The Royal Chester and The Art of Model Engineering

The Allchin traction engine ‘Royal Chester’

The Royal Chester was the last traction engine made by Allchin of Northampton in 1925 and has been an inspiration to model engineers.

Allchin was founded in 1847 by William Allchin at the Globe Works in Northampton. The firm built its first steam engine in 1872. In 1900 the firm became William Allchin & Sons Ltd. The high quality of its manufacturing was greatly admired.

The Royal Chester was a 7hp general purpose agricultural traction engine. Her makers had intended to show her at the Royal Show at Chester in 1925 but sent a steam wagon instead. Nevertheless, the Royal Chester name has been associated with her ever since. W. J. Hughes first came across her in 1948 whilst out cycling looking for engines. She was in the yard of J.G. & B. Earnshaw, a firm of threshing contractors in east Derbyshire. The Earnshaw brothers allowed him to return often to measure the engine. Hughes would prepare a full set of blueprint drawings of all the component parts necessary to build a 1 1/2 inch scale model. Hughes was also responsible for persuading Chris Lambert, a pioneer preservationist, to buy her saving her from the fate of being cut up for scrap. Chris Lambert would restore her.

A live-steam 1 1/2 inch scale model of the Allchin traction engine ‘Royal Chester’

My whole life I have adored steam locomotives and traction engines: the drama of their scale, the smell and whoosh of steam and the characters of the different engines. All of these qualities are distilled in the scale model replicas.

The Royal Chester is one of the most famous Allchin engines and has been the standard upon which many model replicas have been based, like the example illustrated which sold in a specialist auction at Toovey’s for £1000.

Model engineers seek to construct fine scaled miniature working models of full sized machines. Castings are often purchased, finished and assembled by a model engineer with great attention to detail and accuracy based on drawings like those of W.J. Hughes. Model engineers often make live steam examples of locomotives, traction engines, stationary engines and marine engines.

Toovey’s toy and model specialist Chris Gale already has a number of live steam models entered for his next specialist sale on Wednesday 20th March 2023 and is inviting further entries.

Steam engines have such life and whether full-size or scale replicas they are engineered to the most remarkable tolerances and are highly valued.