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Merlin Mayflower

by Chris Bird

It is strange haw fate plays a hand in my loco purchases - it seems that some things are just meant to be........

I think the Mayflower was Tom Coopers design masterpiece, with just the right cheeky/busy look that captures the essence of the British narrow gauge. I often saw them back in the early 90's, but never had the funds, so when I got back into 16mm, I have kept my eye open for a nice one. And there lies the problem, as most of them are well worn out with no spares available.

So my pulse quickened when I first saw this Merlin Mayflower for sale on Ebay back in May 2010. It looked pristine and it went straight on to the "Watch" list. The trouble was that the end of the auction coincided with a Liz's big birthday weekend away with the family - and in the event, I decided it would not be a good time to take a gamble and spend yet more money. So it went to another buyer.

Some time later I had an email enquiry from a Mayflower owner who wanted to fit a Chuffer. It did not take me long to realise that this was the Ebay loco, and so a correspondence started. The Chuffer was duly fitted and videoed for Youtube and this was followed by the fitting of a DJB Resonator Whistle. He had also fitted a GiantCod 2.4 ghz radio, but the problem was that the owner was new to garden railways (he is a boat man) and had no railway. He wanted to see the loco on a railway video - rather than just on blocks - so he asked if I would video it if he sent it down. Yes indeed!

There was a delay then as he was waiting for name plates - so a few weeks later I emailed to ask how it was going. He responded to say the plates were due, but that he had now decided to sell the loco. Did I want to buy it? Yes indeed!

The loco had fitted centre buffers to replace the original LGB couplers, but had not realised that the height was wrong. So after a quick test on the bench, I had to modify the rear buffer beam to get the correct height. It was then I realised just how flimsy these are!

Here is a photo soon after she arrived:

There was good news and bad news as I began to work on the loco. The good news was that it ran beautifully, despite the crude engineering, and was avery bit as pretty as I expected. Even the nameplates proved a success when Liz, born in May, thought that it was named after her .....a May Flower!

The bad news was that the the buffer beams were gash, the boiler was fitted at an angle and the clever whistle valve intallation, using some resin paste, was coming apart. Not difficult to deal with - in fact a great excuse for tinkering!

So buffer beams were made from more substantial brass and I added some real rivets. I stripped and rubbed down the corroding smoke-box, removing some of the deep linnasher marks, and fitted a larger set of dart handles and a taller chimney cap turned up on my old lathe. I also turned a rather quirky cover for the safety valve. It looked too much in brass and too little in green, so I gave it a brass top band. My excuse is that it is in keeping with the original approach.

I re-made the whistle valve support and in trying to tidy up the modified resonator, managed to damage it beyond repair. I made a smaller one - but no joy, so i made a second one which works okay. It is a bit pressure sensitive though and likes 40 psi on the clock.

I also removed the on/off switch from the door to make room for driver Ted Babbidge seen below

I did a test run last week (mid-August 2010) and found the results quite interesting. The boiler holds about 210mls of water and 25mls were removed. I steamed up with pure butane and topped up the gas tank at 20psi on the clock. The loco then ran on my levelish trak for 30 minutes at a scale speed with just a couple of touches on the regulator during that time. When the loco had run out of gas, I removed 55mls of water and found the lubricator was still half full. I can't think which of my other locos would do that!

Here is a video of Mayflower in action on the Summerlands Light Railway:

YouTube Video

And here she is running at the Holt Wood Light Railway:

YouTube Video