Thursday, 1 March 2012


Time goes by far too quickly - in life generally it does. Thomas isn't a baby any more he's a proper little person who can, in the literal sense, stand on his own two feet! But it only seems like a few months since he was a tiny premature baby.

This week I've been working on a brake van for Botanic Gardens in the quiet moments at work - and I was shocked when I was going through photographs and my blog to find the last time I did anything constructive with it was 2008! Though it has covered many scale miles on Botanic Gardens. So, just a little time has passed then - I could have sworn I'd last done anything in the summer! But finally this has found its way to the front of the queue - mainly because it required lots of little items to be fitted which can be fitted in between trains on Sunday and late on as the line quietens down for the night. During the day doing anything other than signalling trains is hard - even going for a wee requires careful timing at certain times!

Much of the work thus far had concerned bastardising the chassis to enable Bill Bedford W Irons to be fitted - the 3' 6" wheel versions were not as user friendly as his other ones, which had surprised me greatly. However the width of the units was not compatible with the thick moulded solebars of the Slater's kit. So I replaced the whole lot, salvaging the mould axle boxes and springs which are rather good. It did leave rather bare 20 thou plastic where the chunky wooden solebars should be. I'd intended to add an overlay to thicken this bit right up to where it should be and add bolt detail separately. However, adding lots of bolts individually is very time consuming and not always what you want to do when you only have the odd hour here and there to do your modelling. However, when you must remain somewhere and can't leave with decent length breaks, the opportunity arises... And one book came in very useful for this work - Ian Sadler's delightful book North Eastern Railway Brake Vans which contains a wealth of information as well as superb drawings and photographs. Perfect really until you realise that vans tended to be modified on an ad-hoc basis so few were anything like identical after a few years in service! But this is a 'typical' North Eastern Railway (NER) 'birdcage' without the later additions - no doubt the modified vans will follow at some point!

I thought I knew exactly what was needed, but the more I seemed to do the more I realised I didn't know! Not a new experience I guess but a little frustrating! The problem was how brake gear and was arranged - drawings showed V hangers mid-way along the underframe but photos didn't seem to show anything lurking where I thought they should be. I didn't want to doubt Mr Sadler's work as it seemed pretty comprehensive.

Fortunately just a few miles away is Hull's Streetlife museum and within their 'Railway Gallery' is a NER brake van, matching the diagram which Slaters chose all those years ago! The only problem is that the rather confined environment means photography isn't very easy but one side of the underframe is readily accessible.

So a visit by Thomas and myself found the solution to my curiosity. The V hangers are not attached to the solebars but the drawings do show them in the correct position - confused? Stick with my, my story gets better!

They actually sit on the lengths of timber which correct the heavy end stanchions which themselves are extended below the headstocks to form hanging buffers. This is not something which photos from normal angles will ever show clearly to any extent but first hand research like this is the best way to determine details like this.

I also got a couple of useful photos of the arrangement at the brake end, the arrangements under the 'birdcage' - though I suspect I'll leave this but as it'll be very hard to see behind the wheels. It also afforded an opportunity to see the rather neat combined spring and brake hanger. However, approach with caution...

Comparing this van with photos in the aforementioned book, it seems that the long footboards are plain on the preserved van whereas they are lipped in archive photos. As a aid it's invaluable must must be used in conjunction with information relating to the time you're modelling. Having looked at the drawing in Peter Tatlow's LNER Wagons covering NER wagons, it looks like V hanger itself could be on the inside of the timber mentioned. It's a small detail, but does demonstrate the need for careful research.

So this is how things currently stand - compared with the 'before' shot at the start of this little piece, I hope the number of additions is obvious. I've had to simplify the lamp irons slightly as replicating them exactly would, I felt, make them appear a little clumsy in model form. However, the hand rails have not been simplified, and those horizontal handrails on the van sides were very awkward indeed! Soldered butt joints at either end were never going to be simple were they?!

Not bad for a few hours very pleasant work - still a few bits to go. The roof will probably changed for 15 thou sheet brass as I'm using this on a couple of BR brake vans as this avoids sheet plastic warping of being damaged or caught during handling under exhibition conditions. Then it's just a simple matter of building at least another fifty wagons so we can marshal trains to put it on!

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