The Signalling Equipment Limited range of engines were made by J & L Randall Ltd. toy makers of Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, England. SEL engines were made between 1946 and 1965 and during that period they were probably Mamod's most successful competitor. The range comprised four stationary engines and various accessories. SEL pioneered the use of thermo-setting plastic which was used in the manufacture of the accessories and also for the engine mountings on the two larger models. A marine style engine was also produced, for sale to model boat builders.
From the "Meccano Magazine" December 1954
Interestingly, following the end of SEL production in 1965, Mamod bought up the surplus stock of marine engines. These engines were coupled with a Mamod boiler and sold as the Mamod ME3. 2,704 ME3s were produced between 1965 and 1972.
J & L Randall Ltd. also produced toys under the brand name Merit, these were very popular in the fifties and sixties. Not surprisingly SEL engines were also sold under the Merit name.
Model 1520 Minor
The little Model 1520 Minor was the smallest engine in the SEL range. It is a tiny little thing that will easily sit in the palm of your hand. It runs very well indeed although, to be honest, it does not develop a lot of power. The design is rather unusual in that the firebox is used as the mounting for the cylinder assembly. The cylinder, piston and crank are one side of the engine and the flywheel is on the other. As a result of this an axle passes through the firebox. This rather unusual design feature is also shared with the slightly larger Model 1530.
This example came from an auction on eBay. It was complete with its original spirit burner and in full working order. It was, however, looking pretty sad and so I decided to have a go at restoring it to something like its former glory. This was my first attempt at a full restoration and I am very pleased with the results of my labours.
Model 1530 Junior
Possibly the most commonly found SEL engine these days is the Model 1530 Junior. This was a well built single cylinder oscillating engine and the second smallest in the range. The Junior shares the same cylinder and piston as the Minor but had a different layout and a larger boiler. In all probability it is no more powerful than its smaller cousin.
This is not the first SEL Junior I have owned. I was given one as a Christmas present when I was ten years old, back in 1957. My father mounted it on to a wooden base together with an SEL line shaft and a circular saw. I remember that the little circular saw would cut thin card! I had hours of fun with it and it was probably responsible for my lifelong interest in things mechanical and steam powered machines in particular.