Model Engineering

What is model engineering?

The beginning of model and experimental engineering is commonly related to the Industrial revolution, where models were made to demonstrate new ideas, or to assist in patent applications.
In broader terms, it can be traced much further back in time. Especially so in the marine world, where models of hulls were generally a pre-cursor to a full size vessel construction.

Hero’s “Turbine”

It could even be argued that the famous steam “turbine” built by Hero of Alexandria in around 40AD falls into the category of experimental engineering.
In the current day, there is a greater interest in modelling, as distinct from experimenting, although the latter does provide some very interesting results.




What is involved to get into model engineering?

An often heard comment on a public day is along the lines of “I wouldn’t have the patience to build that (usually a very complex locomotive)”!

While the top end of the model spectrum certainly does require a fair degree of dedication, knowledge, and time, what is being looked at is the culmination of a number of years of growth in experience and equipment.

As the Chinese saying goes, “every journey starts with a single step”.

Most model engineers start very much at the bottom end of experience and equipment.

It is not necessary to already be a skilled toolmaker.

Oscillating Engine

Simple projects are a way to begin.
This photo of a small oscillating engine was built by a 12y.o. admittedly with guidance from Dad.

Model Boat

Dad (when around age 14 himself) always had a bit of a leaning toward models, and made several “model” boats like the one in here, made totally out of scraps. In fact the funnel was the top of something like a detergent bottle.

These simple examples illustrates that model engineering can begin in a very small way. If you, or your children have an engineering bent, then model engineering is a way to foster and grow that interest.
The jump to bigger and better comes with joining a model engineering club, where there is an abundance of help to be had.

While SASMEE currently only has a limited workshop of its own dedicated to building models, the Society is actively engaged in a project to develop an expanded workshop capable of being used for training and model building assistance. SASMEE does have around 150 members. These members have an amazing range of skills. These vary from expertise in traditional machine shop work through to foundry, wood working, plastics skill, to the most modern 3D computing and printing, and computer controlled machining processes.

Anyone who has enough interest to want to start getting involved in the wonderful world of model and experimental engineering in this era has a large amount of resources available to them within SASMEE. Not only the knowledge base in SASMEE members, but in the commercial availability of tools (especially metal working) now available from machinery suppliers.

New Locomotive Frame

Earlier model engineers generally had a limited range of equipment, often having to rely on hand tools.
An example being marking out on steel, then hand hacksawing and filing the frames for a new locomotive, whereas today, doing a drawing in a computer aided drafting program, and having it laser cut to very close tolerances is the way to go.

Hopefully now having wet your appetite for modelling, you can talk to our members at a public field day, or send a request via our web email ( ) for more information about how to get involved in this rewarding hobby.



Here is a selection of models displayed at some of the SASMEE “show of Work” displays. These demonstrate the wide interest of our members.

A drag racing car

An experimental engine







SASMEE has a variety of modelling options. These range from several different gauges of trains, to model ships and boat, stationery engines, and any other device that might take your fancy in miniature.

A simple demo of Hero’s turbine principle

At the top end of the craft with years of experience, an aeroplane engine

Model Engineers helping the building of a full
size steam locomotive by casting the builder’s
plates in bronze.

Builders plate in bronze

Simple railway wagon built as a school metalwork project