About Steamplates

Here I am, running a 3" Scale Hunslet at a local club.

Steamplates is run by me, Steve Sparrow. I have been interested in Model Engineering and Welsh Narrow Gauge Railways most of my life, but only able to get involved over the last few years.

I run other business interests during the daytime, building Locos and later on the making accurate plates was very much of a hobby. Having become interested in CNC machinery and then moving on to make plates for friends and myself it wasn't long before I was being asked to make plates for others. It was time to move the project up to a business footing. I spent a long time perfecting the process, milling the lettering in relief is only a small part of what we do to make a good product. All of our plates are now polished, enamelled and finished on site.

Where it All Began

One of my Locos is a 4" Scale Milner Hunslet built by Milner's themselves, and powered by a Copper Boiler from the legendary John Ellis of Kinver.

Although I finished the loco off, made the nameplates and tender and then commissioned it, one little detail still irritated me.

As seen just about every miniature Hunslet I see, my Loco had incorrect works plate details 'No. 678 1898'. These numbers don't belong to Cloister but relate to 'Bernstein', later renamed 'Jonathan'.

The plates are quite are well made but must have been the only ones available off the shelf, clone style. They also have raised lettering instead of the correct, eariler type of plain polished brass plate with engraved lettering. It's a small point, but this always irritated me, and it shows the shortcomings of mass-produced 'off the shelf' plates. Although etched plates were easier to get at the time, they look rather 'flat' to me in a larger scale. The lack of bespoke plate making services for those larger scales gave me the idea to put things right on my Loco, and that led me to begin to offer a tailor made plate service to other enthusiasts. Thus, Steamplates began.......

All in all it took 5 years for me to get a 'round tuit' and make correct scale works plates for Cloister. Not the greatest photo I ever took, but it is very difficult to take a picture of a polished plate without some reflected glare or camera flash so this one will have to do for now.

These plates were traced from a good, oblique picture of the originals using vectors on the computer screen. Scale and proportion are perfect when the dimensions of the original plate have been recorded, and then divided by 3 to make a 4" to the foot version. As far as the letter form and spacing goes, this is also utterly faithful to the original in any size or scale, right down to the errors(note the slightly odd spacing of the 'H' in 'Hunslet').

Nothing we make is cheap, being more akin to art or jewellery than engineering. Many times folk have been kind enough to say we make the best plates available anywhere. If quality and accuracy are more important than price, we could be just the people to meet your needs.

Since I set up Steamplates in 2009, I've learned a lot, not just about making plates, but about people too. Some will phone me and blurt out some name along with rough dimensions, demanding to know immediately 'How much?' Others will use the forms that I took a lot of trouble to write, so I will have all the relevant information to make exactly what they want. Naturally, I can only give a cost estimate when I know what is to be made....!

To begin the plates ordering process, click HERE