Harry Coventry

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By John Kurdzionak of Friends Models:

Harry "Henry J." Coventry (1887-1987), circa 1959. Photo courtesy of Lindy D., a relation of Mr. Coventry's.

Henry J. "Harry" Coventry was born in England in 1887. Just one year after Victor Shattock was born in the same country. He came to the USA sometime in the early teens. At one time he was employed by the Baldwin Locomotive Works as well as the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. He was a Professional Engineer and a superb draftsman.

Beginning sometime in the nineteen-tens, he started designing various "live steam" models. One of his first was a 1/2 inch scale, 2-1/2 inch gauge Pennsylvania Railroad "K4" Pacific 4-6-2. This model was featured in 1924 in the The Modelmaker magazine, from which blueprints and castings could be ordered. After this. Mr. Coventry designed a 1/2 inch scale P7 "President Washington" 4-6-2; a 1/3 horsepower marine compound engine; a 3/4 inch scale P7 President; a 3/4 inch scale 0-6-0; a 1 inch scale 4-4-0 and 4-6-0; a British "Single" in 1 inch scale, and various other models.

Mr. Coventry sold the finest blueprints and castings available, and did so from his home in Baltimore, Maryland from about 1920 to about 1970. Thereafter, he sold castings from his new home in McAlester, Oklahoma.

In the 1970s, he began selling off his foundry patterns and the master drawings, probably just to "raise some cash". The designs that had been "under one roof" and managed by one man since before 1920, were now divided up among various owners. One design went "here", another went "there", and "these ones" all went "somewhere else". And "somewhere else" was not "one" location. It was a half-dozen locations. Only one design, the 3/4 inch scale P7 President, ended up with an owner who had the ability and the will to keep the design on the market. Miniature Power Products of Canada kept the 3/4 inch scale P7 on the market from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Most of the other designs were lost, disposed of, destroyed by accident, or left in barns, basements, or attics and then forgotten about. Very few had caring ownership. Patterns and drawings were separated. Some were loaned out and not returned. Some were left at foundries. Some were discarded. Some were sold to second and third parties. And some were just rotting away in barns.

Mr. Coventry died on February 2, 1987, just 5 days before what would have been his 100th birthday. What was left of his designs were sold off at auctions and yard sales.

An effort by a volunteer group to produce a few of Mr. Coventry's designs in the early 1990s didn't get very far....the patterns were destroyed in a fire, before castings could be produced.

Beginning in the late 1990s, and lasting well into the 2000s, John Kurdzionak, new owner of Friends Models of Massachusetts, sought, located, and purchased most of Mr. Coventry's designs, and bought the remnants of Mr. Coventry's estate that he could locate. Kurdzionak was fortunate and found most of which Coventry sold off in the 1970s, and a lot of which was "split up" upon his death. He bought it solely for the purpose of "getting it back under one roof", and so that it could be produced again.

Kurdzionak began having the old patterns repaired and upgraded, and in some cases, replaced with new patterns. The 1 inch scale 4-4-0 American and 4-6-0 Ten Wheeler, and the 3/4 inch scale 0-6-0 Switcher, were the first "long lost" H.J. Coventry designs Friend's Models produced.

The prototype P7 #5300 locomotive was built by Baldwin in 1927 for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Twenty locomotives of the class were built, and they were named after the first 20 presidents.

Coventry's signature from a blueprint, June 1931.

This 3/4 inch scale live steam locomotive was designed by Mr. Coventry in the early-1930s at the request of several live steamers who had built Mr. Coventry's 1/2 inch scale version of it (starting in 1928) and who wanted a larger, heavier "live steamer" to build and run. Thus the 3/4 inch scale P7 "came to be" and debuted in the early 1930s; it was advertised in The Modelmaker magazine at that time. It became Mr. Coventry's most popular and well-known design. Many examples were built and are still running today.

The 3/4 inch scale P7 design was commercially available from Mr. Coventry until sometime in the 1960s. In the 1960s, the P7 design was sold to a new owner. In fact by the 1970s, the 3/4 inch scale Coventry P7 design had changed ownership no fewer than three times; it was off the market for most if not ALL of that time; and it even traveled from Connecticut to California during these ownership changes. Finally, it was purchased by Miniature Power Products in Ontario Canada in 1979, which put it back on the market and produced castings for it from 1979 until 2010.

When Friends Models acquired the design, the first order of business was to replace the missing valve and exhaust coring. Miniature Power Products was not able to get good results in the valve coring, so a plain core for the valve had been substituted. In 2012, Friends had new coring made, brand new, that would allow a cylinder to be cast that would be EXACTLY to Mr. Coventry's original design specifications. With all complex "steps" and passages "cored in", the cylinder will be able to be much-more-easily machined by "amateur" or "hobbyist" machinists, than prior. In fact it can be done on a 10 inch lathe with faceplate. This is old-fashioned American pattern-making at its best; it is the first time since the 1960s that these cylinders will be produced with this specialized coring; and the first time in decades that the cylinders will be "as Mr. Coventry" envisioned & designed them.

Helpful Hints

Submitted by Harry Coventry in The Miniature Locomotive, November-December 1952

To tap small holes in copper such as for stays in boilers, run the tap into a piece of soap before tapping. Being non greasy it is better than cutting oils and solutions as any traces of soap are easily washed off, making subsequent brazing or sweating that much easier.

Little Kathy

Little Kathy

From Tiny Power (Archive.org):

Little Kathy is a moderate project for the beginner; parts are very small and tolerances are tighter than for larger engines. The engine was introduced originally in 1926 by Mr. H.J. Coventry and was featured on the front cover of the October 1926 Modelmaker Magazine.
Included in the kit is a copy of the original 1926 blueprint, along with an updated blueprint by Ed Warren of Modeltec Magazine. Mr. Coventry wrote an article on how to build this model step-by-step with very basic tools (files, drill and small lathe).

John Kurdzionak said "I bought all the the Little Kathy components and patterns and drawings from TINY POWER some years back." (Feb 2024) Castings and drawings are available for Little Kathy at Friends Models.

1/3 HP Compound Marine

See "1/3 Horsepower Compound Marine Engine" at Friends Models.

President Washington

Build Instructions

Harry Coventry wrote detailed build instructions for the 1/2 inch scale and 3/4 inch scale versions of his live steam model. The instructions ran as a series in The Modelmaker from 1928 through 1932.

John McKnight and Andrew Romer collected and lightly edited the articles to produce an extremely helpful build guide. The PDF including additional articles by Mr. Coventry about springs, drilling holes at an angle, reaming holes accurately, piston rings, etc.

President Washington Build Instructions (PDF)

Friends Models provides many of the castings for the 3/4 inch scale President Washington, and a helpful appendix is included in the PDF showing which castings are available.

1/2 inch scale

The Modelmaker magazine began a series of articles in October 1928 by Mr Coventry for his 1/2 inch scale Baltimore & Ohio RR President Washington.

3/4 inch scale

Pennsy K4

H.J. Coventry designed this fine 2-1/2 inch gauge Pennsylvania K4 passenger loco. From "Mechanical Package Magazine #4 Fall 1932".




See also:



From Find-A-Grave:

Birth: Feb. 7, 1887, London, City of London, Greater London, England
Death: Feb. 2, 1987, McAlester, Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, USA
Burial: Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland, USA
Henry J. "Harry" Coventry came to the United States in February 1920. In July 1920 he married Annie Laurie Bosley in Ellicott City, Maryland. She died in 1958, and in 1968, he moved to McAlester, OK, from Baltimore. He was the designer of a donut machine. He was a member of the Junior Institution of Engineers of England and Professional Engineers of Maryland.

See also "HJS", Friends Models.