Well there are two of us in the main Summerlands Chuffer team - but a lot of other folk have been involved in the development of this gizmo which I believe can transform the enjoyment of garden railways (okay - I am very biased!). So before talking about us - I should like to thank all who have helped through encouragement, prototype testing and, of course, buying the Chuffers.
Right then - Nigel Garrett of D P Supplies is the master Chuffer-Maker. His main business is making and servicing pumps for the damp proofing industry but he is also a long time member of the Weymouth & District Model Engineering Society (W&DMES). His interests are wide ranging - from full size locos and traction engines right down to hot air engines.
I am Chris Bird and I do the design and development (back of envelope style), and also the marketing. I was deeply into 16mm back in the 80's and early 90's, but then got distracted by work, cars and more recently 7 1/4" gauge steam. I only returned to 16mm at the end of 2007 and built the Summerlands Light Railway (SLR), which has given the name to the chuffer. I am very much a rookie model engineer, but have learned a huge amount, both from the members at W&DMES and the members at the East Somerset Society (ESSMEE) where I am also a member.
How we started....
One thing I found when returning to 16mm, was that although we are incredibly lucky in having the range of commercial locos available to us, most, if not all of them, were too quiet. There was no chuff! So one of the first things I did was to add simple chuff pipes made to a Tag Gorton recipe from K&S brass tube - one for Accucraft and two for Roundhouse - and that was it. I took some video and it generated quite a bit of interest on the garden railway e-groups - but I had no plans to go further.
One e-group member, the late Zoë Topper, in the US, decided that she wanted to have just one chuff pipe in the chimney of her Roundhouse loco and started thinking about an adapter to fit the twin exhaust pipes. We both started working on the problem and I had the advantage of a 50 year old lathe to play with. Within a few days, I had carried out a whole series of tests to find out just what did create and amplify a chuff and how to make a reliable adapter. Group members sent me links to work on resonator whistles etc. too, but in the end it was good old trial and error.
Before long, the Summerlands Chuffer design idea was ready and in action. It was very well received on Youtube and I continued to refine it over the following months. I then tried to find someone who would make and market it - and I failed miserably! So it was by the purist chance that I ended up working with Nigel to assemble a portable 7 1/4" gauge track at a local school fete. We got talking - and - as they say - the rest is history!
Zoe Topper of NGT Models
Sadly, Zoe Topper, the well known owner of NGT Models in the USA, passed away on the 7th June. Zoe played a very special role in the Summerlands Chuffer story which you can read about here. It is a fact that if Zoe had not asked the question about fitting a single chuff pipe to a Roundhouse Billy, there would be no Summerlands Chuffer.
We also have Zoe to thank for helping to develop the Chuffer for the wide range of US prototype locos and for the code system we use - and with over forty types to identify we are very grateful for that. She will be greatly missed.