KENNETH WELLS ENGINES

A site for all interested in researching, building or restoring Kenneth Wells-designed toy steam engines


In 1972, Kenneth George (Ken) Wells (19/10/28 - 24/6/08), the Master in charge of Metalwork at Manor Court School in Portsmouth - now renamed Springfield - authored a series of three books entitled 'Step by Step Metalwork' designed for use in schools and published by Evans Brothers Limited of London W.C.1. The third book contained two most interesting projects, namely the construction of working models of a stationary steam engine and a traction engine. The latter was obviously inspired by the Mamod TE1, which as it happens was voted Boy's Toy of the Year that very year, perhaps the most obvious difference being the omission of a scuttle on the Wells design. The stationary had distinct marine overtones, though to be truly such a unit its vertical engine would have been mounted  facing in the opposite direction.  Despite this reversal, Wells suggested in his notes that it could be used to power a model boat by engaging the protruding crankpin of the flywheel with the propeller shaft!



My own fascination with these "school engines" was sparked by an unidentified TE appearing in Ebay listings, which was clearly not a Mamod but not a million miles removed from the Malins classic. Some research showed it to be a Wells, and revealed how these intriguing little engines came into existence. When some time later another one in desperate need of some TLC was spotted, its charms were not to be resisted, and for the princely sum of £45 + postage it promptly winged its way from Wisbech to Wales, where some three months later it emerged resplendent from the shops having undergone a complete restoration! 


'Step by Step Metalwork 3' is now a rather rare and much sought after classic of its kind, and known to command very high prices when the occasional copy comes up for grabs. So when an excellent copy  was sourced on Amazon for just £19, it speedily joined the TE which had been built by its instructions! With appetite thus whetted, when a Wells stationary then came up for sale, mine was the winning bid. This has now been lovingly brought up to scratch, and mounted on a polished oak plinth. The collection has been supplemented with the acquisition of not only a second Wells stationary but a second and third Wells TE, this last complete with the Wells design of canopy on twisted columns! These three other engines either await or are in the process of full restoration. All five are featured in the Photo Gallery on this site, with some notes on each one.


UP-DATE 6/7/17: a fourth Wells TE arrived today to enter the collection! These engines are just SO irresistible - to me anyway! This has a very neat smokebox/chimney unit, which is not the usual amateur casting but looks like a quality factory-made item; the wheels too slightly differ from the standard Wells pattern, and also look like professional factory castings. Where these items hail from is a complete mystery, but they were obviously designed expressly for the Wells TE, presumably to allow a model to be built without the need for self-cast components. (If anyone has any information on a company supplying these items to schools, I'd be delighted to hear from you!) It is as a whole a well-made machine, which should really look very nice indeed when restored! Pictured below and in the Photo Gallery.

Contacts from former students of Mr. Wells:

From Geoff Seymour:

Hi, I was a student at Manor Court School and a member of Mr.Wells metal work classes. Just a few notes you may be interested in, the stationary engine was made first, then parts for the traction engine made. If time permitted the two were combined for marking for CSE exams. Due to the numbers in class, there was never enough time for the turning on the lathes for wheels etc, before end of class. All boilers were water pressure tested by a simple rig that Ken had built. Always interested to see the ends of the boiler bulge a little under the pressure. At the end of class students kept their project in an OXO tin, Kens store room had shelves of them. I never got to see the finished books, but maybe a M.Coates and my self are mentioned as we helped Ken with the photos and our fingers may well be in the pics. Many engines were never finished and I suspect that Ken binned what could not be salvaged or melted the alloy chimney, wheels for the next year's classes. Thank you, good to reminisce.

From David Berlanny:

Hi, I have just found your website after first finding the youtube videos. I was looking for the book but it seems to be very rare. Kenneth Wells was my metalwork teacher at Springfield school and we made the static engine with a cast frame. If you like I can send you a picture of mine and my fathers (he did an evening class!). Shame Mr Wells has passed away i owe a lot to him for nurturing my interest in engineering. Best regards David

The book that started the Kenneth Wells toy steam engine phenomenon:

Kenneth Wells and the other two books in the series:


CLICK HERE FOR THE CONSTRUCTION / RESTORATION RESOURCES PAGE


CLICK HERE FOR 20+ EMBEDDED VIDEOS,  AND 20+ FORUM THREAD LINKS AND TIPS TO BE FOUND ON THIS SITE


CLICK HERE FOR PICTURES AND DETAILS OF MY OWN KENNETH WELLS COLLECTION


CLICK HERE FOR THE KENNETH WELLS PAGE ON THE 'TOY STEAM BIBLE' SITE


CLICK HERE FOR THE WELLS PAGE ON ROLY WILLIAMS' SITE. THIS HAS LINKS TO HIS PAGES ON THE STATIONARY ENGINE WITH A CAST FRAME, THE STATIONARY ENGINE WITH A BENT STEEL FRAME, AND THE TRACTION ENGINE, AS RESTORED AND FEATURED IN HIS STEAM COLLECTION.


Get in touch, using the CONTACT FORM I'd be delighted to hear from you!

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