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Beeson, Mills & Evans (RME)

 

..... This section was most recently updated in July 2018 .....

 

Beeson coarse scale 0 gauge locomotives, including Beeson for Mills and for other firms

 

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 Illustration B1.  A paper slip which may have come with the catalogue shown below, together with Beeson's change of address label.

 

Introduction

J.S.Beeson is generally seen as one of the greatest of the professional model locomotive builders, and the engines he produced are exceptionally well made. His super-detailed models have been illustrated and discussed in depth in various publications, and the locos from his later decades of production have been especially admired. Levy (referenced in full below) refers to Beeson's own view that his work from the 1960s onwards was the most important (p. 193), and the great artistry and engineering skill involved in his fine scale model-making in that period have been widely acknowledged. Locomotives made or rebuilt by Beeson in these later years command very high prices.

Less seems to have been reported systematically in the literature about the earlier (and often relatively more simplified) coarse-scale engines that Beeson sold either directly or through other retailers. This is despite the numerical significance of the pre-war and early post-war engines as a part of his total output, and their considerable historical interest. As regards the Beeson locos sold through other firms, Ganderton goes so far as to indicate that in the period between the two world wars the "special and production orders from other companies  ... provided the backbone of his income." (cited below, p. 22).  

Given the limitations in what is currently covered in the literature or accessible via the internet, this section of our website shows a few examples of earlier and relatively plain Beeson models, made before the 1960s. As quite a few Beeson locos were probably sold through Milbro, some coverage is in any case necessary to enhance our account of Mills products. At the same time, it may be useful to show a group of Beeson's coarse-scale three-rail locos because his output formed such a significant component of the 'top end' of model loco production during the decades that are of most interest for this website. Certainly, his locos featured many times in the model railway press over a long period, and a tank engine made by Beeson for G.P. Keen can be seen in the very first issue of the Model Railway News, in 1925, where the maker was referred to as "Mr. Beeson, Junr." (1, 1, January, p. 5).

In effect, Beeson's 3-rail locos (including those sold under the names of other firms) can help exemplify ongoing and developing best practice within the commercial constraints and customer expectations of the vintage 0 gauge period; when 3-rail coarse-scale running was widespread, when detailing remained modest on most models, and when precise "accuracy to prototype" carried less importance than in subsequent decades. There were certainly some highly-detailed and very exceptional locos made by Beeson before the war (see for example the LMS Princess for Bassett-Lowke and the LMS Compound; in Ganderton, pp. 106-107, 114-115). Yet many of his three-rail engines were much simpler. Viewed in their historical context these plainer models remain outstanding for their quality, even though they lack rivet detail or other refinements expected in later years. Pre-war and early post-war models may also provide indicators of the impact commercial pressures had in generating simplifications in the representation of features from full-sized prototypes. For instance, an engine might be sold without any detailed backhead, or with a highly simplified one to meet a cost specification (see example below for R.M.Evans). Going further, some customers might even want models that were 'free-lance' designs, and a builder might be asked to provide them. In writing to The Model Railway News in 1926, Beeson mentioned and illustrated a loco of this kind, alongside two neat but plain-looking engines of more recognisable types (J.S.Beeson,"Three '0' Gauge Locos", letter, 2, 14, February, pp. 55-56). The letter is reproduced below in three parts, and it contains interesting indications of the maker's practices at that time.

 

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  Illustrations B2a, B2b and B2c.  A letter from Beeson published in The Model Railway News in February 1926. The locos shown are fairly plain, and one is to a free-lance design. Mention is made of the use of tinplate for boilers and other super-structure, of chimneys and boiler mountings "turned from solid brass", and of the use of "Half-round wire" for beading, etc.

 

Beeson also had an additional impact through supplying high quality fittings and components. We include a few pictures below of Beeson loco name and number plates and parts, as reminders of the quality of what was available for other builders.

I should add that I do not have any specialist knowledge or expertise in relation to Beeson's model-making, and am very grateful for the helpful advice I have received about his locomotives from time to time, especially from several valued informants with extensive experience of restoration, repair or building work in the vintage trains field. Collectors and dealers sometimes may be rather partisan about 0 gauge vintage trains in one way or another, but I have frequently found restorers and engineers rather less so.

 

Some useful publications (readers interested in Beeson will probably already know all these):

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Illustration B3.  Beeson's catalogue is widely known. It contains selective illustrations and an account of what was available at the time of its publication (apparently 1932; see Ganderton, cited below, p. 23). It is not too difficult to find a copy.

 

Amongst other useful publications are those below. Coverage on websites has generally been very limited, and that is one reason for offering something about the coarse-scale 3-rail engines on this site.

Ganderton, R.A., "James Stanley Beeson 1906-1990", Faculty Publishing, Poole, 1999.  [The largest publication, with many fine photographs.]          

Levy, A., "A Century of Model Trains", New Cavendish Books, London, third impression, 1978, pp. 193-206.  [A very valuable chapter.]                   

Model Railway Constructor, "Beeson Model Locomotives at Work - 1", 46, 537, January 1979, pp. 20-21; "Beeson Locomotives at Work - 2", 46, 538, February 1979, pp. 84-85; "Beeson Locomotives at Work - 3", 46, 539, March 1979, pp. 138-141.  [Useful illustrations from a large fine-scale layout.]

 

Characteristics and features of the coarse-scale 0 gauge locomotives (comments subject to subsequent revision or correction)

Beeson locomotives were made over a long time period, were sold through a variety of outlets, and were commissioned against the backcloth of changing commercial environments and developing customer preferences. Bearing these factors in mind, as well as Beeson's considerable capacity for innovation and adaptation, it might be difficult to be certain today about continuities and uniformities in his specific detailed construction and design practices. This note of caution takes on added weight when one considers the very large numbers of engines Beeson is thought to have produced in the coarse-scale era. Dozens of models would probably be needed as an adequate sample to confirm some of his practices accurately and with certainty.

Nonetheless, it is generally expected that the 'build quality' found in Beeson models will be outstandingly good, and that the motion, fittings, paintwork and lining will usually be superb. It is also known that the materials used for body-work changed over time. I am informed that loco and tender bodies were generally made of tinplate in the earlier years, then of tinplate or of tinplate and nickel silver, and subsequently of nickel silver alone. The shift towards nickel silver was a factor that also affected other model railway engine producers from the late 1930s onwards. As far as materials used for the most important fittings are concerned, I understand it is unusual to encounter soft metal employed for major components such as chimneys, cylinders or a dome on a Beeson engine, although this can happen (and a relevant example appears below from the cheaper of his pre-war ranges). It would be expected that key items generally would be of brass, but cylinders on locos may incorporate or be made of tinplate (or nickel). These comments do not necessarily apply to items such as axle box covers.

Additionally, there are a couple of specific pointers touched on in Ganderton's book, that might sometimes help an initial identification of a possible Beeson model from the three-rail years. Ganderton notes the characteristic style generally adopted by Beeson for engine-to-tender connections when the motor was in the loco (see Ganderton, cited above, p. 22, and the illustration there of 'Sir Menaduke'), although the exact form this took in the pre-1960s models seems to have varied a little.  Also, some Beeson locos have small neat wires or pins through the crank pins to hold the coupling rods on. Ganderton notes this on a 1930s GER 2-4-0 featured at pages 120-121 in his book. He writes, "The coupling rods are fluted and the crank pins have cotter pins fitted to retain the rods in place" (p. 120). Of course, the wires through the crank pins might sometimes have been removed from Beeson engines during conversion to two-rail and finer scale running, and perhaps there were periods when they were not used by the maker anyway. The literature provides only slim information. It is worth adding, however, that as far as I can tell this method of holding the coupling rods only appears very rarely on locos by other makers from the vintage years (for the use of split pins in this context see our section on Milbro locomotives).

I have been told that hand rails were commonly held in place by split pins on Beeson locos, rather than by shaped hand-rail knobs, although this probably applied more particularly in Beeson's pre-war and earlier post-war decades. A similar approach may be found on Milbro locos (although for these there may have been some tendency to fix the handrails in a little closer to the loco body). Several years ago I was also advised that an additional point about loco recognition is that Beeson's marking-out lines can sometimes be seen here and there beneath his paintwork. In some instances I have found quite a few such markings on a Beeson loco from the 3-rail years, and only a minority seem to have none at all.

 

A few illustrations of Beeson's work  (the locos shown are 3-rail models, or were originally for 3-rail when built)

 

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Illustrations B4a and B4b.   A 3-rail LMS 2-6-4 tank loco by Beeson. I understand that this loco is made of tinplate and nickel silver. It was repaired and repainted by the highly-regarded restorer Simon Greenwood, in 2007. Further pictures of this model are shown below in Illustrations B11a and B11b.

Apparently the first ten (full-sized) engines of this class were built by the LMS with straight sides to their coal bunker tops, as on this model (see Haresnape, B., "Stanier Locomotives; a pictorial history", Ian Allan, London, 1981 edition, pp. 52-53).

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Illustrations B5 and B6.   Many thanks to the owner of these two locos for making these portraits available for this site. The Royal Scot 4-6-0 shown here is a Beeson three-rail model that was made in 'war-time' black. It has not been altered by the adding of detail (which has sometimes happened with the earlier locos), but has been repainted expertly. The illustration usefully shows the engine-to-tender connection (cf the picture of a Beeson for Mills Jubilee shown below). I am informed that the LMS 'Jinty' tank was initially built for 3-rail by Beeson, and then converted by him for 2-rail running in the 1940s. The chassis was also subsequently rebuilt by the maker.
 

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Illustration B7.   Great Eastern (GER) 0-4-4 S44 Class tank loco (LNER G4), believed to be by Beeson for Evans (see sub-section below on R.M.Evans for fuller comment). This loco was built for three-rail running but converted later to two-rail and given a new mechanism, wheels, etc. The paintwork has deteriorated, and when this picture was taken the engine had also lost some of its small fittings near the front, possibly partly because a large weight had been inserted into the smokebox and the front of the boiler. Perhaps one reason for putting the weight there was to help balance the engine on the track, at the time when the original mechanism and wheels were being replaced with more modern and lighter items.

Since this photo was taken, Alan Crompton - a highly skilled restorer - has created some new parts to replace those that had been lost (see below, Illustrations B30a and B30b). In my view this loco is an excellent example from the 'top end' of commercial 3-rail model-making in the late 1930s/1940s. 

 

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Illustrations B8a and B8b.  Examples of Beeson's lining and artwork demonstrating his mastery. The loco is a Caledonian 4-4-0 tender engine, and was converted from three-rail to two-rail running for one of its previous owners. It is hard to date the loco (partly because of this alteration). The model came up for auction on Ebay in 2014. Ganderton's book contains many illustrations of locomotives with beautiful paintwork and lining.

 

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Illustrations B8c and B8d.  Another example with interesting artwork, which I think is very attractive. This model exemplifies some of the problems that arise when one tries to identify the maker of a high quality coarse-scale engine. I consulted several very helpful experts about this loco, including the leading authority in the field, and it seems that Beeson had a hand in its production, but that other people also may have been involved (either as sub-contractors or paid assistants, or at a different stage). Advice suggests that the main body components and much of the motion were most probably made by Beeson, and that he was involved with the painting. Having made comparisons with the other Beeson 2-6-4 tanks shown in this section, however, I have concluded that the chassis and bogies on this SECR one are probably not Beeson's, and that some of the detailing work perhaps also may have been by someone else.

The loco is mostly of tinplate, and it seems to have started out as a coarse scale engine. I would guess that the combination of the paintwork, the shapes and curves of the body, and the handsome fittings on this model must have been stunning when it was new. The loco is closely based on a 2-6-4 tank built by the SECR, but I have not so far come across a picture of the full-sized engine in this complex livery (and conceivably it never carried it). The model most likely dates from the very end of the 1930s, from the 1940s, or from the 1950s, but if anyone knows anything more specific on this please get in touch.

  Unfortunately, this loco has been carelessly changed (and indeed treated very badly) by a previous owner, which has complicated its identification. Below the body the motion seems to have been moved and altered (with consequential damage to a small section of the metalwork at the bottom edge of the body on each side), and one small component has been broken. The wheels, mechanism, pickups and bogies all seem to have been changed, and the frames themselves have been cut away in places, as has one of the cylinders. The most likely reason was to achieve more effective running on smaller radius curves. The original frames were built to a good standard, but so much has been changed that the loco probably needs new ones now (and perhaps that would provide an opportunity to get closer to Beeson's style).

 

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Illustrations B8e, B8f, B8g and B8h.  This GWR 4-4-0 is a very well-made tinplate loco that appears to have started out as a 3-rail model, but has been converted later for two-rail finescale running (perhaps by its then owner). The driving wheels on one side of the engine have been altered and given modern plunger pickups near their rims. Although the front buffer beam has been repainted, it looks as if the rest of the  paintwork is original (although I cannot be absolutely certain). The loco has wires/pins through the crank-pins, split pins to hold the handrails, a Beeson-style engine-to-tender connection, attractive fittings, an excellent backhead, and some neat marking out lines under its paint. The present wires through the crank-pins seem to be longer replacements for what would have been neater originals. This change most likely resulted from removing Beeson's pins in order to take off the wheels for alteration. It can be seen that a section of metal platework 'drops down' from the boiler behind the front splasher. Perhaps this may have been to conceal a more traditional type of motor unit than the can motor the engine now has, and - taken in conjunction with the tinplate bodywork and the limited representation of rivet detail - it confirms the likely age of the model. 

 

Beeson supplied a variety of high quality locomotive and tender fittings and parts for the use of other builders, and these items are still valued today by enthusiasts and collectors. His sets of name and number plates turn up from time to time in small packets, as illustrated immediately below. I have had these for gauges 0, 00, and One, and from what I have seen the range produced for Gauge 0 seems to have been very extensive. As is illustrated in the second and third pictures below, larger and more unusual plates were also made, perhaps to meet specific orders, and he also produced his own James S.Beeson works plates (see Illustrations B10c, B11a and B12a below). I cannot say when these pink/red packets were first produced (although most of those that I have had came previously from a modeller who built locos in the post-war years rather than earlier). In any event, the plates inserted into these packets may well themselves have been produced over a long period, dating back into the pre-war years (when they were referred to in his catalogue), and forward into the 1960s. One set offered in 00 gauge was for the last steam locomotive completed for British Railways, 'Evening Star' (which had its naming ceremony in 1960).         

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  Illustration B9.  Loco and tender numbers, nameplates, company works plates, etc., as supplied in transparent packets. The items were fixed to a piece of card, and details were written in on the back. The front and rear of unused cards are shown at the bottom right of the photo.  

 

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 Illustrations B10a, B10b, and B10c.  The first two photos show examples of partly-cut-out Beeson plates, including some very large scale ones (see the ruler for dimensions). Varieties of numbers and names of differing types and sizes were produced on rectangular brass sheets, and it must have been hard work to cut out the items. I have never seen any other plates like these large ones, so they are probably quite rare, although there may be some serious Beeson collectors with more of this kind of material. The third picture includes one of Beeson's own works plates. The nameplates above it are for gauge 0, so readers can see how small the maker's own plate is. I have no expert knowledge of Beeson's practices or his models, but apparently these works plates were not used before the war. Perhaps a possible date for the supply of the partly-cut items shown here might be in the 1940s and/or the 1950s, but some may have been designed (and in use) far earlier.

The next two pictures illustrate  details on a Beeson model that carries a pair of these small Beeson works plates. This is the Stanier LMS 2-6-4 tank shown earlier. I have been informed that it is unfortunately rare to find direct identification of this kind on Beeson's 3-rail models. In the absence of any specific evidence about the commissioning or initial ownership of this engine, a reasonable guess might be that the loco was built in the 1950s.

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Illustrations B11a and B11b.   Picture B11a shows one of the two Beeson works plates on the Stanier tank, and B11b highlights some attractive detailing at the front end. This is the loco shown above in Illustrations B4a and B4b.    

 

The small plates visible above (which were clearly designed to look like those of a full-sized railway company) can be contrasted with the perhaps better-known type shown in the next picture. The large rectangular plate seen there is on the underside of a Caledonian 0-6-0 loco belonging to a Beeson enthusiast and collector. I understand this fine model dates from around 1958/1960. 

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  Illustrations B12a and B12b.  Many thanks to the owner of this model for providing a photograph of one of Beeson's larger works plates. I do not know if this more 'formal' and visible style of labelling came into use after the smaller type shown above, but perhaps it did. The owner has also provided a portrait of the beautiful loco which has this works plate.

 

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 Illustration B13.  The same person also passed me this excellent picture of a Beeson backhead, illustrating an aspect of this maker's work on details that was widely admired. 

Beeson seems to have supplied not only loco fittings, small parts for makers, and backheads, but on occasion even larger components too. The loco below was built for a founder member of the Gauge 0 Guild by the late George Hinchcliffe, a much-respected railway enthusiast who was also an excellent modeller. I understand that although Beeson himself had been too busy to take on the job, he had supplied parts that were needed, including apparently the smokebox itself. I gather that he knew personally both the builder and the person for whom the loco was being built. For a picture of this engine running outdoors on the layout of R. Farrants, and for the layout of G.Hinchcliffe, see Ray, J. (ed.), "Fifty Years Along The Line, 1956-2006",The Gauge 0 Guild Ltd., 2006, pp. 14-15 and 10-13. 

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   Illustration B14.  Beeson supplied a variety of loco fittings for other model-builders, and sometimes also made larger components. The narrative for this engine suggests that Beeson supplied quite a few parts for the builder, including apparently its smokebox.  This model was probably made in the 1950s.

 

Beeson's production of locos before the 1950s

Although there is relatively little published information on the coarse-scale three-rail locos supplied by Beeson before the war and in early post-war years, it seems feasible to group them for present purposes into three main overlapping categories.

One group contains the engines sold through firms such as Milbro, Exley or Bassett-Lowke (and retailers such as R.M.Evans; see below). My guess is that many of these models were fitted with motors or mechanisms supplied or specified by the retailer, while the level of detailing would have varied according to customer and contractual expectations.

It is conceivable that Beeson might also have provided unfinished loco bodies or separate tenders for firms such as Milbro or Exley if requested, and he certainly offered builders a source for very high quality fittings and good mechanisms. There doesn't seem to be much available information on these matters, and judgements about the commercial relationships are inevitably speculative. People who are much more expert than I am on Beeson's work and history might be able to provide more insights.

An additional point is that Beeson also improved or rebuilt some models made by well-known firms such as Bassett-Lowke, and this might have occurred not only in response to a private customer but perhaps also as a commission for an improved model to be supplied to one of these customers. As far as I can tell, substantial rebuilds of this kind are very rarely found, but I hope to add an example in this section of the website when time permits. By contrast, the literature points to some known locos that were built by Beeson and returned to him later on for modification and enhancement.  

A second group is made up of engines built to Beeson's highest standards of construction and detail, and sold directly by him (but also available via the more expensive of his commissions from retailers). These models would normally have had his higher-quality mechanisms, and been regarded as 'super-detail' engines in the context of the 1930s (although today's fine-scale modellers would not necessarily now see them all as such).

In addition, Beeson's catalogue from the 1930s referred to a category of models that he could supply at lower cost (and reference is made therein to this "cheaper class of locomotives"). Little has been reported on these models, but a 1937 review indicates that they were being marketed as his "standard" range at that time. The engines were described as being less fully detailed than his "super-detailed" products, and the range included a GWR Saint, an LNER rebuilt Claud Hamilton, a SR 2-6-0, and an LMS 5P mixed traffic 4-6-0 (see J.N.Maskelyne, "The Trade Stands at the Model Railway Club Exhibition", The Model Railway News, 13, 150, June 1937, pp. 148-149). My guess is that this range overlapped (leaving aside the mechanisms) with what Beeson was offering at reasonable prices to his retailer customers. Thus the Clauds shown below (which are fairly plain and have no brake or backhead detail at all) are probably very similar to the LNER rebuilt Claud Hamilton mentioned in the 1937 MRN report, but each is fitted with a Mills motor rather than one of Beeson's own. I do not have access to any records about Beeson's output, or to Milbro information on sub-contracts, so my comments here are inevitably subject to correction if someone else has relevant material.     

Two Beeson locos from the same class, with different levels of quality

The pictures below are an attempt to provide some comparative illustration by drawing on two Beeson models representing engines of the same LMS locomotive class, but apparently built to slightly different cost/price levels. I am lucky to be able to access these two locos, as comparisons of this kind can rarely be made. The second picture below shows the motion on the more expensive engine (where more of the components are fluted and the cylinders seem more expensively made). Building the cheaper model has included some use of soft metal components.

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   Illustrations  B15a, B15b, B15c, B15d, B15e and B15f.   Images of two Fowler 2-6-4 tank locos by Beeson; one probably from his pre-war super-detail range (2300) and the other probably from his less expensive category (2313). Construction is closely similar, even though detailing differs in places, and - interestingly - both have substantial marking-out lines on the exterior under the paintwork. The slightly less detailed model has suffered some damage and also been converted to two-rail with a new mechanism. The three-rail engine from the 'super-detail range' is closer to original condition except for some missing brake detail, and some limited paint deterioration along the top of the loco (see below for its mechanism). There are a couple of minor elements on 2313 where less care has been exercised when building the model. One hypothesis might be that some of the assembly work on this category of locos could have involved someone else (although under Beeson's direction); unfortunately there seems to be little information about this period. In any event, I think that both engines are extremely attractive models, and may exemplify the merits of Beeson's 1930s-1940s products when compared with those of most of his commercial competitors.  Although the motion on 2313 is plainer than on the more expensive model, the work is nonetheless excellent for its period.

 It seems that the full-sized LMS Fowler tank 2313 carried the painted name "The Prince", although this was apparently removed in 1933 (Booth, J., "The LMS 2-6-4Ts", Locomotives Illustrated, 47, 1986, pp. 8-9). I cannot detect any evidence of the model having had that name on it, but perhaps it did when originally made.

 

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Illustrations B16a and B16b.  Details of the bogies on loco 2300. The arrangements are very simple, especially at the rear of the engine, although also very neat and effective.

 

Motors in Beeson locos

 

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Illustrations B17a and B17b.   Beeson mechanism from the 1930s, belonging to the 2-6-4 tank loco 2300 shown above. This appears to be an example of Beeson's 'Dalite' Super Electric Chassis, with an eight pole armature. The reversing switch mentioned in his catalogue has survived; note the piece of wire attached to a "turntable" on the top of the frames. Although parts of the dummy brake gear have been lost, everything is generally in good working order. It seems that before the war a mechanism of this type would have cost £20 if sold separately. The frames on the mechanism do not quite run up to the front buffer beam, so the chassis design is not exactly the same as with Milbro locos from their scale models range.  

The lack of flanges on the central pair of wheels seen above is of note, and reflects the commercial need to offer locos that could manage the curves found on many layouts, even at the 'top end' of the market.

 

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Illustration B18.  A smaller mechanism believed to have been built to order by Beeson, perhaps from his cheaper "reasonably priced" category of 'Dalite' (Any Wheelbase) Mechanisms. His catalogue description refers to use of a three pole armature for the cheaper motors, and to the options of worm gearing or spur gearing, the former being "fitted with double thrust ball bearings". The mechanism shown here includes ball races, and the components move very freely. Indeed, despite its simplicity, this is the best small vintage worm geared mechanism I have ever seen. I cannot be certain that it is by Beeson, but that seems very likely. It was fitted into what I believe is an Exley 0-4-4 tank engine, and it may be that Beeson supplied some parts for that loco along with its mechanism. It is possible that the Fowler tank 2313 shown above was originally fitted with a six-wheel version of one of Beeson's cheaper types of mechanism. 

I have found no systematic analysis or reporting about the motors used by Beeson over his long involvement in locomotive-building, although it seems to be something of a conventional wisdom that he built all the electric mechanisms that he used in the earlier periods. Ganderton (p. 23) usefully refers to a December 1930 advertisement offering Beeson's own mechanisms for fitting into other locos, so it seems probable that the models he sold under his own name would generally have been given these mechanisms (with his own motors) from at least that year onwards until the war. There is also earlier printed evidence of Beeson having made a mechanism of his own to go into a model he had built for a customer. His February 1926 letter to The Model Railway News (see above) describes a "home made" motor and gearing, with a reversing switch fitted to the engine. In contrast, for clockwork models supplied to the same enthusiast Beeson had employed clockwork mechanisms by Kay Models  and Bassett-Lowke. In any event, it seems likely that before the war Beeson generally did make the electric mechanisms that went into the locomotives he sold directly, although there may have been some exceptions. Even from the very small sample of models available to me, however, this appears not necessarily to have been the practice when he was supplying engines for other retailers in the 1930s and 1940s. Neither was it necessarily his sole practice in the era of Pittman and Romford motors after the war (see for instance Ganderton, p. 92).

 

Beeson for Bassett-Lowke

Bassett-Lowke commissioned work from various makers in the inter-war years, and Beeson is understood to have been one of the firm's suppliers, providing them with high-quality 0 gauge loco models to special order. Some B/L catalogues listed super-detailed engines that could be supplied to customers, but I have no information on the items that Beeson actually produced in those years for Bassett-Lowke. I have been shown a very well-built special order LMS Fowler 2-6-2 tank loco by Beeson that carries the B/L trade mark, but such items are extremely rare, and I have no knowledge on when it was made. A super-detailed LMS Princess pacific was mentioned earlier above, and is shown in Ganderton's book.

After World War Two, Bassett-Lowke continued to supply special order items to customers, but again I have no material on the extent of Beeson's contribution to this. As well as supplying models, Beeson could also rebuild or enhance B/L's own standard catalogued items, but references to this activity seem sketchy and scattered. 

Finally, it is conceivable that Beeson might have occasionally supplied parts for loco bodies if requested by retailers, including Bassett-Lowke. I have wondered whether this might have happened (for example) with the LMS Stanier 2-6-2 tank locos produced by Bassett-Lowke around 1940, which might have had some similarities with a super-detailed version the company had advertised shortly before (and that I have been advised was likely made by Beeson).

In the next illustrations below we show some features of a very plain Beeson three-rail atlantic loco that perhaps might have been commissioned through Bassett-Lowke, as it has been fitted with a Bassett-Lowke 'Permag' mechanism. This has been skillfully tailored into brass frames designed for the specific model. As far as I can tell from the small group of pre-war Bassett-Lowke catalogues I have, the mechanism used is from a period running from the second half of the 1920s to the end of the 1930s. Bassett mechanisms of this kind seem to have used worm gearing as standard, as has been done in the atlantic.

I know no way of dating this model without additional information on its history, but the mechanism, the thick wheels, the pick-ups, and the limited detailing seem to point to the late 1920s or the early to mid-1930s, rather than to the 1940s-1950s. The tender has what seem to be Leeds Model Company soft metal "dummy tender springs" (as LMC catalogues put it), and the coal rails appear to be made with the "half-round wire" mentioned in Beeson's 1926 letter (see above, Illustrations B2a-B2c).

Discussing Beeson, Levy refers to the "supremacy of this builder" even in the early days (cited above, p. 197, 4), and the quality of this model demonstrates the justice of that description even where there has been considerable simplification. The loco may have been "built down to a price" , but the quality of work has not been sacrificed.

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Illustrations  B19a, B19b, B19c, B19d, and B19e.  Beeson LNER atlantic, probably made in the late 1920s or the early 1930s. Simon Greenwood expertly repaired the interior of this loco at the front in 2011 (where it was coming apart), and fitted pickups matching those that had previously been lost. The whistle was also missing, and a standard commercial 'bolt-on' type has been put on. This replacement whistle appears to be one shown both in Leeds and Bassett-Lowke pre-war catalogues. 

 There is very limited detail on this loco, and the design of the flat plate above the cylinder on each side of the engine has been modified slightly so that it differs from the prototype (perhaps to add strength). Nonetheless, in broad terms the atlantic is close to being a scale model were it not for some implications from accommodating the coarse-scale wheels. As far as I can tell by looking through Yeadon's Register, the tender shown above (with its equal axle spacing) is of a type not usually used with this class of atlantic. The first engine of the class, however, was given a similar tender when built (and was then in GNR livery). (For details see "Yeadon's Register of LNER Locomotives, Volume Thirteen, Class C1, C2, C4 & C5 Atlantics", Challenger Publications, reprinted by Book Law/Railbus, Nottingham, 2003.)  I do not know if the number on the tender sides was put there by Beeson or someone else, but it is not correct for an engine of this type. It is possible that the person who purchased the loco wanted a particular number, or even that the tender was initially meant for another engine of a different class, but today there is no way of knowing.  

 

This loco originally had on it the connecting rods shown lying below it in Illustration B19b. I think these were probably an attempt by Beeson to offer something broadly representative and acceptable at that time, while meeting what might well have been a tight cost target. I would argue that in the event these rods turned out to be small works of art in themselves, and I have not so far encountered anything comparable from any contemporary maker.

 

The next picture shows a much later model. It was supplied to a customer by Bassett-Lowke, apparently as that firm's last special order in 1964 (see Illustration V1 in our section on Other Vintage Locos & Motors). When I first encountered this tank engine I took it to be made of brass, and was uncertain about the sub-contractor who had created it to meet B/L's order. Later I checked the metal of the body more carefully and found it to be nickel silver, and a fuller examination (allied with some previous expert advice) led me to conclude it was made by Beeson. If that is correct, then some of the other special order models from the 1960s shown in Fuller's book on Bassett-Lowke are also probably by Beeson (see Fuller, R., 'The Bassett Lowke Story', New Cavendish Books, London, 1984, pp. 102-104, plates 134, 135, 136 & 5).

 

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  Illustrations B20a and B20b.   Bassett-Lowke's 'last special order', a tank loco made for one of their customers in the 1960s (see also Illustration V1, in the Other Vintage Locos & Motors section). I have been advised that this is most likely a Beeson model. Although it has characteristic 'Beeson-style' pins through its crank pins, the mechanism is built using what looks like a standard type of B/L post-war motor unit, as can be seen in the lower photo above. 

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Illustration B21.  The Midland and Great Northern tank engine alongside what may well have been another special order model for Bassett-Lowke from the same period, although I understand there is no available archive record of this freight engine (a J37). The 0-6-0 here has something in common with the tank engine, but also with a couple of the special order Scottish locos shown in Fuller's plates. It has a B/L clockwork mechanism and only simple detailing, but is very well made. It too might be by Beeson, although that could be difficult to verify, especially as it may have been repainted.

   

'Beeson for Mills' and other firms

Very little has been written in model railway publications about the link between Beeson and Mills, and I have not seen any list of the models supplied to Milbro by Beeson. Levy's book, A Century of Model Trains (cited above), includes some invaluable illustrations of pre-war Beeson engines on pages 196-197, where the author also mentions that maker's trade customers. It seems probable that the level and quality of detailing in Beeson engines provided for Mills would have reflected prices anticipated at the time they were being commissioned. My guess is that 'Beeson for Mills' locos would have been more likely to be fitted with Milbro mechanisms or at least Mills motor units than with Beeson's own, a factor that is helpful for identification. With the passage of time, original mechanisms may have been removed, and models may have been 'refurbished' or 'updated'. Nonetheless, some have survived in more or less their original state, as with the LMS Jubilee shown in the next illustration. I believe this loco to have been made by J.S.Beeson for Milbro, most likely in the second half of the 1930s (although alternatively a little later).

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Illustration B22.  'Beeson for Mills' 0 gauge Jubilee Class loco. I am grateful to Tennants Auctioneers for permission to include this very useful catalogue picture from a sale. The event was one of their periodic Toys, Models and Collectables auctions (held in July 2015 at the Leyburn auction centre in North Yorkshire).  The hammer price was £3,000, reflecting the appreciation collectors have of the quality of models like this. The character of the full-sized engine is nicely reflected in the model, and the detailing is very attractive, although perhaps not as developed in all respects as on some more expensive Beeson engines made in the same period.

Apart from some minor damage in the cab area and a missing step this Jubilee is in really excellent condition. It has a Milbro mechanism built into full-length brass frames. The engine-to-tender connection can be compared with that on the Sandringham loco shown in Levy's book (see my citation in the text above). The Jubilee model shown here does not have nameplates, conceivably an indicator of its production date. Readers interested in seeing the prototype loco when new from its manufacturer can consult Powell's book (A.J.Powell, "Stanier Locomotive Classes", Ian Allan, 1991, pages 48-49). This shows the loco without any nameplates in 1934.

The next illustrations show two Claud Hamilton locos that I think should also be described as models 'by Beeson for Mills'. In each case the brass frames containing the Milbro mechanism do not run the full length of the loco (and thereby differ from what would have been constructed by the Mills factory for a 4-4-0 of their own).  

 

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Illustration B23.  I believe this to be a 'Beeson for Mills' Claud Hamilton. The model has  three-rail pickups. It is very plain, but the 'build quality' is much higher than was achieved on most 0 gauge engines of its period.

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 Illustration B24.  A second 'Beeson for Mills' Claud. Both these models contain Milbro mechanisms dating them to the second half of the 1930s or (as perhaps seems more likely) a little later. Although perhaps from the same batch, the two locos have quite a few differences of detail. In addition, this second one has undergone minor modification to the tender by a previous owner, has been fitted with a skate pickup, and had had its nameplate changed (see below for the original plates). It is possible that Beeson not only produced batches of engines at particular times, but also several locos of the same type spread over a longer period. 

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Illustration B25.  Some time after picture B24 had been taken, one of the nameplates fell off this loco, revealing another nameplate underneath it. The loco seems to have been made with the name 'John Herivel', and the two Herivel plates are still there, although looking a little distressed after removal of the Claud ones. A later Claud Hamilton nameplate had been glued over the top on each side of the engine by a more recent owner. Claud Hamilton was the only named engine of its class, so the John Herivel nameplate must have been made to meet the request of a specific client. I currently have no information on who commissioned the model, but I understand that there was an important codebreaker with this name at Bletchley Park in World War Two. He later became a distinguished science historian.  

 

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Illustration B26.  The loco as it is now, albeit awaiting some repairs and tidying. I will try to take a better quality picture when time permits!

 

Beeson for Gresham Models/Milbro; a possible relationship ?

It has been suggested to me that the firm Gresham Models may also have commissioned Beeson to produce some of the locomotives it sold, although I have not seen any documentary evidence of this relationship, and have only encountered a very small number of their engines. An additional option is that there conceivably could have been a link between these two parties and Mills, with use of Mills mechanisms in some instances. If anyone has information about who built or assembled Gresham Models engines, please get in touch. I show below some pictures of a first-rate model, and of the Gresham works plate it has underneath. I am grateful to the owner of this loco for providing these pictures. It is believed that this model was made by Beeson.  

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Illustrations B27a, B27b and B27c.  It has been suggested to me that Beeson built some of the locos sold through Gresham Models, and that the engine pictured here is an example of what was supplied under this relationship. I am grateful to the owner for letting me present these photographs.

 

'Beeson for Evans'; reviewing the 0 gauge locos of R.M.Evans & Co. (RME)

R.M.Evans & Co. is a firm relatively little known today amongst 0 gauge enthusiasts, and I have not so far come across anything to suggest that they had the kind of impact as 0 gauge model makers or retailers that Douglass Models or LMC had in the post-war years. Evans & Co was a London company that was apparently first established in 1937 (see final pages of their 1949 and 1951 catalogues), and advertised in the model railway press and produced some catalogues in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The earliest catalogue I have so far seen was from April 1947, but that makes reference to a previous one and was probably their second edition. A third edition dates from March 1949, and a fourth from May 1951. If anyone has an early RME catalogue (probably from 1945 or 1946 but possibly earlier) or any catalogue issued later than 1951, please make contact and let me know. In December 1953 the Model Railway News carried a half-page announcement and advertisement from K's Precision Model Engineers of London, indicating that the stock, production, and customer services of R.M.Evans had been taken over by K's, who had "completed the purchase of all the stock" (29, 348, p. x). 

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Illustrations B28a, B28b and B28c.  Catalogues by R.M.Evans, from 1949, 1951 and 1947.

 

 A brief internet search for this firm located only a little informal comment (including the observation that R.M.Evans had apparently later been editor of the Model Engineer). The catalogue pictures, however, show what appear to be excellent models of engines in 7mm (0) and 4mm (00) scale, with a level of detailing and general style suggestive of high aspirations in terms of realistic representation. At the same time the firm offered locomotive kits in 4mm scale, to enable the "home construction of super-detail locos" (1947 catalogue, p. 11). Pictures of some 4mm kit-built locos and their RME boxes can be found on the internet.  As well as kits and ready-to-run models, RME sold a variety of useful items across different scales, including castings, drawings, coach and wagon fittings, wheels, mechanisms, track, model engineering materials, and so forth. Their advertising claimed they were agents "for all the leading makers", and the opening page of the 1947 catalogue includes indicators of professional connections with the Model Aircraft Trade Association and META. 

Catalogue comments mention their "special department" for hand-made scale model locomotives in three scales, and the offer is made to quote for any type. As might be expected in the 1940s, they could supply with three-rail pickups, stud contact arrangements, or two-rail. There is however no reference in the 1947, 1949 or 1951 catalogues to RME having its own workshop, and no picture is shown of workbenches, although the firm claimed to be able to build a loco which would be an exact replica of the prototype, and correct "to the last rivet head", with "old-time and pre-group locomotives a speciality" (1951 catalogue, p. 11).

Catalogue illustrations for 7 mm included a GNR saddle tank,  SR (LSWR) 0-4-4 tank, LMS 2-6-0, GWR City 4-4-0, Caledonian 0-4-2, Great Eastern Claud Hamilton 4-4-0 (in its early form), GWR Star, and Great Eastern 0-4-4 tank.

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Illustrations B29a, B29b, B29c, B29d, B29e and B29f.  Some of the 0 gauge locomotive models in the catalogues.

 The Star and the Caledonian loco were reviewed at length (along with a 4 mm loco) in the Model Railway News issue for April 1951 ("Talking Shop", 27, 316, pp. 76-77). The Caledonian engine had been fitted with a Rocket mechanism and sprung wheels. The Star was reported to be a two-rail loco, and fitted "with a large Rocket 12-volt mechanism". Its springing was described as almost true to prototype, "as scale axleboxes and horns" had been used. In addition, working inside valve-gear had been incorporated. This report suggests work well above the level of detail that had normally been aimed for by most makers or retailers in the 1930s. 

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Illustration B29g.  Picture of North Star from back cover of 1951 catalogue.

Nothing was reported in the catalogues shown above on possible sub-contracting by RME, but it seems hard to believe that locos of the quality applauded in the review could have been created by employees without some outside assistance in a small company of this kind. Of course this judgement might be wrong, and I would be glad to have further information if anyone knows more. The MRN review stated that the company ("one of our well-known London shops") had "completed the three locomotive models shown", but made no comment about other engines pictured in their catalogues. The SR tank engine was given three illustrations in the 1949 catalogue, and the Star had four in 1951, suggesting perhaps a fairly small number of special order items to draw upon for promotional photos. In September 1952 the Model Railway News mentioned a GWR King loco from the company, with rivet detail and paintwork "superbly executed" ("Talking Shop", 28, 333, pp. 200-201). Although referred to in that review as being for 16.5 mm, this model seems to have been made for 4mm, as it was described as such when the company devoted a half-page advertisement to it the following month (28, 334, p. xxi). It had apparently been built for a customer in the USA. The advertisment observed that prices for such models were "naturally high", but argued that it was surely better to have one really fine model than two or three indifferent and badly finished ones.

Another of the 7mm locos featured by the company not only in a catalogue picture but also in a press advertisement was the Great Eastern 0-4-4 tank engine shown below.

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 Illustration B29h.  RME catalogue illustration of GER 0-4-4 tank loco in 7MM scale.

 

The magazine advertisement containing this tank loco stated that "Our prices are not the lowest, but for quality and value our locos. are unsurpassed" ("Locomotives by Evans", The Model Railway News, 26, 302, February 1950, ii). The impression is again of models built to a high standard and produced to meet specific orders. Use of the term 7mm (rather than 0 gauge) reinforces the impression of scale models. There is, however, reference in the catalogues to the considerable difficulties resulting from restrictions affecting the supply and use of materials, particularly metals. When this is considered alongside general post-war economic problems influencing the UK, it seems likely that the firm was trying to do something that was by no means easy. Certainly, setting high standards would have restricted the available market for its custom-built models, even if its premises appeared appropriately located near to Sloane Square and Victoria Station in London. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some RME advertisements concentrated on 00 items such as kits. 

I am only able at present to access a single example of a model that I think was sold by this company. I believe this very likely to be the engine shown in Illustration B29h above. I might be mistaken, but the match of the model with the advertising photograph seems convincing, with small details (such as the design chosen when representing brackets on the smokebox door) apparently exactly the same as in the catalogue.  I cannot say if this item is typical of the engines the firm sold, but the quality is outstanding, and I would guess it to be beyond the normal ambition or capacity of all but the very best of the commercial 0 gauge model-makers of the vintage era of the 1930s and the early post-war years. It is probable, therefore, that the model was made to RME's order by Beeson. Tentatively (and subject to any subsequent correction) this model might be described as a 'Beeson for Evans' tank loco. 

 

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Illustrations B30a and B30b.  Great Eastern 0-4-4 S44 Class tank loco (LNER G4) believed to be by Beeson for Evans. Unlike our earlier photograph (in B7 above), these two pictures show the loco in March 2018, after the addition of replacement fittings near the front of the model by a master restorer, Alan Crompton. 

 

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 Illustrations  B30c, B30d and B30e.   Some details from the inside, and below the body.

Everything about this model is neat and solid. The loco had lost one cab handrail and three pieces of detailing representing thin piping/rails (or similar) and associated small fittings, but this missing detailing has recently been made good to an outstanding standard.

This loco was made with some attractive modelling of features below the body, as can be seen best in the final image above. That kind of detailing is very unusual for a vintage engine in this scale. The backhead detail inside the cab is very plain, but effective and made with precision (and the unit is attached to the frames so as to be readily accessible while remaining economical in terms of using space). The metal loco number plates contain fine lettering that needs magnification to fully appreciate (although my photos have not captured their quality at all well).

If this is a 'Beeson for Evans' model, it would have been built to a price that affected the degree of detailing catered for on elements such as the backhead. Customers could pay to have extras added to a standard model (and the company gave an example price of £5-£7 for adding cab fittings to an 0-6-0 tank loco in 00 gauge). What may well be fuller backhead detail can be seen in one of the SR 0-4-4 tank loco catalogue pictures (see above).

It is important to note the family narrative about this loco. This was that it had been supplied by Beeson in the 1930s as a three-rail engine for a purchaser in Wales, and that in the post-war years the original owner's son had arranged for it to be converted for finer-scale two-rail running. That conversion explains the present wheels and relatively modern mechanism, and (if the attribution to Beeson is correct) perhaps the replacement of distinctive crank pins. It is also possible that the bogie was replaced at that time. Conceivably, the loco initially may have had a Rocket Precision mechanism, as the firm's catalogue designated these as the finest motors yet produced for 0 gauge, and their use was noted in the MRN review. On the other hand, I am informed by Pieter Penhall that the design for the Rocket Motor gear train was registered in 1947, which might make a Rocket motor less likely for the 0-4-4 if that loco was indeed made at the end of the 1930s. The locomotive body seems to be primarily of nickel silver, which might seem to make the late 1940s more likely than the 1930s as the production period, but need not rule out the 1937-1939 period. If this tank engine is from the 1930s (in line with the narrative), use of its promotional photo ten or more years later might perhaps be explained by only a small number of scale locos having been sold through the firm, or by the disruptions of the war. 

The model has something in common with a 1930s GER 2-4-2 tank engine and a GER 2-4-0 tender loco shown in Ganderton's book (see pp. 14, 120-121). The photographs reproduced in the book give more of an impression of black rather than of blue paintwork, but perhaps that may be a result of the lighting or photography. The description for the tender engine refers to "Great Eastern Railway royal blue livery", but if that is accurate it is very dark. In any event, the 0-4-4 above is black throughout. This seems incorrect for a GE loco involved in passenger work, but I am not sure that this was how the 0-4-4 tank model necessarily looked when sold. Perhaps the black colour seen today might conceivably have resulted from changes in the paint itself over time. A feasible line of speculation might be that - given the difficulties of obtaining materials at certain times in the 1940s - there was something unsatisfactory about the paint available to the maker when the model was made. There conceivably may have been a very small amount of repainting (on the valances and steps), but there is no evidence of this elsewhere. I am not sure also whether the condenser pipe arrangement is correct as a representation of the prototype on the side nearest to the camera in Illustration B6. Perhaps both sides should have a U-bend in the pipe on this particular engine (see G. Pember, Great Eastern Railway 0-4-4 tank locomotives, GER Society, 1979, p. 16, etc.).  (For a much more minor point on representation by Beeson see footnote 1 below). My knowledge of Great Eastern locos is limited, and any conclusion or interpretation about accuracy of the model may turn out to be mistaken.

This 0-4-4 loco seems to me to be of considerable historical interest. If (as seems very likely) it was made by Beeson for RME, then some or all of the other engines catalogued by Evans may also have been by Beeson. There are so few catalogue pictures of Beeson engines that this would make the Evans catalogues themselves of great interest, and it would certainly be nice to hear about any other high quality engines known to have come through this retailer. I would also be glad of any other information about this firm and its locos, as my commentary has had to be much more speculative and limited than I would have wished.

 

 

(1)  On a very minor point of detail, the hose attached to the front buffer beam appears to differ in its proportions from the prototype. It looks attractive to me, but brings to mind a slightly ungenerous comment in a 1962 book by Hamilton Ellis where he criticised the "proportions of the vacuum brake hose" at the front of a 1930s Beeson model loco he was featuring (Hamilton Ellis, Model Railways 1838-1939, Allen & Unwin, London, 1962, p. 96 opposite).