Scale model steam locomotive and tender, GNR Stirling 8ft Single, No. 5, 4-4-2 type, 2½ inch gauge, in glazed case, made by J S (Stanley) Beeson, Hampshire, England, 1976
This exquisite, finely-detailed, scale model locomotive represents the epitome of the model engineer's craft. It was made in England by James (Stanley) Beeson in 1976, thought to have been one of the world's finest railway modellers. The London auctioneers, Christie's, described Beeson as "the complete artist/engineer - a king of Faberge producing mechanical works of art which were his interpretation of the subject". Beeson's work is in private collections around the world and his clients included land and water speed record breaker Sir Malcolm Campbell as well as Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria.
It is fitting that this beautiful model, commissioned by the Australian collector, John L. "Jumbo" Goddard, is of an English Great Northern Railways' Stirling 8-footer 4-2-2 steam locomotive, as it is considered by enthusiasts to be one of the finest locomotive designs in history. The graceful lines, extreme elegance of the external proportions, long dome-less boiler, beautifully-shaped brass safety valve casing and the majestic sweep of the running plates over the large driving wheels all combine to produce a sight that is said to have few rivals for beauty in the full-size locomotive world.
The original full-size version of the locomotive, No. 5, was built at Doncaster, England, in 1873. The locomotive type was named after its designer, Patrick Stirling, who was Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Northern Railway from 1866 until his death in 1895. The "8-footer" refers to the diameter of the pair of single driving wheels which worked independently from the other wheels. This enabled the engine to run more freely at high speeds, compared with engines with wheels coupled together, and consequently was ideal for light express passenger trains. For many years the engine hauled the famous "Flying Scotsman", between London's Kings Cross station and York. Far from being just ornamental, during the 1880s these locomotives ran the fastest express locomotive services in the world and flew along at 74 mph (121 km/h). The introduction of new and heavier coaches in 1900 began to tax the single drivers, due to a reduction in adhesion to the rails. The Stirling 8-footers were replaced by Atlantic 4-4-2 locomotives which featured four coupled wheels in place of the single driving wheels and a considerably larger boiler.
Auction catalogue, Christie's South Kensington, "Exceptional Scientific & Engineering Works of Art, Instruments & Models", Wed 8 April, 1998, p. 85
Assistant Curator, Science & Industry
James Stanley Beeson (1907-1990) was one of three boys with an early interest in model making. He set up in business in 1924 and one of his commissions was for the manufacture of Pickfords' removal vans for publicity purposes. This led on to railways and at one time he was making locomotives and rolling stock for members of the leading North London, model railway club. By 1929 Beeson was supplying model trains for Hollywood films, unfortunately with them ending up being smashed to pieces. He went on to make locomotive models for British films, "The Rome Express" made in 1932, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 classic, "The Lady Vanishes".
Most of his models were produced before the Second World War in batches of six or twelve, and distributed through locomotive model manufacturers, including Bassett-Lowke, Edward Exley Ltd, Bonds of Euston Road, Milbro and Premier Models, and sold under their own names. These early engines were said to have been quite plain but beautifully made. Although he worked in the 4 mm and 10 mm scales, as well as 7.25 inch (18.4 cm) live steam models for garden railways, it was his 0-gauge 7 mm models for which he became famous. Beeson made all the wheels, mechanisms and castings for his models and painted them. His fittings were also available as individual items for enthusiasts wishing to make their own models.
After the War Beeson changed his raw materials from tin plate to nickel silver and much more attention was made to the model details, yet still retaining the same exquisite workmanship. By this time Beeson had a modest workshop with lathes and milling machines, however it was Beeson's outstanding ability to cut and manipulate metal with jeweller's piercing saws which made his model making so outstanding. One locomotive model could take 2,500 hours to complete. He was said to be a perfectionist and always considered his next locomotive would be his best. Beeson thought his best work and finest models were made from the 1960s onwards. By the 1970s he was said to be the leading railway model maker in Britain if not the world. Over a 55 year career he had made some 1600 models.
Auction catalogue, Christie's South Kensington, "Exceptional Scientific & Engineering Works of Art, Instruments & Models", Wed 8 April, 1998, p.85
Lewis, Brenda Ralph "Master of nostalgia", in "The Illustrated London News", Christmas 1977, pp19-21.
Levy, Allan "A Century of Model Trains", New Cavendish Books, London, 3rd edn, 1978
This model was commissioned to be made by John L. "Jumbo" Goddard, an Australian racing driver, eccentric and collector of vintage and thoroughbred cars and motorcycles, (especially Bentleys). Goddard also collected steam and marine models, aircraft engines and models as well as clocks and horological items. It was purchased by the Museum at an auction of the Goddard collection in 1984.