Jump to content

Notes on the Bachmann Norris loco

Ian Simpson

2,161 views

There's not a lot of progress to report on the layout this week, although the wiring is now in place (except for the traverser: at my current rate of progress I will probably write about that in a couple of weeks). The underside of the baseboard is now taking on rather a Heath Robinson-ish appearance with wires running over the point rods and held in place with blutack.
blogentry-1254-0-92958600-1467580851_thumb.jpg
So I thought I'd bulk up this post with a few notes on the Bachmann Norris locomotive. Actually Bachmann made two versions of the model, and either would suit a Birmingham & Gloucester layout:

  • Lafayette (1837) is in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad livery of green boiler with black chimney, cylinders, wheels and firebox. It comes with a typical early US chimney with spark catcher. Watch out if you get a chance to buy the Lafayette train set, as it often comes with US-style bogie coaches that don't suit British practice. (In addition buying the train set version can mean you are paying for track and a 120 volt transformer / controller as well).
  • Prussia (1838) is in Berlin-Potsdam Railway colours: red and green boiler and lots of brass-coloured fittings. The matching Prussia coaches are the ones that can be seen in earlier posts.


blogentry-1254-0-99576900-1467580863_thumb.jpg
The small motor is in the haystack firebox, powering the driving axle below. All six wheels on the locomotive pick up current from the rails, with wires running beneath the boiler from the bogie to the motor. Despite the short wheelbase I’ve found the unmodified model can run reasonably slowly over a run of three adjacent short radius Peco Electrofrog points without any problems at all.
blogentry-1254-0-43934100-1467580885_thumb.jpg
But the model's light weight (only 64 grams, including the tender) can lead to wheel slipping and loss of traction. I’ve added weight to the bogie to improve the leading wheels’ contact with the rails, and the hollow boiler and tender can also be used to add weight if desired. Personally I like the loco's slight tendency to wheel slip when starting off with a rack of coaches; it gives the impression the loco really is struggling to overcome inertia.
blogentry-1254-0-97495600-1467584936_thumb.jpg
The prototype had an interesting story. At a time when railways around the world were buying locomotives from British manufacturers like Stephenson and Sharp Roberts, the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway stood out as the only English railway to import locos from abroad. While the BGR really did need three of Norris's powerful locos to bank the Lickey Incline, the unscrupulous builder also manoveured the BGR's naïve directors into buying eleven less powerful engines as well. Designed for American conditions, the heavy British rails quickly damaged the locomotives’ cast iron wheels while their fireboxes, built for burning wood rather than coke, also caused problems. The B&G's inexperienced enginemen put several out of action during their first few months in service, and the situation only improved when James McConnell became loco foreman at Bromsgrove in July 1841. Most of these smaller locos were sold to smaller railways, collieries and contractors in the mid-1840s, although the bankers remained in service until the mid-1850s. The full story of the locos, including the one-sided negotiations with Norris, is given in Peter Long and Wilber Awdry’s 1979 book The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway.

  • Like 6
  • Informative/Useful 1


16 Comments


Recommended Comments

Very interesting Ian. So 14 locos were imported from the US in the late 1830s. I wonder how they were shipped. Broken down into components perhaps?

Share this comment


Link to comment

I'm away from books for a couple of days, but I will check Long & Awdry when I get home. I do remember the BGR had to pay 20% import tax on the locos!

Share this comment


Link to comment

Very interesting. Might get my Norris out and try adding some weight later and seeing how much better it runs. Will have to put a chip in it at some point so it can run on Oak Hill.

 

Gary

Share this comment


Link to comment

Many thanks, Gary. I'll be very interested to hear how it goes. In my experience some of the chimneys aren't glued on too tightly, and if you can remove one there's a hole beneath which lets you glue lead or other ballast inside the boiler - just don't let it run down the other end and foul the motor :-(

The photo of my wiring will already have warned you that I'm not someone to give advice on DCC! But I think a chip would probably help the running at slow speeds. Again, I guess the hollow boiler is the best place`to hide a small chip, or if it's a fairly large one there is plenty of room in the tender.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Thanks Ian, I think what I will try doing is adding a bit of weight into the boiler then I will try it either on my test layout on DC or take it into the model shop and use theirs as it is more reliable, and then when I finally get round to putting in a chip it will most likely be in the tender. Don't suppose you know how hard the tender is to take apart as I have never tried and really don't want to break anything.

 

Gary

Share this comment


Link to comment

Mikkel, it seems the locos were actually built at Norris's works in Philadelphia and shipped over to Liverpool as soon as each one was completed (like other loco builders at the time, Norris was struggling to keep up with demand so he didn't deliver in batches). From Liverpool they ran down the Liverpool & Manchester and the Grand Junction Railways to Birmingham. Since the smaller locos weighed 8 tons and the heavy bankers 12 tons, they could easily be handled by harbour cranes at large ports. In a couple of cases Norris even sent a fitter to England with the loco, and at least one stayed on as an engine-driver when the line opened. 

Share this comment


Link to comment

Gary, now I've looked at the tender I'm not sure! The tender body and chassis do seem to be separate mouldings but Bachmann obviously didn't expect anyone to prise them apart. To make it worse, the Norris loco seems to be the only model that doesn't have an exploded drawing on Bachmann's website.

There is quite a deep well beneath the body of the tender for the wheelsets, which is ideal for adding extra weight. My first thought was that it would be easy to fix a chip in there between the wheel flanges, but then I checked the Net and found a lot of chips are around 16 or 17 mm wide. Sorry about my ignorance of DCC, but is it possible to get a suitable chip say 12 mm wide? BTW the tender wheels are conductive: great if you want to fix extra pick-ups, probably not so good if you want to put sensitive electronic components next to them. 

Share this comment


Link to comment

Hi Ian. Yes smaller chips are available. I have a DCC fitted Tri-ang Rocket! that needed a small chip. I like the idea of extra pick-ups. Will get the model out later in the week and decide a plan of action.

 

Gary

Share this comment


Link to comment

I'll be very interested to hear what you decide. It's a rather basic motor and a bit of running-in may improve performance.

Where did you put the chip in the Rocket?

Share this comment


Link to comment

Amazing! I love the thought of all these Triang Hornby Rockets working away on whizzy modern layouts.

After seeing that article, I'm sure you won't have any problems chipping the Norris.

Ian

Share this comment


Link to comment

Mikkel, it seems the locos were actually built at Norris's works in Philadelphia and shipped over to Liverpool as soon as each one was completed (like other loco builders at the time, Norris was struggling to keep up with demand so he didn't deliver in batches). From Liverpool they ran down the Liverpool & Manchester and the Grand Junction Railways to Birmingham. Since the smaller locos weighed 8 tons and the heavy bankers 12 tons, they could easily be handled by harbour cranes at large ports. In a couple of cases Norris even sent a fitter to England with the loco, and at least one stayed on as an engine-driver when the line opened. 

 

Thanks very much for that info, Ian. What a sight it must have been, to see those early locos suspended by crane over the grand sailing ships of the era! 

Share this comment


Link to comment

I Hadn't known the honourable reverend wrote a tome on the B&GR, I really must seek out a copy

Share this comment


Link to comment
44 minutes ago, Killian keane said:

I Hadn't known the honourable reverend wrote a tome on the B&GR, I really must seek out a copy

 

I don't know if Awdry's interest in the B&GR grew out of his wartime curacy in Birmingham, but I'm always surprised that Thomas didn't contain a boastful American engine called Lafayette ...

Share this comment


Link to comment

The Taff Vale Railway had three (one previously owned by the Aberdare Railway) of the B&GR Norris 4-2-0's in the mid 1840's and ran them for about three to six years. They retained their original B&G names of 'Moorsom', 'Gloucester' and 'Columbia'.

 

Dave R. 

  • Informative/Useful 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

Thanks, Dave. I knew they had been sold by the B&GR but I didn't know anything about their subsequent careers, so it's really good to learn something about their second lives.

Edited by Ian Simpson

Share this comment


Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.