In the years prior to the Second World War Sydney S. Bird and Sons, of Enfield, Middlesex, UK, was a manufacturer of radio components. The company’s products were marketed under the trade name of "Cyldon", this name being derived from the Christian names of Sydney Bird's two sons Cyril and Donald.
In early 1947 they decided to diversify and started producing toys. Their first product was a construction set, similar to Meccano, which they called "Prestacon". This was followed by a range of toy cookers, sewing machines and steam engines. In the book "Toyshop Steam" the engines were incorrectly attributed to Rees and Company. This is because they were marketed by the wholesaler Leon Rees of London. Production of steam engines lasted until around 1951 when there was an upturn in the electrical component market related to the increase in the sales of televisions.
Gamages advertisment 1948In 1953 the company relocated to Poole in Dorset where they manufactured a wide range of products including toy sewing machines, Cyldon cine film reels, "Bird" electronic organs and parts for Seagull outboard motors as well as radio and TV components.
The Cyldon 13/1 shared most of its component parts with the 13/3. The differences were the painted firebox and the wooden base. The 13/1 also sported a whistle.
This engine came to me as a pile of bits and was in such poor condition that only a full restoration would bring it back to life. The first task was to sand and then re-varnish the plywood base. The firebox was cleaned and the rust treated, it was then sprayed with BBQ paint and gently baked for an hour. I am not keen on the dead matt finish you get with black heat resistant paint, but I find that if it is baked in a low oven to fully harden it can then be buffed up with a soft cloth to give it a slight sheen and that looks a lot better.
All the brass was soaked for 24 hours in vinegar to get rid of years of accumulated filth, after which it was carefully polished. The original red paint on the flywheel was still in good condition so that was left as it was. A number of the soft solder joints had to be remade and the engine was put back together, for probably the first time in many years. The reproduction safety valve and boiler level plug came from MF Steam.
The engine was steamed up and runs as sweet as a nut. Am I pleased? you bet!
The entry model in the Cyldon range was the 13/3. This was a simple oscillating cylinder engine which, unusually, had an unpainted firebox and was mounted on a polished aluminium base
I was very pleased to find this very fine example of a 13/3. It is in excellent condition and looks as though it has not been fired a lot. Whoever owned this engine in the past has certainly looked after it. It is in good working order and runs superbly.
The only fault was the lack of the correct Cyldon safety valve. At some time in the past the original had been lost. Initially I used an SEL part, which is shown in the photograph. A reproduction of the distinctive Cyldon valve has now been fitted, again courtesy of MF Steam.
One interesting feature of Cyldon engines is the three wick burner. This is made to a novel cylindrical design and is a work of art in its own right. It might look a bit strange compared with more conventional designs, but it works extremely well.
Some variations may be found in the burners, there are two positions for the vent hole, immediately in front of the filler cap or further along the burner between the first and second wick tubes. There also seem to be two lengths, most are 4 1/2 inches (about 11.5 cm) long but others are only 4 inches long (10 cm). Some engines also have burners that are fitted a firebox shield.