Cherry Hinds Hill is a well-known name to those in the model engineering world and her models are considered remarkable for their quality. The Duke of Edinburgh Challenge Trophy and the Championship Cup has been won by Cherry 9 times. Yet she has always maintained a low profile-she has allowed her work to speak for her.
Cherry’s models are based on both historic working engines and designs which never got off the page. Part of her success is the level of research that she undertakes to get her models to look how the real thing did (or arguably would have if built). Indeed, she is more concerned with this than in creating something which operates as the engines did. All her models are made to work; Cherry makes them, runs and videos them and then paints them, at this point they become static. Cherry’s usual scale is 1:16 or 3/4in to the foot.
Almost all of the thousands of parts in each machine are fabricated or machined from solid, castings are not used. Nothing is bought in, even the rivets are handmade. Details of her machining techniques are hard to find but she uses conventional machining, although she does make extensive use of jigs and fixtures. The key to her work is in the research, design and decision making for example, when making sled blades she machined the runners from solid using conventional machining- rather than fabricating them from sheet and angle. She has often modelling vehicles for which no model design, no drawings and no castings exist. In addition to exhibiting superb craftsmanship, her models show rarity, complexity, difficulty, and even obscurity.
Cherry was born into an engineering family. Her father, George, was of the the firm McConnell-Hinds, they made innovative hop-picking machinery. It was George who taught Cherry, he had a workshop at home. She also followed him career-wise and became a machinery designer. Cherry has had several patents awarded to her, including for a full-size gear for the Crypton Synchro-check carburettor balancer (produced commercially by AC Delco).
Cherry’s first exhibited model won Bronze and her second Silver, at the International Model Engineering Exhibition. Since these early example, her models have won every Model Engineer Exhibition competition they were entered in.
Cherry’s 1863 Blackburn traction engine won her 9th Gold Medal and Challenge Trophy. The engine shows how critical research is, as there is no evidence it was built. Cherry searches Patent Office records, The Engineer and publications such as the Mechanics Magazine. Where information is lacking, she looks for components from other comparable contemporary designs. In this case, Cherry had to use her own ingenuity on some major components including the boiler, crankshaft, suspension and steering. Parts not shown at all (on patent drawings) included the injector and water gauge. In order to aid the design process, a high quality mock-up is then made. When built the model operating speed was equivalent to a full size speed of 6.1 mph. After running the model it was painted, this took five months. In total, the model took 2 years to research and sketch and 7 years to produce full drawings and to construct. It contains around 7400 parts and took 7500 hours.
Her latest project is an Nathaniel Grew Ice Locomotive. Everything is made from steel, some of the pipework is just 1/16” diameter. Grew came up with the idea of a steerable steam locomotive with sled runners at each end of the engine. It was fitted with a cab when on the ice to keep the driver warm (with heat from the boiler). It was used in Moscow to transport goods across frozen rivers and lakes. During the 1860s it conveyed passengers and goods between St. Petersburg and Cronstadt. Unlike many of Cherry’s models, this one is based on a vehicle which was manufactured. Grew is interesting, he surveyed and set out of part of the Madrid and Valencia Railway (under the Marquis Salamanca and W Greene), from 1854 to 1859 he was chief assistant to Sir William Siemens in connection with his improvements in engines, furnaces, and iron and steel manufacture. He then set-up on his own.
A new book about Cherry by David Carpetner is available. Apart from her earliest projects and the Grew, all the models are on view at IMechE headquarters or on the Virtual Archive.