A website dedicated to the promotion of clockwork-powered trains in the garden.



Probably the last time most of us ever used clockwork to propel a train was the windup toy we all had at one point or another in our childhood. It was probably abandoned in favour of your first electric train. But think about it- a form of motive power that does not require electricity or fuel in any form (and is free, too!). The power comes from your wrist turning a key and storing in a large spring. What could be simpler than that?

Clockwork (more correctly called spring drive) has a long and proud history in model railways, particularly in Britain. Clockwork semi-scale O gauge locomotives powered by clockwork were popular into the late 1930s, until electrically powered models became more readily available. Clockwork locomotives from the early 20th century were impressive machines built by such British manufacturers as Bassett-Lowke and Hornby, had direction and on/off controls in the cab. British garden railroader Jack Ray used to run his famous O gauge Crewchester garden railway to a timetable, exclusively with clockwork locomotives, only winding them during scheduled station stops! In those days, it was a cardinal rule not to lift to locomotive off the track to wind it. You discretely whipped the key out of your pocket, gave the spring the required turns and hoped no one saw you.

How It Works

Essentially, through winding a key you are storing potential energy in a very long piece of steel. A rachet is used on the winding shaft to keep the spring from unwinding until you need to use it. As the piece of steel unwinds, the energy is returned through the wheels to propel the locomotive along the track. In order to use the energy, the unwinding spring goes through some sort of gearbox to increase the speed, and a governor to control the speed at which the spring is unwound (and hence, the speed at which the locomotive moves along the track.)

Click on a key below to bring up a new page containing more photos and information

Chuck's Creations 

Clockwork Creations

Vintage Clockwork in Action

All About Vintage Mechanisms 

Sources of Information

Credit Where Credit is Due

Roll credits... Thanks to everyone around the world who have assisted me in the development of these pages: Marc Horovitz, Rob Kuhlman, Chris MacKenzie, Murray Wilson, Kevin Strong, Peter Watson, Peter Jones, Ernie Noa, Jim Montgomery, Alan Sangster, Bob Walker, Rudolf Schott and Chuck Donovan (not to mention Messrs. Bassett-Lowke, Hornby, Marx, Bing and Bub).

Contact Me

I welcome your comments on my clockwork page, not to mention your contributions! Contact me at: jeffery<dot>young<at>rogers<dot>com

Copyright Jeffery Young 2009

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