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Roundhouse Bertie

by Chris Bird

Here is an introduction to the Roundhouse Basic Series "Bertie" from Roundhouse Engineering. This is a simple, slip eccentric loco, but has an excellent, internally gas fired boiler and powerful cylinders. It is a steady runner from what I have seen so far, and is relatively simple to modify. On this page I have started with a series of videos and then have tried to show how I have modified the loco by using mostly mostly commercial parts and services.

An Introduction to the Loco

Here is a video aimed at the absolute beginner to live steam in the garden:

A Beginners' Guide

Steaming Up

Here is a warts-and-all video of my first steaming of Bertie:

YouTube Video

Fitting a Chuffer

YouTube Video

Testing the Chuffer

YouTube Video

The Buffer Beams

Well this was pretty simple - I bought the very nice overlays from Roundhouse! However, the slight problem was that Roundhouse paint the basic ones fitted to the loco in red - on both sides. These had to come off, be degreased and lightly flatted with some fine wet and dry and then sprayed on their backs and edges with Halfords Satin Black. When they had been baked at 80C for 20 mins, I glued the overlays on using silicone sealant and clamped them to set - making sure the tops were level. Meanwhile I primed and sprayed the couplings black - though the bases should probably be red!

I have run out of 7BA headed 6BA bolts but will use these to fit them in due course. In the meantime, the screws will have to do.

The Smokebox

I have to admit that I find Bertie's smokebox a little strange, it is much smaller than the boiler diameter. However it is quirky and part of the loco's character, so I decided to paint it matt black for the time being. It is easy to remove as shown in the Chuffer fitting video, and the next job is to de-gease it. To do this properly it is necessary to unscrew the chimney, which is held on with a large nut. If you don't do this, then trapped oil emerges as soon as it gets hot and spoils the paint.

I used car engine degreaser and then rubbed it down and degreased again with thinners. A fair bit of the original finish flaked off during this process.

I then warmed it and gave it a couple of good coats of "Hot Spot" Barbeque paint and pushed the Roundhouse brass chimney cap into place while the paint was still soft. I then baked it, when dry, at about 100C for half an hour.

And here it is fitted and operational:

Radio Control

This loco is slip eccentric so there is only the option for fitting radio control to the regulator. I purchased the kit from Roundhouse, which basically includes a new, more sensitive regulator, a servo bracket and the various bits needed to make it work. I sourced a RadioLink transmitter and receiver, plus the right sized servo, from GiantCod. I was interested to see, incidentally, that Roundhouse are now supplying RadioLink sets with their locos.

I had planned to film the fitting, or at least take a lot of photos, but the process more time consuming than I expected, so I ended up doing neither!

The first challenge is removing the body. Easy on a loco like Katie, but not on Bertie. There are two nuts to undo - one under the safety valve dome and one at the rear of the cab. With these removed I realised that there was no way the body would clear the plumbing, so first I removed the gas jet (a 2BA spanner is necessary) and then I removed the lubricator and steam pipe. Only then could the body be jiggled off.

Replacing the regulator is easy and I was lucky that one of the original thick washers and one of the new thin ones allowed it to tighten to the right place. The servo bracket is just steel and so this has to be degreased, primed and painted satin black before fitting. When ready I screwed this into position and fitted the servo (note that it is essential to measure the servo hole when ordering as I have three sizes that are all called "micro"). You need to tighten this into position to set it up, but make sure it is pushed as near to the centre as it will go or it will foul the body.

The insructions explain about setting up the regulator operation, though you do need the receiver and battery to hand to make it work. Also, when sorted, I found that the screw on the link fouled the body and had to be shortened for use and removed altogether to replace the body. It may have been that my servo stood slightly more proud that the one used by Roundhouse.

I set it up as best I could, but waited for the body to be back on before steam testing to adjust it finally. Here is the inside of the cab:

Now Roundhouse recommend that the battery and receiver are carried in a tender or a wagon behind, but I was not happy with that. The RadioLink receiver is very small and all I needed was an AAA battery pack and I was sure I could fit it all under the roof. David Herning sourced a 5xAAA pack for me which is 6V and fine - though four at 4.8V would be enough.

So I needed a charging socket, a two pole two way switch and the receiver to fit. I made a brass bracket to take the socket and the switch to be accessed from the offside cab door. The problem was that I didn't make the upstand deep enough for the plug to clear the body, so I had to put an extra bend in the bracket before epoxying it in position. I rather clumsily soldered the battery to the centre terminals on the switch and the plug to the first set and the receiver lead to the other.  I checked it out and it worked, so I siliconed a piece of black plastic over to hide it from your view!

I had bought some cheap sticky foam pads from The Works to fit the batteries and receiver, but these turned out to be useless (buy the Sellotape ones), so I stuck them in position with silicone sealant.

The crucial test came next - would it all fit without fouling anything - particularly the regulator. It did - though if I put the pressure gauge adapter on the steam turret, it might be very tight.

I correctly anticipated the next problem - and that was that I couldn't hold the front 8BA nut in position to screw the roof down (which Incidentall I has sprayed matt black). I found a scrap of brass and drilled and tapped it 8BA before supergluing it under the front tab (you can see it on the cab shots above). It all went together fine after that.

I charged up the batteries and steamed up - it worked a treat!

Here is a photo of the switch and charging socket in situ. You can see that they are angled downwards.

Painting the Wheels and Motion

Now I am not a determined fan of realism in my locos (you may have noticed!), but even I know that the wheels and motion should not be that shiny! So this afternoon, I took the plunge and decided that the wheels would be satin black and the connecting and coupling rods red.

I degreased with a spray automotive degreaser and hosed it down outside. Kitchen towel and a fan heater dried it off before I dismantled all and rubbed the parts down with fine emery.

Then another degrease with thinners before masking up using cling film and paper. I was really careful as I KNOW that paint will find any gap!

Then I etch primed (as I was not sure if any of the steel was stainless). I also brush etched primed the valve rod - and then realised I could have sprayed it!

After that I removed the masking and put the loco by a fan heater for an hour or so before re-masking and spraying with Halfords Satin Black.

Another blast with the fan heater and I could remove the masking. I also sprayed the cylinder covers (from Roundhouse) and the very shiny footplate, satin black. Here they are back on the loco.

I rubbed down and degreased the rods before etch priming and baking for 30 mins. Then I sprayed with Halfords acrylic gloss - Ford Radiant Red - as I don't reckon the rods will get too hot. Then after that was baked it was all back together. Too dark for an outside photo.....

But now I have managed to take some:

I was all set to spray the body satin black - but then I thought a lined Talyllyn livery might be nice. THEN I found I could get another body from Roundhouse in any colour! Decisions decisions!

The Livery

The problem when I have too much choice is that I just can't make up my mind. I go to bed convinced that I have the answer ....and then wake up with a different one!

Anyway, the decision is finally made. The body is going off to Tony Willmore at the Rhos Helyg Loco Works to stay green and be lined in red with black edging - as at the Festiniog.
I think this will look very smart.......

But before it goes off for its post-Christmas makeover, it needed handrails etc.

Handrails, lamp and dome

I thought i was going to be able to live with those rivets on the tank sides, but then on looking at Phil Sixsmith's Bertie in a old mag, I really liked the idea of the Hunslet type handrail going round the chimney - and that meant I could use the rivet hole for a knob. Now the rivets holds the mild steel tank together, so when I drilled them out it all began to move a bit. The front of the tank popped forward so I tried to push it back. Then I tried harder. Then I tried too hard and it shot back and taught me how thin and flexible this steel is! I spent a while straightening it all out.

I put masking tape on the tank sides and marked the holes with a pair of calipers. As usual, I got some drill wander and had to use a fine needle file to line up the holes properly (it is worth spending a lot of time on the marking and drilling to avoid this!). I then used Roundhouse handrail knobs and discovered that the tank wouldn't seat properly with them in place. I had to trim the extra thread from the front ones and lean the boiler band back a bit. Also it was necessary to touch in where the rivet was removed. Luckily I had some of the correct British Racing Green paint on the shelf.

I was worried about the handrail being too vulnerable in brass so I decided to use piano wire (66p a metre from the model shop). Needless to say, this was impossible to bend accurately - until I used heat. With a blowtorch flame pointing away from me, I heated the wire a bit at a time (dark blue/grey heat) , and used the springiness to apply the bends. It worked a treat and left a great blue/black finish which seems to be very resiliant. Of course it took a few goes to get it right - but it is very efffective I think.

I had worried about that smokebox, but the handrail added balance and I decided to put a lamp bracket on the chimney. I made the bracket from a bit of brass strip left over from a Swift Sixteen etch, and as it was not quite wide enough, I siver soldered a small washer to the back where the mounting bolt would go. I then bent the wings of the washer to follow the contour of the chimney. I marked it and drilled and tapped the chimney 8 BA before fixing the bracket with a 9 BA headed bolt. 10 BA would be better but I didn't have any. The lamp is a Finescale one and another time I would mount the bracket about 3mm lower......

Bertie came with a painted dome and Roundhouse offer these in brass. However I had an old Katie dome, so I re-profiled it by bending down the wings a bit and I rather like the result.

In the photos below, it is all just balanced together with the lubricator removed, as I am sending body off to deepest Wales.

Lining and More Enhancements

Well today I finally sent the Bertie body off to Tony Willmore for lining (still black edges with red lines!). Before I packed it I removed the works plates by dipping the panel in boiling water to soften the adhesive. They came off alright, with my thumbnail, but they still managed to take some paint off. I intend to pick out the letters in red to match the nameplate, also ordered via Tony from MDC Plates.

After the body was packed, I had a chat with Tom at Locoworks and agreed to send him the running plate for modification. So after taking a couple of photos and measurements, that went off in the post as well!

The Power Unit

For those who wonder what the Bertie power unit looks like, here it is:

Lining by Rhos Helyg Loco Works

Last saturday (7th jan 2012) Bertie's body arrived back from Tony Willmore who had appled a red lining with black edge. Unlike some Bertie lining jobs seen on the Internet, Tony had fully lined out the side of the cab which works really well. I had requested that the front of the tank be black, rather than lined, and that the back of the cab was a simple, single panel job. Needless to say I am very pleased indeed and the whole job, including a satin varnish coat and postage, gave me change out of £100.

Here you can see it balanced together again, waiting for the running plate, name plates and driver (and maybe some other stuff as yet undecided). The works plates were given a quick red spray and then cleaned off to show red lettering. The chimney isn't leaning forward - that's the wide angle lense effect!

There will need to be decisions about the cab handrails and the tank handrail knobs. Brass? Painted green? Brass blacked? I shall wait for the other bits before deciding.

Cab Rear Doors

As I am on light duties at the moment, i thought I would made a simple "door" to fill in the back opening. It is just a piece of 0.8mm brass cut to the exact size of the opening and with two flanges soldered on to the back along the vertical edges. This just pushes into position and is held by the gas jet holder, which is right up against the opening. In fact I needed to ease the rear handrail holes (as the knobs hold the cab back on) so the I could move the cab back out a little. I scored a line down the centre - but not deep enough so I had to highlight it with a black line. I milled the slots to represent grab holes. Sadly the varnish which I thought was "satin" turned out to be matt.....

Here it is, and I have to admit that it makes the back look a bit plain. It might be better to have "sliding doors" clipping on the outside. I say clipping, because they need to be removed to access the screw and jet if removing the body.

Oh yes, I have also changed the brass cab handrails for blued steel to match the tank one.

The rear door saga continues as I bought the wrong Humbrol satin varnish which was for enamels. The paint then looked too dark and the finish was aweful. It will have to be stripped again. Anyway, here is a photo of the inside so you can see the construction.

Cab Interior

I finally took the plunge and tackled the cab interior paintwork. On other locos i have taken the view that if it is dark inside, it doesn't draw attention to all the overscale gubbins, but i do like the look of cream and so gave it a go.

I chose a tinlet of Humbrol matt cream enamel and my first task was to mix it. Just stirring had little effect and as I didn't fancy mechanical stirring, I decanted some paint and gunge and mixed it well with the brush before applying. I degreased the interior with white spirit and then masked the edges to keep the paint within the cab and not on the nice new exterior paintwork. I used a mixture of the superb Tamiya tape - which worked - and standard stuff - which didn't. It needed three coats and for speed I baked at 80 degrees C between coats. It really did make the house smell of paint!

I then touched in the base flanges with matt black and tidied up some rough edges round the cab side windows. Here it is balanced back together and, of course, it dous make the gubbins inside more visible. On balance, I am pleased though.......

Handrails again

I decided to go for blackened handrail knobs to match the steel handrails. I gave them a light rub with OOO wire wool and then warmed them before dipping in an acid bath (you can soak in vinegar overnight. Then rinsed, warmed again and into the Carr's brass black for about 30 seconds (Read the warnings on the jar!!). When dry I gave a light polish with a soft cloth and the job was done.

And here they are installed:

Cylinder Covers

I used the Roundhouse cylinder covers and had sprayed them satin black, but decided that they should really be lined green. I masked and sprayed a green panel and the my good friend Roy Wood tried to line then with thinned Humbrol enamel using his bow pen. He failed as the lines insisted on spreading. I then masked them with Tamiya tape and then painted them with the Humbrol. I touched in the corners with a brush and, although they a a bit thicker than Tony's superb lining, they will blend back when I can find the right satin varnish. Unfortunately the Humbrol for acrylics reacts with the enamel, and the one for enamels is horrible!

After this we discovered that the water based Revell acrylic paint lines beautifully.........

Drivers and Spectacles

Bertie makes it difficult to have the all importand driver on board, as on the near side the steam pipe is in the way and on the off side, you either need to get at the regulator or the servo is in the way.

I contacted Rob Bennett, who makes the Busybodies drivers and discovered that he will sell the unpainted castings for £7, and so I decided that I would be more relaxed butchering a couple of these to fit. I also got one for Charles Pooter while I was about it.

For the near side, I used a saw to cut away a slot for the pipe and then painted the body using acrylics. I would probably have been better choosing a smaller driver, but I do like "Old Tom". For the off side, I wanted the driver facing backwards so it was a case of trimming back one leg on the bench sander.

Here, left to right are: Rob's original, modified body for the near side, unmodified body and modified body for the off side.

I had planned to use the original head for all of the bodies, but decided to have a go at copying the artist! Here, left to right are: Rob's original, my attempt for near side, and the off side driver with hook added to hook over the servo mount.

Bertie has good solid spectacle frames and thanks to David Turner (Dai) I was able to easily fit some 2mm thick glasses which he supplied. It was a simple matter of putting a little superglue round the inside of the frame, putting a support behind and then pressing the glass into place.

Here are the drivers (and spectacle glasses) in place:

Slidebar and Crosshead

The eagle eyed may have noticed that the cylinders have gained a single slidebar and crosshead in these photos. The slidebar was made by turning a brass ring to fit over the cylinder end cap and then drilling hles for the screws and a hole top and bottom to take 3mm steel rod. I cut lengths of this with bolt croppers and then cleaned up the ends on the bench sander (linisher). I made three, but on discovering just how hot they get, I threw one into the deepest recesses of my workshop with a merry shout!

I then silver soldered them ito the top and bottom holes and cut the ring in half to give me one for each cylinder. I then discovered I had made twoo for the same side, so had to unsolder one and re-fit it on the opposite side! They simply mount on the cylinder rear cover and are held by two of the screws (I will replace these with longer ones when they arrive.

I made the crossheads from a little brass strip eith the top edge bent over at a right angle. I then silver soldered some 5/32" brass tube in the angle and shaped them with a file. I had planned to paint them black, but then decided to black them with carr's Brass Black.

Here they are:

It would have been much easier to buy some from Roundhouse, but the ones for the Basic series locos come with a dummy combination lever which just doesn't look right to me.

After testing I decided that the brass should be black, so I removed them, degreased, etch primed and sprayed them satin black.

I decided to fit them with longer 8BA bolts with 9BA heads. I cut one to size and then found that the screws are metric! Luckily I had exactly the right ones in stock (I bought a job lot from a surplus store about 3 years ago!) and so i fitted these and gave them a dab of black paint.

Gas Valve

While waiting for the postman to come with the prototype parts from Tom Beattie's Locoworks, I decided that the gas valve knpb, seen clearly in the photo above, was just too obtrusive. Roundhouse do a replacement, but I just turned down the knob to remove the knurling and the end idiameter.I then silver soldered a handle and blackened it in Carr's Brass Black.

You can see it here:

Locoworks Enhancements

Well the postman brought lots of parts: a set of four springs with hangers, two sand boxes, four oilers with pipes, a lamp bracket for the back sheet and a pair of hooks for the fire irons. Most were already primed but I needed to maint them with acrylic car sprays. When in production, these parts would be supplied ready painted.

Here they are in the raw:

The springs fitted on very easily with a little superglue and I decided to paint and install one pair of the oilers. Tom tells me they should be brass, but I thought they would be black. The bracket and hooks were fitted to the backsheet using copper rivets superglued in. I used the Tag Gorton trick of putting masking tape on before marking and drilling. the rivetswere snipped off inside and given a dab of paint.

When I was happy with everything, I took the body off and painted the visible part of the boiler bands with etch primer and satin black. I then reassembled the loco and steam tested it to set the radio control before replacing the back "door". This was a real pain to fit as it has to be slid past the jet holder. I did file a little off this - but not enough as it is still a very tight fit. There must be a better solution!!

The nameplates are a pair of scrap plates that came with a loco (I assume it is pronounced PeeGee!). They do happen to be the same size as the HARRY ones on order, so with a quick clean up and paint they are acting as substitutes....

Anyway, here it is after the steam test and with Locoworks fire irons and with a piece of rusty chain added to give some purpose to the rather prominant front lamp brackets.

Summary to Date

Here is a list of the suppliers used and the parts I have made myself:

Anything Narrow Gauge
Simon Whenmouth supplied the loco secondhand. You can see his latest list on my website www.summerlands-chuffer.co.uk under the "Other Stuff" button.

Roundhouse Engineering
They will, of course supply the loco, but I purchased:

    Radio control fitting kit
    Chimney cap
    Cylinder covers (unpainted)
    Handrail knobs

They can also supply the slidebar and crosshead kit and a brass dome.

Locoworks  www.locoworks.co.uk
Tom Beattie developed and supplied:

    Rear lamp bracket
    Rear fire iron brackets
    Fire irons

Rhos Helyg Loco Works  www.rhoshelyg.me.uk
Tony Willmore lined and satin coated the main body (not the rear door or cylinder covers). In future I would send all the parts for him to do so that they match!

Rob Bennett supplied the unpainted drivers for me to butcher to fit.

PPS Steam Models www.pps-steam-models.co.uk
Alan Whitaker supplied the lamp.

I used their automotive satin black and Upol Acid Etch 8 primer where necessary.

D P Supplies  www.summerlands-chuffer.co.uk
Nigel Garrett made the SCRH1 Chuffer

Action Video

Bertie in Action

Expanation Videos

It is impossible to demonstrate everything on video - but here are a couple of films where I explain the modifications on the loco. They are primarily aimed at the beginner to loco modification and are totally unscripted, so i do ramble on a bit!

Roundhouse Bertie Part 6

Roundhouse Bertie Part 7


Nameplates are an essential part of the loco enhancement and have great potential for creating goodwill in the family. This loco arrived on the scene just a little before our first grandson Harrison Albert (to be known as Harry) so I just has to name this Bertie "Harry". I like the nameplates to be made from thick brass and so chose to go to MDC Plates via their agent Tony Willmore. He did warn me that they are etched in batches and therefore take a few weeks but I didn't order early enough to make allowance for Chritmas etc. and so the plates were not ready for the videos.

When they did arrive, they were spot on and, as you can see, look much better than the temporary ones. I stuck them on with clear silicone. Harry's great great granddad Bert is posing:

And here Bert's son Bertie (Harry's great granddad) is proudly posing for the photo:

Harry was so impressed that he insisted on having the T shirt!