Catch Me Who Can, from the 1808 admission ticket - from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons

Old News

Progress Report - 31st August 2015

We were offered the helpful advice that a hardboard ashpan (see below) might not last very long, so the steel one is starting to take shape.

Progress Report - 6th August 2015

The photo shows Catch Me Who Can at Bridgnorth Station platform during the late February carriage shunting. There is video on the Bridgnorth Station Facebook page, giving some impression of how the engine will look when running.

The charity number in our page footer has changed today. We have taken advantage of the recent introduction of a new form of charity. We are now a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, instead of a Charitable Association! There are advantages to this new form of charity of a technical and legal nature not worth expanding on here.

Work continues on the engine. A grab rail has been fitted below the control handles to give the driver something to hold on to while operating the engine. A liner for the drawbar hole, and two further reinforcing plates have been fitted to the buffer beam. Kick boards have been made and fitted at the bottom of the footplate side railings (to protect the crew's feet from the revolving wheels). The footplate steps are being fitted temporarily, and work has started on making an ashpan, with some of the steel sheet cut to profile with a plasma torch. A hardboard mock-up ashpan was made to check the rather awkward shape necessary to clear the drag-box frame.


Progress Report - 23rd February 2015

Catch Me Who Can returned safely from Holland in late September last year and is currently sheeted up for the winter. However, it looks as though the sheet will have to come off soon. The engine shares the Cattle Dock siding with several carriages undergoing restoration, and a shunting session is imminent as one of the carriages is nearly finished.

Catch Me Who Can to go on holiday - 28th June 2014

This year marks the 175th anniversary of railways in Holland, and the Dutch national railway museum, Het Spoorwegmuseum in Utrecht, is putting on an exhibition which will feature quite a gathering of early locomotives and replicas, including Sans Pareil from NRM Shildon, Locomotion No 1 from Beamish, and Catch Me Who Can. The engine will be leaving in mid July and returning shortly after the SVR Autumn Gala in late September. We are giving the engine a thorough wash and brush-up for this trip, including a rapid repaint.

The group of smaller parts for the footplate are now virtually complete and awaiting final welding of the section of railings across the back of the footplate.

Progress Report - 24th March 2014 - Spring Gala at the SVR

In the week before the Severn Valley Railway Spring Gala we had a working party to remove the tarpaulin and its supporting tent frame (taking it off is so much easier than putting it on) and to give Catch Me Who Can a clean to be presentable for visitors. The weather for the gala was much better than last year's blizzards, although still quite squally on the Friday & Saturday. Sunday turned out to be quite a pleasant day to man our stand on the platform at Bridgnorth.

Over the winter we have been making steel fabrications for a variety of smaller parts including the footplate steps and some brackets for mounting the air-brake receivers under the footplate.

Progress Report - 4th December 2013 - Winter cover

To give the engine some protection over the winter we have covered it with a plastic 'tarpaulin'. Catch Me Who Can is an odd shape and has lots of corners, and we decided to make a wooden frame to fit over it so the sheet could be draped reasonably safely. In turn, the corners of the frame were padded with layers of thick cloth to cushion the sheet. The engine is tall, short and narrow, which makes tying down the sheet difficult because there is so much spare material at each corner.

Progress Report - 31st October 2013 - Railings

The footplate railing are taking shape, with the side sections now welded up, dressed, painted and fitted. The doors are also welded complete, but will stay in primer until the latch is finalised. The door in the photo is lying on its back, the round tube forming the hinge.

In the upper picture some of the footplate boards have been removed. Although they were given some room for movement, the recent wet weather has shown that there was not enough. The boards have been trimmed and are now back on the engine.

After much discussion we have settled on using an injector to provide the second boiler feed source, even though there would be fifty years between Catch Me Who Can and Henri Giffard's patenting the apparatus. Injectors for models are quite cheap, so we have obtained the largest available of these, rated at 8 pints (4.5 litres) per minute. The traditional sizing, from Giffard's day, is on the bore diameter of the delivery cone throat (in mm) as the area of the throat determines the flow rate. On this basis, ours is a No.1¾. Smaller SVR locomotives typically have No.8 injectors (8 mm throat), which would have about 20 times the throughput.

We have very nearly completed erecting a bespoke wooden tent frame over the engine. This will enable us to put a sheet over for winter protection. The framework should frustrate the sheet in its endeavour to collect pockets of water and protect it from the sharp bits on the engine.

Progress Report - 28th July 2013 - Footplate completed

Once a hole had been cut in the middle of the buffer beam, the footplate framework could be bolted in place. This entailed enlarging the bolt holes that had been pre-drilled in the timbers at the inboard end, as these proved to be very tight, and to need a bit of adjustment.

The footplate decking is edged all round with steel angle. This angle forms the base of the side and back railings. The large section for the back has been formed up for some time. We have now trimmed this to final size and made up the shorter L-shaped sections of angle for the side railings, have devised a neat way of fastening the sections together so that they can be dismantled when necessary, and have done some really bad welding to stick the bits together, at least temporarily.

To deck the footplate, we have managed to scrounge some oak flooring, rejected by its intended customer, which only cost us a fairly long trip to fetch it. From the material we collected it was possible to select just enough pieces to do the job. We have now cut the decking to fit, rebated the edges to take the railing angles, and screwed the boards down.

We have also temporarily fixed the railing angles in place. They will have to come off for the next major job - welding the railings.

A start has also been made on tackling a number of small jobs that never quite got finished.

Progress Report - 30th April 2013 - Footplate Frame trial fitting

We have now finish painted most of the footplate ironmongery. We have screwcut the bottom ends of the angled tie-bars and formed the awkward 60° bend at the top. The lagging has been cut away to accept the eyes of the tie-bars, and the lower cross beam drilled for the tie-bars to pass through. We have removed the drag box, drilled it for the drawbar and re-fitted it. With all this done, it was hard to find any convincing reasons for not doing a trial assembly. It all went together quite nicely, and now we know it does, it will all have to come off again to finish some of the details. Fitting this frame is a small progress landmark and there will now be another period of little apparent change while a lot of work is done to prepare the next phase.

It was pleasing today to have a working party of four volunteers. This has allowed us also to resume work on the footplate railings.

To deck the footplate we need durable hardwood boards to cover an area 1.6m x 1.2m and about 20 to 25 mm thick. If anyone has some spare, or would like to make the engine a present, please email us.

Earlier in April we had a visit from a Japanese gentleman who, during his working life, had been involved at the other end of the scale of railway technology, with the production of axles for the Bullet trains. Related to some subsequent research work on fatigue cracking, he was trying to track down historically the transition from wheels rotating on a fixed axle to wheels fixed on a rotating axle.

Progress Report - 27th March 2013 - More work on the Footplate Frame

Nearly all the steel pieces for the footplate frame have been made and are now about half way through painting. Six pieces have been shaped from plate and drilled, four pieces cut from angle and drilled, and four pieces forged to shape. Several of the drilled holes had to be filed square, to take carriage bolts. For one pair of plates the awkwardly situated existing holes on the engine had to be measured for position to get an accurate match. Templates were made in hardboard to check the measurements before messing up the real bits. The oak pieces have also been drilled ready for assembly, and have been liberally mopped, several times, with raw linseed oil.

The tie-bars are the most complicated parts to make, and the tricky blacksmithing job of forging the tight bends to make the eyes is done. They still need welding to join the eye into a complete ring, they need another fairly tight and accurate bend to set them at the correct angle of dangle, and the bottom ends have to be screwcut.

Before the footplate frame can be assembled on the engine, the drag-box will have to come off, as it still needs drilling for the drawbar.

Progress Report - 30th January 2013 - Footplate Frame

The winter weather has not prevented good progress recently. With the use of a reasonably comfortable home workshop, the joinery on the footplate frame has been completed over the last couple of months.

To explain this structure, it surrounds the steel A-frame drag-box, which can be seen in the photo on the home page, below the boiler barrel and between the rear wheels. The front of the footplate frame (on the left in the smaller photo) will be bolted to the same brackets as the drag-box. The main weight of the footplate will be taken by long 1"-diameter steel tie-bars running down at an angle from quite high up on the boiler back. The tie bars will pass clear of the wheel rims, just outside each pair of side-beams, through drilled holes in the lower, angled cross-beam, with load spreading steel pads and adjusting nuts underneath to take the weight. The angle of the cross-beam matches that of the tie-bars.

The footplate boarding will span the top side-beams, with a clearance over the drag-box so that a bit of spring in the boards will take some of the jarring out of the ride. For convenience, and in the absence of a better name, we are calling the big piece across the back the buffer-beam, even though the engine will not, in fact, have buffers. Also now made, but not shown in the photos, are two small packing pieces that go between the side-beams just inside the buffer-beam. The timber framework will be assembled with brackets and bolts - it will not be glued, but the side-member tenons passing through the buffer beam will be fitted with the usual wedges to keep the joints tight.

Before the frame can be fitted to the engine we need to complete the ironmongery that holds it all together, drill the bolt holes, and make a hole for the drawbar in the middle of the buffer beam. The steel parts will need the usual six coats of paint before assembly, so it will be a few weeks before we can fit it on the engine and post a picture to clarify how it all fits together for those thoroughly confused by the explanation above.

Progress Report - 30th November 2012 - Footplate

Work has started on the oak framing for the footplate. A year or more ago we were kindly offered some left-over pieces by the SVR Permanent Way Department. Having the core of the tree running up the middle of each piece meant that they were prone to splitting and warping and not much use to them, but on looking a potential gift-horse in the mouth it appeared that we could get some useful sections, just the right length, out of them.

On taking up the offer, we had the slabs drying out for a couple of months, and then by careful examination and slitting lengthwise to cut out the cores we have obtained four good pieces that will serve very nicely for the side beams. Since slitting, these have had a further month or so to condition before being planed.

After a lot of enquiries we have finally taken the plunge and spent very nearly £100 on a single piece of oak for the buffer beam. As the photo shows, it is a nice piece, straight grained and clear of knots. Also shown are the four side beams, planed, and an extra bit that will be used to make spacers between the side members. Two of the side beams are profiled, and the shape has been roughly band-sawn to help with getting the maximum thickness out of the material. We still need a piece about 3" square and 5' long for a cross-member. Does anyone have a gate post to spare?

The four mortices in the buffer beam, to take the ends of the side beams, have been marked out (with care) and the bulk of the material taken out by chain drilling. Meanwhile other members of the team have been taking advantage of the occasional fine day to get some paint on the parts that will be covered by the footplate, and to prepare some of the metal plates and bracketry that will hold the frame together. We also need a supply of black carriage bolts, ideally ½″ or 58″ Whitworth thread.

Recent Steamings

We had a most enjoyable weekend at the Newcomen Engine Tercentenary at the Black Country Living Museum on 14 & July. A fuller report and pictures to follow.

We also had a good time at The Kinver Society of Model Engineers' 50th jubilee on 28 & 29 July. Again we were very well looked after by the catering department of members' ladies, and some of us even went for a ride behind one of the many model locomotives running on the track.

Completing a busy social diary, Catch Me Who Can appeared at the rescheduled and relocated Bridgnorth The Rally in The Valley held on 11 & 12 August. While the enforced last minute changes meant attendance was not huge this time, the new venue has great potential.

Progress Report - 6th July 2012 - Insurance examination

Most of June has been taken up with the annual boiler insurance examinations, which were successfully completed on 5th July.

Progress Report - 27th May 2012 - fitting the chimney

Although the lagging still needs some detail attention, this month we moved on to fitting the chimney as it has been cluttering up the shed for quite some time. The angles for the chimney stays were worked out and holes drilled and tapped in the top collar for stay fixing studs. The chimney was linished, degreased and given a coat of heat-resistant black paint.

With the help of the SVR's JCB forklift and volunteer drivers, we were able to try the chimney in position and make some adjustments to give a snug fit over the damper shaft, so that it moves, but with a minimum clearance (air leaks reduce the draw of the chimney).

With the chimney in place we turned to its stays. Eyes to fit over the tops of the guide bars were made from a left-over piece of wide strip, and these were butt-welded to the narrower strip for the main length. Near the eye end we put a quarter-turn twist in the strip. Now, if the engine were sitting truly level, it would be easy to set the chimney plumb, but there is a spring one end and not the other, the engine will not sit level until finished and full of water (if then). After a lot of discussion and prevarication, the chimney was set, by eye, at a matching tilt, so that the lengths of the stays could be measured. They were marked, drilled, the ends heated and bent round an ad-hoc former, cut to length, and drilled again for the second bolt. With the benefit of short daily visits, the stays have received the standard six coats of paint, and have now been fitted.

With the removable top section of the chimney dropped into place, and with the stays fitted, we think the proportions of the engine are at last being revealed.

Progress Report - 25th April 2012 - the lagging goes back on

We were pleased to get all the wooden lagging and the steel boiler bands fitted in a day. A couple of adjustable webbing load straps are slung round the boiler and about eighty numbered pieces of wood are (mostly) pushed endways under the straps into the right place in the right order. While most of the interlocking lagging strips are a single length some need two or more pieces because of obstacles on the boiler. One slat at the very top is in five separate pieces, the smallest of which is not two inches square. In many places it resembles a Chinese puzzle, with one or more pieces having to be inserted and then shifted up or down into the correct position before intermediate pieces can go in straight and lock the others in place. Periodically the load straps are relaxed enough to allow a few more pieces to be fitted without those already in place collapsing, which they are quite keen to do.

Once the wood is all on, the flat steel boiler band strips are passed one at a time over the top of the boiler and flexed round to fit the end back underneath. While one person presses the two ends together, another is able to put a long bolt through the bent up end tabs to join them. With an extra heave, a nut can just be got onto the end of the bolt. The whole band is then slid round the boiler to get the joint tucked away underneath and the bolt is slowly tightened in the narrow gap between the bottom of the boiler barrel and the top of the water tank. As it tightens, the band is periodically checked and tapped into alignment and the lagging strips checked to ensure they are settling into position properly. Finally the load straps can be removed.

The band close to the flanged joint does not go all the way underneath and will be joined at the top. The halves need to be cut to length and drilled before they can be fitted.

We have also reassembled the valve gear, which is easy. The bolt heads and nuts have been given a coat of primer and need further coats of paint to finish the job.

Progress Update - 31st March 2012 - mostly painting

The machined brake discs have been delivered, and an excellent job they look. The material was supplied and the machining carried out as a gift from William Horwood & Sons Ltd, who have a machine shop in Broseley.

The extraordinary fine weather during March has meant that we have been able to have several sessions in the yard, putting some more paint on the boiler barrel to protect it when hidden under the wooden lagging. Preparation, priming, and undercoat are all done, and a top coat of gloss is all that is needed before the lagging can go back in place. We have not used the modern heat resistant silver usually applied to boilers because it is incompatible with the existing paint, and we did not want to go to the trouble of removing all of that.

The walking stick guide is now finished. The last few weld runs actually went quite well, but with the number of poor runs and the amount of grinding out required to get a good job, there was quite a lot of distortion and the weld area had to be warmed up to bright red and 'bent straight' before machining the vertical leg to match the thickness of the top bit. Painting the valve gear parts is almost done.

Progress update - 29th February 2012 - a quiet month

Work in the last month or so has been confined to the valve gear. Some of it was a bit of a rush job to get the engine running for the Catch Me Who Can themed 2008 Bridgnorth Beer Festival. The 'walking-stick' valve operating rod was found to be slightly out of line, and has been straightened a bit too far, and back again several times in the attempt to improve matters. This should reduce a slight over-travel on the valve. The parts are now being painted.

The walking-stick carries the tappets that flip the 4-way valve at each end of the piston stroke to swap over which side of the piston is connected to steam and which to exhaust. The tappets are made of oak and have a thick leather wearing surface to reduce the impact. The leather facing on the lower tappet was a bit out of shape so a new one has been fitted. The photo shows the leather, which had just been soaked in hot water to soften it, being moulded to the correct shape before fitting to the business end of the tappet.

Work on the new walking-stick guide shoe continues, with your web-master having to renew his acquaintance with the dark art of arc welding. I do remember it as involving a lot of bad language and grinding out, but not quite this much. However, my last experience was brief, and 35 years ago. Since then, when I have needed a fabrication made, I have been able to just hand somebody else a drawing. This time I seem to have run out of somebodies. There is more welding to do on the footplate railings. Any competent welder reading this, please come forward.

Progress update - 20th January 2012 - more painting and stuff

We have finished painting all the wooden lagging strips, ready to be put back on the boiler when the weather is warmer. The photo shows a couple of our (unpaid) work-experience lads hard at it cleaning and painting. The steel bands and other associated bits of ironmongery have also been attended to.

The new chimney has been wire-brushed internally and liberally daubed with heat resistant silver paint. It will be protected from the direct heat of the exhaust gases by the inner chimney liner, so we expect the paint to protect the steel from corrosion for a reasonable time. A trial fitting over the damper shaft will be needed before the exterior is painted.

Meanwhile, some research is being carried out into early steam whistles, and a source identified for a suitable design for us to borrow. And a piece has been machined to replace the existing temporary arrangement for guiding the bottom end of the valve operating 'walking stick'.

Recent steamings

Progress update, 16th December 2011 - painting the woodwork

Work continues on the boiler lagging. After fitting all the pieces, everything has been taken off again, and moved into the warm of the paint shop to dry out. We have now had three painting days during December, and with more of the group able to contribute to this less technical work, the job is making very good progress. All the wood has been carefully cleaned with white spirit and has received one undercoat. More than two thirds of it has been given a second undercoat and a coat of 'chassis black' gloss. Once all the wood and the steel bands have been brought to this stage it can be reassembled on the boiler and a final coat of gloss applied in situ. This will have to wait until there is a spell of warmer weather next spring. There will be plenty of other work to do in the meantime, however.

Progress update, 31st October 2011 - lagging fitted

The wooden boiler lagging strips are all in place, and most of the inevitable minor adjustments have been made, some of these found necessary as the wood swells in the damper weather. With the strips in place, the girth has been measured and the steel retaining bands made and tried in place. These are the three black bands in the photo. An additional band will be fitted at the far end. Soon, it will be time to take the whole lot off again (carefully numbering the pieces as we go) so that each piece can have at least one more coat of paint all over.

Progress update, 5th August 2011 - more of the same

Work continues on fitting the lagging strips and making various bits of ironmongery to go with it. We now have all the strips fitted on the easy side. Many of the strips have to be cut to fit round various projections on the boiler and cut away at the back to fit over the mounting pads, but when the strips and bands are all in place they will artfully conceal everything, so it will be hard to see where all the work went.

Progress is also being made on the chimney, with the forging of an arm for the damper which will be fitted in the base of the chimney. This is quite different from later practice where the fire was controlled by restricting the air flow into it.

Progress update, 16 June 2011 - a start on the lagging

The first few wooden boiler cladding strips were easy. Now we have to start making cut-outs to fit round the numerous obstacles. When the job is finished, the strips will be held firmly in place by four outer steel bands. Until then we have to try to fit each strip without all those already in place collapsing in a heap. It looks as though it is going to be another 'educational' job.

Posed with the nameplate are the construction team of (left to right) Alan, Charles and Dave.

No, that is not the new chimney. And yes, we are still using that old cylinder cladding end cover as a chimney cover.

Progress update, 3 June 2011

Following the internal inspection, reassembly and steam testing, the boiler now has a clean bill of health, and a new inspection regime that means it will not need dismantling again for up to five years.

The chimney extension is now complete, with a discreet and workmanlike beading round the rim. The riveting crew have eventually got the job under control. At their last session they fitted all forty-two rivets in the longitudinal seam, at last completing that part of the job. We still need an entry gland for the exhaust pipe, bracing for the top of the chimney, and a damper in the bottom.

Progress update, 26 April 2011

The boiler is now virtually fully reassembled. The drag-box can be seen temporary mounted below the back of the boiler. This will eventually be hidden by the wooden footplate structure. Meanwhile, two very amateur riveters are progressing very slowly with the new chimney.

Progress update, 29 March 2011

The boiler inspection work is now complete and the flue and backhead assembly has been put back into the barrel. The boiler fittings have been serviced and are being fitted back on. The grate and firebox door plate have been refitted, and the engine should soon be ready to steam again.

The drag-box is virtually complete and ready to fit. The new chimney has been fitted with a central dummy joint ring, over 100 rivet holes have been drilled and the demountable top section (for headroom in transit) has been cut off. The chimney base elbow has had a ring fitted to provide a socket for the chimney, and has been re-worked to make it look less like a welded fabrication. The fire hole door has been altered so that it is hung from the opposite side, which will make it more convenient to fire the engine when the footplate has been fitted.

Boiler Inspection

The boiler has been dismantled for a periodic internal examination, and this affords a rare view of the characteristic return flue that Trevithick used extensively, particularly for portable engines. The larger drum is the firebox, from which the hot gases are carried round the return bend and along the smaller flue to the chimney.

One of the few problems with this type of boiler is that, as with a domestic hot water tank, as the water is heated it rises to the top, leaving cold water at the bottom. It tends to take a long time for the water to start circulating and mixing enough to heat evenly throughout. The three small tubes that run diagonally through the flue are siphon water tubes, intended to improve the water circulation.

Winter Work Programme 2010/11

We are not expecting to steam Catch Me Who Can again until well into 2011, by which time it should look rather different.

We have now gathered together most of the material needed to turn Catch Me Who Can into a finished, working, railway locomotive. The engine has been moved from its windy corner outside the paint shop into the MPD yard. We want to get it indoors as soon as space can be found for it in the loco shed, so that we can do some work on it in the dry during the winter.


We have worked out the details of the braking system and construction has started. While there is no evidence that the original was fitted with brakes, they are a modern requirement, and even if they were not, we are intending to do more than just go round a flat circular track, so the crew would want them anyway. The challenge was to produce an arrangement that would be effective but inconspicuous, and a thoroughly modern system of air-operated disc-brakes was chosen. The system is intended to be compatible with other early engine replicas and vehicles, and the controls will function just like modern railway air-brakes. Our system makes extensive use of lorry braking system parts which are available off-the-shelf, and we now have most of them to hand. We have been given two large slabs of good quality steel for the discs, and the donor is kindly machining them for us. We still have to make quite a number of parts to fit the system to the engine.

Boiler Lagging

Work has also started on lagging the boiler with hardwood strips. Other replicas of Trevithick's engines are not lagged, but it is known that he knew the advantage of lagging. It will considerably reduce the heat loss from the boiler, and that will mean we can get more power out of the engine. Steel 'crinoline' bands have been fitted to the boiler to provide a small air gap between the boiler drum and the lagging. An African hardwood called Idigbo was chosen for its fine, regular structure, stability, and low cost. This was machined to our profile by the supplier and has been cut to rough length and is in the process of being primed prior to fitting.


Also gradually taking shape are some very elegant railings to surround the footplate. The background image on the About us page shows the general idea. The photograph shows a demonstration assembly of part of the rear section. The curved pieces on the right are stabilising struts that will fix to the 'buffer beam' below and form fire-iron brackets at the top.


Until now we have been using a piece of scrap heating duct for a chimney. We now have a much more substantial rolled steel tube and work has started drilling a long line of 3/8" holes along the joint for riveting. When fitted, it will be braced near the top with ties to the guide bars.

So what else is there to do?


In the spring of 2010 we received some much needed funding from the Local Joint Committee as well as a most generous private donation. We are now in the happy position of having sufficient funds to finish the locomotive, although there is still a lot of skilled work to do, and not many people to do it.

We still need income, however. The next thing we will need to fund is the inaugural run of the finished locomotive. This will happen when it happens, with plenty of notice. Experience tells us to make no commitment about a completion date until it is much nearer. Work on the engine continues slowly but surely, and progress is made most weeks.