Latest obsession

Well I waited, I got my pay rise, but I didn’t get the bicycle. The thought of cycling very far on it when I have very few cycle-length journeys to do on the whole meant I came to my senses and decided to leave it. For now…

But guess what? I have a new obsession.

Somewhat cheaper but still not cheap, it all started with a conversation with my mother about toys I had as a kid.

I’m an engineer by trade and, although there was a ten year period where I was in other sectors (not through choice), I reckon if you’d met me when I was eleven you’d have bet your house that was the business I’d end up in. I loved Lego, and would always get a large Lego Technic kit for Christmas. I had a number of Burago cars – Ferraris, a McLaren F1, Jags E-type and XJ220, a Dodge Viper etc. – and was always taking them apart and putting them back together. I’m one of that generation whose favourite Beatle is Ringo Starr because he narrated Thomas the Tank Engine. At school we used to make boats out of everyday items and race them across a pond, and mine were always the fastest. My best subject was physics, and without wanting to boast, it’s a simple fact I was effortlessly good at it, I just had a knack for understanding how things work.

But the one toy, I told my mother, that I always longed for, and never got, was a Mamod steam engine. These are beautifully built models that genuinely work, with fuel tablets heating a boiler that raises steam to drive pistons. I saw one working at school and immediately had my heart set on one. Year after year, Christmas after Christmas, birthday after birthday, it never arrived. [“Awwwwww…”]

So after having this conversation I looked up Mamod to see if they were still going. They are – Damn you Mum and Dad! That’s your one plausible excuse blown out of the water!

So I looked, and looked, and looked. Stationary models, traction engines, steam rollers, trains, I even looked through the marine engines though I knew there were no use to me. Mamod, Wilesco, MSS, other brands, I looked them all up. Like getting a second chance with the one that got away, I was totally besotted. I looked around on YouTube, and having got past some videos of steam locos running on tiny kitchen floor circuits I started seeing videos of some incredible railways people had built in their gardens.

Well, you can guess what happened. From starting out simply desiring ONE steam-powered model it mushroomed to the point where I was dreaming about railway layouts, what rolling stock I’d want, what to call the stations, and so on. I went round dozens of garden railway sites looking at all sorts of little touches to add, and I shudder to imagine how much it would cost to fully realise. Thousands, easily.

And the elephant in the room throughout all these carefully considered and well-researched plans is that being a thirty something living in the times I live in, I have no house, let alone garden, to call my own. Yet.

Well anyway, this time I’ve taken the plunge and shelled out a couple of hundred quid on an MSS locomotive kit. I got the kit rather than a ready-made model because a) it’s slightly cheaper, b) I’ll have fun building it, and c) I’m big-headed enough to honestly believe I’ll do a better job of building it than the factory.

It’s winging its way towards me as I type, along with a few little embellishments to give it that personal touch. Who cares if I haven’t got a track to run it on yet? I can deal with that later. Hopefully at the weekend I’ll be able to make a start on it, and if possible I’ll try and keep a record of the build and share it here.


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