Paint Shop – Wilesco D320 Steam Lorry

Further to my most recent post detailing the acquisition of my Wilesco Steam Lorry, here is a follow-up post showing some of the minor modifications (all cosmetic) that I’ve performed of-late.

I’ve decided to take to the model with a paintbrush (well, aerosol can) and spruce-up the colour scheme somewhat. I found there was a little too much brass and other ‘conflicting’ colours on board, so I set about changing some of these finishes to give the model a more ‘professional’ look.

What was (re)painted

Listed below are the items I’ve re-painted so far:

  • RC receiver/battery box (painted a more-realistic wood brown – the wood texture was already molded into the plastic!)
  • Drive chain & drive cog (painted a semi-gloss black to remove the toy-ish brass look [not to mention the cheap ‘necklace’ look of the original brass chain!!])
  • Wheels and hubs painted semi-gloss black to better balance out the colour scheme (in my opinion, this change immediately transforms the model into looking like a ‘proper’ scale Lorry)
  • Rear axle painted flat black (except for the top-most surface – I wasn’t too sure if painting it completely would hinder the radio signal range as there is a ground wire (signal wire ?) connected to it from the RC receiver box
  • RC steering rod (flat black)

What’s next (maybe!)

Whilst I don’t want to make any promises, I do intend to actually re-visit the green colour scheme on the main body panels and cab and see what else I can achieve there.

My thoughts at the moment are a more dark green (think British Racing Green) rather than the colour shade the Lorry currently has.

Once I’ve done this, I may well choose to lose the golden plaque at the front of the Lorry (jury is still out on this however) and attempt some stencil lettering and perhaps if I’m feeling ambitious, attempt some pin-striping around the cab body panels. I may also choose to darken or otherwise stain the light wooden panels around the rear cargo tray and/or attempt further stencil lettering there also.

For the time being however, I thought this post would serve well to update on you on what I’ve achieved with the Lorry so far.


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Steam Lorry! – Wilesco D320 (Initial Run Review)

So it’s that time of year again, the time when I normally lose control of my wallet, perhaps. This year was particularly unforgiving, especially seeing as I’d just spent a bunch of cash on the 3/4″ Maxitrak Allchin all the way from the UK.

Nevermind, the heart wants what the heart wants and so here is the outcome/result/consequence:

The Wilesco D320 Steam Lorry!

What have I done…

So after reading some fairly mixed reviews of this Wilesco live steam vehicle for some weeks, I had finally settled on it (with some persuasion from my loving wife – aren’t I ‘lucky’ or doomed!?). It was basically a toss-up between this, or the Wilesco D305 Fire Engine. In the end, it seems the (much more expensive) Steam Lorry won out…

This is the third Wilesco I own in my collection now (the other two being the D405 Traktor and the D365 Steam Roller), and I must say, after having owned this Lorry for just-on 24 hours, and only having it run it once so far, it’s a keeper!! To put it into some perspective, price-wise, it is about double the cost of any Wilesco live steam model I’ve owned previously, and about half the cost of the 3/4″ Maxitrak Allchin Tractor (which is, rightly so, still in a league of its own).

Read on for a more detailed review of this beast!

What’s under the hood

The Wilesco D320 Steam Lorry is powered by Wilesco’s standard single cylinder steam engine, vertically mounted, and plumbed to a rather attractive brass upright-style boiler, allowing the engine to be driven with less issue over gradients.

The engine is actually mounted inside the driver’s cab towards the rear and is mounted centrally and longitudinally on the frame of the Lorry. The crankshaft passes rearwards to the externally-mounted flywheel which is mounted just outside the rear of the cab, again longitudinally.

From the flywheel, there is a pinion which meshes with a larger spur gear (both the pinion and spur are PLASTIC however they appear to be made of good quality plastic, similar to those gears seen in RC cars). From the spur gear,  a pair of bevel gears (again plastic) rotate the drive 90 degrees so that the resulting drive shaft protrudes just fore of the left hand rear wheel. A simple chain drive arrangement then carries the drive the rest of the way to the left rear wheel, the only wheel of which is driven.

All-in, the drive train seems fairly robust and should be able to cope with the stresses of driving not only the Lorry, but of any additional loads and trailers that may be attached in future.

The frame (or base if you will) of the Lorry seems sturdy enough as well and has very little flex considering the overall weight of the empty Lorry (3.1 kg according to Wilesco).

I will get to the actual performance a bit later in this post, but suffice to say that the little single-cylinder steam engine does a good-enough job of powering this behemoth along even with load in the rear tray, but this does come at a cost of a LOT of Esbit fuel tablets!!

Control system

As I purchased the model (only yesterday!) one of the gents behind the counter exclaimed “A radio-controlled steam engine! Who would have thought of that 20 years ago!”. And rightly-so, Wilesco haven’t done too terribly by fitting their radio-controlled unit to this model, as standard equipment. It only actuates the steering system of the Lorry, but the idea is that once the throttle is set and the fire is stabilised with a good head of steam onboard, one can simply sit/stand nearby and issue commands courtesy of the 40Mhz radio unit and guide the Lorry on its desired path, without having to constantly chase after the model to steer it this way and that. You even get indicators that blink when issuing left/right turn commands!

Now, before I go too much further, this is perhaps the only part of the model that didn’t exactly win me over 100% when I first un-boxed it. I certainly had some teething issues which I will go into shortly…

I had read of issues others had encountered with the RC system and I promptly encountered the same (and more! :() upon loading the RC unit with fresh batteries and trialling it out on the dinner table (well before I intended to steam the model itself).

The main issue (that I had already known about) was that the servo motor in the RC box wasn’t up to the task of steering the wheels left and right with the full, stationary weight of the Lorry loaded upon front wheels (it must also be noted that this was even before I had filled the boiler full of water, so in theory, it wasn’t at its full weight just yet either). Not only that, but left turns resulted in the long steering rod flexing rather alarmingly, caught between the resistance of the steering system and the torque that the little servo motor was trying to exert.

OK, not a big issue I thought…as once the Lorry was moving the steering system should work OK, and I tested this as well by rolling the Lorry along by hand before steaming it up and trying-out the steering.

BUT, the next issue (that I honestly wasn’t prepared for!) was that left turns seemingly did not register when commanded from the handheld radio control unit. I fiddled with the antennae, checked the ground connection, battery levels, orientated the controller this way and that around the model, all to no avail. Right turn commands would be registered just fine however, so it seemed the issue lay in the handheld unit itself, rather than a control signal/receiver unit issue perhaps.

So, after about 30min of fiddling (including trying completely different batteries) I was close to considering calling up Wilesco/my local hobby store, when I decided to take the plunge and dismantle the handheld radio control unit. :o

Once I had the covers off the handheld unit and was left staring at its internal circuit board, I found the issue fairly quickly and I’m glad I did: basically the plastic fitment of the controls prevented the steering control stick from travelling far enough to close the contacts for the left turn switch inside the controller!! The fix was to remove the bulbous control stick (they simply pull-off) and file down the plastic so that it could travel slightly further before it contacted the external casing of the controller – we’re talking millimeters here.  A quick test whilst everything was apart confirmed that left-hand turns were now registering 100% reliably and without issue, and I proceeded to screw everything back together. Yippee!

So, after all that head scratching and fretting, I had the control system issues under control (pun not intended!) and I was ready to steam!!!

Steam up!

So what’s it like steaming-up this big Wilesco Lorry and driving it around? I’ve placed my thoughts below, from initial preparation, to steam-up, to after-run!

The boiler takes almost 200ml of water, which, while somewhat on the low-side compared to Wilesco’s other models, is just reasonable in practice. I use filtered water from a food-grade charcoal filter, with perhaps a touch of tap water added (but only a touch!). (note: I am seriously considering purchasing a water distiller soon, as proper “distilled” water is almost impossible to find around my area.)

The boiler is fitted with an unconventional sight glass setup which I’m not particularly fond of, but it’s better than no sight glass at all: the sight glass(es) actually consist of two ‘port-holes’ mounted vertically (one a short distance above the other) on the side of the boiler. The idea is that you fill the boiler until water appears in the upper-most sight glass. Then as you steam about, you watch the water level until it reaches the lower glass, and that’s when you know it’s time to shut her down and refill the boiler or end the run. That’s the theory; in practice, it works just OK, and involves a bit of head-scratching at times to ensure the water level is sufficient. From what I’ve ascertained so far, there’s about 50-60ml of water remaining in the boiler when it appears in the lower sight glass – a good time to abandon the fire!

Anyway, more on that later. Once the water is filled into the boiler, I close off the boiler by fitting the safety valve, give the valve a quick pull to verify it’s not stuck, then make preparations to oil-up, followed by lighting the fire!

Oiling-up is fairly standard per the other Wilesco live steam engines; open the jet oiler, fill with steam oil, (I use about 4 drops for a 20 minute run-time), then oil with standard car-engine oil all around the drive train and moving parts (it’s worth noting that I do not use mineral oil on the plastic gears, but instead a light application of silicon oil).

The fuel/fire aspect of the model is supplied by Esbit fuel tablets and these are fairly standard across the board for Wilesco models.

The act of raising steam doesn’t take a very long time, but it helps to fill the boiler with warm water beforehand, and this also saves on fuel tablets. As steam builds, one can watch the handy steam pressure gauge on the front of the boiler; it’s calibrated in ‘Bar’ measurement and is red-lined at 1.5 bar (about 22 PSI) – a far cry from the 60 PSI beast that is the Maxitrak Allchin! All the same, once the gauge registers about 0.5 bar, the engine can start to be run, but don’t expect to carry any type of load or pull trailers until there’s at least 1 bar on the gauge, from my experience so far. That leads to one other minor gripe I have with this model, and that is that it cannot be run in ‘neutral’ gear – one must raise the left rear wheel slightly in order to run it stationary. No biggie, but nonetheless a slight annoyance; a suitably-fashioned stand sorts that issue out.

Once up to pressure and ready-to-roll, open the steam regulator slightly and flick the longitudinally-mounted flywheel clock-wise (when viewed from the rear of the cab) and after a few seconds of initial condensate clearing-out, she splutters into life!!!

The radio-control functionality when the Lorry is underway also proved to be a non-issue, as all my earlier frustrations faded-away – left and right turns were issued without any problems even from several metres away. I was running the Lorry on a concrete driveway with several of the usual concrete gaps and the Lorry traversed these with no issue. At one stage though, I did find the single driving wheel lose traction as the Lorry traversed a slightly uneven portion of the driveway!!! The driving wheel spun aimlessly whilst the Lorry had come to a halt! Because a lot of the weight is focused on the front wheels, it does pay to load the rear tray with some form of weight, and perhaps bias the weight towards the left hand side over the rear axle, as the frame flexes very little and with no suspension to speak of, it’s rather easy to lift the driving wheel, even with all the traction that its rubber tyre normally affords it.

The sounds and smells as the Lorry drives is somewhat typical to a Wilesco, but there’s a special connection I feel when I drive this Lorry; for one, with a loaded tray and the somewhat limited boiler capacity, it causes one to think ahead and ensure there is enough fire onboard to maintain the pressure – especially outdoors! That, and the fact that it has cracking good looks as it drives about also helps too!

From a utility point-of-view, the pulling-power from the Lorry once at full steam pressure is quite reasonable indeed and the well-thought-out gearing allows for powerful output and realistic scale speeds to be achieved, with certainly enough power to carry moderate loads and trailers; the challenge is however, in maintaining the head of steam…

Whilst some have noted that the boiler cannot provide sufficient steam for hauling the Lorry at a reasonable speed, in my initial run I have found that it does OK, but the Lorry certainly eats up the Esbit tablets! So much so that I am *very close* to naming this Lorry “The Gobbler”!  I went through about seven of the newer, larger Esbit fuel tablets during my initial run last night (the run lasted about 30-40 min and consisted of several ‘intermissions’ along the way to top-up the boiler and re-oil). So yes, definitely a model to run when your Esbit collection is rather large and well-stocked! This is especially so if running the Lorry outdoors, with any semblance of wind or breeze present. An aftermarket or add-on gas burner may be the way forward with this model, as others have also suggested, but all in all, the Esbits do not provide a terrible experience from what I’ve seen so far.

Two items I’d definitely recommend to those looking at purchasing this Lorry are 1) a stopwatch or other suitable timer and 2) a powerful handheld light source.

Both of the above items will help keep track of the water in the boiler, as it can be easy to lose track and not be certain as to the water level once it has dropped so its between the upper and lower sight glass port-holes. It’s also helpful to partly-fill the boiler and get to know the look of the portholes when they have (and don’t have!) water behind them. There is a slightly different look to the glasses in each scenario and I’ve also found that an intense handheld light allows one to see very fine water bubbles/particles behind the port hole glasses and this helps retain confidence that there is still water in the boiler!!

After a run, the cleanup involved is fairly straightforward. It’s worth noting however that there is a SEPARATE exhaust pipe for the steam; it does not get routed into the chimney as per some other Wilesco models, because the boiler actually has a central flue which is integral to the chimney, which helps in raising steam (and dropping the steam exhaust/condensate into there would put-out or otherwise disrupt the fire in fairly short order).

It’s pretty cool to see the exhaust steam exit from the right hand side of the Lorry as you drive along. At one point during my run, noting that I needed to stoke the fire and being too lazy to remove the burner slide, I momentarily removed the spark arrestor atop the chimney (CAUTION: EXTREMELY HOT! WEAR STURDY GLOVES!!) and added chunks of Esbits straight down the chimney/boiler flue and into the burner tray and then quickly replaced the spark arrestor. To my initial horror, this resulted in a touch of flames appearing out of the chimney and maybe a spark or two! The spark arrestor on top of the chimney did a great job of keeping these outbursts under control though and the spectacle only lasted a short moment (unfortunately I have no photographic goodness/evidence of the event – you’ll have to take my word for it!) – not a recommended way of running I’m sure though – and make sure you have enough water in the boiler if you do this!!!


So in closing, a very attractive (and perhaps ambitious) model from Wilesco, with some reasonable power given its sheer size and weight, but not without some (mostly) minor annoyances.

Given a larger-capacity boiler, a proper sight glass, a larger burner surface and a more-powerful/robust RC system, this could have been an absolute winner, but even without these, it’s still a worthy item for any live steam engine collection, if a little pricey.

Notwithstanding everything else, it certainly looks very imposing on the shelf at the end of each day and I think that ownership of one of these Lorries certainly signifies that you’ve “made it”…in the world of Wilesco live steam engine ownership anyway. :D


Of course, I cannot close this post without a collection of photos! Enjoy!

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Wilesco Product Page (D320 Steam Lorry):

Quality Steam Tractor! – 3/4″ Maxitrak Allchin

It’s been a while since my last update; as usual life has its way of taking over!

I wanted to post however to update on my recent Christmas present – for myself (which I’ve unboxed from the packaging before December mind you!).

I recently purchased a Maxitrak Allchin; this is a 3/4 inch scale live steam model prototype based off a real-life example built by Allchin in the well-known “Globe” steam works, way back in 1893.

This is the first live steam model I’ve purchased in a LONG while, my last was a Wilesco traction engine way back in 2011 (or was it earlier?). Until this point my live steam model collection consisted of two Wilescos (both of which I believe I have blogged about in the past on this very blog): one steam roller, and the aforementioned tractor. For a period of time in the recent past, I had been lusting over the quality D.R. Mercer engines, however I couldn’t quite bring myself to purchase one. It was only recently that I became aware of the Allchins, and after hearing them run in various videos on YouTube, I became hooked with just how realistic they sounded! And after hearing this thing run first-hand, I must say, it seems like the Maxitrak Allchin is probably the most realistic-sounding live steam model in the 3/4 – 1″ scale bracket (and price range!).

So yes, I’ve only had this model for just over a week and I must say, WOW, I am so glad I held out for this! It’s certainly a steam engine and a half, and for what you pay (about 875 GBP/$1,600 AUD in my case), it’s certainly good value for money. Some of its features include:

  • Quality silver-soldered boiler rated to 60 PSI (includes boiler test certificate to 150 PSI)
  • Realistic design and liveries
  • Forward/reverse valve gear lever (with working Stevenson’s Valve Gear arrangement)
  • Boiler pressure gauge
  • Boiler water level sight glass
  • Quality butane gas tank and burner (again with a test certificate)
  • Solid rear axle driving both rear wheels
  • Spoked wheels with rubber tyres
  • Wonderful paint finish and overall quality/fitment of parts

Customs ‘issues’

Importing an item of this type and value always poses risks, and particularly so with Australia’s (overly?) protective Customs agency, however after a whole week of being laid-up at the destination airport and approximately $300 worth of duty and taxes later, the Allchin was mine! I must commend DHL on their handling of the shipment along with management of the Customs requirements. In the end I had agreed that the item was NOT for commercial use, and that it was essentially, in DHL’s words “a prototype only, for demonstration purposes”….all of which is essentially true. All told I am happy that I ended up gaining possession of this fine model, especially given how much I had spent on it!


The un-boxing process is always fun and I’ve documented here at the bottom of this post, in a series of photos which I hope you will enjoy. The model came VERY well-packaged and I must also thank Maxitrak/Maidstone Engineering for their awesome customer service and handling of my order. They replied to all my emails promptly and were always on-hand to assist with my queries.

Included together with the tractor inside my package, were some additional bits and pieces which I ordered (and I even received a 20% discount on these additional items!). The additional bits consisted of:

  • A “starter kit” (consisting of water/oil syringes, long-nose lighter and a 200ml bottle of quality steam oil
  • A “plate set” (several quality-machined metal plates and number plates, including a boiler “wash out” plate
  • A “gas valve adapter” which enables fitment to screw-top butane gas canisters

All these parts came neatly and safely packaged inside the box which arrived as part of my shipment. I will let the photos do the talking below, but the packaging of the actual tractor itself was very-well handled too, and the model was securely mounted on a sturdy wooden plate with metal straps securing the rear wheels. A large amount of foam was also used to cushion the model from the rigours of shipping that it was bound to have encountered on its long journey from Kent, UK to Perth, Australia.

Fuel woes?

It’s worth mentioning that this model runs on BUTANE gas. Not something I was extremely familiar with until now; so, you could imagine how I was more than a little nervous with how I was going to go about running this machine let alone acquire the required gas from local stores/outlets. Rest assured, I have managed to overcome any hurdles associated with running the butane fuel and I have since found a store which supplies the fuel in reasonable quantities.

For those living in Australia who may be reading this, PLEASE ensure you purchase screw-top butane gas canisters if you wish to run this model; the more-prevalent (and unfortunately cheaper) “push-in” type canisters are not particularly useful with this model, unless you can get your hands of a suitable plastic adapter, or otherwise if the included gas nozzle is long-enough to fit down into the recess of the gas filler. For best peace of mind however, simply purchase a screw-top butane canister, and use Maxitrak’s gas valve adapter (email Maxitrak for this), and you should be all set! As a side-note, most Bunnings outlets sell the “Primus” butane screw-top canisters in their “Tool shop”, so the fuel is quite readily available.

Having been used to running Esbit fuel tablets for all of my live steam model experience so far, I must say that the butane gas fuel is very clean and much more trouble-free. The only thing is, the wife doesn’t approve of running it in the house unlike my Wilescos which will easily (and much more quietly!) run in the house all day without much issue. The smell from the Esbits aren’t particularly pleasant either, however given the more “realistic” nature of the Allchin, and the fact that it runs at higher pressures and likely higher temperatures, it certainly doesn’t lend itself well to running inside as well as a more ‘toy-like’ Wilesco. In short, the Allchin smells, sounds and behaves (with all its hissing and popping and smoking) like a REAL steam tractor! Just note, you will most likely need to run it outside…haha…

Fire in the hole!

Before running any live steam model, it’s necessary first build up a head of steam pressure in the boiler. It’s assumed that you, careful reader, are somewhat familiar with the workings of a steam engine so I won’t go fully in the details here, lest to say that you basically need a) water, b) fire and c) oil, to run a steam engine successfully. And NEVER run out of water if you can help it!! No scratch that, NEVER run out of water PERIOD!

The process of fuelling-up the butane gas tank on this tractor is straightforward – simply fit the gas valve to the screw-top canister, invert, and press firmly onto the gas valve on the tractor’s gas tank. After only about 30 seconds, you have a tank-full of gas ready to last approximately 20 minutes (about one run). From there, run through the usual preparation process of adding water to the boiler – reference the sight glass – no need to fill more than 3/4 full – (about 3.5 syringes full if using the supplied water-filling syringe), re-fit the safety valve, add steam oil to the lubricator, lubricate the valve gear and other moving parts with ordinary car engine oil, check the free moment of all parts, set mid-gear on the reversing lever, close the regulator and light the fire!

You are rewarded with a satisfying “WHOOSH” as you light the fire on this engine, and it is here that you must apply particular caution, as careless (and glove-less) fingers can get burnt if not careful. Lighting the fire consists of holding the open flame from the long-nose lighter under the front of the smoke box (immediately above the front axle) and twisting the gas valve open slightly until you hear the flame take hold. Gloved hands and a long-nose lighter are definitely recommended here! It is also possible to light the flame by removing the smoke box lid first, however this way is a little more cumbersome.

Once the fire is going, the ferocity of the flame can be easily controlled by using the gas valve on the gas tank of the tractor. When everything is still cold however (including the burner), the control of the burner setting is a little more crude, and you need to add a little more gas to keep the fire going, but it must be said that avoiding too high a heat when the machine is still cold is a good idea, to prevent any shock heating. After a moment or two, once the burner has settled to a nice toasty medium and the machine itself gets warm, you can further adjust the burner setting as required and you can generally reduce the gas valve setting back down towards the ‘off’ position and keep it there for the entire run (unless you intend on pulling particularly heavy loads!). At this setting, I’ve found that the gas will easily outlast the water in the boiler and extreme caution must be taken to ensure one does not run out of water before the fire, lest the expensive boiler gets damaged!

Side-note: so far I have been running the gas tank on the minimum setting, and the boiler gauge always seems to creep up to its rated 60 PSI limit before the safety valve begins popping off – this is even whilst operating in-gear with the tractor towing a scale load (a Wilesco tractor in my case!). There is an air intake adjustment on the burner however, so I may try tweaking this so that the burner produces less heat on the minimum setting; this may entail running the burner “richer” perhaps.

Running the machine!

So! What’s it like running this beast? Well, as aforementioned in the paragraph above, the Allchin DEFINITELY offers a more “realistic” steaming experience, and it certainly sets itself apart from the more “toy-like” steam engines, such as the Wilescos and perhaps the Mamods (the latter of which I have no experience with), so respect is definitely required here when running this machine – although this could be said of any live steam model. We have boiling water, steam and in most cases, live flames at play, so be careful!

With all that said, the Allchin is an absolute PLEASURE to run. I have been running timed trials and so far each run consists of about 15-20 minutes of pure steaming pleasure. This time excludes the 5-6 minutes that it takes to actually build steam as well.

Once the steam pressure has begun to rise and the steam gauge begins to register, engage forward (or reverse!) on the reversing lever, open the regulator slightly and give the flywheel a few helping turns…after a few rotations (there is almost always a few seconds required whilst the engine clears itself of any condensate) the engine will begin running on its own and you will hear that characteristic “chuff-chuff” sound begin!

It is generally here that I hit the “start” button on the stopwatch to begin keeping time of the run. I’ve found doing this to be very important, as you’ll read on shortly.

After running this way in neutral for a few minutes, I will engage the gears of this fine machine and begin driving. It certainly drives very smoothly, and doesn’t exhibit any of the cheap-ish sounding “clanging” and “tinking” sounds that the cheaper toy live steam models may exhibit. The motion runs very smooth and with very little play in the parts. This all contributes to the model sounding very nice indeed.

My only slight dislike with this model is the fact that it has a solid rear axle, with no differential. Most models have either a single-driving rear wheel, or (in the case of the more expensive models), an actual differential unit. Unfortunately the Allchin has none of the above, and combined with the high-grip rubber treads, this means that turns normally result in a bit of skidding and slipping from the rear wheels. Now, before I am taken the wrong way, this in no great way detracts from this model, and it may simply be the case of my model still being new and “tight”, but turns in the Allchin generally require a little more application of the steam regulator. I have actually read that there is a degree of “play” in the rear wheels, but from my experience so far, this isn’t a great amount. Nonetheless, turns can still be achieved, and at worst, they probably only involve a bit of scrubbing of the rubber tyres and little else.

I am actually grateful for the solid rear axle, as once you open the regulator up with a full head of steam, the amount of pulling power from the rears is something to be experienced to be believed. There are some out there that believe that this model pulls like the proverbial mule, and they are not wrong! I have no doubt that this model could pull along a small child or somewhat lean adult!

Keeping a stopwatch recording the run time (as aforementioned) comes in particularly handy, as the water sight glass can sometimes lie (or shock) when it suddenly drops in water levels reported. I generally get a good 15-20 minutes of actual run time from this model and from my limited experience so far, I’ve found that as soon as the water level begins to straddle the lower reaches of the gauge, it’s a good time to shut off that burner!

Believe me though, the temptation to keep running can sometimes be quite trying, but I’d rather play it safe than sorry. Running a boiler out of water is no fun and I’ve (thankfully) yet to experience such an event with any of my live steam models…and I intend to keep it that way!

One other thing to note is that this machine gets HOT during the run (about 150 degrees C on the sides of the boiler as measured by my digital temperature gauge), so gloved hands are a must, and I have also found that the regulator knob is quite stiff from the factory, and this knob gets ultra hot too (to the point of burning bits of clothed glove material off!), so for this, I have found that an old RC model wrench from my RC model car days has come in very handy indeed. You will see this wrench in the photos below – basically it allows me to fit it over the regulator knob and control the regulator easily using the wrench, so I avoid getting tinged, and I get slightly more leverage to twist the somewhat resistant knob as well (do exercise caution when closing up the regulator fully against its valve seat however – you do not want to damage it).

After-run procedures

Once the water has run low, and the burner is promptly shut-off, the tractor may run for another moment or two on residual steam pressure, and once the fine beast has run out of breath for another day, it’s time to cool her down and begin the process of cleaning up. This part of the run is actually quite therapeutic for me, and keeps me busy for easily another 30-60 minutes afterwards.

I will generally empty the boiler after a few moments of shut down (once all the steam pressure been exhausted that is!), to allow the boiler interior to dry from the residual heat and avoid any dampness from remaining. I will then keep the safety valve unfitted for several minutes to allow the boiler to air out, and begin wiping down the model to clean it.

I don’t particularly go to the lengths of keeping my engines in “showroom” cleanliness, but I don’t exactly like to keep them looking like they’ve just been run and tossed aside either! I guess I sit somewhere in between. At the end of the day though, I’m no stranger to a bit of spit and polish.


Enough of the blabbering! Below is a gallery of photos of this fine Allchin. I do hope you enjoy!

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LEGO Pneumatic Tractor Mk1

So here it is finally!

Over a year ago, I managed to build myself a prototype pneumatic engine out of LEGO, after viewing some examples on the Internet. I was quite chuffed that my initial version worked so well, that I even posted a video about it. Then it seems, nothing happened for a while. Well really, it did, I just neglected to blog about it!! :( So, here it is, the main model which resulted from my dismantling the LEGO Unimog kit I had blogged about a while back.


So what exactly is a pneumatic engine you might ask? Well, a long time ago, Lego came up with the idea of incorporating pneumatic cylinders into their kits. These are basically cylindrical rams powered by low-level compressed air and were designed to operate kits with crane arms and other such creations. It seems however, that Lego builders around the world (me included) will always find ways to re-purpose these parts and thus, the pneumatic engine is born. Looking on the Internet, there are quite a few different types of these engines, some operating at crazy-high, Lego part-melting RPMs. Others (such as mine), operating at more ‘reasonable’ levels of speed, and boasting steam-engine-like levels of torque. In this post I’ll give a ‘teaser-like’ overview of the main points of the tractor, but I do hope that related documentation and assets, such as the video at the end of the post and also the images will be able to do some of the talking too.

Also, be sure to check out the detailed Operator’s Manual which I’ve written for this tractor!! (link at the bottom of this post also)

How the pneumatic engine works

I have, as aforementioned, already written a very in-depth operator’s manual regarding this tractor, and so here’s an excerpt from the manual, which I think describes the principles of the pneumatic engine best:

The engine operates because a flow of compressed air is directed to each of the two cylinders in a predetermined sequence. Once compressed air reaches the inside of the cylinder, it is directed to push against a piston, as it has nowhere else to go. Each piston in a cylinder is connected to the engine’s crankshaft, which is forced to revolve as the pistons move up and down. Finally, the crankshaft is connected to the Tractor’s transmission.
The engine can continue to run as compressed air flow to a given cylinder alternates as the piston in that cylinder moves up and down.

As the piston reaches the bottom of a cylinder, compressed air is routed to the bottom of the cylinder to push the piston upwards.
When the piston reaches the top of the cylinder, the compressed air is routed to the top of the cylinder, pushing the piston down, and the cycle repeats as long as compressed air is supplied.
This is referred to as the ‘double-acting’ or ‘double-action’ process.

The result is a continuous rotation of the engine crankshaft, which is directed to the transmission, which then feeds power to the rear wheels.

Other components and systems

I saw fit to load this tractor with as many systems and components as I could, being that I had quite a lot of parts left-over from the dismantling of the Unimog. So, here’s a short list of the systems and features of this tractor, in addition to the pneumatic engine (I’ll mention the engine again anyway ;)):

  • Two-cylinder double-acting, non-reversible, pneumatic engine – runs on air alone
  • Two-speed forward and one-speed reverse constant mesh gearbox
  • Automatic pneumatic parking brake featuring twin-brake shoe design
  • Drag link steering system
  • Rear differential
  • Rear pneumatic-operated ram (actuates various accessories)

The Operator’s Manual I’ve written describes these systems (and more) in much greater – almost exhaustive – detail. Be sure to check it out (link at the end of this post)!


Here’s some pictures of the tractor as well as a video and a link to the very detailed Operator’s Manual. Enjoy!!

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Link to the Operator’s Manual PDF

Where to now?

So what’s next at the Harman Motor Works? I am currently working on a remote-controlled Lego bus, to be based loosely off an AEC Regal MkIV single-decker. This Lego bus is fitted with my latest prototypical fluid drive coupling, of which I’ve also recently blogged about. I’m currently at a reasonably-advanced level of completion of this vehicle, having got the rolling chassis and box frame mostly complete. There is however still quite of bit of work to go. I will post an update or two on this blog over the coming weeks!

Here’s a sneak-peak at what the Harman Motor Works work-bench looks like at the moment:


New Lick of Paint

I’ve recently made some modifications to my Wilesco D405 Traktor and the pictures below show the results of it.

The first thing I did was remove the canopy from the Traktor to give it a more “tractor-like” look, and then out came the paints and I started tweaking the colour scheme a little bit.

Just a dab…

The major parts I painted are listed below:

  • Boiler end-cap
  • Front beam axle
  • Smoke stack
  • Cylinder end-caps
  • Steam inlet pipe (painted black to preserve heat and hopefully increase steam efficiency)

There were a few other bits which I chose to touch-up a little, but the above list is most of it. I’ll let the pics below do the rest of the talking. Enjoy!

P.S. Stay tuned for some videos of it in action soon!

P.P.S. The rubber tyres you see fitted around the wheels of my Traktor were purchased from Forest Classics. Check them out here:

Steam Rolling Stock

Model steam engines are actually quite cool if you’re a bit of a geek like me who’s into anything with a motor in it. Several different manufacturers of the things exist out there, such as Mamod, Wilesco and the much-revered Mercer line of models (read: $$$).

This post introduces you to the current Wilesco range of steam engines I’m lucky enough to possess.

I first picked up a Wilesco steam roller (D365) maybe two years ago now, and that was my first steam model. Since then I’ve acquired another Wilesco model, the D405 tractor.

In this blog I hope to keep you updated on all things model steam, where that be tractors, boats or stationary engines and anything else related to the wide world of steam engines, big and small.

Stay tuned for more posts soon which will go into more detail, but in the meantime enjoy the pics below which show off my current steam inventory…

D365 Steamroller
D365 Steamroller
D365 Steamroller
D405 Tractor
D405 Tractor
D405 Tractor