By RACHEL MACDONALD
A model train carrying the Ohoka Meadows Logging Company badge has just taken away the People’s Choice Award and the coveted Best 7 Inch Award at the international Steam N’ Steel Convention in Hamilton.
Graeme Chisnall, the owner and builder of the museum-quality mini replica, designed to run on 71/4 gauge tracks, is surprised and delighted.
When Graeme bought the train, it was about 20% built.
He has since poured about 3000 hours, over 13 years, into the project, hand-turning and assembling the parts according to design instructions in a book on model Shay trains by locomotive hobby specialist Kozo Hiraoka.
“The Shay was an American logging and mining train, built from the 1920s to the 1930s. It had a three-cylinder engine, and geared drives on the wheels, which allowed it to go around really tight corners,” Graeme says.
“Hiraoka’s book contains plans for a 3-inch model, so I just doubled the dimensions.”
The result is a shiny little train, with 900 rivets holding the tender together and 60kg of copper in its boiler, which is fired by low-emission, imported Welsh coal.
However, when Graeme took it to Hamilton, complete with its tiny driver and-egg breakfast cooking on the stove was intending for it just to go on display.
However, once there, the temptation to stoke it up was too great. It has since run on three tracks on the way back home, clocking up 45km in the process, with just a few mechanical issues to be sorted out.
The thrill of building the Shay, and the model steam traction engine he is currently working on, is the engineering challenge, Graeme explains.
“Ever since I was a small boy, I’ve been pulling things apart to see how they worked. From cars to tourism-scale jetboats, machinery and its construction has always fascinated me.”
The next convention, in two years’ time, will be held at the Canterbury Model Engineers premises in Halswell, where Graeme is vice-president.
It is the biggest club in the country in terms of the model train rides on offer to the public, he says, with almost a kilometre of track already laid, and a bid before the council to put down another 750 metres of 5 inch and 7 inch rails.