to give the younger modeller the opportunity of building the kit and leaving it unpainted. Additionally, there is a bag of metal rods, seven of which are some kind of tough steel or similar, while the other two are thin brass rods, and have been pre-formed to be used as the driver's controls from his platform at the front of the coal wagon. There are no decals, as there wasn't anything painted on the engine, and the package is rounded out with a portrait folded A3 sheet printed on both sides.




Construction is fairly straight forward, although the instructions aren't too helpful in this regard, as they are clearly quite old, with lots of text to read, which might defeat the budding modeller if their reading skills aren't quite up to scratch. The build starts at the funnel end, which is at the rear of the engine, counter-intuitively to our perception of a modern steam engine. The funnel is made of two halves, and attached to the forward bulkhead that has two long metal rods tapped into the holes to give a friction fit. Regulators, taps and other controls are added, and the main boiler parts are then built up. The boiler is in in two parts split vertically with a pair of cut0out bulkheads, one of which receives the funnel assembly. Various pipes & a cylinder are added to the top of the boiler at the funnel end, and the piston-rods are finished off with end-caps, and the Y-shaped towing frame is glued underneath along with a pair of simplistic looking couplings.


The main wheels of the engine are first tapped onto the thick metal axles at one end, then slipped through the square tabs that project from the bottom of the boiler. The other wheels are then tapped onto the axle, trapping the boiler between them, and allowing the installation of the toothed drive-wheel between the two wheels with gears on their outer faces, linking their movement together. A smaller cog at the front is added to another metal rod, and this is pushed through a pair of shackles on the front of the engine and onto the large fly-wheel on the other side. A scrap diagram shows the correct orientation of the gears when finished on the "business side" of the engine. Connecting rods then join the two sets of wheels together on both sides, and if you're careful with the glue when adding the end-caps, your engine's wheels will remain mobile. The control rods for the driver are added, and work starts on the coal wagon.

The coal wagon, or tender is a simple assembly, with a one-piece chassis/deck, onto which the wheels, axles and their retaining clips fix. Again, the axles are metal, and tapped into place using a small hammer and some restraint. The sloped upper panels of the wagon fit together in slots on the upper side, and the top is finished off with a slab that has a heap of coal moulded in, which is surprisingly realistic. This completes construction of the engine and tender.


The base that is included in the kit is a long black oblong with a delicate patina etched into the surface, and has a pair of slots flashed over in the middle for a supporting trestle that will hold the engine in place at the expense of realism. The fluted rails sit astride this trestle and need to be carefully placed to ensure that the engine sits properly on both the trestle and track. My preferred option would be to leave the holes for the trestle flashed over, apply some railway modelling ballast around the rails, and glue or pin the engine and wagon to them, as it's not strong enough to be a toy, so display is its only sensible option.

There are no markings on the engine, so the only job is to paint it to match the real thing, and perhaps apply a little weathering and oil/grease stains. The painting guide is either invisible to these ageing eyes, missing or simply not included, but the box art and shots of a built-up model on the sides of the box suggest that the wagon, wheels and gears are a rusty red, while the boiler and framework is a metallic iron black. The funnel and rods are painted brass, and the rails are an iron black again, although they would quickly rust in the elements, leaving the contact surfaces more shiny with wear. The base is shown painted the same rusty red as the wheels, but you may want to add ballast, or at least paint it a more realistic and less distracting colour.

The copyright of the kit is stated as 1997, and it is part of the Legends of Railroading series, of which I suspect it is number two in a series that includes a Stephenson's Rocket, which I think is probably be number one due to its high profile in the railway world. The kit is pretty well moulded for its time, and some of the parts are quite detailed, but the whole model suffers quite badly from flash. A lot of this is confined to the sprues though, but be prepared for some clean-up on the finer parts, especially the grey sprue if my sample is typical.

It's great fun though, and I shall be building this one with the assistance (or hinderance) from my young son, who is train obsessed! :)



Review sample courtesy of

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Nice review Mike - however for those of us who are quite keen on railways, I think you will find that the smoke removal device is a plain old chimney! Funnels belong on ships!

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