The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Harold Manwaring

Added to museum: 9/11/07

A former railroad employee builds a running model steam locomotive from wood

The completed 4-4-0 locomotive and tender are just over 3' long. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

About Harold Manwaring

Harold Manwaring turned 71 years old in 2007 and worked as a Fitter and Turner on the railway for 7-1/2 years. After leaving the railroad, he worked the rest of his career as a driver of trucks and large earth moving equipment. He says, “While on the railroad, I did a wide range of jobs. We used to make a lot of tools and worked on many different machines. All of these things I took great pride in doing and always did the best I could.”

Harold packs the tender for transport to a show.  (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Harold started turning wood about 10 years ago and made many bowls and other wooden items until the house had little room for any more, so he made his grandson a simple toy model of an engine. When was asked what he was going to do next, he said he might make one that worked on compressed air and was told it could not be done and would not work. This is the result. The model consists of 560 separate pieces and took about three years to make. Harold does not have a computer, and described the making of the locomotive in a hand-written letter accompanied by a CD containing digital photos taken by a friend.

Harold taught himself to use the woodworker's lathe and built a number of jigs for holding and drilling the wheels and journals. The engine has been entered in a woodworking show and has been displayed on occasion. It has run for about 2 hours and still goes really well. The working parts have had just enough oil to lubricate them.  Harold’s shop is not a fancy one. It consists of what he calls “an old shed,” and it is where he does his wood turning and where he made the steam locomotive model.

The main tools in Harold's shop include a lathe and a bandsaw. (Click on either photo to view a larger image.)

About the Locomotive

This page was included at the request of Colin Kanaley, Curator of the Broadway Museum in Junee, NSW, Australia. He has known Mr. Manwaring for many years, as the rural area of New South Wales where they come from only has a population of 4000, but he knows good craftsmanship when he sees it. Mr. Kanaley states that the loco is about 3 feet long (including tender) and is beautifully made entirely from recycled wood with the exception of a few metal parts and pins. Everything works as it sits with its driving wheels suspended slightly above the model track. Air from a compressor is fed at about 15 PSI to a small stainless steel receiver in the firebox. Lines to the two cylinders are wood, as are the cylinders and pistons themselves. The cylinders have a 1-1/8" bore and 1-1/2" stroke. The pistons are fitted with wooden piston rings about 1/16" thick—2 per cylinder in conventional automotive style. Colin states, "The engine runs perfectly and exhausts through the stack with a very satisfying 'chuffing' sound."

This small rendering in a book was Harold's main source of information to build his model.

Harold describes the making of the 4-4-0 model

The model is a 4-4-0 Locomotive. Henry R. Cambell, chief engineer of the Philadelphia, Germantown & Morristown Railroad designed and built the first 4-4-0 in 1837. This is an attempt by me to duplicate it. I used a print of this engine from a book on steam engines called Iron Horse, Steam Trains of the World by Peter Lorie and Colin Garratt. The original print in the book was only 4-1/2" in size. I used a magnifying glass, and for every 1/64" I made it 1/8". The wood and all materials except the light and reflectors are scrap materials and recycled. The woods used are as follows:

Desert Ash—all cream colored wood, it came from street trees removed by the Wagga Wagga City Council. It was the main timber used. Cabin, boiler, engine frame, cylinders, pistons, valves, wheels, connecting rods and all the air lines, connectors, pipes, ¼” drilled 1/8”, right angles and tie pieces 3/8" drilled 1/4". For extra strength I used Araldite two part epoxy and PVA woodworkers’ glue.

River Red Gum—Retrieved from on an old post and rail fence. It was used for all the red colored timber on the tender, cow catcher, cabin and boiler mountings

Olive wood—From our local “tip” (meaning “garbage dump” for us Americans…). It was used for the piston rings, eccentrics and whistle body.

Jarah wood—From some discarded as scrap I had in the shed. It was used for the spring hangers on the tender and posts to hold the tender on the end of the rail line.

Australian Red Cedar—from a piece I saved from an old bank that was turned into a residence. It was used for the rail line, three pieces fore each rail, and support for the light.

Queensland Maple—Out of an old cabinet on the way to the tip and used for the rail line sleepers.

 Osage Orange—Used for the wheel and rod in the door. It was the only timber I could put a thread on.

Also, the steel tube inside the body of the engine was made from two scraps of car muffler tube. The valves I fitted to this tube were made from old water tap spindles. Two ball bearings and two springs came out of a little electric motor, all were turned on the wood lathe.

I had to use as close tolerances as possible as compressed air does not expand like steam, but also taking into consideration humidity and how much the wood would move. Two air lines run from the cabin valves out to the whistle and one to the valves. The whistle blows at about 2-3 lbs of air and the engine runs really well at about 12-15 lbs of air and stops at 8-9 lbs. It worked on the first attempt, so I stopped and had a beer.

—Harold Manwaring

A steam traction engine from the pages of Model Engineer magazine

Harold's latest project—a functional wooden steam traction engine that runs on compressed air. (Click photo to view larger image.)

In May, 2013 Harold sent a flash drive containing video and photos of the construction of his latest large wooden steam project, a traction engine. Photos of the construction steps are provided in the photo section below. He says due to medical and personal reasons the traction engine will be his last big project, but the talented woodturner will be hard to stop.

CLICK HERE to view a YouTube video of the engine in action.

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Here are some photos of Harold's wooden locomotive and other woodworking projects:

(Click photo for larger image.)

Harold is seen here with the completed locomotive.
The finished engine, tender and section of track were photographed in his shop.
  These photos show the completed tender.

Building the 4-4-0 wooden steam locomotive

Wood for each part was selected for its color and hardness as would be appropriate for each part. Here is some of the raw stock.
The cylinder, piston and rings are shown individually and as an assembly.
Main components of the engine are laid out before assembly.
Due to their function in the working engine, certain parts had to be made from metal rather than wood. Shown here is a selection of some of these parts.
A metal "boiler" fits inside the wooden shell to contain the pressure from the compressor and feed it to the cylinders. The steel shell began life as an exhaust pipe from a car. Valve fittings are made from water line valves.
The major engine components are seen here as construction on the cab begins.
Components of a truck from the tender and the assembled truck with springs.
The completed tender.
Part of the drive mechanism and valve gear are shown on the left and the near finished cab on the right.
Additional photos of the finished locomotive with some details of the wheels, brakes, suspension and cylinder. Though we have seen several wooden models of trains, this is the first we have seen that has been given life and movement so it can be viewed running like the original.
Harold demonstrates running the train (27 sec., 5 Mb)

Harold demonstrates operation of the whistle (15 sec., 2.9 Mb)

Videos of the engine in operation

Click on the underlined links to the left to view MPG videos of the train in action. These were contributed by Veronica Cooper. They were shot during a visit to see Harold and his train while they were there for a railway reunion in Junee.

Building "Mary", a wooden walking beam steam engine

On June 2, 2009 we received photos and video of a stationary steam engine made entirely out of recycled wood that was recently completed by Mr. Manwaring. In keeping with the "recycled" theme even the drive belt is made from an old boot lace. Included here are some photos from Peter Boyton.
The photos above and to the left show the completed engine,. with the photos to the left show it before the surface finishes were applied. The engine was built based on plans in a book by Tubal Cain, a gift from his son. The completed engine stands 14" tall.
Building the walking beam engine...

The following photos show some of the parts in progress during the building of the engine. The flywheel is 12-1/2" in diameter and turned from a single piece of wood. Like his wooden locomotive, the engine ran perfectly on the first try.

Parts of the drive mechanism. Harold runs the engine on about 12-15 PSI air pressure, and the governor actually does control speed quite well regardless of the air pressure.
Internal valve parts and fluted support columns. The flutes were cut on the lathe using an indexing setup and a Dremel tool.
Parts of the flyball regulator mechanism and drive gears both unassembled and assembled. The gears were also cut using the indexing setup on the lathe and have 16 teeth each.
  Drive components laid out before assembly. Powdered graphite is used as a lubricant rather than oil, which has a tendency to make the wood parts swell.
Finally, the pivoting drive mechanism that mounts to the end of the beam and the beam itself, which is 12" long.

Single Cylinder Wooden Steam Traction Engine

The rear wheels are 9" in diameter and 2-1/16" wide.


Length: 27", Width: 12-3/8", Height: 16-7/8", Wheelbase: 15-3/4"

Cylinder Bore: 1-3/8", Stroke: 1-1/2"

Gear ratios: Low-16:1, High: 10:1

Number of individual parts made: 881

To build the wheels, first the spokes are cut using a scroll saw. Shaped blocks are glued to the outside of the turned wheel to make the treads.

Video of the engine in action can be seen at .

The boiler and smokestack are in place and sitting on the axels and wheels. Additional valve gear has been added in the second photo.
The crankshaft and gear shafts from beginning to final assembly. The tractor has two speeds in forward or reverse. The reversing lever can be seen in the upper left of the middle photo.
Details include strap type brakes on the main axel.
Drive gear teeth were cut with a scroll saw following a paper template glued to the wooden gear blank. The second photo shows some of the finished gears.

Wooden lines with hex compression fittings and bolt heads add nice detail to the mechanisms. note the many different colors and grains of wood used.

Harold notes that an excentric on the end of the crankshaft drives the shaft that works the water pump. A lever on the righthand side behind the brake wheel opens the water tap.

The steam tractor is shown here with previous projects, the Mary stationary beam engine and the steam locomotive and from both sides on its own when completed.

Steering is by means of a worm gear that wraps a chain on an axel, pulling the front axel in one direction or the other.

Wooden Hay Baler

CLICK HERE to watch a YouTube video of the baler in action!

To give the steam tractor something to do, Harold built this wooden hay baler. It is belt driven from the tractor's flywheel just like the real version. Harold's son Chris drew up the plans for this hay baler based on the ones made by the Ann Arbor Hay Press Company in Ann Arbor, Michigan starting in 1882. The factory moved to Shelbyville, IN in the 1920's and became a part of  the Oliver Farm Equipment Company in 1943. It eventually closed in 1970.
Wooden gears drive the mechanism. The second photo shows the gears in place.
  Making the wooden spoked wheels, axels and frame.
The hay is shoveled into this opening, where an arm comes down to compress it. Then a board comes forward and pushes the compressed hay into a chute where it is wrapped in baling wire and ejected from the rear of the baler.
The first photo shows the chute as the wrapped bales are fed out. The second photo shows the little finished bales. They are only about 4" long. CLICK HERE to see the baler in action.

Wood Turning and Other Projects

This toy train engine and tender was made for his grandson, Alex. It was also the inspiration for the larger, working engine.
A bowl measuring 12" diameter by 4" deep made from Iron Bark burl. The second photo shows the beautiful figuring of the grain inside the bowl.
This is a 5" ball on a stand. Both are made from Iron Bark burl.
A hollow vase made from mistletoe, which is actually a parasite that grows on other trees. Its sticky seeds are spread from tree to tree by birds. The unusual coloring is a result of the roots which grow around the tree branch.
These 14" tall salt and pepper mills were turned from Acacia.
This 5" diameter bowl is made from Osage Orange. It is left with a natural edge.
Made from a piece of Iron Bark burl, this clock is about 11" x 11" in size. The face was turned flat on the lathe.
A set of wine goblets on a stand, all turned from River Red Gum. The goblets are 2.5" in diameter and 6" tall. One is shown on its side so you can see how thin the side walls are. The stand has three round feet, only one of which shows in this photo.

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New Submissions Welcomed

If you have additional information on a project or builder shown on this site that your would like to contribute, please e-mail We also welcome new contributions. Please see our page at for a submission form and guidelines for submitting descriptive copy and photos for a new project.

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