About The Engine Review Index

Contents:

   Development
   Data Sources
   Data Integrity    The "Advanced" Page
   Regrets
   DON'T ASK

 

Like most projects, this monster started out as a modest idea, but it quickly assumed a life all of its own and grew into the all-consuming Monster From Hell That Ate Cleveland. The basic idea came from the Model Engine Tests page, by Terry McDonald—a page that I found saved me a lot of time locating published engine test reports when writing engine reviews for these pages. In using it, I became increasingly worried that Terry's index might suddenly disappear, but also increasingly aware that it had many holes. So I decided to put the Mountain of Magazines to use and build a more extensive index that was local to this site.

Development

The raw data would be maintained in a spread-sheet and the index page generated by a Perl script. So I started cataloguing, using the same data categories as Terry had used in his list. As the number of entries from English and US mags passed the 800 mark, I began to grow very uneasy about how much information was being "lost". Surly bore, stroke and weight would be useful things to have when comparing engines, or even the same engine as examined by different reviewers? So, start again (*sigh*) and add the extra figures, where they were available.

With 1000 reviews indexed, I started to think that all of this extra effort going into the bore/stroke stuff was of rather limited usefulness. Then I hit on the idea of adding the "Compare" checkbox to each line so you could for instance, see just how much the Taipan 1.5 and Allbon Javelin had in common, even though one was up in the A's and the other down in the T's. More Perl and looking good. Now we can easily see that the old wives tale about the origin of the Taipan 1.5 has no basis in fact—bores, strokes, and bore/stroke ratio are very different—great! But now I was noticing how many "metric" design 2.5's used a 15mm bore and a 14mm stroke. Wonder just how many? If I could specify one value and get Yet Another Perl Script to generate a page of all engines with a 15mm bore... You get the picture.

So that brings us to the current state of play. A database of reviews maintained in Excel, exported as a CSV (comma separated variable) file with Perl scripts to generate the static index and advanced query pages. These pages calling a common Perl script to dynamically generate customized review pages of selected reviews. It works. Time to stop.

Data Sources

All reviews cited originate from model specific magazines published last century. Some are still in publication, but many have long since disappeared. I do, *choke*, have most of the mags listed and I'm frequently grateful that my library happens to rest on a concrete slab. Some however I don't have in the original form, but do have in published engine review collections that have appeared over the years. However, if I could not identify provenance on a reproduced article (source magazine name and issue date), I have omitted that review. The magazines referenced are:
Aeromodeller English. Published by various publishers from the mid 1930's to early 2001. Publication restarted as an insert in another magazine in 2002, Died again in 2012. Most agree that Aeromodeller went through several Golden Eras, interspersed with what can be most charitably described as 'lean years'. From the 80's on, the same publishing house also produced RM and RCM&E (and others). This allowed Aeromodeller to specialize on the non-R/C side of the hobby—to the everlasting gratitude of Free-Flighters, Control-Liners, and indoor flyers the world over. It's first demise was lamented, but a mercy. The second was less so, but probably inevitable. My collection spans Jan-1944 to Dec-1999, with some gaps in 1948. Engine reviews in the Aeromodeller began with our friend Lawerence H Sparey, followed by Ron Warring, and Peter Chinn, a most prolific reviewer who crops up all over.
Air Trails American. Originating in the glorious "pulp" era, Air Trails combined what can be described as escapist, adventure fiction for boys, plus articles for the air-minded youth, occasionally including a model. Over time, the model content increased and the fiction faded. You could argue that Air Trails is still in publication today as it morphed first into American Modeler, then American Aircraft Modeler, and finally Model Aviation—the current, monthly journal of the AMA. If I've left out a morph or two, forgive me, it's tortuous.
Airborne Australia. Still in publication. An eclectic publication catering for most phases of modelling Downunder, including at various times, boats and cars. Perhaps best known for introducing Brian Winch, the "Airborne Engine-Ear" to the world. Winchy and his frequently irreverent style, which is very "Ozzie", has also appeared in RCM&E.
Flying Models American. Still in publication and one of the most consistent providers of all-round coverage for modellers to ever come out of the USA. Unfortunately, FM was never big into engine reviews of any depth, so it does not contribute greatly to this index. Has dabbled in boats and cars for a time, but is pure again.
Model Airplane News (MAN) American. I think I'm correct in saying that MAN was the very first magazine dedicated to aeromodelling ever to appear in the world. While still in publication, it is now devoted to R/C only. This is sad as up until the 80's, MAN provided very good, broad spectrum coverage (including those dreaded cars and boats when in vogue). MAN secured the services of a young PGF Chinn in the mid 50's to write a "Foreign Notes" column, and soon after, to provide their engine reviews! MAN gave Peter far more column inches than his countrymen could, so his reviews there constitute Chinn at his all-time best.
Model Engine World (MEW) English. Originally a monthly magazine dedicated to model engines edited and published by John Goodall. MEW, after several years, went bi-monthly, quarterly, then "ceased" for a time before reappearing as a quarterly publication under Andrew Nahum. At the end, Goodall confessed in writing that MEW had been a vehicle to bootstrap his engine trading business. If success is measured by his asking prices and volume of stock, it was a successful ploy. That said, and my obvious but justified bias aside, MEW was a good magazine thanks to the army of unpaid contributors who willingly provided the better content.
Model Aeronautics England. Infrequently published with a format very similar to the English "Model Aviation". I have only a single issue which provided reviews for two Mills engines. I've gone along with crediting Hunt as their author as his name appears on the index. However, I doubt this as no direct credit appears on the actual review page, though Hunt's name is stylistically incorporated into the air-brush, sectioned, isometric illustration of the engines. I believe he was the artist only, but can't prove it.
Model Aircraft England. Begun in 1949, Model Aircraft was the "official" organ of the SMAE (Society of Model and Aeronautical Engineers) and a rival publication to the Aeromodeller, into which it was to merge in 1965. Early engine reviews are uncredited, but have a certain "Chinn" flavor to them. Later reviews appear under his definite by-line (note that the McDonald index inaccurately, but perhaps correctly attributes the early Model Aircraft engine reviews to Chinn).
Model Aviation England (as distinct from the AMA publication, and not to be confused with Model Aircraft). Appeared sort-of quarterly from 1948 to 1950 and contained a good mix of designs from other countries as well. Engine reviews were credited to Henry J Nichols—owner of one of England's biggest model shops—and a young PGF Chinn. Like many English publications, the editors seemed to have been still laboring under the war time Official Secrets Act and were loathe to disclose the publication date!
Model Aviation Planbook England. Another one-trick pony that appeared briefly in the modelling boom that followed peace after WWII. Still, it has a couple of engine reviews clearly credited to Henry J. complete with air-brush sectioned drawings, and all the data required to fill in my tables, so worth including.
Model Builder American. A valiant attempt begun in the 80's to fill the gap being left by the likes MAN, with regular coverage of free-flight, indoor, old-timer, control-line, etc, etc. MB's engine reviewers followed the editorial style which I'd call "folksy", hence they lack the rigor of a PGF Chinn. Even so, one of their writers, Stu Richmond, through his occasional "Engines of the World" column, tried to show US readers that there were engines other than Cox, Fox and K&B.
Model Maker (MM) English. Formed in 1951 as an amalgam of "Model Cars" and "The Model Mechanic", MM came from the Aeromodeller stable and was a sort-of competitor to the Model Engineer, but with a far broader coverage. It was Model Maker that published the Weaver-Ransom 1cc Diesel and a few other IC engines for home construction. Drawing on the resources of the Aeromodeller (Sparey and Warring), MM mostly reviewed marine versions of English model engines. Further details of MM and it's demise appear on the Sparey Tribute Page.
Model Planes Annual English. Yet another of the boom time publications. It's hard to tell this one from "Model Aviation Planbook" and "Model Aviation". The engine reviews by Peter Chinn with air-brush sectioned drawings (probably reflecting the style first seen in "Air Trails") are well presented. I have only the 1950 issue and am relying on McDonald's index to cite the 1949 inclusions, hence the absence of bore, stroke and weight data points.
Radio Control Models & Electronics (RCM&E) English. Started as a thin, "pocket-book" size magazine in the early 60's under "Dickie" Dickson for the Aeromodeller press, RCM&E outgrew it's elder sibling, reflecting the change in focus of the modelling community. Originally publishing an eclectic mix of circuits and odd-ball electronic ideas, and sometimes, plans—including plans for boats, "robots", R/C lawn-mowers, and the occasional aircraft—it expanded along traditional lines with engine and product reviews, construction features, etc. In the 90's RCM&E engaged ozzie Brian Winch to shock it's readers with his unique perspective on engine reviews and related hardware based hints and musings.
Radio Modeller (RM) English. Initially started as a rival to RCM&E, RM was eventually acquired by the Aeromodeller stable, but continued as a separate entity and "friendly competitor". RM's engine reviews were provided by the prolific Mr Chinn.

Data Integrity

The information for each review is as close to that published as practical. If one reviewer called it a "Gas Guzzler 30" and another called it the "GG .30" and measured it's weight in kilos, that is what went into the index. Where I've found a gross error—like the 30cc Tartan monster that Model Builder headlined as a .30 (cuin)—I've fixed it. But for the most part, the data are faithful to the source article.

There is a downside to this; the names in the "Model" column are not standardized. For example, one reviewer may call an engine the "ETA 29", and another the "ETA .29" Searching for Make="eta" and Model=".29" will not get the results you expect. This was a difficult decision, but I concluded that accurately representing the reviewer's work was better than introducing distortions, even beneficial ones, except where out-and-out typos existed (like the one above).

During the indexing, my respect and admiration for Peter Chinn rose enormously. The depth and quality of his reviews is truly outstanding. I also noticed that Chinn's reviews evolved to use the units appropriate to the design. So the bore and stroke of an OS would be quoted in millimetres; a Fox in Imperial. This makes sense to me. 22mm is a nice round number. 0.86614" is not. If you want to convert, divide the mm by 25.4 (SIC was always saying to multiply by 0.03937 or something which nobody could ever remember). To go the other way (inches to mm) multiply by 25.4, and if you can't remember which to do, do either! The result will tell you when you've picked the wrong operator.

Bore and Stroke

Some reviews gave both metric and Imperial figures for bore and stroke (Mike Billinton's Model Builder reviews frequently did this). In that case, I've chosen the units appropriate to the country of origin. Some reviewers were very methodical and tabled the engine data (or perhaps their editor was more anal). Others were more casual and scattered the numbers through the write-up, if at all! Stu Richmond's "Engines of the World" and "Inside Engines" series in Model Builder were prime offenders on this—which is not to say his reviews are bad reviews; they merely lack the rigor of PGF Chinn, for example. Still, it was disappointing to see from a photo that the engine had been torn down for review, but no measurements taken.

But just so you don't think I'm placing the honorable Mr Chinn on a pedestal, I must point out that I sometimes wondered at the precision he quoted for a bore and/or stroke. Four decimal places is within the capability of a decent Imperial micrometer, especially when measuring the diameter of a piston, but when measuring the stroke? Or (as some reviewers state) measuring the cylinder bore? Many engines will have a tapered bore, so where was it measured, or was it averaged? Some reviewers even noted the amount of taper in the bore and declined to give a single, definitive figure. In this case, I've chosen a value representing the average, rounded down to 3 figures where necessary so as not to introduce the appearance of four decimal place precision.

Weight

In all the reviews, weight was generally given in ounces, even by Peter Chinn when describing a "metric" engine. When both have been given, I've selected the Imperial weight. The engine weight in the earlier reviews was not infrequently quoted as fractions of an ounce, such as "one and a half ounces". In these cases, I've converted to a decimal fraction. So a weight to three decimals of precision may merely have been quoted as "x-eights of an ounce". And there's nothing I can do when a review says something like "the weight was just a shade under two ounces" other than call it 2oz. If a weight was pounds and ounces, forgive me, I've normalized it to ounces. But if the only weight stated is metric, then that was copied verbatim. So you'll see the occasional "gm" for grams, and the odd "kg" for some real big monsters. I may yet convert these, or provide an option to have the figures converted by the dynamic page generation.

Mostly, the weights exclude the muffler, even if this figure was available. I chose to use this figure so that the weight of an engine from the glorious but sociopathically loud Golden Era can be compared with its more politically correct but boring cousins. In a very few cases, no sans-muffler weight was provided by the reviewer. Too bad. How sad. Never mind. Those will just look a bit heavy.

Displacement

The figure given by a reviewer for an engine's displacement (or capacity, as it is frequently called) was sometimes taken from the manufacturers' nominal figure, and sometimes was obviously calculated from the measured bore and stroke (with the potential problem of the tapered bore mentioned above introducing an uncertainty factor). Despite the temptation to provide an "accurate" displacement figure when a reviewer has given bore and stroke, but quoted the manufacturer's nominal figure, I've kept to the latter and tried not to introduce any data into the index that does not appear in the review itself.

While on the topic of displacement, it was amusing to see how manufacturers bend reality. Most engines are actually smaller than the "well known" figure. This is not bad. Getting disqualified from an event for engines up to 2.5cc capacity because the makers' got it wrong is not a good thing. Fox, on the other hand, occasionally understated the nominal, advertised capacity—a clever way of having your engine beat the competition, and I'll resist the temptation to observe that Duke was a cunning old Fox .

Missing Data

Most regrettably, many reviews, especially later reviews from The Aeromodeller of the 90's, provide no bore/stroke figures at all. Perhaps this reflects an editorial opinion that today's user is not concerned with such trivia. Well call me olde fashioned, but I happen to think that it is interesting to see how "square" a design is, but that's me as an engine builder and would-be designer and I'm probably not typical of the intended audience.

Similarly, I've not attributed reviews where no attribution is given by the publisher. For example, it's generally accepted that PGF Chinn was the reviewer for the early Model Aircraft engine reviews. Eventually, they carried his byline, but no matter—if it's not proven, I've not implied it. If a reviewer is not named, the source is quoted as "anon." (anonymous). If a figure is not provided by the reviewer, the index has "n/s" for not stated. In a very few instances, I've used "n/a" for not applicable, such as the bore and stroke for a Wankle, or pulse jet.

Finally, blanks indicate that I either don't have the issue in question, or have not yet got back to it to add the data left out on the first pass. If the source is Model Aircraft before 1951, my library is very sparse and I'd welcome the missing figures—or the magazine itself, if you're willing to part with it.

The "Advanced" Page

Treat this as a work in progress. It's good enough to answer questions like "show me all the 4 stroke reviews for OS and Saito", or "show all the diesels reviewed in Model Airplane News", or "all the glow engines reviewed by Sparey in the Aeromodeller during 1952" [one only].

The form provides fields for all the data columns, though querying some of them is of limited usefulness. First, you'll notice that free form entry for "Type", "Magazine", and "Author" is not supported—you have to use the pick lists which restrict these fields to single values. These are generated from the set of values currently present in the column, so hits are guaranteed.

The others support multiple, space separated selections that will be logically OR'd, so entering "os saito ys" for "make" will retrieve reviews where the make starts with any of the terms entered. I chose the "starts with" rather than "exactly" so that, for example, searches for "McCoy" would also return the reviews catalogued under "McCoy (Testors)". For hopefully obvious reasons, a "contains" search is not good (you don't really want to get back all the Ross engines when you only wanted OS, right?). Also note that matching is not case sensitive.

This is not the case for "Model" though. While still case insensitive, whatever term, or terms you enter for model will be matched if they appear anywhere within the model name. Very little sanitization of your input is carried out, leading us into the next topic, regexs.

Unlike the Site Search Facility, I've allowed some regular expression (aka RE, and "regex") nonsense to pass through the "free-text" fields. So entering "^2" in the stroke field will give all engines whose stroke figure begins with a "2". I don't know how useful this is, but you can certainly enter a query for Capacity like:

(^2\.[45][0-9]*cc)|(^0\.1[45][0-9]*)

Like it? This gibberish translates roughly as "all reviews for engines of capacity between 2.400cc and 2.599cc, or 0.1400 and 0.1599 cuin". This lets you compare all the engines of around 2.5cc, regardless of whether the reviewer quoted the capacity in cc, or cuin (and yes, it works; I've checked it. 212 results at the time I wrote this)! If you don't know regex syntax and think you'd like to, I recommend Mastering Regular Expressions (second edition) by Jeffrey EF Friedl, O'Reilly Press, as the last word on the subject, so far...

The query uses OR logic for terms within a free-text field, but AND logic to join the results of non-blank fields. So a search for make="OS ENYA", type="4s glow" will return all the OS and Enya 4-stroke reviews. I think it's relatively logical. But be careful. Your query may filter out engines because of the non-standardized way authors and their editors captioned the reviews. Best to check the full, alphabetical index first and formulate your advanced query accordingly.

A last word on REs. The "dot" character in a regex will match any character at the point at which it appears, but not "no character at all" (unless we do other things). So the query mentioned earlier for Make="eta" and model=".29", instead of doing what the user intended, finds all the ETAs no problem, then filters out all which do not have "29" preceded by (at least) one character! As all reviewers of the ETA 29 omitted the decimal point from the name, the query misses all but one where the "29" happens to be preceded by a double quote mark! If you really want to search for "point two-nine", place a backslash in front of the dot: "\.29" and it will be treated as a simple dot. There are no ETAs with "dot twenty-nine" in the model, but there are a healthy group from Fox, Dooling, Johnson, etc (and far more with 29, but no dot, including those pesky ETAs).

Regrets

I have a few... Providing the page numbers for the reviews would save some time chasing through magazine indexes, and another column that classifies the engine beyond the simple ignition type would be good too (eg, RRV = Rear Rotary Valve, etc). This later would allow me to be less schizo and remove the "4s" for "four stroke" from the type column, and add spice to the ad-hoc queries as well. I think my general engine knowledge is just about up to classifying every engine from memory, but that would not be guaranteed, and I don't relish the thought of making *another* pass through the Mountain, yet. So enjoy the index, AND...

DON'T ASK!

I dislike saying "no" to people—one of my many failings. So have some consideration for my feelings and please don't ask me to just copy off a certain review, even if you're willing to recompense me for photocopy and mailing costs. A large proportion of the magazines referenced here are not easily accessible. They're in storage and require heavy lifting in a confined space, so the time and effort involved is an absolute killer—you couldn't afford it and neither can I. Sorry.

 

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