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Breaking news: the ultimate Bowman book volume 2 is out!

The second of two books on the subject written and researched by Colin Laker with help from the Bowman Jenkins family.

296 A4 pages stitched and bound with a laminated paper cover

Over 385 photographs and illustrations

Book 2 continues the journey to the present day. The cigarette company gift schemes were of great importance to Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins and this is dealt with in the first chapter. The 1930�s saw the decline of Bowman steam toy production and the rapid expansion of the Jentique furniture business under the umbrella of Jenkins Production Ltd. The venture ran into trouble with Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins losing the business in 1936 in unsatisfactory circumstances. The inception of �Metamec� under the direction of Bernard Smart is noted.

Without Bowman Models manufacturing toy steam engines for Hobbies of Dereham, the door was left open for a Geoffrey Malins to offer his services and this saw the birth of the world famous make of Mamod steam engines. After recovering from a nervous breakdown, Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins became his old self again and went on to manufacture wooden fire screens and also small mobile toys made from Pyruma cement in Moorgate House, Dereham. The toys proved so successful that he was propelled into the super tax league.

Circumstances take us to the devastating consequences of the Baedeker air raids on Norwich during the Second World War and the effect it had on the Jenkins family. In later years Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins moved to Ridlington where for a brief time he became a chicken farmer. Losing their lustre, these soon made way for the famous Ridlington Racing Yacht venture. All 35 yacht classes hereto not documented are featured and this should prove a valuable resource for the vintage pond yacht enthusiast.

Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins died in 1959 with the business succeeded by his son Max who also introduced kites and windbreaks to the product range. Towards the end, the work includes a large Vignette section which gives first hand accounts from various Norfolk folk associated with the story and concludes with �In Celebration of Bowman� followed by a collection of maps and aerial photographs.

 Only available from Headleys of Ashford at �45.

Bowman Steam Engines

The blurb says: Bowman Models were made at Dereham, Norfolk between 1925 and 1936. Products included stationary steam engines; boats powered by steam, clockwork and elastic; the overscale steam railway system, and many other items.

For some reason I've been in love with the Bowman engines since I first saw one. They have that look about them that really states that they could only have been made in one place and at one time. This kind of model engineering went out with WWII. They're also quite astonishingly British - in fact, the foreword to their catalogue is written in an inimitable hectoring late-colonial style.
To a non-Brit like myself this is utterly fascinating.

They had something to be proud of though; the fact that so many of their engines survive in such good condition 70 years after the demise of the company says something. They really are very well built, simple as they are, and virtually indestructable. The Bowman design is immediately appealing: robust and functional, but well thought out and well balanced. Another thing I like is that decorative details has been kept to a minimum - everything has a function and works, there is a complete absence of fussy fretwork, embossed metal or anything like that. These engines look like they mean business, and they do.

Some of the contemporary Bowman adverts talk about, for example, the M122 lifting 112 lbs with pulleys - this is of course a meaningless figure (thank you Roly), as with suitable pulleys any engine will lift any weight. A much more meaningful measurement of how effective these little engines are would be to post a picture of my index finger here - I tried to stop my 122 in full steam by pressing down on the gear wheel, and was rewarded with a rather nasty little nick! Not  to shabby for a 70-year old toy, your modern Mamod will not do that. Bowman engines are definitely pre modern health&safety standards - must be part of their appeal!

The Bowman influence is quite undeniable, especially if you look at the current Mamod range and suchlike. If I've got my facts straight, quite a lot of the Bowman designs were incorporated into the Hobbies and Mamod models - the build quality and sheer quality of materials was never equalled though.
Bowman went out of business in 1936. In the 1940 the name was briefly resurrected by a firm based in Luton - they made very nice engines of their own, among them the BM Valveless Engine. In Norfolk, the firm Hobbies continues in business - in the 1930s they were the main outlet for Bowman. They now keep plans and materials for the Arrow Steam Launch, which is a new take on the old models, and very nice it is.

Bowman M135 Stationary Engine

This Bowman M135 was in an absolutely filthy state when I got it (to give you an idea - when I prised off the cylinder cover cap, a very dead wasp was revealed), and had a few really nasty dents in the boiler where something heavy had been dropped on it. I managed to clean the engine up and pull the dents out - they're no longer visible, a bodywork specialist would be proud of me!

 I LOVE this one - it has a really pleasing look about it, and it runs like a demon - I have to hold on to it to prevent it from dancing off the table! The combination of sounds from the engine and the whirring gears is a pleasure to the ear.

This engine's really what Bowman is all about - it has all the design features you find in their big engines, but in a very pleasing compact package. The fairly massive cylinder cover hides the fact that this is an oscillating engine. The oiling system is simple but ingenious: the oiler drips oil through a hole in the cylinder cover onto a felt pad behind the piston, and so keeps the engine lubricated. The geared takeoff makes this engine quite powerful. It is single speed, single acting and non-reversing but it really runs very well (and very fast!). The spent steam is exhausted into the chimney, which "smokes" nicely.

To me, this is the "essential" Bowman - this engine started off my collection, and I think it would make a good starting point for anyone considering adding a Bowman or two to their collection.

This engine did not come with a box, but I was lucky enough to get hold of an original striped cardboard one later (see below). It isn't 100% accurate as the label states it's for an E135 (wooden base), but close enough for me!

So, all in all, a nice, clean and complete example and a personal favourite.

Bowman M101

I've had a Bowman 101 for a few years now, and it could best be described as a good runner, but not much to look at - someone in the past had really gone to town on it with hacksaw and solder. Then, an equally tatty 101 came up for sale very cheaply in the US, and I noticed that between them they had enough good parts to make a true parade horse. Through the services of IndianaRog this engine was swiftly acquired and repatriated to the UK.

Now I'll be the first to acknowledge that I probably slightly underestimated the amount of work needed, but, two weeks later, here we are, and I'm thoroughly pleased. I've done a separate page to my experiences in restoring this engine, but among other things it has had the boiler stay replaced, burner structuarally restored, full stripdown and respray, and a hell of a lot of polishing!

A little bit of factual information for you: the Bowman 101 is the largest model made by Bowman, and it really is BIG - it positively dwarfs all the other Bowman models. The flywheel is an inch-thick disc of solid brass, and weighs a pound. The single oscillating cylinder has a stroke of 1 inch, and under full steam this engine's a sight and sound to behold. Bowman claimed in one of their ads that this engine could drive a sewing machine directly, and I'm happy to believe that.

This engine's of course an amalgam of two engines, but stylistically it is a later model, as indicated by the presence of a steam throttle. The safety valve is however the earlier type. The engine sits on a meccano-drilled metal base, and is therefore an M101, rather than the E101 which has a wooden base.

Bowman M122 Twin Cylinder

The M122 was the engine I wanted but couldn't afford....then two came up at the same time on EBay. One of them was incomplete but with some useful bits, the other one looked complete, had the original box but appeared terribly neglected.
I did something a bit naughty and got in touch with the seller of the latter, and agreed a price with him we were both happy with. Many thanks to EBay user Rojan0 - you're a star!

When the engine arrived, a quick examination showed that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Lots of corrosion on the metal bits, sure, and tarnish and dirt on the brass, but 99% complete and nothing seized or jammed.
To cut a long story short - with a bit of part swapping from the second engine I bought, and five evenings of graft I managed to restore this engine to nearly-new status. A little diary of the restoration process can be found here.

This is possibly Bowman's "flagship" engine. It is certainly very fine. As with all the Bowman engines, it is nothing very advanced or refined, just extremely well made and to very close tolerances. As a result, the cylinders generate some very serious compression - with the steam valve closed, it isn't easy to turn this engine over by hand. With a little bit of tuning this engine will happily self-start, and run very confidently at a wide range of speeds. It is also VERY powerful - easily the most powerful Bowman. As with all twin cylinders, it's fun to put a heavy load on it, and watch it stagger along at slow speeds. At full speed, this engine has to be bolted down, otherwise it will dance off the worktop.

As of May 26th the engine sits on a restored baseplate plus transfer. The original transfer proved beyond rescue, basically flaked off if you so much as looked at it, so I've arranged a replacement - details in the restoration section. The engine now also has the correct burner.

Bowman M140

The 140 is a much sought after engine, and is getting pretty hard to find. It is the smaller twin cylinder, but it packs a mean punch and is possibly more powerful than any of its bigger brothers. A real little workhorse, no wonder it has a huge fan base. I've paired it up with the Bowman dynamo (actually a rebadged Doll), and it's a marriage made in heaven!

Bowman M158

One of the smaller Bowman engines.

As a result of an email I got this one will forever be known as the "Irish Single". Got it very cheaply on EBay. When it got to me it was really quite poorly, lots of heavy corrosion, big hole in the cylinder, in all a sad looking little thing.

I decided to go for broke here - we're talking heavy restoration. Full stripdown and repaint, fake Bowman badge, steampipe resoldered, piston and cylinder replaced. I have not yet been able to run this engine as the steam pipe at some point has been badly mangled and wants replacing - it'll happen. Worse, the boiler has some pretty deep pitting in one of the endcaps, which makes me a little apprehensive about running it...and then there's the missing burner.

This is an "entry level" Bowman, the smallest model but one (there is the M167 which doesn't have the geared layshaft). Precisely due to that geared layshaft this is still a very usable engine, which'll happily drive a few of the lighter driving models. It's also a quite pleasantly proportioned little thing - when it was in production you could buy an optional chimney for it, but in my opinion that makes it look top-heavy.

May 2005: I have now replaced the mangled steam pipe with a new one, and investigated the depth of the pitting on the boiler - in fact it ground out quite easily. I've also made a burner out of the endcaps and a strip of brass from a fatally injured Bowman boiler. This engine's now quite a happy little runner.

Bowman M167

The 167 is perhaps the plainest of all the Bowman is "the little big Bowman", the smallest engine to still use the full size piston and cylinder. It has been stripped back to bare gearwheel, fancy flywheel or anything like that, just a single cylinder and a small brass flywheel - but of course, it being a Bowman, it works absolutely brilliantly. This little engine is getting very hard to find, and had eluded me for some time, so I was very glad when my good forum friend Atticman offered it to me in exchange for a steam boat hull at STiA 2009.

The video shows it powering a small dynamo.

Bowman M180

One of the last steam engines made by Bowman of Dereham, and their smallest - the boiler is only marginally bigger than, say, a SEL 1550. Instead of the usual brass, the flywheel is painted cast iron (probably mazak alloy) and the chimney is pressed and rolled tinplate.

This little engine was winking at me on a shelf at STiA 2006, it came from the same source as my SEL 1520 and 1530. A deal was swiftly made and the engine came home with me. Cosmetically it was in a very poor state, lots of rust on the firebox, no paint left on the baseplate, but everything was there, including that all-important burner, which was, for a change, in excellent condition!
So, the usual stripdown, polish, repaint.

This may be a humble little engine, but it's very pleasing to the eye. How does it run? Need you ask? This is a Bowman! It buzzes along like a hummingbird. It always tickles me that Geoffrey Bowman-Jenkins wrote in the instructions for stationary engines: "we have known some engines three to four-years old still doing trojan work". Well, this little engine is over SEVENTY years old, and runs as well as the day it was made. In fact, I have yet to encounter a Bowman that will not run. I sincerely hope that "GBJ" somehow knows this, in whatever place it is old toymakers go to.

Bowman M175

The M180's slightly bigger brother - the boiler is marginally larger, and it has a geared layshaft. This is one of the later Bowmans, with a rolled tinplate chimney and a mazak flywheel. It was in a very sorry state when I hauled it in from eBay - it looked like it had been buried in peat for the last 50 years or so (see picture).
So I set about merrily with polish, fine grade wet and dry, wire wool and what not, and also did a 95% repaint. I then fitted a new decal, only to be informed by Colin Laker that the 175 never had one - it's gone!

How does it run? Silly question - it's a Bowman! The small cylinder driving the gearwheel results in a beautiful "purring" engine note, and for an engine this size it is surprisingly powerful.

Bowman M130

A bit of a dream come true....this engine was sold to me by the ultimate Bowman expert, Colin Laker himself. Perhaps the rarest of all Bowman engines, the M130 combines an M135 boiler, M167 motion and Bernard Smart's very clever brushless generator. This example has a practically pristine box, and uniquely the original instructions - the only set of engine-specific instructions provided by Bowman. It works perfectly of course!

Wormar Super C


This is, to all intents and purposes, a pretty rare engine. The "WorMar" range of engines, of which this rather fine twin cylinder model is the largest, was made by Geoffrey Jenkins before he decided to use his middle name "Bowman" for a brand of toys. They were made for a toy company "Worboys and Smart" of Luton in the mid-twenties, but they are definitely and unmistakably Bowman engines, from the meccano drilled base plates to the typical poker burners. The hard soldered boiler is contained is a brass sleeve which has a tremendous chimney effecct - the little meths burner suddenly becomes incredibly effective. The geared countershaft will take any meccano fitting.

This is a pretty fine example, and I paid less for it than I should have. Somebody had set about it with a soldering iron, and one of the steam pipes was pretty badly mangled, but nothing I couldn't rectify. The nickel plating on the baseplate has all but worn off, but idf you look VERY closely in good light you can just make out the engraved decal which has "British Made - the Wor-Mar Trademark - Jenkins Patent" on it.

How does it run? Well.....

Bowman 234 Live Steam Loco


This is quite a nice example af a Bowman 234 loco. I got this one for a song on EBay - it was in a fairly bad way, no bogie, all the pipework missing, but it did have most of its original paint. With help and advice from the good people of the Bowman Models Egroup I managed to get this engine back to more or less its original state. This was quite a steep learning curve for me - as a sound engineer I'm used to soldering wires with tin, not soldering copper pipe with silver. Anyway, if at first you don't succeed, etc etc.

Then I had a filthy stroke of luck and managed first to get hold of an original bogie, and then an original tender - rarer than hen's teeth! So now it's really pretty complete, even thou
gh the colour of the engine and tender  don't quite match. Before you start shouting at me: I know that the colour for the tender is wrong for L.M.S. ! I expect that it was repainted a long time ago, and pretty badly at that. The L.M.S. lettering was preserved though, and as I didn't touch the paint on the loco I decided to leave well enough alone. The tender is otherwise in great condition and very complete, even down to the little folding footplate.

This loco is simplicity itself - huge pot boiler driving twin oscillating engines that drive the rear wheels directly - in fact the front wheels don't carry any load, the loco sits on the rear wheels and bogey. There is no speed control of any kind, and as this loco apparently builds up some serious speed, you need a pretty big ) gauge layout to run it, which I don't have - I've only run this one "on the bench"

Apparently this model was a personal favourite of Mr Bowman Jenkins. It was proudly advertised that this engine ran for 183 actual miles, refuelling every 40 minutes, pulling six coaches. In the highly nationalistic days of the early thirties Bowman stresses very strongly the "British" qualities of his toys, and how favourably they compare to "foreign" (and for "foreign", read "German") toys of that era. Some truth in it is well: German toys of that time were mostly tinplate, whereas Bowman toys are all brass and iron. This particular loco is very powerful for it's type - not as refined as the Bassett-Lowke engines of course, but just as much fun.

6 July 2005: This engine's now an offical "runner"! I managed to get hold of some "Gamage" branded O gauge track, 2ft radius circle, in very good condition, and on that the 234 ran its first circles for who knows how many years. It started slow, but picked up a good head of speed as things eased in and came up to temperature, and then ran quite steadily for a good 30 minutes. I chucked all sorts of things into the tender, without any noticable effect. It ran on 5 wicks, with the lead running weight on the burner.

Bowman 300 live steam loco

I purchased this great little engine at Steam Toys in Action from Dudley Arnold, who gave me a cracking deal on it - Thanks Dudley! If you are interested in buying a Bowman, drop him a line through this link.

The Bowman 300 is an enduring favourite, because it is true O Gauge, rather than overscale like the 234 and the 265. Because of this, it is compatible with, for example, Hornby rolling stock. Original Bowman rolling stock these days fetches more than locos!.
Like all Bowman locos, the 300 is basic in the extreme: large pot boiler is heated by a 5-wick spirit burner, and provides steam for two single-acting oscillating cylinders, which drive the rear wheels directly. The cylinders are lubricated by two felt pads that sit behind the pistons, which are soaked in oil prior to a run. There is no throttle or any form of speed control - the only way to control the speed is by wick height or by selectively capping some of the wicks.

Basic it may be, but like all Bowman engines the design is fantastically effective, no doubt due to the close engineering tolerances and the quality of the raw materials. Without a load, the flame has to be taken right down otherwise the engine runs out of control. On a full flame, the loco is capable of pulling large rakes of wagons at high speed for a long time - average run time on the 300 is about 30 minutes.

I'd come to STIA 2007 looking for one of these, and there were a few about. One was in immaculate condition - I wouldn't dare fire that one for fear of damaging the finish! This one immediately appealed because of it's "lived in" look - there's a fair bit of usage evident, but there is also plenty of original paint left, and the loco has clearly been lovingly maintained....I can never help but imagine how excited the first owner must have been back in the late 'twenties!

At first trial, the loco wouldn't quite run....after a bit of investigation this turned out to be due to the heatshield between the "tanks" and the boiler, which had warped slightly, preventing hot air from circulating around the boiler. I remedied this in a matter of minutes, after which the loco very quickly raised steam, and shot off down the track a matter of minutes later.

A most rewarding little engine, and already something of a favourite with Clan Moose!

Bowman 265 loco

The 265 is Bowman's second biggest loco - an overscale O-gauge 0-4-0 - and I saw this one on eBay with a buy-it-now.....boxed.....original tag....good paint and BAM my finger hit the button. Only after I looked carefully I noticed that pistons and cylinders were missing! Oh well, 100 quid is a good pricce for a boxed Bowman in ANY condition, and having the paper tag is very rare indeed.
Fortunately I have a small metalworking lathe that I am learning to use, and this was an ideal opportunity....after a couple of evenings of enthusiastically making copper and brass swarf and a nit of silver soldering I had a pretty passable replacement my delight it actually runs! Video below is of the very first run on steam, taken in a freezing cold basement.

Bowman 410

The runt of the litter, and very hard to find in any condition, so I was over the moon when this cropped up, even if it was missing a wheel and the burner! Perfect replicas of these were made by a very talented member of the Bowman circle, and I did a few more little jobs myself (a new cab roof, a new buffer, a bit of general fettling and making good) and it was good to go!
These little locos were briefly made in 1932, and were part of the last flurry of activity of Bowman Models - they are much more lightly made than the other locos, but still fairly substantial in build quality. The engine is a single oscillating engine of the same small size used in the 180 and 175 engines, driving a mazak flywheel in the cab, geared to the driveshaft. It is true O gauge, compatible with a range of rolling stock. My example runs very well indeed, as can be seen in this video:

Bowman Open Wagon

Bowman rolling stock is hard to find, and often fetches prices that are way out of my reach, so when I managed to snag this open wagon on eBay at a reasonable price I was pretty pleased. But I was delighted when it arrived and it turned out to still have its original box - thank you Carole!!!!

A Bowman Loco Family Shot

A family shot of the Bowman locos. Top left: 300. Top right: 265.
234 and tender in the middle, with the little 410 at the front.

Hobbies-Bowman "Snipe" Steam Speedboat

From the "Bowman Book of Steam Models" (1931):
"A fast and sound racing boat of graceful proportions and high class finish. Runs a mile on one filling. Patent wood hull, length 23", beam 4 1/2". Spray hood and aluminium wind shield over engine. Bowman "Double Power" engine 3/4" stroke x 3/8" bore. Automatic oil lubricator. Brass boiler, 4 3/4" x 1 3/4", with safety valve. Safety type lamp for methylated spirit. Exhaust pipe at stern."

This one's a bit of a dream come true. I never thought I'd be able to get a real Bowman boat, as they usually are very expensive - in fact, that is one of the reasons why I built my "Arrow" (which is based on the Snipe, although Arrow is a fair bit larger and a lot heavier). Then there was a very brief slump in Bowman prices, and this Snipe was badly advertised and lacking its sprayhood and rear deck....I got it for �69, which is unheard of.

It's in pretty fine shape as well - all the engine and boiler fittings were there, the brass propellor, guard and rudder are undamaged - even the original exhaust tube is present. Thanks to the help and advice of such fine gents as Owen Roberts and John Dickins I quickly obtained measurements for the rear deck and spray hood. I ordered the materials from Hobbies, which seemed appropriate, and I think I've done an adequate job of reconstructing them. The decal is a perfect replica made by Mike Cooke.
Apart from that I have kept this boat as original as possible. I've not touched the paint on the hull - it shows some crazing and a slight tendency to flake, so I've preserved it with a couple of coats of clear lacquer. I've touched in a couple of rusty nailheads and replaced the asbestos insulation sheet, but that's about the size of it. Bit of spit and polish, and this one to me looks so gorgeous it takes my breath away.

It runs well too.....I think this boat's had an easy life, because the engine's as new, even has quite a bit of the original paint left. I've sparked it up a few times, and the engine is now properly run in, and runs fast and smooth. It's basically a 158 or a 167 in an inline lineup, with the addition of a large steam line oiler. The brass flywheel drives the propshaft directly.

I'm delighted to add this boat to my collection - it fills yet another gap in my Bowman lineup. Below is a video of her sailing during near-zero conditions at STiA 2008:

"Hipower" Water Motor

Not a steam engine, but I want to post it here as a little bit of insight into the extraordinarily versatile mind of Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins. This is basically a very well designed little turbine.....the pronged attachment goes into a tap, turn on the water and a drivewheel on the other side of the housing spins round with remarkable force, certainly comparable to a large toy steam engine. This same motor was also used to make the "Kavor" automatic toothbrush, which can be admired in the London Science Museum and bears a remarkable resemblance to modern electric toothbrushes. This motor was advertised in Meccano Magazine of December 1932 for 5' 6, but apparently was no great commercial success. They are rarely seen these days, and I was lucky to find this one somewhat obscurely listed on eBay


Bowman Driving Models

These are pretty hard to find! As far as I know, these driving models are German import, and were mounted on a Meccano base and painted at Dereham in the Bowman works. I have been able to positively identify the drill as made by Doll & Cie., so I think it's likely that the hole punch is from the same source, although it is equally possibly that it was made by one of the other German manufacturers. Other driving models "rebadged" by Bowman included a bandsaw, tablesaw, grindstone, lineshaft and generator.

I obtained these models as part of a set including an M122 engine (this engine's going elsewhere) - this set came from an estate sale, the gentleman who they belonged to was given them as a boy in the 1930ies, but apparently wasn't allowed to play with them because the engine scared his sister. So into the loft they went, which explains their condition - pretty much near-perfect, with bright paintwork and even the red pinstriping still intact - a collector's dream.

Bowman Boxes

I'm now trying to get all my Bowmans boxed, for the sake of completeness but just as much because the boxes are gorgeous in their own right - to me they add a bit more authenticity to an engine, and they're nice to handle - as the saying goes, they don't make 'em like that anymore.

About the picture: the M140 (top left) and M122 (bottom right) are the boxes that originally came with the engines listed on this site. The boxes for the M135 (bottom left) and the Bowman 250 Tender were bought later - the M135 box is actually for an E135. The M135 box is the only cardboard one, and apart from some warping and one tear in great nick for a 70 year old. The M122 box is missing its lid.

I'm of course still looking for the boxes for the E101 and 234 locomotive....

Advice for the novice collector - ALWAYS keep and look after the boxes - in cases like this they double the value of your engine.

Other Bowman Stuff

I'm the proud owner of an original early Bowman catalogue listing the 101, 135, 157 and Wormar Trojan engines. I've done hi-res scans of this and cleaned the scans up (the original is soaked in oil and badly creased). I also have a nice original Christmas advert (from Gamages I think) for the E101. Again, I''ve scanned this one although it is absolutely mint. I've just sold a set on CD on EBay, but I've now decided that it's not worth the hassle, and that I'll be providing this as a free service to Bowman lovers from now on, so contact me for my address, and send me a blank CD and an SAE and they'll be yours.

A Page from the Bowman Catalogue