Scratch built locomotive

Henry’s been back in touch with a wonderful back story of his Scratch built locomotive:

“Hello Alastair

A little different submission from me this time. I know that you are very keen for people to make a start on their layouts, and rightly so.

However, this post is about making a start and finishing it.

During the 1980’s there were very few South African Steam locomotives on the market. The ones that were on the market were white metal and brass kits, that cost an arm and a leg. (Many of them are still being manufactured today).

An alternative to spending a huge amount on a single locomotive, was to scratchbuild or kitbash. This is the story of one such a project, started by my late dad.

He bought locomotives with the same wheel arrangement as the prototype, and then proceeded to strip everything down, leaving only the mechanism running. Then began the process of rebuilding, using plans, photos and other reference material.

Sadly, when my dad died in 2006, he left about 4 South African Steam locomotives unfinished. I inherited them, and packed them away for one day…

Well, for one of those locos, the one day has arrived. It is a South African Railways class 16 DA with a narrow firebox.

I include a few photos as well as a link to a youtube video showing the build process.

The Green loco was the starting point for this build. Now, I have completed what my dad had started 35-40 years ago.


Scratch built locomotive

Scratch built locomotive

Scratch built locomotive

Scratch built locomotive

Scratch built locomotive

front of model train smoke box

locomotive steam train scratch build

model train test run

adding detail to loco scratch build

adding pipes to loco scratch build

model train loco running

steam train scratch build

A big thanks to Henry for sharing his scratch built locomotive.

I really did enjoy his narrative because there’s always something special about posts that give a nod to the loved ones who got us involved in this hobby.

Please do leave a comment below if you have similar memories – I’d love to hear them.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

23 Responses to Scratch built locomotive

  1. Thomas E Hirsch says:

    Beautiful work and story, but did not see what scale those beauties are.

  2. Henry van Wyk says:

    Thomas, it is HO Scale

  3. Thomas Strangeway says:

    I remember my days as a young child in South Africa running alongside these on the Worcester to Robertson line. They used to stop outside my uncles butcher shop and general store about halfway between the two towns. The last two pictures posted remind me very much of that area with the trackside building. Thanks for the memories.

  4. Stephen Hill Woodstock GA says:

    Incredible ! Very cool that you picked up where your father left . Thank you for sharing that , brings life to the model

  5. david howarth says:

    A very nice completed Loco you have built there Henry

  6. Brian Olson says:

    A wonderful project, yet another great example of all our hobby offers. Well done!

  7. George Zaky says:

    Loved what you did-it took a LOT of work. Thanks for sharing a great story and now when you run this beauty you’re reminded of your Dad.

  8. Tony, Kitty Hawk, NC says:

    Excellent work!! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Nice job Henry!

  10. Tom Llewellyn, The Yank says:

    In the mid-60’s I was there and watched the Kingswood College track team race the local steam train from Georgetown down to Port Elizabeth. The track team taking the shorter highway route, would have won too, but a station master along the way gave the train clear passage through his yard and that was the difference that allowed the coal burning train to beat the relay runners by a few minutes.
    I wonder how many years later the old coal burning locomotives might have finally been retired? I remember when riding the train, you always had to quicky close the windows as you entered a tunnel because of all the sooty smoke from the loco.

  11. Henry van Wyk says:

    Thank you all for the encouraging comments.
    @ Tom Llewellyn, the last scheduled steam locos on South African Railways ran in 1992. Yet, after that a few lines kept running steam, one being the Knysna to Mosselbay line, including the Kaaimans river bridge. This was operated as a museum line. Currently there are a few private companies operating steam locomotives on excursion trains in South Africa, Rovos Rail being the most notable running into Africa as well. Ceres Rail has a few steam locos including the world famous class 26 “Red Devil”. Close to my hometown there is the Umgeni Steam railways, operating a Class 19D steam loco. THis is only a small portion of the privately owned steam railways in SA.

  12. william janmes palmer says:

    awesome should make a video

  13. Michael Glass says:

    Beautiful Locomotive

  14. Henry van Wyk says:

    William James Palmer, there are a couple of videos on my youtube channel showing this build, here is a link to the last one.

  15. Brian Olson says:

    Wow! Now I know why someone invented the word “Craftmanship”

  16. Kevin McArdle says:

    Beautiful job, and the spirit of your father lives on in that locomotive since you both had a role in its creation. Would love to see it running on your layout. Thank you for sharing a great homage to your Dad.

  17. Glyn Jones says:

    That’s a beautiful restoration and conversion Henry. It brings back happy memories of visits to South Africa from Rhodesia where we would see both steam and electric Locos running. It’s so sad to see the current decline in South African Rail traffic due to neglect. The layout looks great and we look forward to many more contributions from you and the future. Keep up the great work and thanks for the nostalgia.! Glyn in Santa Fe

  18. Andrew Aves says:

    Super detailed modelling Henry, I admire your skills.
    For a model unused for 40 years you have it running very smoothly
    Best wishes
    Andrew in Oz

  19. Bill Bagley says:

    Guessing O or G.


  20. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice work. i always like this kind of poet. thanks.

  21. James says:

    Man, that’s really impressive!

  22. Henry van Wyk says:

    Bill Bagley, no HO scale

  23. Thomas Meleck says:

    Working at Sun City theater, but traveling extensively around a lot of South Africa in the late 80’s, I saw some of their real working steam locos actually working. It was a stunning sight to see. They seemed to be perfectly suited to working their standard freight duties. Really a beautiful sight to see.–Tom

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