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hello everyone, just for abit of light relief.



“The Donkey”


“Once upon a time, there was a little engine that could” – but this hasn’t anything really to do with the children’s story of that name.


Well, maybe it has.


The name in the title refers to a shunting engine, No16, owned by the Midland Railway’s Northern Counties Committee. No 16 was designed and built under the auspices of chief engineer Bowman Malcolm in 1914. It was an 0-4-0 saddle tank, which replaced an earlier engine of similar  appearance, except that this one had an enclosed cab. And a  slightly unusual cab too, for it was split around the safety valves – for reasons which I don’t know - but I am would love to hear from more knowledgeable steam buffs who might have an explanation – I am sure it wasn’t  done for fun!

Anyway, I first came across a reference to this locomotive when writing “Diesel Dawn”, as diesel shunter No1 6, also an 0-4-0, replaced the steam loco in 1951.  But it was the advent of Bill Scott’s definitive NCC loco book which shed more light on No 16 and its’ career.  It spend it’s life on the docks network and York Road, and  acquired the nickname “the Donkey” due to its size and ability to pull endless rakes of wagons around the place!


Three or four years ago I decided to try something completely different and have a go at doing a representation of No 16. I decided to use a Hornby Caledonian “Pug” as being the nearest reasonably priced donor engine; the Airfix/Hornby L&Y “Pug”  was much harder to come by and I felt just too small (but see below).   The Hornby engine usually comes apart easily, with two lugs holding at the cab end, and a screw at the front, but after a futile struggle to get one bodyshell off the chassis I came realized that a previous owner had glued it on with epoxy – so I had to saw it off! Fortunately the only bit  I really wanted was the saddle tank, as I had got two such engines, and lengths from the tank of both are needed, on the Caledonian loco it stops short of the smokebox, on the “donkey”  - as on other Irish saddle tanks like the “Guinness” engine and “RH Smyth”,  it is continued forward. Having dismantled both my donors I kept the one with the better running chassis – this can vary greatly in these cheaper Hornby models, I find.  Especially if you buy them on ebay. Some folk’s definition of “good” as in “good runner” differs from mine by quite  a margin!

 The main work involved a new plasticard cab, with cut out for the valves and a white metal dome and chimney; the previous owner of my pug had fitted a couple of resistors across the motor to tame it’s HST like top speed!  And then I made the unusual “steps” on the top of the tank from plastic strip. These I believe were used to make watering simpler -they provided a help in guiding the bag into the filler. Anyway, after a few evenings work it was pretty well finished.

At this point I began to realize I’d gone the other way, as the loco was just too “big” looking.  In fact, I think it bears a strong resemblance to the Guinness tank BG3 which the RPSI own, and this conversion, which would be simpler to do would make an attractive engine in its lined blue livery. Maybe someone will be inspired to produce a layout based on Whitehead with “Merlin”, No 4, Guinness,. Baby GMs, RPSI coaches, etc..  I

I persevered with mine and painted it unlined black (as I suspect it was), and matters stopped there.





I later built a short breakdown crane train and No 16 would haul this round my home layout ferom time to time. The train included the old Hornby hand crane which is very similar to the NCC one the RPSI have, and a couple of sundry vans (the "GNR" one is a chopped tri-ang clerestory brake on a ratio underframe. It derails at the slighest whiff of track mis alignment! I didn’t bother with a number plate for 16 at this time.







In 2014 I took the Donkey to the Blackburn & East Lancs show where we were exhibiting Bleach Green,as a test engine for our baseboard joints when setting up.


We had decided to run a short “ballast” train on the Larne line during the show and the UTA “jinty” (class Y 0-6-0T) allocated to this duty, mysteriously failed.  (There is no truth in the rumour that a man, who bore a strong resemblance to the "donkey's" fireman, was seen acting suspiciously in the area, earlier.)  However, the “donkey” was hastily put on the front of the train and set off  – we wondered if it would make it over the 1:50 gradients… It did, and what’s more, ran smoothly and steadily all weekend. New respect was born in me for this little engine, and on return home  I finally ordered etched number plates, and decided to give it some lining, adding a UTA “red hand” to the cab, similar to the positioning on a number of exBCDR engines in early UTA days.  I doubt if it ever carried quite such an ornate livery, but you never know for certain with our Irish railways. 









I hope you've enjoyed this little tale, my mother used to tell me i had a vivid amagination, I think she may have been right.


What next?  After i  build some more Moguls and a WT or two, I am eyeing up BCDR/NCC/UTA/NIR no 28….and another UTA diesel neverwassa - .watch this space but not too closely, it may be a while.



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Interesting conversion and I agree with Nelson the yellow lining sets her off nicely. The only engines I have ever worked on with safety valves in the cab have been narrow gauge. When they blow off, it always happens!, it is mind numbingly noisy and the cab fills with very hot steam which isn't much fun! So the cab slot around the safety valves would alleviate that. Early Health & Safety?!!!! I"ll duck now!


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