Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Mamod SR1A - A Steam Toy Isn't Just For Christmas...

Hi all. This Autumn, as the darker nights drew in, I surprisingly found myself working on a Mamod SR1A - the company's first and arguably most recognisable mobile steam toy. My Auntie had asked me to source one for my Uncle as a Christmas present and so, after scouring the net for one, the little roller arrived some time late in September. The first task was to test steam it to see if it actually worked. Mamod engines are numerous and, being toys, a lot of them have had hard lives. This one wasn't too bad. Its paint was chipped, rust was forming and steam was leaking from most places it could leak from but that's normal for an engine of these years. A spirit-fired SR1A like this is pre-1976 as during that year the company introduced solid fuel burners. This one has no sight glass either as they didn't come along until 1978 and so it has the simple 'boiler plug' arrangement. The only 'unfortunate' damage was a broken rivet beneath the smokebox, causing the boiler and smokebox to look out of square. The broken rivet was actually the main support rivet, probably broken during a drop or some severe playing! Happily, the engine steamed up well and ticked over in high-speed Mamod fashion. I'm glad it worked - that was one hurdle overcome...
"Before The Roller's Little Makeover"
To make the engine look presentable as a gift, I felt it necessary to heavily degrease it and polish it. The boiler barrel was also scored and marked in places where the paintwork had been damaged and so a repaint of the engine bracket and boiler was on the cards too. To take a Mamod apart is fairly easy - they are fastened with either soft solder or pop rivets, depending on which part of it you're looking at. To remove the rivets, you can either drill them out or, if your paintwork is tired, just bash them off with a screwdriver. Pop rivets are brittle once in position, hence the broken one under the smokebox, so I can't see any harm coming to the engine by doing this. Once the head of the rivet has snapped off, the rest of the body will just push through and the engine will come apart. The boiler for the SR1A was painted into as near to the original Mamod green as we could mix, whilst the smokebox was removed and the firebox masked up. As soon as the painting was done I reattached the smokebox to protect the fragile copper exhaust pipes which are supported by the engine's chimney...
The firebox cowling on Mamods is usually a polished metal surface but after 40 years being fired it had discoloured heavily. Likewise the copper pipes for both the steam feed and the exhaust ports had tarnished badly. All of the bright-work took time to polish up but it did look really good in comparison to when it arrived. A liberal application of Peek shined up the brass and the cowling, making the engine look a lot newer...
With the boiler and firebox all polished up, the wheels were refitted following degreasing, as were the front rolls. The oscillating cylinder and crank were then refitted and the whistle refitted and sealed. The resulting engine looked much smarter when I test steamed it during the cold month of November...
Once the engine had been test steamed and had successfully rolled around the workshop for a while, it was cleaned down and allowed to cool. Fresh paint doesn't like being polished when hot - it will come off, believe me! The engine was then shined up ready for the box and as a final touch I added two very nice little brass boiler bands. I'm very pleased with the resulting attractive little engine. I do have parts lying around to make one up for my own little collection so watch this space. I quite fancy one sitting on the shelf with the other two toy steamers I have...
"Final Result - A Nice Christmas Gift"
So there you go folks - a pretty random post for this blog I'll admit but it was something that I did during the latter months of the year. I quite enjoyed doing this one to be honest - its a sweet little machine; very twee. The engine was then boxed up for Christmas and has since been presented to her new owner, who is very pleased with her. Its been around the kitchen a few times being put through its paces so it was a relief that it still worked! The final image in this post is of my own Mamod - an SW1 Steam Wagon. I did steam it a few months ago and it dragged itself breathlessly round the dining room a couple of times. The SW1 carries the same running gear and boiler as the elder SR1A but unfortunately carries a lot more weight and so isn't as agile as the little steam roller. I love this model though...
Thanks for reading and I hope this little insight into the ever popular world of toy steam has been interesting. You can get your own Mamod from the internet for not too much money, particularly if its a second hand example. They're simple, fun and quirky and it isn't too hard to turn one around into a nice looking model again. Its mainly cleaning, painting and polishing - Mamod has already done the groundwork and produced a hard wearing, long lasting engine. (PS - I'm 25 today - I'm old!). Cheers all, Sam...

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