Model flash steam plant by Bert Martin, Southampton, Hampshire, England, 1935
The model is an impressive feat of miniature engineering, being developed by a man who worked on Spitfire aircraft during the Second World War, and who gained three silver medals from the Model Engineer for his work.
The 'flash' steam plant differed from a more conventional boiler design in that it relied on a relatively simple tube, externally heated, which accepted water at one end and, by virtue of the low water volume and relatively large heating area, issued steam at very high temperature at the other. It was widely used for steam cars and lorries, because its design allowed working pressure to be attained quickly, at a cost of not having a larger steam reserve available as with a conventional boiler design.
Flash steam plant found a ready and eager fan base among the model and experimental engineering clubs and societies which existed in very considerable numbers from the 1920s onwards. Compared to the more staid occupation of constructing model locomotives, flash steam could be used with high speed model boats which, in linear races or running tethered to a central point so that they pursued a circular course, attained speeds of 20-30mph. Race meets drew large crowds, and were often accompanied by spectacular crashes, soakings of the audience, and technical malfunctions of the plant which, in the words of one writer, ran ‘like a scalded cat’.