Construction of a 7mm Finescale (O-gauge) model of an LMS Princess Royal Class 4-6-2 Locomotive

The reason for building the loco

In December 1951 (sixty-five years ago!!!!!) I went with my parents to the local toy shop in Whitton High Street, and was instructed to stay outside whilst they went in the shop to buy Christmas presents for myself and my sister. Of all the toys on display in the window, I was totally captivated by a large blue steam locomotive, which I thought was produced by Chad Valley, for many years.

It was, in all probability, one of these: an O-gauge model produced by Bassett-Lowke of The Flying Scotsman, finished in BR Steam Blue livery

What impressed me the most was that it had all the wheels and a fair representation of the motion. I thought it was absolutely marvellous, and a must-have!!!!! It was practically perfect (to my way of thinking at that time) compared to what I had to play with:-

Hornby O-gauge Clockwork (basic) Train Set

Whilst a train set (identical to the one pictured above) gave me much enjoyment, I was only too aware of what a real steam locomotive was like having lived for the first three and a half years of my life, at Raynes Park, within sight and sound of British Railways' Southern Region main-line to the southwest. It goes almost without saying that I didn't get a 'proper' large blue steam locomotive for that Christmas, or any other. This was hardly surprising as the locomotive would be in excess of 500 today, and who spends that sort of money on a 5-year old? And so, from that day to this, that quite superb (in my judgement at the time), large blue model locomotive has never been too far from my thoughts.

Prior to returning to railway modelling in the 1970s I'd developed a preference for the Great Western Railway and having made many 7mm Finescale (by definition more accurate than O-gauge) models of that Company's locomotives and rolling stock,  I've switched (in latter years) to building locomotives of other British railways i.e. BR Standard Classes 7P & 9F, and three BR (ex-Southern Railways) Bulleid Pacifics. The Bulleid Pacifics are of particular interest to me as the Merchant Navy Class and West Country Class locomotives were the first I saw up-close at Waterloo, and in action racing through Raynes Park Station, hauling the likes of the Atlantic Coast Express (ACE), and the all-Pullman Car trains: "Bournemouth Belle" and "The Devon Belle".

My models of British Railways steam locomotives: Ex-SR Merchant Navy (in blue livery), Standard Class 9F,
and nearest the camera, Ex-SR Battle of Britain class and Standard Class 7
(Photo: Rob Atkins 2007)

What I thought would probably be my last 7mm Finescale model steam locomotive:-

BR ex-SR West Country Class No.34008 PADSTOW - lacking cab window glazing and coal in the tender
(Photo: Nigel Godsell 2012)

PADSTOW hauling "The Devon Belle" Pullman cars as my recreation of the Aug 1952 special excursion to Dorchester
(Photo: Nigel Godsell 2012)

The above Pullman train either hauled by PADSTOW, or (my blue-liveried Merchant Navy) ROYAL MAIL is for me a perfect reminder of the real trains that I saw in my early childhood; thus making a fitting conclusion to my model-making!

So what changed my mind about not building anymore locomotives?

The short answer is that I happened to be at Swanage the day of a 'Steam Special' hauled by the preserved LMS locomotive No.6201 "Princess Elizabeth":-

The preserved locomotive No.6201 "Princess Elizabeth" on-shed at Swanage
(Photo: Nigel Godsell 2016)

It was from 6201 "Princess Elizabeth" that the nickname 'Lizzies' (for all the members of the class) arose, in the past; nowadays they are more commonly known as "Princesses" despite one being named "Duchess of Kent". However, "Princess Elizabeth" was actually the second locomotive built, the first being No.6200 "The Princess Royal" (built in 1933) - the formal name for the class. (The locomotive design was used as a basis for "The Princess Coronation" class that followed in 1937 and are commonly known as "Duchesses" and/or "Cities".) The sight of 6201 in the flesh, so as to speak, brought to mind that big blue model locomotive that I drooled-over sixty-five Christmases ago! The fact that British Railways painted some of the Princess Royal Class in the short-lived blue livery was the icing on the cake. So why build a "Princess" and not a model closer to the one I saw (as explained at the top of this page) the answer is that it's, for all intents and purpose, how I remember that particular model locomotive. Further the "Princesses" were larger and more powerful than the LNER A3 class, which the locomotive "Flying Scotsman" was a member. In fact, the "Princesses" were the biggest and most powerful express passenger 4-6-2 (pacific) locomotives on British railways from 1933 to 1943, as shown in the following table:-

  GWR King LMS Princess Royal LMS Princess Coronation
LNER A2 (P2 rebuilds)
Date introduced 1927 1933 1937 1943
Wheel arrangement 4-6-0 4-6-2 4-6-2 4-6-2
Length 68 ft 2 in 74 ft 414 in 73 ft 1014 in ?
Tractive Effort (lbf) 40285 40285 40000 40320

Great Western Railway King Class is included as the "Princesses" were strongly based on its design - the recently appointed Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LMS William Stanier having joined (in 1931) from the GWR where he had risen through the ranks to the post of (Swindon) Works Manager. Note the GWR King was the (outright) most powerful British locomotive for 6 six years - I've built two 7mm Finescale models: 6000 KGV & 6028 KGVI:-

Left: GWR King Class No.6000 "King George V", in 1935 centenary celebrations condition, on-shed on the exhibition layout West Calydon that I co-built;
right: No.6028 "King George VI", in late 1930s running condition, about to depart West Calydon.
(Photos: Nigel Godsell 1994 & Nigel Locke 1999)

Choice of which "Princess" to model

A ready to run, O-gauge, admittedly a coarse scale, model of 6201 "Princess Elizabeth" became available between the wars, and ceased to be available shortly after WWII. The most well-known model of locomotive 6201 is that produced by Hornby (Meccano) Ltd:-

The O-gauge Hornby Princess Elizabeth was available in clockwork and electric (6v and 20v) powered versions

Over the years this particular O-gauge model has become very sought-after by tinplate toy collectors and those wishing to possess what they missed-out on in their childhood, similarly the Bassett-Lowke version of the locomotive (below) changes hands for silly money:-

Although, in some respects, a more accurate O-gauge model of the locomotive, the Bassett-Lowke version still leaves a lot to be desired!
This particular model
has had its cab bent out of square.

The O-gauge Bassett-Lowke Princess was on sale for 8-8-0d in 1937, today's equivalent price is 535.

As a consequence of the above two O-gauge coarse-scale models, the name "Princess Elizabeth" has passed into model railway folk-law. In the 1950s with the gaining popularity of OO-gauge, the name "Princess Elizabeth" was once again used; this time by (Tri-ang) Rovex for their top-of-the-range OO-gauge model locomotive.

Very few of these original Rovex Princess Elizabeths have survived in good condition

The fact that the real locomotive has been preserved, and with all the other model "Princesses" that have been produced over the years, I felt it would be a fitting acknowledgment to build a model of the first locomotive of class, LMS No.6200 "The Princess Royal" that was renumbered 46200 by British Railways. Besides, to my knowledge, the name has never been used on a mass-produced model locomotive! The only down-side is that 46200 never received the BR steam blue livery, which is a must if I'm to scratch a sixty-five year old itch!!!!! In reality, the loco went straight from ex-LMS black livery over-painted by BR in 1948 to BR green livery in 1952. However four locomotives of the Class did receive the blue livery, and its only a small stretch of the truth that 46200 was painted blue at the time of its General Overhaul in 1950.

So there's the reason why I'm going to build (yet) one more O-gauge locomotive!


All images courtesy of Google Images
unless otherwise stated



4th December 2016