History

The Leeds Model Company, founded by Rex Stedman in 1912, was after Hornby and Bassett-Lowke the third largest model railway manufacturer in the UK in the years between World Wars 1 and 2.

From modest beginnings the company grew rapidly after 1919, and with finance from G.P.Keen, moved from custom building into mass production of a first series of standardised scale model tank locomotives. 0-4-0 Std tandThe iconic 0-4-0ST was also introduced at this time, along with other enduring models, the ex GC 4-4-0 ‘Butler Henderson’, and 4-6-0 ‘Sir Sam Fay’. Two locomotives, a Great Western Churchward  4-4-0 County and Pickersgill Class 72 Caledonian 4-4-0 were produced for Bassett Lowke in 1922. The parts and tooling for these were later used to manufacture the LMC GW Mogul and the Pickersgill 0-6-0 goods locomotives. Other models supplied at this time were an LMS Claughton, an LNER (Ex GN) Atlantic, LNER 4-6-2 classes A1 and A2, and a Urie 4-6-2T. Early in 1920 and to reduce production costs, and whilst continuing to supply hand built wooden stock, Stedman developed a pre-grouping range of wagons and coaches using high quality paper lithographs on standardised timber bodies.

Great WesternKeen backed out of the LMC in 1924, making way for Hugh Leader of the Bristol Model Company. Significantly with this ‘West Country’ influence, the first GW locomotives, a Star and Castle made their appearance in the catalogue. Stedman and Leader were uneasy partners in the business however, and in 1928, with finance from R.S. Moore, Stedman took over the assets and goodwill of the LMC and for four years ran the company under his own name, R.F. Stedman and Co. Ltd. His fellow directors, Moore and G.M. Simpson, took the company back under the former LMC style in 1932, but continued to develop Stedman’s concepts and designs to update and further extend the product range. The Sentinel Cammell steam railcar ‘Nettle’ and the Brighton Belle Pullman rake of five coaches were produced, along with additions to the private owner wagon range and new ‘button logo’ lithos for the GW coach range. Go to top of page

Probably, the most popular and enduring of the LMC models are the second series of standardised tank locomotives introduced in 1935. LMSLMS2These six quite distinct models, of which the most commonly seen today are the LMS (Ex L&Y) 2-4-2T and the LNER (Ex GC) 0-6-2T, were economically engineered to come from a single set of tooling and dies. Moulded Bakelite coaches, wagons and vans were introduced in the late 1930’s and were an immediate success. The post WW2 years were difficult for all model companies, no less, with its focus on ‘0’ Gauge, for the LMC. Nevertheless the company moved boldly to introduce several new locomotives including standard 4-4-0 tender locos and a seventh series 2 standard tank configured as a short 0-6-0. TenderThe models were designed for maximum cost reduction without undue sacrifice of realistic appearance. They were freely adapted to suit any of the big four companies and, later, BR prototypes. Train sets, both goods and passenger, were offered from the early 1950’s. Also from 1950, outworked locomotives, made by professional modellers, including an LMS Jubilee, GW Hawksworth County, GW 57XX Pannier and Prairie tanks, and even an LMS Princess, were also featured in the product range. These and all other ready to run locomotives ceased to be available after 1959. The product range was then more or less confined to spare parts and kits. Despite all efforts however, the company, by then trading as Ellemmsee products went into liquidation in 1967. Rex Stedman had passed away six years before.


An Interesting Find

Full marks to Martin Dawes for pulling out from a box of miscellaneous wagons, this rare - if not unique - specimen of an early LMC open wagon.  Giving a date to it is very difficult, but from the style and fittings it probably originates from around 1919 -1920, when fittings typical of those on the wagon were in production.  One suggestion is that it was used as a promotional item at a time when prior to the introduction of the litho range, hand built wooden rolling stock was the only option available. 
My good friends in the Dutch Hornby Railway Collectors Association also feature this wagon on the extensive Leeds Model Company section of their website, along with details of several other wagons - no examples of which we have in the archive!.
Most recently also details of early modifications to the LMC Bakelite open wagon mould have come to light and are shown further down in the same section of the website.

wagon

 


Be on your guard! (or on your guard’s van)

Life is full of surprises, and so are model railways.  Having gone into print on so many aspects of the Leeds Model Company productions, I remain on my guard ready to be surprised - and wrong - on any one of them!  This time I am indebted to my good friend Alan Cliff for uncovering the latest surprise in the post 1945 all metal long wheelbase brake van. I had  been told and always believed without checking that this model was constructed throughout from tinplate. A common repair on the van is re-soldering  of the roof tie, and that confirmed time and again that the roof is certainly tinplate. A friend had suggested to Alan that the vans were made from brass. A check with a magnet on the supposed ’brass’ van  showed the roof and ends to be tinplate, but the sides were non magnetic.  Nor is this a one-off. I have now checked the archive model and it is the same, an exploratory scratch on the inside of the van confirming - brass!  The model depicted here also proved to be the same.  

So, what are we to make of this discovery?  The Leeds Model Company were ever driven to economise on materials and, after the brass framed mechanisms of the 1920s were replaced by the zinc die cast designs, brass was very little used. Having thought about it I believe that the answer lies in the forming of the ‘planking’ on the van sides.  Producing the grooves by scoring on flat tinplate would remove the protective tin leaving the underlying steel vulnerable to corrosion. This would not be a problem for brass. Producing the grooves by pressing the tinplate - as is done on the short brake van, (A magnet test on this van shows it to be all tinplate), would require a relatively expensive press tool. The length of the long wheel base van’s sides might also be outside the capacity of the LMC’s presses.  Either way the solution to use brass, and cut the planking grooves makes sense. 

Latest 1006In my book on the Leeds Model Company I refer (page 54) to a moulded resin model of the long wheelbase brake van which I have in the archive, and shown here. This replicates exactly the dimensions of the metal van.  One suggestion is that it represents an unsuccessful attempt by LMC to economise further by moving from the necessity to use brass and hand building of the metal model to the lower cost resin and less labour intensive assembly of a fully moulded vehicle.  The  lack of success is evident on the model, the van end and other areas of the resin breaking up during curing.
What is the correct explanation of all this?  We shall probably never know, but remain on guard for the next revelation! Long wheel base

I am indebted to David Beveridge for further information on the long wheel base vans. His model shown here, with the exception of the duckets and axleboxes is wholly of tinplate construction. The ends clearly show they were press formed, and in effect closely resemble those of the short wheelbase van. Visual comparison strongly points to them being from the same tooling! The planking on the long tinplate sides is not so well expressed, suggesting that the end sections were separately pressed.


A remarkable record from 1939

Full marks to Pathe News for this fascinating look at the Leeds Model Company
in 1939 manufacturing Bakelite coaches and assembling locomotives. I am further
indebted to Peter Zwakhals of the Dutch HRCA,- very much an LMC enthusiast
himself, who brought this remarkable piece of archive material to my notice.
Enjoy!


We are indebted to John Bulmer and BAE Systems for the following pictures from the Brough Heritage Department Rex Stedman

 

These show Rex Stedman as he was during the war, a test pilot for Blackburn Aircraft. Rex is at the left hand side of the group celebrating the 1000th repair aircraft out of Sherburn-in-Elmet where Rex was based.

Sherburn

 

In the second picture Rex, (with flying helmet) with a group of engineers is about to test fly a Blackburn Botha, (an aircraft with a bad reputation for fatal accidents). Fortunately on this occasion all went well!"


‘Wooloomooloo’ back home.

After a 25,000 mile journey and over 6 months in the Leeds Stedman Trust workshops, the veteran K3 ‘Wooloomooloo’, originally shipped out to Australia with the Hordern layout in 1928 is back home!  Here David Peacock, hands the loco over to Glyn Eden who continues with the restoration of the layout.  With Wooloomooloo, we now have the full complement of the locomotives supplied to operate the layout.  One of the two 0-4-0 saddle tanks the partner loco to ‘Milton’ is not however original. ‘Milton’ itself was restored and returned to the layout several years ago, but its original partner, if it has survived, has yet to be found.  Along with the original locomotives we also have most of the original coaching stock and some of the goods vans and wagons. Gaps in the full original inventory, are gradually being filled from current purchases of original items as these come on to the market. 

 


Back home - repratriation after 90 years away!

Shipped from England to Australia in 1928, Leeds Model Co , Gresley A1 Pacific loco, is back home to join the archive collection of the Leeds Stedman Trust.  As the top link locomotive of the Hordern layout the A1, painted black and named ‘Sydney’, was lost for many years after the layout was sold off by its original owners.   Recovered with the layout in 1985 by Bruce Macdonald, the loco was skilfully repainted in LNER livery by the late Bert Edwards, and given the number 4470, that of ‘Great Northern’, the A1 class leader, but nameplates were not fitted. 

Gresley A1

Standing now on the Trust layout the loco has a pair of original LMC brass nameplates, ‘Great Northern’ which came to the Trust with other of Rex Stedman’s large collection of parts of every description.  Could these have been the very plates destined for this loco were it to have been sold in either GNR or LNER livery in England.   Bruce Macdonald a most careful custodian kept the ‘Sydney’ plates and these accompanied the loco on its journey home.

Sydney

Back in Australia research continues on the subject of the Hordern family, with some interesting recent revelations.  The search continues for a suitable museum to house the layout, hopefully where it can be operated.  More news on this topic later.


Hydrogen Powered

The swelling, embrittlement and cracking of early zinc alloys
used extensively in the model railway trade is sadly an all too familiar problem in early model locomotives and rolling stock. The problem arising from the use of less than pure or contaminated zinc is correctly termed 'intergranular corrosion'. Attack takes place preferentially at the metal's grain boundaries leading to swelling, cracking and disintegration before the bulk of the metal is affected. The effects are shown dramatically on these
Leeds Model Co. smoker-fitted locomotive cylinders. On the right, the intergranular cracking and swelling are clearly seen, the zinc positively bulging out of the end of the brass cylinder. On the left the piston was completely within the cylinder when disintegration began. The force of the expansion - largely caused by hydrogen, which is one product of the corrosion reaction, is sufficient to split the brass cylinder from top to base. In most cases the damage can be repaired and an aluminium piston fitted thus restoring the function of the smoker unit 'puffer'.

 


Switches for locos ....

The switch described under this intriguing heading in the LMC and R.F. Stedman catalogues from 1926 to 1939 has long escaped discovery. At last, and thanks to Barend Westerveld, I have a photo of the device attached to a Series 1 mechanism, and here it is.switch

The switch is earthed to the motor frame and has three contacts, one from the current collector, thence to one the poles of the motor. The other pole is connected to the motor frame. A turn of the handle, seen on the right, moves the segmented contacts on the switch barrel to change the current from one pole to the other, at the same time connecting the other pole to the motor frame. Simple, but effective. How long will it be before an example of the series 2 switch turns up?

The catalogue describes the switch as a really useful addition, enabling, as it does, the mechanism to be switched off, or the direction of running reversed. This is handy if there are two locos on one section oftrack, or when double heading or banking when one loco is running tender or bunker first. From 1935 and from the introduction of the Series 2 motors, a new and more compact design was introduced.


Transition

The period from 1928 to 1935 was one of transition for the Leeds Model Company.  Rex Stedman its founder had run the company under his own name until 1932, and it was left to his successor George Simpson to complete the transition from the Series 1 tank locomotives to the Series 2.  Rex had started the essential changes when in 1927 he had produced an electric mechanism capable of fitting into a locomotive with a 1.½” (38mm) diameter boiler.  The archive model of GWR 4-6-0 ’Caerphilly Castle’ when it arrived proved to be a surprise. It was still fitted with Series 1 frames but the motor was a Series 2.

Now a further example of the transition period has come to hand. This is a series 1 4-6-0T, fitted with full Series 2  frames and motor.  As can be seen here the  combined bevel and spur gear, at the top of the gear train, has teeth cut only where they are needed on the end portion of the gear body. On later gears the teeth were cut for the full length of the body up to the face of the bevel. The early frames and the motor front bearing all zinc alloy castings show no sign of deterioration, none of the familiar swelling and cracking on these!  The zinc for these first batches must have been fresh, clean and pure! New coupling rods were required for the model, and these fitted and ran without any requirement to ease the crank pin holes or other modification whatsoever.


A surprising variation!

RoofThe LMC 0-4-0 saddle tank (the Donkey) was one of the longest lived models in the Company range, in production from 1920 to the mid 1950s. In that time there were more than a few changes to the model, but here is one I have never previously seen.

The roof on a smoker fitted model attached by clips, with wires soldered to the cab sides to support the roof edges. The usual format has the roof sliding into folded guide bars, so how many Donkeys were made like the one seen here?  There is little doubt this is an original  item, the transfer if poorly applied over the clip  is the witness to this.  Tab

 

 

 

 

 


Another variation

Over the years we have had many of the Leeds 0-4-0 saddle tanks - the donkeys - pass through our hands. Here however is a variant never seen before.  The bold ‘LMC’ transfer suggests that it may have been a works modification but…?
The smoker oil tank is fitted firmly to the rear of the cab by the four screws visible in the picture. The tank is filled with oil via the screw plug. The on/off switch is set firmly into the top of the smoker unit and is accessed through the enlarged single rear window. The whole job is neatly done. The cab roof, which does not need to be removed, is integral with the body and has two ridges. So is this a customer or a works modification?  Has anyone else seen the like elsewhere?


A Lucky Escape!!

Rex Stedman built only two models of the LNER K 3 2-6-0 locomotives. One was for Frederick Rush, the other went to Australia with the Hordern layout.  Today the Hordern loco, rescued by chance from a junk shop, is restored and back in Australia.  The other K3 had an even luckier escape, before it ended up in the Trust archive. 

I am indebted to Bill Truin for bringing an article  in the Model Railway News (1953) to my attention. In it, Frederick Rush writes of his 0 gauge LNER models and in particular mentions the K3, which he had last illustrated in the magazine in 1937.  He writes, “ This model was the only one of my pre-war stock to survive the Bristol blitzes and, as a reward, has been provided with a chimney more like that of the prototype than was the original; it is still clockwork, but is scheduled to be rebuilt and fitted with an electric mechanism and fine scale wheels as soon as time permits.

 

The loco was certainly re-motored with a Bonds mechanism, but kept its standard scale wheels. It is now skated for stud contact and operated regularly for visitors to the Trust layout.  A lucky escape indeed, and perhaps the small dent on the boiler is after all due to bomb damage, not careless handling!

Signals
signal

Signals were among the first products of the Leeds Model Company from 1912 onwards. In his introduction in catalogues for 1920 onwards, Rex Stedman emphasised the importance of signalling on a model railway saying ‘The completeness and accuracy to which the line is signalled depends upon the owner’. My good friend and neighbour Peter Sapte who skilfully rebuilt the LMC super detail signal shown here has a fine 4mm scale layout which is very properly signalled. The picture of the LMC 1922 layout shown here earlier this year, like more modern layouts featured in the model press, - and despite Rex Stedman’s protestations - has a signal placed just outside a tunnel mouth - quite impossible for the driver to see!  Peter comments ‘ Signals are to tell the driver what he can and cannot do. The main requirement therefore is that a signal must be seen at the earliest opportunity. Placing of signals is thus of the utmost importance. How many layouts featured in published articles have signals placed just beyond bridges/ tunnels and other obstructions?  Once a photo is taken and in print the critical eye has plenty of time to judge such mistakes. Back to that 1922 drawing board, and also always see that the signal board is truly horizontal in the stop position!


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