Since I bought a toy traction engine I’ve been thinking about all sorts of ways to improve it. I’ve already started scratch building a better canopy and have nearly finished making a simple trailer from a kit. In all of this it’s important to remember that it’s a tin-plate toy, not a scale model. Excessive detail would look out of place.
I can’t help asking myself what sort of traction engine it’s not a scale model of though. Comparing its proportions (mainly wheelbase and wheel sizes) with some of the many traction engine photos to be found on the web I reckon the best match is a Garrett steam tractor, at about 1:18 scale. Nothing else I’ve seen has the chimney similarly to the rear of the smoke box.
In the UK a “steam tractor” was a small traction engine (no more than 5 tons weight) that could legally be operated by just one person. They were used for light haulage, particularly timber, so Wilesco’s toy log wagon is an appropriate accessory.
The most obviously wrong bit of the Wilesco toy is the flywheel. Apart from having two holes it’s also much too large. I assume this is required for the engine to run properly. I’ve also not seen anything like the Wilesco’s drip tray / gangway on a real steam tractor class engine. The most obvious omission is a belly tank, but I have plans to rectify that eventually.
The next question is what to tow? Whilst I fancy the challenge of building a heavy haulage trailer this just isn’t the right sort of engine to tow it. Period photos from the 1910s and 1920s when such engines were common are not easy to find, but a typical load was nothing more than one or two 4 wheeled wagons.
This picture shows a Garrett tractor being used for timber haulage, possibly in the 1920s.
This picture shows a Taskers tractor hauling two precarious looking trailers. The high load platform and rather spindly look of these reminds me of the Mamod toy wagons which I’d previously thought were rather unrealistic.