This article appeared in the September 1996 issue of GardenRail magazine and was written by Tag Gorton. Tag can be contacted by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org
Surely everybody has heard of Lady Anne! This ubiquitous class of locomotive, together with its many derivatives, has been the benchmark of a reliable garden steam in l6mm/G scale, these many years. A product of the Roundhouse Engineering Company, Lady Anne has seen a continuous programme of change and improvement, generally conducted with little fanfare or fuss, to provide what is arguably the most reliable small scale steam engine available on the market today. An unfortunate by-product of this policy of continuous development is of course that the engine is never the subject of a review because `everyone' knows about it!
It is at this juncture therefore, when Lady Anne has just completed another significant update, that I decided it was time both for a look at the history of this important design and also to conduct a road test of this, the latest version.
In the early eighties my embryo interest in live steam had prompted purchase of the ill-starred 3-1/2 inch gauge Hornby Rocket and, despite this product's doleful performance, I was still enthusiastic and paid particular attention to the advertisements for l6mm live steam in the model press. With a fairly hefty mortgage and a growing family, I could not then envisage purchase of the exciting locomotives advertised by Archangel, Steamcraft and the like but I was particularly taken by Tom Cooper's lyrical prose promoting his Merlin range. In fact I've just looked at one of his advertisements for the original Merlin Hunslet, taken from the Railway Modeller of January 1982, and it's easy to see why Tom's skill with words seduced so many people into this branch of railway modelling in those early years. Perhaps "Sure as sunrise" was a bit optimistic though!
It was in fact, the following month that the Roundhouse Engineering Company was registered and started trading from premises in Cherry Tree Road, Hexthorpe. The first advertisement that I noticed was for the single cylindered Victoria, a rather odd tram locomotive that even more oddly - had an actual prototype which, ran on the Plynlimon & Hafan Tramway.
The same month saw the introduction of the very first Lady Anne, named I understand, partly after the designers wife. Anne is in fact Mrs Loxley's middle name and this was explained to me, with some care, by Roger Loxley. One can understand his diffidence when it is realised that the next loco class (Dylan) was named after the family dog!!
This then was a very basic meths fired 0-4-0 pot-boiler with open cab, tin plate bodywork, a large underslung meths tank and slip eccentric valve gear. Dumb buffers, hook and link couplings and a simple fabricated smoke box completed a locomotive that was unadorned, comparatively easy to use and with its Jack Wheldon style firebox, able to run in all weathers.
1. The original Lady Anne. Perhaps more at home in a quarry than our passenger trains. (Roundhouse Engineering)
2. This was the first Lady with radio control produced in 1983. This version with its tender would turn heads at a garden meeting today! (Roundhouse Engineering)
3. A classic' meths fired Lady Anne and probably my personal favourite. Despite my stud of radio controlled locomotives I would like a manual version
of this engine. (Roundhouse Engineering)
There were few pretensions to detail or style, although I have to say that I still think it looks very nice (see photo No 1) with all its shiny brass, nameplates and simplified lining. Roundhouse had produced an affordable and well engineered narrow gauge locomotive that would run reliable in most weathers and the garden railway fraternity took notice.
This engine was priced at £230 more than thirteen years ago, and it is instructive to compare this with the £690 of the current far more sophisticated model. I know that many people will not believe me, but I would venture to suggest that, in real terms, the lady costs less today!
Be that as it may, the following year in 1983, the first single channel radio control version complete with tender was produced. I don't know how many models of this particular variant (see photo No 2) were produced but I've never yet seen one in the flesh. Certainly it is unlikely that anything like this was ever manufactured at 12 inches to the foot but one cannot deny it had a certain charm.
In 1984 Roundhouse produced a full cab model, followed in the same year with what was, for me, the `classic' version of this long lived class (see photo No 3) and the one depicted in the first catalogue that I purchased. Mechanical specification was broadly similar to previous models but this loco boasted photo-etched bodywork, and a far neater meths tank. It also became possible to purchase an externally gas fired version with a burner produced by Hogan Engineering, but one could sense the disapproval of the proprietors for this method of firing on their pride and joy! I also seem to remember that one could pay an extra twenty pounds for a mechanical lubricator but am willing to be corrected on this point. It is worth pointing out here, that by the mid eighties Roundhouse already had an established reputation for reliability and logistical back up.
This was the first Roundhouse locomotive that I ever ran and remember being particularly impressed with the needle valve regulator which provided such perfect control and of course the marvellous `pop' safety valve, sadly no longer used. The Longlands & Western Fowler Lord Elpus had one of these, and regularly sent the cat scuttling over the fence when it blew off steam! Local modeller George Mckie is still trying to get hold of one for his kit built and much modified Lady Anne so if anyone wants to swap their `popper' for a modern valve...! This model also had a `pull off' cab back to facilitate access to the cab but this was not generally necessary for normal running and servicing.
We all have our particular prejudices and while I am generally an advocate of radio control, I think that this meths fired locomotive was a far more attractive proposition as a manually controlled engine. Certainly George's Lady Anne is perhaps the most relaxing locomotive that I know of. This engine recalls memories of sunny summer evenings in his Plymstock garden, with Jacqueline in charge of the evening mixed train while we sat comfortably with a cup of tea, talking trains and pausing only to watch a steam train pass through Radford Dip station. One of the advantages of this type of firing of course, is that if the train pauses for lack of steam then given a couple of minutes to brew up, the loco will pull away without further attention.
The Lady spreads her Wings
There are of course hundreds of Lady Anne based locomotives running on garden railways world wide, many of them modified by their owners, but Roundhouse produced their own `Old Colonial' variant towards the end of 1985. This attractive six coupled locomotive (see Photo No 4) was very obviously Lady Anne based and it was on this model that the rear bunker made it's first appearance. White metal castings were used to change the character of the lady and `Old Colonial' appeared with smokestack, pilot, large napthia style non-working headlight (that many people promptly electrified), vacuum pump and sand boxes.
The following year another model was produced, this time exclusively for Brandbright. Designated Queen Anne it might well be termed a superdetail version of the base model. Queen Anne was, like `Old Colonial', also an 0-6-0 carrying the rear bunker and it also sported an attractive dome, not unlike those borne by Manx engines. Cast cab steps, diamond pattern footplates, fabricated brass dummy oilers and various white metal castings combined to provide that `Roundhouse with a difference' that Brandbright have specialised in ever since. Unfortunately no photographs of this engine are held by either Brandbright or Roundhouse so if you have one of these locomotives then Roger would be very pleased to receive a photograph!
An important development for many people was the introduction in 1987 of locomotive kits for both Lady Anne and Dylan. These were the standard meths fired slip eccentric engines, available eventually as four or six coupled units, which made it possible for many modellers to say "I built that". An example of a kit version, albeit heavily modified may be seen in the photographs, posing with the latest model.
Mention should also be made here of Peter Jones' `Dacre' project which used largely Roundhouse parts. This took the process a step further and enabled the bog standard railway modeller such as myself, to advance tentatively into the realms of model engineering with little expense.
I have seen several examples of this genus around the country, all rather different of course, but having the imported reliability and running characteristics of the Roundhouse pedigree.
4. 'Old Colonial'. First produced in 1985 I'm sure that many people remember this attractive engine. I do think it looked rather better in the fetching 'desert sand' livery though (Roundhouse Engineering)
Lady Anne posing on the Plymstock & Hooe line
5. A pre 1991 gas fired lady with semi Walschaerts valve gear this locomotive is owned by Don Arthur and runs on his Tamarside Railway.
6. A factory photograph of a 1995 'Lady in Red'. See if you can spot the external differences(Roundhouse Engineering)
The Lady Comes of Age
1988 saw the most radical change to date of this class of locomotive with the introduction of the now so familiar internally gas fired 0-6-0 with semi Walschaerts gear. At last the boilers could be the same colour as the body shell, full two channel radio control could be fitted and - the dome would stay polished! Changes as well were made to the bodyshell, and the new fret provided for the aforementioned rear bunker and a stepped side tank to show off the new valve gear (see Photo No 5). Small changes were continually made to this latest generation and in 1991 another new body etch provided for cab steps.
While the meths fired slip eccentric version would be available for another six years, Roundhouse had made the commitment to internal gas firing. I do remember seeing an advertisement for what looked like a meths fire pot-boiler with Walschaerts valve gear but this seemed to disappear without trace. There are many people I know who regret the passing of the lowly but oh so relaxing pot boiler and the locomotives will, for this reason, always hold their price on the second hand market and a place in the collective heart of the burnt finger brigade!
The latest version proved to be a very popular locomotive indeed and, while I have conducted no special survey, I would say that nowadays most people opt for radio control. I have regularly run Don Arthur's locomotive `Linda' and have to say that the combination of 40meg R/C and the Roundhouse needle valve regulator is a winner and shunting operations or slow running are a pleasure. The only thing I have noted is that when `Linda' was released from a heavy train there was enough steam in the superheater pipe to propel the locomotive several feet if one was unwary.
It has to be said that the cab in the radio controlled version was pretty crowded, making it difficult to provide a suitable driver, but overall this Lady Anne was indeed a pretty little engine. The fabricated smoke box had disappeared and in its place was a solid cast version which I thought suited the loco far better. Later models had a similar smokebox but complete with rivet detail. In truth Lady Anne had become the commonest workhorse of the l6mm/G scale world, with a reliability factor second to none.
The Lady of Refinement
When offered the chance of a road test with the redesigned `Lady in Red' it was not one I could pass up. I had of course noted slight detail differences on Peter Insole's drawing in the current Brandbright catalogue but I was very interested to see just what had been achieved in this latest metamorphosis.
It has been some years since I last opened a box containing a brand new Roundhouse and I have to say that I was quite impressed with the professionalism of the presentation.
The locomotive arrived ready to run, with batteries fitted and with a small tool kit in a plastic wallet supplied. The tool kit consists of a back to back wheel gauge and Allen key, a set of spare fibre washers and `0' rings, steam oil, syringe, plastic tube and yellow duster. It also however, includes a pair of protective gloves. Strange, because as an effete Southerner, I thought all Yorkshiremen were taciturn ruffy tuffies who didn't mind burning their fingers occasionally! As expected, a comprehensive owners manual, complete with line drawings, covered operation, running and basic trouble shooting. A serial numbered guarantee for your locomotive is slipped inside the cover.
Initial impressions were that this was recognisably Lady Anne but proportions and profile were enhanced, particularly at the rear end. (see photo No 6). In particular the bodyshell is all of a piece and, without the slip-on bunker with a more pleasing shape to the doorways. There are access steps on the front of the side tanks together with cab steps under the door and a valance on the footplate. The cab roof hinges to one side to provide access to fittings.
The bodyshell is held by four screws and is simple to remove. Do remember however, to remove the knurled drain plug on the lubricator before doing so. I didn't notice that this would foul the bodyshell as it was removed and, embarrassingly, chipped Roger Loxley's nice new paint. After removal of the bodyshell I noted that the boiler now has a shroud which I imagine will help with keeping heat in. Certainly I remember that locos without the protection of side tanks (such as my Fowler) had to have the gas significantly higher in cold windy weather, but I suspect that the major reason for this particular addition is improved manufacturing process.
The cab contains the new cylindrical gas tank tucked behind the starboard sidesheet with the gas controller accessed through the door. (see Photo No 7). The displacement lubricator is, as before, in the port doorway. The curved battery box is tucked under the hinged roof, otherwise radio receiver and servos are stowed away out of sight.
Your Hot and Steamy Lady
I have already made the point that Lady Anne is easy to use. As supplied, your engine will be run on the single fill system and I am not here going to reproduce the instructions in the handbook, suffice to say that you cannot go wrong if you actually read them! Certainly, after a certain amount of experience, I don't think it matters too much in which order gas, oil and water are topped up as long as it works for you. With the locomotive fuelled, oiled and watered I turned on the gas and applied my torch to the chimney top. An immediate `pop' told me that the gas system was burning comfortably in the boiler tube.
This new gas system on Roundhouse locomotives is excellent. I understand that it has been developed in conjunction with Leeds University to provide a system with optimum efficiency. The practical result of this is that the locomotive runs on a significantly lower gas setting and in normal running conditions the burner is almost silent. This took a little getting used to and for a little while I was blowing off steam because I was used to the higher gas adjustment.
The locomotive moved off easily as soon as I'd reached running pressure. The regulator was, as always, responsive and it was simple to obtain very slow running even light engine. Roundhouse locos spend a considerable number of hours running before delivery to the customer and this individual attention shows in the final product.
7. The well designed cab layout of the new model. Note the absence of servos and receiver in this radio controlled engine. The roof hinges away on the port side to allow access and the position of fittings allow for easy control and servicing.
I backed Lady Anne onto a forty eight axle train and took it out on the Plymstock & Hooe main line for a very successful run. Roundhouse, in common with almost every other manufacturer, retain the centre spring in their transmitter controls. I know this is a safety feature but it drives me round the bend to have to hold the loco in gear whilst running. I couldn't remove the spring from a loco that did not belong to me, so I set Lady Anne at a steady scale speed, switched off the radio and settled down to enjoy the sight and sound of a well fettled engine on a heady train.
Length of run is a ticklish subject because everybody controls their loco in slightly different ways and of course all lines are different. Nevertheless with careful use of the gas burner, well over half an hour will be obtained on a single fill. A satisfactory afternoons steaming in the late autumn sunshine, with the gentle chuffing of our small locomotives busily coping with extensive traffic on this small line nearly made me forget my duties. Lady Anne, whilst easy and pleasant to run, is still a steam locomotive and consideration has to be given to pressure gauge, burner and length of run if one is not to be ignominiously stranded in the middle of the line.
The old and the new together. George's
locomotive has joggled running plates over the cylinders a la 'Dacre' and is nicely lined out.
It's a shame that I couldn't put lining and lettering on the new locomotive.
Thoughts on the Lady
A perennial problem far locomotive manufacturers is getting the right balance between ergonomics and aesthetic appeal. Certainly both lubricator and gas control valve are easy to reach whilst servicing or running, but if the lady were mine I would reposition the gas control valve away from the door and facing aft to allow space for a l6mm engine driver. This would mean of course that the roof would have to be lifted each time to alter the gas setting. I do not consider that this would be a problem because the loco would in any case need to be stationary to make this occasional adjustment.
Roundhouse would seem to have made a conscious decision to design the cab fittings with a view to making the loco as straightforward as possible to use and run. I have to say that they are probably right to do so, bearing in mind that Lady Anne is so often a first choice for budding steamologists.
More experienced garden railway men can of course, easily make modifications to suit, and it may be remembered that this locomotive must have been on the receiving end of more alterations than any other design. A personal preference would be the addition of a boiler fill system such as the type supplied by Finescale, and possibly a steam stop valve. This would enable the locomotive to remain in steam to the limit of the servo batteries, however this modification could not be recommended to people new to steam locomotion. The single fill system, as supplied, is safe by design, with the gas running out before water and oil. A simpler modification that anyone can do is to replace the `straight through exhaust' with a pipe having a sealed end and an `organ pipe' slot in the side. This improves the steam plume and can improve the chuff but primarily will stop your loco getting covered in oily water when moving away after steaming up.
Lady Anne has breeding and it shows. The long years of careful development and attention to detail have produced a locomotive that `will do what it says on the tin', and do it every time.
Finally, if you are considering purchase of a Roundhouse locomotive, or are just an interested observer, then I commend to you the latest Roundhouse Video. The garden sequences are skilfully shot, the sections on design and construction are illuminating and besides, it's fun listening to Roger Loxley refining his Yorkshire accent!
© 1999 Roundhouse Eng. Co. Ltd.