Bowman 234 Live Steam Loco


This is quite a nice example af a Bowman 234 loco. I got this one for a song on EBay - it was in a fairly bad way, no bogie, all the pipework missing, but it did have most of its original paint. With help and advice from the good people of the Bowman Models Egroup I managed to get this engine back to more or less its original state. This was quite a steep learning curve for me - as a sound engineer I'm used to soldering wires with tin, not soldering copper pipe with silver. Anyway, if at first you don't succeed, etc etc.

Then I had a filthy stroke of luck and managed first to get hold of an original bogie, and then an original tender - rarer than hen's teeth! So now it's really pretty complete, even though the colour of the engine and tender  don't quite match

Before you start shouting at me: I know that the colour for the tender is wrong for L.M.S. ! I expect that it was repainted a long time ago, and pretty badly at that. The L.M.S. lettering was preserved though, and as I didn't touch the paint on the loco I decided to leave well enough alone. The tender is otherwise in great condition and very complete, even down to the little folding footplate.

This loco is simplicity itself - huge pot boiler driving twin oscillating engines that drive the rear wheels directly - in fact the front wheels don't carry any load, the loco sits on the rear wheels and bogey. There is no speed control of any kind, and as this loco apparently builds up some serious speed, you need a pretty big ) gauge layout to run it, which I don't have - I've only run this one "on the bench"

Apparently this model was a personal favourite of Mr Bowman Jenkins. It was proudly advertised that this engine ran for 183 actual miles, refuelling every 40 minutes, pulling six coaches. In the highly nationalistic days of the early thirties Bowman stresses very strongly the "British" qualities of his toys, and how favourably they compare to "foreign" (and for "foreign", read "German") toys of that era. Some truth in it is well: German toys of that time were mostly tinplate, whereas Bowman toys are all brass and iron. This particular loco is very powerful for it's type - not as refined as the Bassett-Lowke engines of course, but just as much fun.

6 July 2005: This engine's now an offical "runner"! I managed to get hold of some "Gamage" branded O gauge track, 2ft radius circle, in very good condition, and on that the 234 ran its first circles for who knows how many years. It started slow, but picked up a good head of speed as things eased in and came up to temperature, and then ran quite steadily for a good 30 minutes. I chucked all sorts of things into the tender, without any noticable effect. It ran on 5 wicks, with the lead running weight on the burner.

Bowman 300 live steam loco

I purchased this great little engine at Steam Toys in Action from Dudley Arnold, who gave me a cracking deal on it.
The Bowman 300 is an enduring favourite, because it is true O Gauge, rather than overscale like the 234 and the 265. Because of this, it is compatible with, for example, Hornby rolling stock. Original Bowman rolling stock these days fetches more than locos!.
Like all Bowman locos, the 300 is basic in the extreme: large pot boiler is heated by a 5-wick spirit burner, and provides steam for two single-acting oscillating cylinders, which drive the rear wheels directly. The cylinders are lubricated by two felt pads that sit behind the pistons, which are soaked in oil prior to a run. There is no throttle or any form of speed control - the only way to control the speed is by wick height or by selectively capping some of the wicks.

Basic it may be, but like all Bowman engines the design is fantastically effective, no doubt due to the close engineering tolerances and the quality of the raw materials. Without a load, the flame has to be taken right down otherwise the engine runs out of control. On a full flame, the loco is capable of pulling large rakes of wagons at high speed for a long time - average run time on the 300 is about 30 minutes.

I'd come to STIA 2007 looking for one of these, and there were a few about. One was in immaculate condition - I wouldn't dare fire that one for fear of damaging the finish! This one immediately appealed because of it's "lived in" look - there's a fair bit of usage evident, but there is also plenty of original paint left, and the loco has clearly been lovingly maintained....I can never help but imagine how excited the first owner must have been back in the late 'twenties!

At first trial, the loco wouldn't quite run....after a bit of investigation this turned out to be due to the heatshield between the "tanks" and the boiler, which had warped slightly, preventing hot air from circulating around the boiler. I remedied this in a matter of minutes, after which the loco very quickly raised steam, and shot off down the track a matter of minutes later.

A most rewarding little engine, and already something of a favourite with Clan Moose!

Bowman 265 loco

The 265 is Bowman's second biggest loco - an overscale O-gauge 0-4-0 - and I saw this one on eBay with a buy-it-now.....boxed.....original tag....good paint and BAM my finger hit the button. Only after I looked carefully I noticed that pistons and cylinders were missing! Oh well, 100 quid is a good pricce for a boxed Bowman in ANY condition, and having the paper tag is very rare indeed.
Fortunately I have a small metalworking lathe that I am learning to use, and this was an ideal opportunity....after a couple of evenings of enthusiastically making copper and brass swarf and a nit of silver soldering I had a pretty passable replacement my delight it actually runs! Video below shows it pulling an original Bowman pullman coach.

Bowman 410

The runt of the litter, and very hard to find in any condition, so I was over the moon when this cropped up, even if it was missing a wheel and the burner! Perfect replicas of these were made by a very talented member of the Bowman circle, and I did a few more little jobs myself (a new cab roof, a new buffer, a bit of general fettling and making good) and it was good to go!
These little locos were briefly made in 1932, and were part of the last flurry of activity of Bowman Models - they are much more lightly made than the other locos, but still fairly substantial in build quality. The engine is a single oscillating engine of the same small size used in the 180 and 175 engines, driving a mazak flywheel in the cab, geared to the driveshaft. It is true O gauge, compatible with a range of rolling stock. My example runs very well indeed, as can be seen in this video, shot at Steam Toys in Action 2010:

Bowman Open Wagon

Bowman rolling stock is hard to find, and often fetches prices that are way out of my reach, so when I managed to snag this open wagon on eBay at a reasonable price I was pretty pleased. But I was delighted when it arrived and it turned out to still have its original box - thank you Carole!!!!

A Bowman Loco Family Shot

A family shot of the Bowman locos. Top left: 300. Top right: 265.
234 and tender in the middle, with the little 410 at the front.