The “Other Bowman” - Bowman of Luton

In "Model Engineer" of December 1978 Basil Harley writes:

Some time before World War II the firm of Piece Parts and Assemblies Ltd was set up in Luton to manufacture components and sub-assemblies particularlyfor the aircraft industry. This naturally flourished during the war but, in 1945, the end of hostilities posed problems and the late Mr. P.M.Nash, the then managing director, looked round for new product lines. The name and the "Archer" trade mark of Bowman Models Ltd was apparently available (Ceased trading in 1934 -Ed.) and was purchased from a member of the Jenkins family with the intention of manufacturing new versions of the (mainly) steam driven toys that Bowman Jenkins had made so successfully during the war (.......) Model engines were indeed their first products and (picture) shows a typical example of one of their early stationary steam engines. It is conventional enough, with a methylated spirit-fired horizontal boiler supplying steam to a single oscillating cylinder engine with a massive lubricator (.....) the particular distinguishing mark is the embossed B&M on the boiler casing."


This engine comes up every now and then, and, even though it isn't strictly a Bowman, I thought my collection wouldn't be complete without the "Luton" engine. This one came up cheaply on EBay, actually not in bad nick. Apart from the baseplate, all the paintwork you see is original, I just cleaned it up. The baseplate retains a copper logo plate on which you can just about make out the "Archer". The spirit burner is a particularly impressive affair with twin vaporizing burner tubes. The steam regulator had lost its handle, but as of May 2005 I've restored this.
It's a lovely looking thing, and the build quality is excellent - the cylinder is particularly chunky, and everything screws and fits together in a very satisfactory way.


5 November 2004: I decided that there was not enough paint left on the name tag to warrant preservation, so I had another look at it. On closer inspection it turned out that what out thought were paint remnants were etch tracks in the brass. Out came the simichrome polish, and 20 minutes later what you see on the picture emerged. I've never seen a tag like this before - it's nothing like the rather colourful transfer decal you get on the Bowman Luton engines. If anyone can enlighten me as to the tag's significance I'd be very interested.


PW201 and PW202

Here we have the PW201 (right) and the overtype PW202.....the 202 is very hard to find, and I was delighted to add it to my collection this year through a Forum friend. Both are in superb original condition, have their boxes and run superbly well. The 202 had lost its chimney, so I made a replacement, which looks pretty close to original. The video below shows all three Bowman-Luton engines in action, and as you will see they are capable of doing pretty serious work.


Bowman-Bryant “BM” Valveless engine

Here we have one of the rarest engines in my collection, and certainly the one I've been looking for the longest....I've been after this engine for some nine years, ever since I became aware of its existence.
This engine was designed by a Mr.F..J.Bryant for Bowman of Luton (Piece Parts and Assemblies), who joined the firm in 1946 after serving as a marine fitter for the RAF, being a nautical engineer by trade. Mr Bryant apparently had a dislike for oscillating engines as found in the model boats of that time and of his youth, and decided to design something better. Again I will quote Basil Harley from his excellent article in Model Engineer, December 1978:

"The designer's ingenuity centres on the fact that the engine has no traditional valve gear. Inlet and exhaust ports are drilled in the sides of the cylinders about half way down so that they are covered by the pistons except when ports cut in these pistons coincide with them. The little end of the connection rod terminates in a ball and socket joint within each piston instead of the conventional gudgeon pin. This, in addition to allowing the usual back and forth movement of the rod due to the crank also permits the pistons to move round horizontally in the cylinders. Movement of a few degrees each way as the pistons rise and fall is imparted by pins set in the balls at about 45 degrees engaging in slots in the pistons. On the down stroke the piston is brought into coincidence with the steam inlet by this movement and on the up stroke the exhaust port is uncovered. Special shaping of these ports give early cut-off and the engine is quite economical of steam. The action is not unlike a sleeve valve and the porting arrangements are somewhat reminiscent of a diesel fuel injection pump. The exhaust note has a nice sharp bark for a tiny engine"

The picture below shows the "works" works of the engine - the panels can be folded down or removed altogether to reveal the inside. As you can see it is in beautiful condition.

This engine was originally designed to go into the "Sea Jay" steam boat, where it was coupled to a rather underpowered boiler. Later on, the engine was also sold on its own. By 1950 all the "BowmanLuton" stock was bought up by Gamages and sold off at half price.
I was sold this engine by a good friend from the forum from New Zealand at a very reasonable know who you are, and you know how grateful I am!
I have coupled it to a fine spirit-fired Stuart 500 boiler, which is capable of providing ample steam for this engine to really come to loves to run at about 25psi, and powers the generator and four lamps I've attached to it with ease and power to spare. Even after a good sixty years this beautifully intricate little engine continues to run beautifully - a credit to the quality of the design, because of the nature of this the timing issues valve engines can suffer from are impossible. My example has very minimal wear, the back panel was missing when I received this but I have made a simple replacement - the panels are decorative only, and serve to stop condensate from splashing around.
I am delighted to have this one in my collection - pretty much a dream come true. It is also an enormous crowd pleaser - as you can see in the picture above, it generates plenty of light to illuminate itself, and there is nothing nicer than sitting in a dark room with this little beast blazing away, throwing out clouds of steam, with the hot meths smell from the huge Stuart burner.....steam fan heaven!