It's twenty years ago this month that Station Road Steam - having already been trading for a couple of years at that time - was incorporated as a limited company. In those early days it was one man in a shed, the website was written in HTML, the pictures hand edited for every page. Talk about a labour of love!
A year or two later we launched "The Archive", which became the place to look up pictures and information about pretty much every type of live steam model (and a good many other things besides) that you could think of. Still going strong; there's upwards of seven thousand items archived, time of writing, and it continues to grow every day.
Looking back over twenty years, a lot has happened...
We've built 150 new locomotives, from 5 inch to 10 1/4 inch gauge and shipped them all over the world including the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
We've done overhauls and major rebuilds (some bordering on recreations given the amount of new parts we produced) for a variety of railways, both public and private, including "Katie" for the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway in Cumbria, the 10 1/4 inch gauge ex-Audley End Railway "Loyalty" for a private railway in Gloucestershire and, most recently, Newby Hall's 10 1/4 inch gauge "Royal Scot".
We've built over 100 boilers, including a pair of 6 inch scale Fowler B6 boilers weighing in at over half a ton each - and lost count of the number of boilers we've retubed, both for our own customers and others.
In 2003 we had our first open day. More of a garden party really, we had about 70 visitors at the old house on Station Road in Woolhampton - the workshop was a corrugated iron shed in the garden, once the summer studio of a Victorian watercolourist of some repute.
We hastily put up 200 feet of raised level track in advance of the great day so that we could run a few engines up and down. The lawn played host to several 4 inch scale engines in steam, including a Fowler Showmans, Foden wagon, Burrell agricultural and a Burrell SCC steam roller.
Bob came round and sawed up wood all day with David - we had a 6 inch scale freelance traction engine in those days and an old belt driven saw bench which was in regular use to saw wood for the house.
The engine didn't have a governor, Sam used to stand on the footplate and became quite expert at tweaking the regulator as required. He was ten at the time - I suspect social services would have something to say about it nowadays, but we were firm believers in the "better drowned than duffers..." school of child-rearing.
April 2004 - we visited a private railway and end up buying eight locomotives, just to get the John Adams built green "Black" 5 that I coveted!
2006 - having rented first unit 10, and then unit 9 on the Moorlands Industrial Estate, a complete block of units came up for sale across the way. We made an offer in the sealed-bid tender - and won! Letting out the space we didn't need at the time, we've gradually - as tenants have left - repossessed most of the building, to accommodate our stores, machine shop, boiler shop and offices.
In July we lent our 12 1/4 inch gauge Thurston Pacific to Cleethorpes for a gala, where we were offered a chance to drive one of the Sutton Collection engines, "Sutton Belle" and saw the "Effie" replica which at the time was shedded there.
Little did we think that, fifteen years later, another "Effie" would be in the engine shed at home!
January of 2007 saw us buying the ex-Dobwalls "David Curwen" - we were to have more dealings with other Curwen engines over the years.
Spring 2008 saw us sorting out the roof of Unit 16 (in those days the entire premises for SRS, nowadays the workshop) which had been much battered by storms of the preceding winter.
Later in the year we attended our first show - at Harrogate - taking a dozen or so engines, benches, lights, cleaning cloths, the list seemed endless. We got better (certainly faster) at setting up and breaking down shows over the years, attending three each year (London, Harrogate and Midlands) as well as smaller gatherings like the 7 1/4 inch gauge society AGM.
Summer 2009 saw us at Windmill Farm, with Sam having a day out with Sian whilst we had a look at the Exmoor-built "St Christopher" which came to Lincolnshire later in the year.
In August we ordered the steel for a new locomotive we'd designed - enough to make the motionwork and valve gear for an intial batch of four engines. We called our engine "Stafford" in recognition of Bagnall, the company whose designs inspired it.
We took delivery of our first new machining center, a VMC560 and over the next five years bought another five CNC machines, including two more machining centres, a lathe, vertical mill and a turning centre.
In 2011 we shipped one of the first Staffords built - a yellow one, destined to become "Gentoo", which featured in "Gentoo's Journals". The owner, a highly capable engineer in his own right, went on to order another Stafford some years later when we launched the 0-6-0 version.
Ron Martin's fabulous 7 1/4 inch gauge 9F came in early in the year, it had been built as one of a pair. We took it to Harrogate Show that year where it caused a great deal of interest (and found a new owner in double quick time - we bought it back some years later when the chap moved to narrow gauge)
2012 saw "St Christopher" leave us, destined for the 15 inch gauge railway at Bressingham (where it remains to this day). The dismantled 15 inch gauge "Flying Scotsman" built by Bill Stewart came back in part exchange.
Summer 2014 saw our first Open Day at the works - we steamed engines in the yard and Ashley gave well-received demonstrations all day on everything from building boilers to silver soldering; he'd virtually no voice left by the end of the day!
2014 saw the magnificent 10 1/4 inch gauge "St Augustine", built by Neil Simkins, arrive at the works. Steamed up and down a short length of track at the open day, it had a chance to stretch its legs later in the year when we were invited to visit the Stapleford Miniature Railway.
We were running a 10 ton Fowler compound steam roller "Dorothy" in 2014, but when a chance came to buy the recently completed 3 ton Ruston SD replica "Warrior", it was off down to the West Country one Sunday morning where the deal was struck over a cup of coffee, the engine arriving back in Lincolnshire a few days later.
A beautifully made thing and quick on the road, but we preferred the gentler pace of life driving the Fowler, so "Warrior" moved on within a few months.
The newly instroduced "Feldbahn", a Continental flavour sister for "Stafford" was taking up a good deal of our time by 2014. Whilst we normally built batches of 12 engines, demand was such that we built a batch of 24 in 2014, then another batch of 24 the following year.
Some madness must have seized us, as the second batch coincided with building a batch of six "Big Staffords", the Estate Railway sized locomotive - it kept us very busy for two years.
The Estate Range engines started out as an idea to scale up the 7 1/4 inch gauge "Stafford" to 10 1/4 inch, then produce a 7 1/4 inch gauge option by making it outside framed with flycranks. In the end the 7 1/4 inch version was much more popular than the 10 1/4; we built four and six wheel versions of both "Stafford" and "Feldbahn" designs.
In January 2016 we set off in the van with a "Stafford" and "Feldbahn" to exhibit at Karlsruhe - there used to be a big exhibition there each year. We'd gone over some years before as a day trip (left at 4am, drove to Heathrow, flew to Cologne, hired a car, drove to Karlsruhe. Six hours round the show, then reverse the process, home at 1am the following morning. Not recommended, we never did it again!)
The show was interesting, but we were very much the "new kids on the block". Made lots of contacts and fielded lots of enquiries, but it wasn't until the following year, with a German agent appointed, that we started to make headway in this market.
One thing that did get done over the course of the show, working late at night in the hotel, was to finish off the drawings for a planned 0-6-0 version of Feldbahn. As soon as we get back we ordered two sets of frames and put the first two 0-6-0s together very quickly.
Given the six-wheeled chassis we now had in production, it was a fairly easy step, in 2018, to come out with "General Gordon", loosely based on the Kerr, Stuart "Sgt Murphy". We launched the new design at the Midlands Show that year, it proved very popular.