There must be something in the water around the Eastern Cape, South Africa that breeds a superior type of engineer. The is the second of four two-truck Shays completed to Ron Etter's highly detailed design, all built within the province.
Regular readers may remember Ron's own engine
which we had in last year. Winner of a Gold Medal and the Crebbin Cup, it was featured in the book "100 Great Models" - his immaculately produced drawings one of the most detailed model designs I've seen.
This engine has been built to a similar exhibition standard; workmanship is first class throughout, with much nice detailing - the longer you look the more you see.
The steam pump is a jewel, running down to the slowest posible tickover - it shares a smokebox feedwater heater with the axle pump.
Front lamp is an ornate brass reproduction of the prototype, wired up and working.
The backhead is neatly laid out, valves are elegantly proportioned with finely turned wooden handles making them easy to handle when hot.
It's a big engine in 5 inch gauge - nearly twice the length and weight of the award-winning South African NG6
we sold back in 2011, at that time the heaviest thing we'd ever run in this gauge (latterly eclipsed by our own Stafford FC5
). Whilst it's size may suggest the need for a large layout on which to operate, the very nature of the design allows for running around tight curves and trackwork of less than perfect alignment.
There's some video here
of it running on air in the workshop this morning - worth watching to see the steam pump and hear the chime whistle - preparatory to spending a couple of hours in steam this afternoon. We all had a run up and down the yard (there's some more video here
); I think it's fair to say everybody was impressed.
It runs just the way it looks; a thoroughly well-sorted machine with silky smooth power from the three cylinders. The fold-down, forward-mounted footpegs and upholstered seat give a very comfortable driving position - the sort of engine you could spend all day on.
Technically interesting, usefully powerful and beautifully made. I think it's lovely, a credit to its builder.