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0 Gauge Steam: Bassett Lowke Stanier Mogul

January 2, 2016

2/27/16: Today some new Lionel Fastrack arrived so that I could construct an oval having an increased radius of 3′, (from 2′) with 5′ straights. Pulling two Ace trains Stanier carriages, a cement wagon, a cattle wagon and a guard’s van (that’s all the goods rolling stock that I have), it managed 1590′ (0.3 Miles) at a scale speed of 79mph, just short of 10 minutes run time. Not bad at all! It is something like 80 years old. This run was achieved using the operating procedure given at the end of this post.

Bassett Lowke Stanier Mogul 1


This is one of the many “toys” that I inherited from my Dad. Bassett Lowke first issued it in 1926, it was reissued under Corgi in 2000 (or thereabouts). Until now, I have never run it successfully, nor did he. The problem was largely due to overfilling the boiler resulting in much of the fuel available being spent forcing oily water to spout out of the exhaust. This is a result of following the official directions! More on this below. Another issue was due to fuel spitting out of the fuel vent and catching fire. Such problems are common with these small spirit fired engines and many that I have seen while browsing the internet have burnt livery. Operating outdoors, it is hard to see a flare up until the paint starts to burn! ALWAYS have a soaking wet towel to hand.

The Basset Lowke recommended fuel load is 30cc and the water 150cc. Using 150cc of water, the boiler primes heavily at the start. After several runs I have found that there is sufficient water left after the fuel has gone if I use 100cc with 25cc of spirit. This reduced quantity of water does make getting under way quicker and less messy. I use boiling distilled water, boiling it means that less fuel is spent getting the water up to temperature. On lubrication, the Bassett Lowke instructions state to remove the two plugs in the lubricator and fill through one hole until oil runs out the other. This is FAR too much (about 8cc) and will completely exhaust the burner just trying to get the valves and cylinders clear. I use 5cc of steam oil.

I have counted the (18ft) laps the loco makes pulling two coaches, and the distance is 1400ft or a little over 1/4 mile. In scale miles this is 11.4 miles, quite good for a loco having no fuel and water replenishment! You may see her in action here.

Reversing is accomplished by a valve that swaps the steam and exhaust pipes around. Here’s a close up of the motion:

B-L Mogul, flycrank trailing

If the boiler is allowed to cool without any opening to atmosphere, it tends to draw in oily goop from the lubricator that will foul the inside of the boiler, impairing heat transfer. This can be avoided by opening the whistle when the burner goes out. I washed the boiler out many times using boiling water to clear this as much as I could, a lot of oil came out. If you turn the loco upside down (with the safety valve removed) put it in forward gear then rotate the wheels repeatedly using the palm of your hand in the reverse direction, it will expel the contents of the boiler via the safety valve hole.

After washing the boiler, I did the reverse process (with the safety valve installed) still using boiling water, to wash out the steam passages. I did this in both forward and reverse.

The valves and pistons have no seals instead relying on the viscosity of the oil. At the low operating pressure of 15 psi, this is completely effective, I see no steam leaks from either the valves or the piston rods. It is possible to get the pistons out of the cylinders, the rod end caps are a light press fit and may be carefully pried out if necessary. I did this during my efforts to wash out the steam circuit.

I found myself wondering about the state of the wicks in the burner. This is a simple vapourising spirit burner with a row of 16 jets (well, holes).
B-L Mogul burner

The wicks were in a nasty state. The carbonised mess at the top of the main wick meant that it was not wicking very well. I realised that this issue had contributed to the problem with fuel being expelled from the vent and catching fire. Even though the burn rate was far too slow, the loco would still get hot. Since the fuel was not being burnt quickly enough due to the fouled wick, the pressure in the fuel tank was rising resulting in expelled fuel. Like many things, it is all too obvious once seen. Here are the old main and vapourising wick with the type of ceramic wick material (left over from 35028  Clan Line) that I used to pack new wicks. If you replace your wicks, make sure that the vapouriser wick only protrudes something like 3/16″. If the vapouriser wick is too large, the ensuing large flame will simply rob air from the burner jet above it.

B-L Mogul old wicks

Here is the burner in the loco:

B-L Mogul Burner Alight

Here is the oily state of the loco after a run, at least we know that lubricant is getting through the valves and cylinders!

B-L Mogul oily after running

Ditto the lubricator:

B-L Mogul lubricator

So, to summarise, this is my recipe for operating this loco:

1/ Ensure that the lubricator is empty (see 10 below). This is important otherwise you will get oil into the boiler in the next step.

2/ Ensure that the boiler is empty, you can do this using the blow out procedure described earlier in this post. This step is to ensure that the boiler is not over filled due to adding the correct amount of water on top of residual water.

3/ Fill the lubricator with 5cc* of reputable steam oil. DO NOT use the prescribed method of filling until oil flows out of the second hole, it will be over full and the consequent hydraulic locking will make it extremely hard to start. Do this with the loco horizontal to avoid oil going into the boiler. Replace the plugs firmly. Since I changed to this method, the loco will self-start without any pushing. In comparison to how things were before I developed my own running procedure, this actually is miraculous!

4/ Add 100cc* HOT distilled water to the boiler and fit the safety valve. (BTW, the valve lifts at approximately 15 psi.)

5/ Add 25cc* of methylated spirit or wood alcohol to the burner tank, fit the fill plug firmly.

6/ Carefully install the burner into the loco. The jet bar goes up between the second and third axles. Ensure that it is locked in place.

7/ Using a taper through the rearmost slot in the frame, light the vapouriser wick. Wait about a minute and similarly, light the burner using a taper through the middle slot in the frames. You will need to light up in the shade otherwise it is impossible to tell when the burner has caught.

8/ KEEPING YOUR HEAD WELL AWAY FROM THE TOP OF THE LOCO, Place it on the track and wait.  When the loco tries to move, if necessary, you may help it to expel the condensate by pushing it from behind! However try waiting another minute, the loco may self-start.

9/ Open the whistle when the burner goes out. Leave it to cool.

10/ Once the loco has cooled, remove one of the plugs from the lubricator. Put it in forward and holding it front down, turn the wheels in the reverse direction using the palm of your hand to expel any residue from the lubricator.

11/ Replace the lubricator plug and remove the safety valve. Now, holding the loco upside down, turn the wheels in the opposite direction to the reverser setting and expel the remaining water from the boiler. This will ensure that the boiler is not over-filled the next time you fill it.

* These quantities were arrived at through many test runs. I purchased two ACE Trains Stanier coaches that are quite heavy and it was necessary to further refine the quantities, especially the oil. I made ABSOLUTELY SURE that there was water left in the boiler once the burner was exhausted. I also made sure that there was oil left in the lubricator. If you follow my guidance, it is UP TO YOU, to ENSURE that you have water left once the burner is exhausted. Do this by starting at 150cc and them come down in 10cc increments. I would no go below 100cc, the loco raises steam quickly and runs beautifully when starting from this level.

SAFETY! ALWAYS have a soaking wet towel to hand. This will save your loco and maybe more in the event of a flare up.

Suitable size O rings may be used to replace the fibre washers if they are torn.

Enjoy it running!

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  1. Hi Richard,
    Always delightful to read about your encounters. I had the chance to talk to my father in law who’s currently building up a LGB steam locomotive. He had the following input (translated from German):

    Most steam users fill the boiler completely and than use a syringe to extract a specific volume. This way the proper water level is easy to obtain.
    Regarding water usage, most of them don’t use 100 % distilled water as the copper boiler might be attacked by the ion-free water. They typically mix 25 % regular tab water with distilled water.
    Very god experience was made with Teflon tape (twirled up into a thread) as sealing for the working cylinders.
    The amount of water should always outlast the burner fluid to avoid overheating if the train stops inside a tunnel after the water is used up but the burner keeps running.

    PS: Many of the above things are probably already known to you but maybe some inspiration can still be found 🙂

  2. David permalink

    Hi Richard,

    I have run and restored classic cars, single-seater racing cars, vintage motorcycles and lately, vintage cars. Just lately I have decided that I have had enough, both of working under dirtyy greasy old cars in the cold ( they always expire in the burning heat of summer and have to be fettled in the cold of winter!) and to find something less taxing and more pleasurable in my dotage, so I have gone back into tinplate O Gauge. Just lately I have acquired a similar B-L Mogul to yours, in need of some fettling but if you want to run them, it seems to me a museum quality perfect “100 point” model is the last thing you want? After 50 years tinkering with various restorations, I have realised this is what I enjoy most! My wife was gutted when I sold the 356 I restored after driving it only twice! But it sounded like a Beetle, went like a Beetle and handled like a Beetle, very overrated cars!

    Your efforts with your loco have been an invaluable insight, I have no interest in super-detailed railway modelling, smacks of boys playing with dolls houses to me and I find the tinplate and pre-war stuff, like the cars, has a charm that is altogether missing in later stuff. I hope to run the Mogul in the garden with a rake of LMS coaches to replicate the Jacobite, which we have ridden on many times, even though we live in France!

    Keep up the good work, if you have any follow-up comments I should appreciate them,

    Kind regards,


  3. Terry Rowsell permalink

    Hi. Great advice. It has helped me with my old mogul. Do you happen to know the minimum radius curve it will run on? Mine will run on my 0-36 Lionel Fastrack with the pilot wheel removed – but not with it. Thanks, Terry

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