Origins of AAAEIC Alexander And Angelina Engineering Inspiration Center Co. Ltd.

30th October 2018 Rayong, Thailand. This page will explain the origins of the AAAEIC Co. Ltd.. or an overview of the Co. Ltd. click here.


will write much of this in the first person because, as you will learn, it is the story behind this Inspiration Center, which begins along time ago. So, dear reader, you will please indulge me by labouring through this autobiographical introduction. Only with that can you truly understand where this "Inspiration Center"comes from and where too it is going. I am Chris Ross, was born 7th Dec 1952 in a house on a loch (scotish lake) in Milngavie, a northern suburb of Glasgow. My mother, Sylvia, was a nurse and my Father, Peter, an engineer at John Brown & Company shipyard designing Steam Turbines for their ships. I stayed there 2 years but during that time I was wheeled out to watch the winching of North British Locomotive Company finished locos down the hill from the factory in Springburn to the docks on the Clyde from where they sailed to the far ends of the world (including, ironically, China and around that time 2-8-2 [understanding steam engine wheel arrangement designations] WGs for India!), or so my mother told me. Maybe that is where my lifelong love affair with steam locomotives started, who can say? I was 2 when we moved to the village of Wylam, Northumberland, a coal mining village 10 miles west of Newcastle, then boasting 2 stations stradling the river Tyne. Wylam was the birthplace of George Stevenson, the "Father of Railways". Perhaps it was in the air, but my earliest memories have the sound of steam everywhere. We lived in a house a few hundred yards from the north line bridge over the Tyne, now preserved, the forerunner of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I used to fall asleep to the sound of heavy coal freights climbing up the valley to sit and snort at the junction across the bridge. That was surpassed by being sent to a pre-school at the back of Wylam South Station. This lay on the south bank of the river at the end of a road bridge which went over the tracks with an old-style wooden gate level crossing. A signal box spaned the tracks beside the gates. The following picture is contempory to 1956 or so when I really developed my passion.

Wylam South Station circa 1955
Wylam South Station circa 1955 looking west.

Remarkably, today, although the gates have been replaced by barriers, the signalbox has been preserverved now it is simply Wylam Station, as the North Wylam line has been abandoned for a cycle-way.

Alexander Ross aged 5yr in Mar 2019
AAAEIC's Alexander Ross
aged 6yr,
in Mar 2019,
provided as

Chris Ross adgwd 5yr in Dec 1957
"Peter" Ross aged 5yr in Dec 1957,
One year before I first
drove a stream train.

It was an era when small children were allowed, no, encoraged, to walk to and from school. A 9 minutes walk from home that I convinced my mother took up to an hour and a half to walk back! The reason was that I couldn't keep my eyes off the railway goings on. I became such a persistant visitor to the level crossing that the Signalman befriended me, calling me Peter (my middle name, because I had been scared to give him my real name). After school he would let me join him in the signal box where I learned his trade of bell ringing to the next signalbox along the line when a train came through and was "passed off" to the next sector. A sort of morse code - 5 short rings with no pauses for the Royal Train, I remember he let me signal once (the train was unocupied, but real enough. I got to know the train crews of the stopping coal trains who would come up for tea in the box before going off east to pickup the last trucks (wagons) of the day piled with freshly mined coal, en-route to the east-coast main where they would turn south for the power stations of Leeds or Birmingham and the hearths of London sitting rooms.

For five years or so I was the sort of station mascot, regularly going up the line on the footplate to the coalmine to play "shunting". It took my mother 3 years at least to find out what her grubby son was up to, and only then when the friendly village bobby (policeman) spilled the beans on me (told my mum) after I refused to give up the name of a friend who had been shoplifting gob-stoppers (type of sweet).

This idilic life very sadly came to an abrupt end. I was coming up to 10 and by then was at a school in Newcastle commuting by train and trolley bus through Newcastle Central. Every afternoon I would watch an A4 Pacific haul off a London bound express across the high-level bridge in a crescendo of smoke, steam, sparks and flying metal. One innocent summer morning I arrived at Wylam South to find a scene of devastation. During the night a train had run through the gates, smashing them into so much firewood. The line was closed, so I missed school. No one was hurt and the train had remained on the tracks but I later learned that an inquiry had found it to have been my signalman's fault, probably asleep at the levers and he had been sacked. I was never called Peter again, and quite soon after we moved down to the south coast. My Railway Child day's were not quite over, but pretty much so.

I didn't drive another loco for some 20 years, when, in 1971 in India, I blagged (lied) myself onto the footplate of a Sunday Indore-Bilaspore Express hauled by a 2-8-2 WG class broad gauge behemoth. From a rural development project in Hoshangabad a group of us had gone to a 2 day wedding in Jabalpur. Indian weddings can be a drawn out business! For our return we had caught the midday express.


The train pulled out west, but I could tell, with my Wylam ear, that the driver was having trouble. Although the boiler was at full pressure, with safeties lifting (at maximum safe pressure) the loco was pulling poorly, struggling. The train consisted of 16 cars (coaches) with 2,000 or so passengers including free-riders on the roof. About 1,500 tonnes including 200 tonnes of engine. At the first station a few miles out of Jabalpur the driver made an unscheduled stop. I got out to take a look to see the crew inspecting the running gear. I sauntered up to see what was afoot. Drivers, the world over, are the cream of the service and in India they have to speak English (many are Anglo-Indian). "What's up Sahib?" I asked. "Oh! I have so many problems with this engine", he replied, wringing his hands in dispair. "Can I help? I enquired, following it with a white lie of reassurance "I drive for London Transport!". Then it all poured out.... "The reverser is jambed, the boiler is full of shit, my fireman is too skinny and I have to get this train to Itarsi by 6pm!" He was right on all counts. "Sure I can help, lets start with the reverser...".


The reverser is a device that controls the volume of steam allowed into each end of the cylinders and the timing of when it goes in and out. It is much more complicated than that but in effect the reverser mechanism controls the amount of power applied to the driving wheels and in which direction the wheels turn - forward or reverse. It is variable from full power forward through idle to full power reverse. Typically, when a train pulls off from rest you set the reverser full forward, easing it back as the train picks up speed. Throuout the run you adjust for gradient and speed to minimise steam consumption.

The 3-year-old boy shown above in 2016 is imagining himself driving a 1919 4-6-2 meter-gauge Pacific freight on the Bhurma-Thai "Death" Railway with remarcable instinct. In hs left hand is the regulator (controls the steam flow) and in his right is the reverser, a wheel and screw that is clrealy captured in this photo. The same mechnism I had to fix on that WG in 1971. This locomotive is on static display on the western approaches of the famous "The Bridge on the River Kwai".The loco was manufactured in 1919 by the NBLC in Glasgow.


There are two basic types of driver controls doing the same thing. In my 5-year-old days the engines typically had a lever which the driver would pull or push into the right position (I had been too small to use it, so I had been assigned the regulator which controls steam flow out of the boiler), therefore start, stop and speed. In large locomotives the driver has a wheel that he would turn to screw the linkage in or out. This is what this loco had. It is a pretty simple mechanism with two lock nuts at one end of the screw to hold it in place. These lock-nuts have to be tightly screwed together otherwise they can jamb up into the bushing at the far end of the screw shaft. It took no time to realize that this is what had happened and men were dispatched down the train to fetch spanners from the guard's coach at the end. 10 minutes later the reverser was freed up and fully working. With this the driver became excited. "I want to show you the shit they put in the boiler!" he said. Clearly, he wanted this apparent expert to fix all his issues!


By this time at least half the passengers had got off the train and several hundred were gawping at the bunch of white guys grouped round the engine. The driver climbed up onto the footplate and barked orders in a couple of languages at the crowd. They scattered and soon only a handful were left on the platform. My little group of companions were left below puzzled. "Come on" I said "get up here we are going for a ride!" thinking that now he had a working reverser, we'd be off. To my horror he started yanking on a floor lever that I knew was the boiler drain cocks. He was opening valves in the bottom of the firebox wall which is the lowest point in the boiler. Suddenly there was the most almighty roar. The sound of a Saturn Rocket blasting off and right at our feet! Looking down the platform the station had disappeared in a huge clowd of steam. Suddenly it was over after he struggled to shut off the valve. Deathly silence, or had we all gone deaf? I remember the relief when through the ringing in my ears and the clatter of the feedwater pump, I heard a bird singing! By the way, dear reader, the pictures here are from the web, as sadly I didn't have a camera at the time so have no photo record of the adventure.


The spectacle seemed to excite the driver even more "Now look at that!" he exclaimed pointing down to a steaming puddle that went 30 yards down the platform. He had just dumped half the boilers contents of super-heated water at 210 p.s.i along the gravel platform gouging out a furrow and hurling gravel as far as the eye could see. Mixed in was a significant dose of white scale - the chalky stuff you get in kettles. We climbed down squatting to take a better look. Passengers tentatively appeared. I grabbed a handful of gravel and let it run through my fingers leaving my hand white with chalk. "Well!" he said, demanding my answer. "Humm" I intoned, "Not much more we can do now, you've cleared a good chunk of it so we should be Ok." Jabalpur I knew be in limestone hills. "The boiler needs treatment with chemicals. The water in Jabalpur is very hard. That's not good." We all nodded together and climbed back up to my friends and the skinny fireman. "Now, about your fireman, you're right he needs more food for sure but we can fix that problem for now. My friends and I will shovel coal for him. Lets get going and we can still make time to Itarsi." With that, the fireman grinned and found a second shovel. We stoked up, and with a celebratory long blast on the whistle we took off. We had been in the station for half an hour.

The driver worked the reverser perfectly and the train smoothly pulled out on the level and took the first gentle incline at 50 mph. This is a section of one of the arteries of Indian Railways on the northerly route between Bombay (now Mumbai) and Calcutta (now Kolkata). The southerly goes through Nagpur. The British knew how to build railways and this section started out as a single track broard gauge (5 ft 6 in or 1,676 mm as opposed to standard gauge of 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in or 1,435 mm) but was later turned into double track, probably in the 1920's by building a second line between 10 to 100 meters to one side or the other. it went through fertile agricultural land peppered with villages over numerous small iron bridges over streams draining the land down to the great Narmada river to our north. The run is essentially flat so it is a fast section, with gentle inclines perfect for a good steam ride on the footplate. The best way to really see a country is from a train and this was wonderful. Thundering past sleepy villages with the wistle incesantly sounding to clear buffalows or warn women crossing the line ahead in their colourful saris carrying pots of water on their heads. I was surprised at first at the movement of the engine. It lurched from side to side more than I'd expected.


I was passed control by the driver from after about 10 miles out and took it west from there until just before Itarsi. The loco was pulling well and we had clear signals all the way. On one downhill we reached 75mph before I chickened out, drew back the regulator, let the firemen rest and coasted for 5 miles before opening up again. We arrived in Itarsi 10 minutes behind schedule ready for a crew change. It was a collaborative effort. I left the train breaking to the driver and he took over for the two station stops we made. It was funny as well. The guard, who had been involved in the maintenance work, stood at the back of the last coach, seeming endlessly waving a green flag to tell me the train remained in tact. This happened at every obstacle; passing through a station, over a level crossing, over a larger bridge, through a speed restriction. I was worried he must be getting tired so we developed a sort of private code. Two short whistle blasts meaning, "Ok mate, I got you!" before powering up the regulator. He would disappear back into his cabin. The peasants on the roof kept us amused. A few had moved up to the first car peering down at this surreal sight of three young white guys wielding shovels and generally playing. They would cheer when one of us successfully lobbed a good pile into the fire.

There is an interesting coincidence here, I have discovered in my researches. "The first hundred WG engines came from North British Locomotive Works (NB) in Glasgow"..."Out of these 100 engines North British sub-contracted 10 to Vulcan Foundry. Locomotive No. 8350 was exhibited at Festival of Britain in 1951 prior to being shipped to India." After Independence, the success of the WG Class meant that it was chosen to be manufactured in the new factory in Chittaranjan, West Bengal, where by 1959 they were producing 14 a month. "The last WG engine to be built was WG 10560 in 1970 and was named "Antim Sitara" taking a cue from the "Evening Star"; the last 9F class built in England" (from Indian Steam Pages).

Alexander Ross aged 5yr in Mar 2019
AAAEIC's Alexander Ross
aged 6yr,
in Mar 2019,
provided as

Chris Ross at 22yr in 1873
Chris Ross at 22yr in 1873.

I had been traveling with two American Peace Corps volunteers who were avoiding the Vietnam War draft. Steve was from a farm in Oregon and was the proud protector of a two tonne Holstein bull, named Grover. Grover had been sent to improve the gene pool of the local Tharbucker cow population and hence milk yields. I was in charge of fixing Land Rovers and other machinery such as a 1940s John Deer tractor, etc. I produced my first invention for Steve and Grover - a Bull wanking device made out of a section of irrigation pipe, bits of inner tire, wire, etc. Steve was thrilled and Grover had many happy moments and avoided getting the clap, fathering literally millions of calves. Andy was a Californian dreamer, a cerebral character who got into solar power. The day after our footplate run on the express, sitting together over dinner, they said to me, "Chris, yesterday, how the hell did you do that?" "What did I do?" I replied genuinely puzzled. "Fix that train. Drive the damn thing?" So I told them of my Wylam days, My father's engineering genius (he later became Professor of Engineering at Cambridge University) and the hours I had spent with him in his workshop. I had just turned 19 and on that evening it dawned on me what a privileged childhood I'd had in a happy family that stayed together where father passed on his wisdom to his son, where I'd been free to play with incredible machines and make friends with wonderful people who taught me loads.

Fixing that engine was the start of a lifetime of fixing stuff. Three careers of fixing problems, first in bringing clean water to millions who had none, second designing pioneering airport machinery and thirdly writing programs to manage manufacturing business. I'm a problem solver, have always been and hopefully will go on for a few more years yet. It's not rocket science just the careful, logical, application of knowledge. Inspiration helps. Luck too. You have to have been in the right place at the right time. And I have many failures to my name, for instance I'm not good at fixing marriages, so my 6 children have not always been blessed with their father's attention, as I had been.

So lets end this Introduction with a moral. In my humble opinion, If you are going to be a problem solver you need to be inspired by something you can touch and feel, see and smell. As my generation did, so the next must do the same. And that, dear reader, is what The "Evening Star" Project is all about.

"92220 Evening Star"



The locomotive named "Evening Star" was the last steam locomotive built for British Railways in 1960. It was the last of the BR Standard Class 9F heavy freight locomotives built at the end of the steam era but hauled many a passenger service until withdrawal in March 1965. It is now preserved at the National Railway Museum in York, England.Here are a selection of You-Tube 📹 links of it working: Newsreel, Heading a passenger On The Settle & Carlisle. So why is this such a great specimen in the context of my story? When you watch the videos, you can't help but have your eyes drawn to the running gear - the whirling cranks, the reciprocating rods and spinning wheels. The snorting and hissing, the smoke and steam and shear power! It's no humming box on wheels. It's very public visible engineering. in 2018, you don't get much of that, the odd digger or crane maybe. So what around you is there for a small child, a budding problem solver, to be inspired by? And, if you shrink it down 11.2 times, he or she can relate to it even better. Here are a couple of videos of a 5 inch gauge model: Preparing to Steam and running on the Urmston & District Model Engineering Society track.


Problem to Solve

I won't go into too many details but suffice it to say that I have two children of my 6 that were teetering on the brink of loosing their father. The 8 year old girl, Angelina, is Oxford material.


And my 5 year old son Alex is already a proto-problem-solver and with inspiration could follow his grandfather to Cambridge.


In the meantime, a web site gave me the inspiration I needed. in 2017 I had visited a shop in England, ostensibly to buy spares for a model steam engine I'd bought in 2000. A Darjeeling Mountain Railway model powered by gas and radio controlled. It had followed me when I moved to Thailand and I had it running on some land we bought to build on. You can watch the following movie as it shows how exited children get with such a novel play thing. Well, in this shop there was a beautiful Jubilee Class 5 inch gauge model about to leave for the USA and I took away a brochure with the dream of one day being able to afford one. The web site of Silver Crest Models, the company that had it designed, in Devon and then built in China, was announcing a new special, an "Evening Star" - limited production of 50 aimed at collectors. - A special, marking the 50 years since it's withdrawal from service in 1968. By the next day I had paid the deposit and Project Evening Star was underway. I'm an old man in a hurry and generally don't mess around. The following day I went 100km south to Rayong, the center of the automotive industry here. 25km inland from the city Genghis (my coley dog advisor) and I inspected some land in the jungle that I had heard was available. Perfect! and very beautiful with it's whole ecosystem of jungle life. Done deal! This has going to be where we build a track and inspiration centre. A week later, on a Sunday morning, I was sitting on Sukhumvit in Bangkok with my lawyer, Pakorn, thrashing out the details of an Engineering Inspiration Centre Co. Ltd., a not-for-profit educational charity.

And that, dear reader, is the end of the beginning of the AAAEIC Co. Ltd. or initially code-named Project "Evening Star".

Alexander And Angelina Engineering Inspiration Centre Co. Ltd. (AAAEIC) -

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The following page will talk you through the early stages of AAAEIC development. Click here to continue.