Little engines, big on steam

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Ashburton Model and Steam Engineers Club’s Jacob Gillespie (from left) checks out the British Railways B1 (or Springbok) locomotive with Reece Cobb, (Nelson Model Engineers Club), Hayden Brown (South Canterbury), and Hamish Tyson (Otago).

There was a lot of huffing and puffing at The Plains complex last weekend but it was not the big bad wolf visiting.

It was a pint-sized collection of miniature steam powered models attending the Ashburton Model and Steam Engineers Club midwinter steam-up.

Club member Ian Marr said the annual inter club event saw members enjoy a day of steam action and camaraderie with fellow enthusiasts from around the South Island. It was followed by an evening dinner.

Clickety clack, clickety clack goes the model locomotives around the track at The Plains complex in Tinwald.

Enthusiasts came from as far afield as Nelson, Dunedin and Cromwell and there were at least 11 locomotives, five traction engines and one boat on site. The models were all based on prototypes and many had been scratch-built by their owners, Mr Marr said.

The Ashburton club’s youngest member, Jacob Gillespie, 16, was checking out the visiting models taking a trip around the club’s mini rail track.

He is in the process of making his own model NZDSG, drawing on the experience of club members along the way. It was a work in progress, which of late had slowed in part because of international shipment delays due to covid. He was hopeful of completion by the end of the year.

Jacob started with the steam club two years ago after being a lifelong member with The Plains Museum and Historical Society and then attended an open day at the model club.

They let him drive one of the models, ‘‘And that was it, I was hooked,’’ he said.

He joined the model club, off his own steam as it was; he had no family members or mates involved, but was keen to learn about the different models.

Win Holdaway (left) and son Mark with the Burrell Scenic
Showman’s engine built by Mr
Holdaway senior in his home shed six years ago.

Also on site was Blenheim’s Win Holdaway- and son, Mark, of Kirwee – with a Burrell Scenic
Showman’s engine built in his home shed six years ago.

The Burrell, which was a third of the size of a full sized model, took 5000 hours over six years to build using 80 different patterns.

Mr Holdaway was a joiner by trade and had made three or four locomotives over the years.

It has kept me off the streets and out of the pub, he said.

He had been a member of the Marlborough Associated Modellers Society since he was in
his teens, drawn in by his father and uncle.

The Burrell weighed 850kg – up to one tonne once loaded with accessories on a trailer for transport – and was fuelled by coal, or hot burning woods such as Manuka or gum trees.

It was now based at Kirwee and, given it took an hour and a half to get steam, was only brought out for special events such as the steam up in Ashburton, he said.