Curly Lawrence

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Lillian "Curly" Lawrence, known as LBSC, was one of Britain's most prolific and well known model or scale-steam-locomotive designers.[1] LBSC were the initials of Britain's London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.[1] LBSC, “Curly” to his friends, was born 27 September 1883 and christened William Morris Benjamin later changing his surname to Mathieson when his father changed the family name.[2] After 1902 William changed his name to Lillian Lawrence; why he chose a female name is unclear. In 1908 he married Sarah Munt otherwise known as Mabel. Curly loved steam locomotives from the time he was a child and spent several years in the employ of the LBSC Railway, from which he later adopted his pen name.

Battle of the boilers[edit]

The turning point in LBSC’s life was in 1922 when he sparked what became known as the "battle of the boilers" with Henry Greenly. Within two and half years he was established as one of the top professionals in scale or model engineering. LBSC’s contention was that scale locomotives should be fitted with fire-tube boilers modeled very closely on full size locomotive practice i.e. be coal fired, with multiple fire-tubes and a number of superheater elements, as compared with then commercial and hobbyist practice of building spirit fuelled, water-tube boilers.

LBSC’s live steam locomotive type boilers proved to be outstanding steamers, quite capable of hauling real passengers. His 2½ inch gauge four coupled wheel locomotive, Ayesha (named after a character in the novel She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard), could haul 200 lb, when the equivalent sized spirit fired water-tube locomotives of the day could only haul 30 lb. LBSC demonstrated this locomotive at the Society of Model & Experimental Engineers meeting in London in July 1922, as a result of which he was invited to contribute an article to Model Engineer magazine describing its construction.[3] A further challenge in 1924 – the "battle of the boilers" – between a Henry Greenly designed Bassett-Lowke spirit fired locomotive and one of LBSC’s finally vindicated his claims although it led to a lifelong animosity between him and Greenly.[4] Ayesha, now owned by The National 2½ in Gauge Association,[5] was steamed in June 2016 for the first time in more than 50 years, and after little more than a hydraulic boiler test ran successfully more than 90 years after the locomotive was built by LBSC.[6] To see photos of this historic locomotive see John Baguley's website [7]


LBSC then wrote construction articles for various British model engineering magazines from 1923 until 1967, very shortly before his death, including nearly 2,600 articles for Model Engineer Magazine from January 1922 (initially in the form of letters to the Editor and then from April 1923 as a full-time contributor) to May 1959 and then again from January 1966 until October 1967. During this time, LBSC designed 166 different locomotives,[8] ranging from 0 gauge up to 5 inch gauge, building over 50 himself.[9] Many of these designs are still available today as sets of drawings,[10][11] and some were later produced in book form,[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

Track gauges[edit]

Before LBSC started publishing in the 1920s, model locomotive practice had been divided into two camps. The first encompassed steam locomotives that ran on a gauge of 10¼ inch or greater which followed full scale practice in terms of boiler design and operation, as exemplified by the 15 inch gauge, Henry Greenly designed Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent. The second encompassed locomotives that were of 2½ inch gauge or less which truly were models i.e. were meant only to look like full size locomotives and ran with spirit fired boilers, typified by those manufactured by Bassett-Lowke. These latter locomotives were usually run in realistic looking garden railway layouts hauling groups of model carriages around the track. The gauges between 2½ and 10¼ inch essentially did not exist. The advent of LBSC’s designs that could haul their full size drivers, although a lot less realistic than a “model” railway, were much more fun. As the design of true locomotive type boilers in the smaller scales (0, 1¾ and 2½ inch gauges) improved, so the scale increased with many designs then being built to the larger 3½, 5 and 7¼ inch gauges. This is reflected in the spread of LBSC’s designs; in the 1920s he did 27 designs in the smaller scales versus only 1 of 3½ inch or larger, in the 1930s 50 designs in the smaller scales versus 7 in the larger, in the 1940s 17 versus 19, 1950s 10 versus 21 and finally in the 1960s 2 versus 5.[8] Within model engineering circles other well known contemporary British designer / builders in these mid-size gauges included Harry Jackson and Harry Clarkson.


It was LBSC's contention that any person with enough desire could build a working steam locomotive. Many of his designs were based on actual engines, though they were usually modified and often simplified for the home builder. All were robust in nature and good performers. His notes on various aspects of locomotive construction were compiled into a book called "Shop, Shed, and Road",[12] first published in 1929 still considered to be a standard reference for the model engineer. Through his articles LBSC introduced many enthusiasts to the joys of machine shop work and miniature steam locomotives. "An enigmatic character, not to mention one who had almost no ability to tolerate criticism of his work, he nevertheless had a natural empathy with his readers and a remarkable knack of making the most complicated workshop procedures sound utterly straightforward".[19] There are countless locomotives built to his plans still operating on tracks around the world. He died on 4 November 1967 having made his last contribution to Model Engineer Magazine only one month before. LBSC's legacy includes 113 published and 29 unpublished designs, including some of the most popular ones as follows.[9]

2½ inch gauge[edit]

3½ inch gauge[edit]

5 inch gauge[edit]

Published books[edit]

  • LBSC (2004) [1929]. Shop, Shed and Road - The Live Steam Book. TEE Publishing. ISBN 1-85761-121-7. 
  • LBSC (1960) [1934]. Betty, The Mongoliper 2-6-2 in 3½ inch Gauge. Model & Allied Publications. 
  • LBSC (1960) [1949]. How to Build Princess Marina, LMS 2-6-0 Mogul in 3½ inch Gauge. Model & Allied Publications. 
  • LBSC (1978) [1960]. Building Speedy, A GW 0-6-0 Tank in 5 inch Gauge. TEE Publishing. ISBN 0-85242-538-4. 
  • LBSC (1975). LBSC's famous 4-4-0 Virginia. Model & Allied Publications. ISBN 0-85242-411-6. 
  • LBSC (1977). Maisie, Words and Music. TEE Publishing. 
  • LBSC; Martin Evans (1976) [1968]. Simple Locomotive Building - Introducing LBSC's Tich. Model & Allied Publications. ISBN 0-85242-786-7. 
  • Martin Evans; LBSC (1980). Evening Star - Building a 3½ inch Gauge BR 2-10-0 Locomotive. Argus Books. ISBN 0-85242-634-8. 
  • LBSC (1922–1967). "approx. 2,600 articles for". Model Engineer magazine. currently published by MyHobbyStore, Orpington, Kent, UK. 


  1. ^ a b Horovitz, Marc (April 2002). "LBSC's "Small Bass"". Sidestreet Bannerworks. 
  2. ^ Johnson, Geoff; Pollard, Ian (January 2006). "Who was LBSC?" (PDF). Engineering in Miniature. 
  3. ^ "Building a 1/2-in. Scale Locomotive Boiler". Model Engineer. 48 (1147): 391. 19 April 1923.  and "Building a 1/2-in. Scale Locomotive Boiler". Model Engineer. 48 (1148): 419. 26 April 1923. 
  4. ^ "The "Challenger" and the "Atlantic"". Model Engineer. 50 (1187): 102. 24 January 1924.  and "Which End of the Argument? (Battle of the Boilers)". Model Engineer. 50 (1191): 224. 21 February 1924. 
  5. ^ The National 2½ in Gauge Association, (retrieved 2016-6-16)[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Model Engineering Clearing House web forum Ayesha thread (retrieved 2016-6-16)[1]
  7. ^ Baguley, John (June 2016). "LBSC's "Ayesha"". John Baguley. 
  8. ^ a b Hollingsworth, Brian (2003) [1982]. LBSC His Life and Locomotives. Camden Miniature Steam Services. pp. 103–106. ISBN 0-9536523-5-1. 
  9. ^ a b Hollingsworth, 2003
  10. ^ MyHobbyStore the current publisher of Model Engineer Magazine (retrieved 2010-6-23)[2]
  11. ^ Reeves2000 - Model Engineers (retrieved 2010-6-23) Archived 16 July 2011 at
  12. ^ a b LBSC, Shop, Shed and Road - The Live Steam Book
  13. ^ LBSC & Evans, Simple Locomotive Building - Introducing LBSC's Tich
  14. ^ LBSC, How to build Princess Marina
  15. ^ LBSC, Building Speedy
  16. ^ LBSC, Betty
  17. ^ LBSC, Maisie, Words and Music
  18. ^ Evans & LBSC, Evening Star
  19. ^ Palmer, Mike. "Designs of LBSC". Station Road Steam. Archived from the original on 7 May 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2010.