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Copyright Robert Else 2010©

LNER A1 - Robert the Devil

‘Robert the Devil’ – What’s in a name?

My experience of building the Hachette partworks O gauge model, Flying Scotsman, sorry, ‘Robert the Devil’.

Some of you may remember, over 2 years ago, the launch of another ‘partworks’ magazine which this time, would give the reader the opportunity to build an O Gauge LNER A1 Pacific locomotive, Flying Scotsman.


Originally designed and launched to be a static model it seemed a very good idea to collect this and fork out the £19.96 per month to build this locomotive. Being an engineer, I thought that I could bring this model to life and run it on my railway. Totally out of character for a Great Western Railway modelled in the 1930’s, but I thought I would give it a go. Now for the Maths, 125 x £4.99 = £619.26, was it worth it? I did some investigations into how much these models cost and it wasn’t looking to bad. The model was backed by DJH and the National Railway Museum so there must have been some effort put into this and it could turn out to be a very good model. I was never going to convince the senior partner to make this sort of outlay up-front on a locomotive, If I was going to do that, I would have built a Castle or a King type locomotive to run on my railway, so I thought I would buy the instalments.


At this time, I had no idea as to what the quality of the parts were going to be like, were they going to be cheap imports, or something similar? However, I decided to purchase the first issue and see how it progressed. I could always ditch it if the parts got basic and save my money.


As all good stories, it started with issue 1, the cab. Etched Brass frets, off to a good start I thought, anyway it was only 50p. In reading the instructions, the emphasis was on the use of Superglue to fix the parts of the locomotive together, even the Brass parts, not too sure about this. I certainly didn’t want the model falling to pieces after about 2 years. So I decided that I was going to solder everything I could. So I set to with the soldering iron and built the cab. After a bit of work in rubbing down the edges etc. it went together well, I must say it looked pretty good. With this encouragement I thought I would continue. The next issue was the Footplate, what a weight! I am still not sure of what the metal is, someone said it was Mazak. I have never heard of Mazak! According to the www “it is a zinc based alloy and contains 2 to 3% aluminium and 2 to 3% copper. Its magic to cast as it melts at about 350oC. It’s used everywhere in everyday items and is favoured for a number of reasons but the biggest reason is that it can be electroplated very easily” can’t argue with that, but the comments floating around the internet called it rubbish, scrap. The only problem I found was that it was difficult to work with, quite hard. Anyway, on with the task in hand, build the locomotive. As the issues arrived, I realised that to build the locomotive as they suggested and follow the instructions week by week was out of the question. I decided I was going to store all the parts and then build the locomotive after I had received most, if not all the parts.


In building my railway, Bishops Nympton, I am always looking to build and operate the unusual. How many models of the Flying Scotsman are there in the UK? I have nothing against Flying Scotsman, it is a magnificent locomotive and does this country proud in showing off our engineering prowess and is a testament to British engineering.  


In discussing this with my brother, we trawled the list of A1 Pacific locomotives that were produced and lo and behold, there, numbered 1479, latter 4479, and later in BR days, 60110 was ‘Robert the Devil’, that was it, I had to have that name. Now the investigations begun as to the history of ‘Robert the Devil’, it transpired that ‘Robert the Devil’ was the only A1, later converted to an A3 that retained its original GNR coal rail tender, so I believe. Perfect, the scene was set, something different, something other modellers will remember.


The next issues started to turn up, frames, cab floor, even decals, etc. The Boiler, issue 17 was a disappointment, plastic, but the moulding looked reasonable with good detail. It too went into store, I did start to carry-out a bit of dry assembly to see how it was going to look. It started to look impressive as the biggest locomotive I had built before was a 2-6-2T Prairie tank. I decided to start the construction once I had all the frames, pony trucks, wheels,(we were drip fed one wheel a week) axles, connecting rods, valve gear, etc.


Building the valve gear and coupling rods was interesting, they are made from etched steel, how were these going to be laminated together to form the coupling rods? In looking on the forums, people were cleaning them with different fluxes and having all sorts of problems. I even thought about replacing them with etched Brass rods. After several attempts, I rubbed the rods down with emery cloth and this time I Superglued them together. So far they have held together and stood up to some filling and running. As far as I can remember, the instructions gave no mention of bending the Combination Lever to avoid the valve guide. It worked a lot better after this.



























                                 ‘Robert the Devils' valve gear


One area I did decide I was going to concentrate on this time was adding any missing rivets to the frames etc. Once I decided to do this, I researched the Internet for suppliers of scale rivets, difficult to find the right thing, but I found a set of hardware from a company called Scale Hardware in USA, where they did 0.7mm rivet heads, false bolts, and many more, great, I had the answer. However, the rivets required a 0.4mm dia hole drilled in the Brass frames, not as easy as you think, I lost count of the number of 0.4mm drills I broke. I did manage to get all the rivets in I wanted and they do look good, much better that pressed rivets. One area of the locomotive that did work well was the top boiler seam, they do look good. The standard instructions called for lengths of 0.5mm brass wire to be glued in place to simulate the rivets.


Not wanting to buy more 0.4mm drills, I started to look around for an alternative more ‘user friendly’ rivet. In searching the www for other ideas, I came across a military modelling forum, from the US as always, which suggested using one type that did prove very successful, 3D decals. These are obtainable from Archers Fine Transfers and amongst their range, mainly military, there is a suite of decals aimed at the model railway builder but they are American O Gauge, 1:48, but you can’t tell the difference. They also do 3D decals like welded joints, well worth a look.


The tender had to be built from scratch but I did use the basic parts, i.e chassis, wheels and footplate from the kit. The basic body was fabricated from 0.5mm Brass with the coal section fabricated and soldered in place. The main problem I came up against here was the lack of information about GNR A1/A3 Coal Rail tenders. I don’t believe that there are any preserved, please correct me if I am wrong, as I would love to photograph one. (email robert@else.org.uk) A set of drawings from Isinglass-model.co.uk provided some information but not everything I would like to know. There are still two areas that I can’t quite finish off as I don’t have the information, the water scoop control handle, and the Fire iron holders.

















GNR A1 Coal rail tender scratch built before and after paining.


There was a lot of chat on the forums, more and more model makers were interested in running their locomotives on their own metals. To motorise the locomotive I put in a MSC Models JH type motor, initially with a 25:1 gearbox. It’s first run outside of my railway when it stretched it’s legs on ‘Happisburgh’ a Kings Cross model railway club railway, at the Brighton Model World show in March 2010. It managed to negotiate their point work including a double slip, which I thought was a great achievement. However, this identified the need to change the gearbox ratio, so I changed it for a 40:1 gearbox which gave a much better performance with excellent slow running.


The Backhead came in 2 disguises, plastic or whitemetal, CPL do a nice range of printed dials for the gauges which do make the gauges more effective.



































Getting the decals on the loco was fun, very small and tricky, especially the red lines and the boiler lining, they always wanted to wrap themselves up.

In running Robert over my railway, it negotiated most of the points, the ones that it failed were the tight radius points on the run-round loop, only to be expected. I think Hachette said it would negotiate a 6’ radius, but mine actually manages a 5’ radius.


After some 2 years now ‘Robert the Devil’ is fast approaching completion, basically all that I have left to do now is the name and works plates and some decent screw couplings, however they did supply a Buckeye for the tender, but my loco had screw couplings front and back.


In starting this over 125 weekly issues ago, I approached the build in a very positive way, and, to me, it did all make sense, despite the extra engineering that I had to put in, but that is why I enjoy making these models. Despite all the negative comments, the purists pointing out that there is a rivet missing from the footplate 3” from the left, on the forums etc. this model has turned out far better that I expected and the quality of parts being fairly good. With some 500 different parts, it works out at £1.28 per part, not bad value for money and that does include the wheels and decals which would normally cost extra. However, I do think it was out of scope of the everyday person who thought it would be a good idea to build an O Gauge locomotive. Hopefully, it has have given a number of modellers the interest and motivation to enter this wonderful world of engineering in miniature. The nameplates for ‘Robert the Devil’ were kindly supplied by The Old Time Workshop, www.oldtimeworkshop.co.uk.


I have heard on the grapevine that they are looking at doing another fine example of Gresley’s wonderful engineering talents, his magnificent A4 class, Mallard. Time to talk to the senior partner again.

This article depicts my own personal views.



































‘Robert the Devil’ arrives at Bishops Nympton on my O gauge railway.



Click here to see a video of Robert the Devil arriving at Bishops Nympton.

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