#WhyWeEngine: Lawrie's Mechanical Marvels | StirlingkitMay 15, 2023
- Can you briefly introduce yourself to us?
I’m Lawrie and I run the YouTube Channel Lawrie’s Mechanical Marvels, taking a look at older and more interesting vehicles, including driving trains, restoring our fleet of some 40 vehicles, and going out on adventures.
I’ve always had an interest in old and unusual machines - having a love of steam engines for as long as I remember, which has led to me volunteering on heritage railways for over 15 years.
- In daily life, besides sharing some steam engine and other professional knowledge, do you have any other hobbies?
Most of my hobbies I get to share through the channel - if I’m interested it’ll likely have been shown on the channel at some point. I’m a general enthusiast for old and unusual vehicles, particular things like tractors.
My big love is steam railways. I’m most happy when I’m on the footplate of a steam locomotive. If I’m not on it, I want to be able to see it running. I love the sight of a steam locomotive working and am a keen photographer - although since I started YouTube I don’t get the chance to go and take photos as much as I once did.
I enjoy model railways, one of my great loves is taking broken models and restoring them back to operational life.
- I saw your own team mentioned on your channel, mainly interested in all kinds of retro and unusual vehicles, which will also feature fire trucks, tractors, locomotives, and a selection of cars and trucks, among them Includes monthly feature launches. I wonder what has been driving you to take this project as your career? What is your favourite type of car? Why?
The idea behind LMM is to try and highlight our vehicular heritage, and to make it more accessible for a whole new generation. We hope to show people via the content that we make that they can do this too, that it isn’t impossible to learn how to operate a steam engine, own an old tractor, restore a car or just volunteer.
A lot of younger people seem to feel that there is such a big disconnect between the skills they have and the skills needed to be part of the heritage world, and to help them get involved has been fantastic.
There are so many incredible museums, railways and societies all over the world who are doing amazing work looking after some brilliant bits of heritage, and they don’t get the exposure that they deserve. If I can showcase these places to a worldwide audience and show off the amazing work that they have achieved, then I feel I’ve done something I can be proud of.
YouTube wasn't my initial career - I used to work in the Film Industry, where I met my long time best friend James, of JayEmm on Cars. We both had become disillusioned with the film Industry and decided to leave at the same time, with James deciding to launch a car based YouTube channel. He presented and edited, and I filmed.
After four years I realised that I wanted to be in front of the camera, sharing some of the vehicles that interested me, and after a brief trial on JayEmm on Cars, it was decided that my content should have its own channel.
This is my 5th Year of having my own channel.
My favourite type of car is something old or unusual. Almost everything in my collection are more unusual survivors that you’re unlikely to see on the road on the same day.
I like celebrating the unusual, the overlooked, and the type of vehicle that others might not think is worth saving. I’m a real sucker for abandoned and unloved vehicles that need a home.
Just because it’s not a critically acclaimed car, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy driving it.
- I have noticed that there are various steams appearing in each of your videos. I want to know that you have been deeply involved in the steam engine industry for many years. I want to know how you feel about seeing our company’s model steam engines and the real steam engines you have come into contact with. What about our scale miniatures? If it were you, would you recommend it to your friends? Why?
I have been volunteering on steam railways for 15 years now, working my way up from being a Cleaner - what we call a trainee - to a Fireman, and then to a Driver. I started just volunteering at one railway, and now I volunteer at several all over the UK - including one in Wales, which is over a 5 hour drive from where I live!
Before I started volunteering however I had acquired a number of small working steam engines, which I still own and steam to this day - several of them have appeared on the channel at one point or another, and the range on the StirlingKit Website is something that really excites me. There are so many engines to choose from, from simple kits to much more complex and interesting machines. If money was no object, I’d have them all!
I find it really exciting that companies like StirlingKit exist - when I was growing up there were just a few manufacturers who sold in the UK, and the range was limited. Today, there is such variety, suiting many different tastes and I really like that there are plenty of spare parts that are of use to people with other models or who are building their own engines.
- I have noticed that you often drive steam locomotives to different cities with friends to experience different cultural atmospheres. I would like to know what interesting things you have seen during your travels? Are there regular gatherings of steam engine enthusiasts in various cities of your country?
I think the weirdest experience we’ve had when travelling was coming home from filming in Belgium. We’d driven down to France to catch the Ferry to Dover. There was a big storm brewing and people were advised not to travel. However, my cameraman Matt had to get back to his job the next day, so we pressed on.
We arrived in Calis to find the port mostly abandoned, and boarded the ship.
There were five cars in transit.
When we went up onto the Ship we saw no other passengers, just crew. It was eerily quiet and empty. It felt like we were on a ghost ship.
The other weirdest thing to me, is every railway I visit, people know who I am. Which I find to be the most amazing and humbling experience.
In the UK, we are extremely lucky to have much of our industrial history surviving, with more than a hundred heritage railways. Most of these organisations will have at least one steam gala a year, frequently bringing in visiting engines for the event to make it more of a draw to the public. There are so many events that it’s actually not possible to visit every one of them! Some events like the Severn Valley Railway’s Autumn Steam Gala are big events that enthusiasts keep in their calendar and return to year on year.
- Having seen your first video was 4 years ago when you collected your first MR2 car and drove home with your friend Jayemm, what did you want to be on your youtube channel since then What about sharing your collection of various types of cars? What difficulties and joys do you want to share with you during this process?
I’ve always wanted to show the vehicles that don’t get exposure elsewhere on the internet. The strange, the unloved, and of course, the big and heavy things. Vehicles that I wanted to watch videos on.
The big thing that I wanted to do with LMM was to reach out to people and show that heritage isn’t a big scary impossible thing. As a volunteer I am very aware of the lack of people who are looking to join societies and help out, and particularly the lack of younger people, and I have always wanted to show that I am nothing special, but I can do the things shown on the channel. I can enjoy old cars. I can drive a locomotive. I can work on a tractor. I can fire a steam engine.
I hope that people will see what I do, and think that if that long haired guy on the internet can do it, maybe I can too. One of the most rewarding things that happens to me is people getting in contact saying that they have started volunteering, or purchased an old vehicle to restore and enjoy. That makes me feel a huge sense of pride, and excitement, and the content that I’m making is actually helping to inspire people.
I’ve always wanted to try and show off the process with as much transparency as possible. We are not perfect. We do things wrong, and we make mistakes. We get confused by what we’re doing. But this is all the process of trying to work on and repair older vehicles. From my experience of working and talking with other people who are in the fraternity, this is normal. And that’s what I wanted to show, you don’t go into trying to restore something knowing everything.
The other side is I wanted to show the joy and excitement these things can bring. From the joy of driving something you’ve managed to fix, to the excitement of driving a steam locomotive. It’s all about showing how much fun heritage can be, and why you should be getting involved with it.
- It is said that the steam engine in the UK has a long history. A professional like you should know the history of the steam engine very well. If you design a new miniature steam engine model, what do you hope for? Or for the industry you are in contact with, do you have any profound historical stories and professional knowledge about steam engine tractors and locomotives that you want to share with us?
The steam engine was developed in the UK, and was the power behind the Industrial revolution, which indeed is a long and well documented history.
I recently saw some OO/HO gauge live steam locomotives running that were once manufactured by Hornby. I would love to see something like that rekindled, as I think there is an amazing amount of charm having live steam working on such a small scale.
I would also like to see some larger scale models, with a regulator and heavy enough flywheel so you could slow the engine down and have it running at a very low RPM. That’s the joy of a steam engine, watching it just tick over slowly. Having a regulator to be able to control the speed of which the engine operates is something that I really enjoy on a model.
One of my favourite stories goes back to the Mid Suffolk Light Railway, in the late 1940’s or early 50s. One of the steam locomotives was working its train along the line when a fire tube in the boiler ruptured.
Normally this would be time to fail the locomotive, throw out the fire, and await a rescue locomotive. Knowing that the train would be stuck in section, and rescue locomotive would take hours to arrive, the crew took the shunters pole, cut it in two, and hammered it into the failed tube, making a partial blockage, which allowed them to limp the locomotive to Kenton Station where there was a passing loop to await rescue!
- Seeing your live broadcast and your website, I wonder if you are also developing your own brand to let more customers buy your products? Which transmitter impresses you the most in the following pictures? Why?
I am indeed trying to grow LMM as a brand, somewhere that people can come to enjoy and celebrate the unusual and older machine - that’s what my passion is, and I want to be able to share it with the world! We of course also have associated merchandise (most of which have a comical back story relating to one of our team) and opportunities for individuals to become closer to us on this journey through discord and patreon, all of these things can be viewed through our website (which is currently being revamped but will be live and kicking again over the next few months https://www.lawriesmechanicalmarvels.com/)
- Do you have any suggestions for fans who are new to Mini engine? Because when you evaluated the FD-6 Mini engine, you mentioned the problem of the instruction manual. If you were asked to improve it, what would you most like to improve?
I would like to rewrite them in English, giving clear instructions to make operation easier and safer. The instructions referenced a part not included on my model, and operation made sense for me, but someone with no experience might really struggle to make the engine work.
- It's a pleasure to work with you and thanks again for your time to review our FD-6 Mini engine . so I would like to invite users like you who have actually used our engine to give us some real suggestions for our website, stirlingkit.com. This way we can constantly improve ourselves based on your feedback and strive to bring more quality engines to the engine model community. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
It’s been a pleasure to work with you too - I’m excited to see what other products appear on the website! As mentioned, the biggest need is instructions written in English rather than translated.
- Could you share your life slogan with us if possible?
I’ve always gone with this, that a good friend told me when I was out in Poland:
No one on their DeathBed ever said they wished they’d worked more.
I’ve very much taken this to heart, and I try with every moment to make sure I’m doing something I enjoy, that I take all the opportunities I’m given, and I’m proud of how I spend my time.