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by Doc

Swanage Models Lilla

Lilla on shunting duties at the Reuben Elsden Brewery

While I love this little loco, a limited run from Swanage models, it does have some interestingly quirky features that require a little thought. It is a gas fired potboiler with a very small water reservoir so runs are quite short. I gather, however, that it is not necessary once the boiler has been filled, to withdraw the usual 30ml as the design already allows for a small steam chamber.

In my model, it proved difficult to tune the gas regulator down to begin with. Far from regulating, I appeared to have full on or off. Eventually I discovered that the regulator knob had not been completely tightened. I’m sure that any competent model engineer would have thought of that immediately but as you know, I’m not one.

A pretty loco but, oh, that knob!

The loco has a sprung suspension which always seemed odd as the springs were weak and the loco always sat down hard as if there were no springs anyway. Worse still, the effect of this sitting down meant that the valve chest rods touched the front axle. After an afternoon of fruitless experimenting with alternative springs from biros, Graham and I came up with a modification which seems to work nicely. We cut four 8.7mm lengths of 3mm brass tube and dropped them onto the bottom spring holding lugs before re-installing the originally fitted springs. We now have a loco body that sits a little higher, does not foul the axle and still has a little springing when you press down on the boiler. Whereas it had springs but behaved as if it didn’t, now it is actually sprung.

A surprising feature of Lilla is a truly ugly, massive gas regulator nut, protruding out of the left side of the cab. Now tightened up, it is a practical solution to the need for a gas regulator but, I ask you, could it look worse?  Given the tiny nature of this loco, I have to admit that the designers have done well to fit everything in as elegantly as they have but perhaps some smaller knob would have been as good?

On the other hand, it does give people like me a chance to devise some way of disguising this monstrous carbuncle on the face of an old friend. In any case, for me, all locos need a driver.

Lilla’s new driver has a gas regulator knob where the sun don’t shine. Makes Paddy laugh anyway.

All I needed to do was make a short driver with a single left leg then add a dollop of Miliput to his middle and press him home, before it set, onto the knob.

I now realise that this driver is much too short. Images of the actual Lilla make it plain that anyone over 6 feet tall would not have a lot of headroom in this cab. Still, I suppose that was why the management of the DLR appointed Ron Shorthouse to the post of Lilla’s main driver. That, and his inability to audition as Tarzan.


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