1380 SHOW Showmans Engine Review

This charming engine harkens back to the late 19th century when showman’s engines were used to bring power and provide transportation to fairgrounds and country fairs. Manufactured by Mamod, the engine is a great working model of an English traction engine that comes complete with dynamo and LED bulbs. These lights were used in the past to also illuminate the rides of these traveling fairs.1380 SHOW Showmans Engine Review

Mamod is a famous English toy manufacturing company out of the Birmingham area that is also notable for buying its metals and parts from suppliers in their region. This makes it a very authentic product with great care going not only to construction but also sourcing. For collectors, choosing their model train sets by region, this is notable for authenticity in this regard.

This is the classic Mamod traction engine that the company has had in production for almost 50 years. This showman’s engine beautifully renders the classic, complete with bright paintwork, ornate decorations, twisted brass roof supports, and a full-length canopy illuminated by LED lights. The canopy is also removable should you choose to do so. However, the look of the model completely lit is pretty captivating so you may want to just leave as already constructed to enjoy in its full splendor. 

When reviewing this engine, the instant comparison comes with the slightly more expensive 1380 SHOWSP Showmans Special. The difference being that the SHOWSP has a double action piston which provides more power. Aesthetically, both engines render the era of the latter half of 19th century Britain brilliantly. The choice here lies in whether you want both forward and reverse action of the newer model. The newer model is also ever so slightly larger and weighs slightly more.


The 1380 SHOW Showmans Engine measures in at 177 × 137 × 294 mm and weighs 2500gms. This model steam engine comes ready built with 1 packet of solid fuel and1 bottle of lubricating oil. It is powered by steam and requires water. Composed of heavy-gauge steel and brass, the engine is lovingly painted and also includes a water level gauge and steam whistle. This engine is painted to the Burrell standard of ‘Lake Crimson’ with ‘Deep yellow’ wheels. It is a stand-out for any hobbyist with a model steam engine collection.

The model has several components: The drive belt is run by the diecast flywheel which is also connected by a separate drive belt to the dynamo. This model also comes with a steering extension rod.

An interesting note on the historic use of the disc flyweels:

The original intention behind disc flywheels in showman’s of the past was to provide a more soothing sound so that any horses the engine encountered would be less startled. However later invention included decorating these flywheels which nulled any benefit from the discs. 


Mamod, in operation since 1936, is known for its high quality steam engines and this one didn’t disappoint. The comforting rhythmical whirr of the engine in motion and the nice puff of exhaust steam from the chimney adds a lot of appeal to this model. This model engine also comes with everything you need to run it, all you need to do is add water (ordinary tap water will do). Another pro for the Mamod models as they come equipped with a safety valve control and fuel tablets, safer than their original methylated spirits. The model should run for about 15 minutes once fuel tablets and water have been added. Pull the flywheel to start the engine, which turns the main wheels and the dynamo to power the LED lights on the canopy. The sound is very appealing and rhythmic as it runs.


This model is forward running only, though if that is your concern you can opt for the newer model of the 1380 SHOWSP Showmans Special. Other past concerns were with Mamods packaging, though from what we have seen they have upped their game and this is no longer an issue. Finally, the model is not built to scale but as we mentioned earlier it is meticulously crafted.


This model is ideal for ages 14 and up, though it can be enjoyed heartily by younger audiences with supervision. This engine also makes a wonderful addition to a model train collection. The fact that it is an English engine, built by a reputable English toy company using primarily English-made parts adds to the overall value. Then you have to remember the fact that these showman’s engines have been bringing joy since their initial creation. They were originally used in fairgrounds and for carnivals, you can’t get much more cheerful than that. Often the engines were the main attraction of the fairs themselves.

The beautifully detailed paint work, the quality of construction and the added components of safety that Mamod uses to continually enhance their products make this engine a valuable toy train to add to a pre-existing collection. This model can also serve as a cherished keepsake for years to come. Whether you are beginning a train set or adding to an existing hobby, this model steam engine is a nice choice for any train lover.


Should you ever like to see this engine in person, a trip to the Great Dorset Steam Fair may be in order. Originated in 1960 and now known as the National Heritage Show, this fair takes place every August and runs for five days. Showman’s engines are notable at the fair and provide the light and power for the old roundabouts and swings. With attendance of up to twenty thousand visitors you won’t be alone in enjoying these live beauties in action. Past fairs had up to sixty working showman’s engines to view.

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