Stu Martyn’s Workshop

Articles by Stu Martyn

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Stuart Martyn’s Engineering Story


Why did I become an Engineer and a model engineer on top of this – the answer is easy! I had completed my apprenticeship as an electrician, and looked at the Engineers in their nice garbs, with their clean hands, and decided on the spot to study part time to gain my Diploma. The extra take – home pay was the main attraction – stuff the status nonsense! 


Back in the late 60’s, I only had a basic education, Grade 8, so went to night school for 6 months to gain my Matriculation level needed to commence the external Uni course. Maths A, Maths B, Chem. English, Physics – four years High School work in that time!! Not bad for a bush kid! Took me 8 years (12 hours/week) to complete the 7-year part time Diploma, and in my final two years the course was phased out, and I then had to share with full time Uni students – meant I gained both the Diploma and a Bach Degree in Elect Eng. – luck of the draw.


 I’m not the usual type of Engineer. I’m more practical in my approach, and fortunate to be able to utilise lateral thinking and to see easy answers to most Engineering problems – I don’t let my mind become cluttered by formalities, big words, bullshit, or ever become in awe of myself, as do most other engineers!


 Any mug can make simple things appear difficult, and too many engineers fall for that ego style. When I was working with the American Company, GE, and while I was in the USA, I was offered the chance to gain a PhD in Science & Eng. at MIT. I took the offer and hence the added letters. Big deal! All that study didn’t make me any smarter and I haven’t used any of the so-called higher education at all in my years employed as an Engineer! But my Degree/Diploma allowed me to travel the World, to see places I had only dreamed about and to work on some really major projects – super big stuff! That’s where the real learning process began!


Too many people start a project and then lose interest halfway through and abandon it. What a waste of time and effort!  My advice is to do heaps of research, and to know your subject inside out, before commencing the job! AND, whatever you do, finish the job!


I mention my education history, mainly to give others some idea of the time and effort, not to mention the dedication, required for one to finally gain a higher education. In those 8 years of study for my Diploma/Degree I worked the normal 40-hour week – the course lessons were taken at night. I never took annual holidays apart from using them to swat for the annual exams! The layman tends to think that Degrees fall off trees – a mistake accentuated by the number of Honour Degrees issued to people. The layman tends to think that by joining a steam club with the name ‘Engineers’ incorporated in the club’s name, that he automatically becomes an Engineer! Model engineers don’t invent anything, they just generally copy, in scale, someone’s else’s design and previous work! That said, I do appreciate the skills of Tradesmen – after all I am first, a Tradesman – Elect Fitter/Mech.  We should respect those who have studied to become Engineers, with all they have given us as a community.


To become classed as a professional Eng. in Aus., one must reach certain educational standards – these are set and monitored by the Institute of Engineers Australia (IEAust). Professional Registered Engineers are also required to meet certain rigid ethical standards, if they fail, they are no longer on the Registered listing. Engineers are human as well and suffer the usual human failures such as big egos, bossy approaches, but they also have to deal with a lot of good or difficult people to get the job done. So, take them as you find them and try to learn something useful from them. No matter how good you may think you are, there is always somebody who knows more, and can do the job better!


What enticed me into joining the NDMES? Some 20 years ago I built my first live steam model loco – a gauge 1 Evening Star. I had nowhere to run this baby loco so visited a meeting of the local Garden Railways Club. Very disappointing! in those days this club had no track and were more interested in HO scale stuff, such as the tradition model train set – electric mice! A bloke named Ian Allison got me to one side and advised me to join the NDMES!


The NDMES opened up more avenues! I was given some bits and pieces and I cast my own wheels for a 5″gauge Speedy. I built the Speedy with many of my own modifications and ran it successfully. The modifications to the Speedy design included using made up copper screws (in lieu of rivets) to hold the copper boiler together while silver soldering it, the use of one-way clutches in lieu of the normal ratchet system, to drive the oil pump. The use of flexible hosing and fixed copper piping to automatically supply oil to the main bearings, and cams, from a central oil reservoir, the use of cast aluminium wheels fitted with steel shrunk on tyres, and so on.


I then decided to build a 6″ scale Wallis and Stevens steam tractor.  After the tractor I then built numerous small steam engines – My primary interest is in mechanical motions, and the steam era produced most of the mechanical motions we use today in all sorts of machines. So, the next logical step in my model building was to build small working steam engines of all types, with the technical challenges overcome in making these models. That adventure led me to build three road vehicles; a Stanley Steam car powered by live steam, a Stanley car powered by a lawn mower engine, and a replica of Henry Ford’s first car, the Quad. I almost forgot – I have built a small steam yacht – with a planked hull!


So, what you can learn from modelling is there is no upper limit! So have a go ya mug!