Tag Archives: Culreoch

Vanfare for the common man

No, not Vanwides again (one for those with long memories, that, though using the same heading twice in 19 years shouldn’t be stretching a point too much)!  Rather, a few random-ish thoughts on the Vanwide’s more ordinary common cousin, the BR standard van.

At this point it’s almost obligatory in modelling circles to mention that whatever ‘standard’ thing it is that’s under discussion is anything but standard, and this is true enough of the BR van when you consider there are two materials used for the body sheeting and that the corrugated ends could be formed of two  or three  parts, each with further minor variations, all underpinned by the usual progression of brakegears and an extensive array of other running gear options.  But I have an alternative take – from the less focused perspective of the operators, the people who’d roster them and load them, they were standardised.  They were a basic covered box that was a given size and shape, and what the thing was made of and what type the buffers weren’t a concern to them, as long as they did their job.

Anyway, to the models.  Like so many of the things characteristic of the post-war railway, we have a choice of representations of these vans, but made in such a way that not all can necessarily be run together, at least not without modification or a bit of thought.  Hopefully what follows won’t shatter too many illusions!

As with so many wagon types, anyone starting from nothing can do little better than to assemble a selection of the current Parkside kits, PC07A/08A.  Now I’m not going to just blog about that, I think most readers here will know of Parkside kits and that they virtually build themselves.  But the current kit replaces a much older one, one that was one of the firm’s earliest offerings and was in essence an Ian Kirk design from the 1970s.

Although it was a welcome breath of fresh air at a time when little truly BR period was available, the van is like most of the Kirk production, quite basic and a little dimensionally dodgy.  Most seriously, it’s a good 2mm or more too tall in the body, which alters the proportions quite significantly, and whereas considered on its own, this may not be an issue  to some, it does stand out as soon as you sit it next to a more correct rendition and look at it at eye  level.  I  first twigged this back in the mid-’80s when comparing the first one I’d built to that old favourite, the Airfix meat van.   Whilst variation in all aspects  is of course an intrinsic feature of a 1950s or ’60s van train, which would be composed of vans of all sorts of origins, after 1972 or so the BR vans were pretty much all there were, and the consequent uniformity in roof line when looking along a train is a very recognisable feature, just as it would be with a uniform rake of Mk1 or Mk2 coaching stock.

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This comparison shot above is between a current Parkside end moulding and an old Kirk one (actually from an insulated van).  I’ve positioned these so that the tops of the headstocks are aligned level, and from that, it can be seen that that’s actually where most of the excess  is.   This may be because the original Kirk solebars were quite crude and chunky by modern standards.  I reckon there’s about a mill and a half in there, and although it’s not so obvious from the pic, there’ll be another 0.75 – 1mm in the corrugated end itself.

There are ways of dealing with this though if you have some of these kits and want to use them.  The rake that inhabits Ken Gibbons’ various blue era layouts were produced from this basis by, simply enough, cutting them down as necessary; as seen here:

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My own approach is one I’ve used before with superseded Parkside kits, by incorporating parts from the later and better kits.  In this case, using spare ends of the current design, taken either from the Vanfit or Vanwide kits automatically produce the right height to set the sides at (in the same way as with the Parkside/Ratio hybrid shown in an earlier post, The LMS Van).  Again these particular sides are (fairly obviously) from the insulated van, but the mouldings are identical (whereas Parkside’s current PC09 has a faithful portrayal of the differing door fastenings):

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Although only obliquely visible, the chassis parts here are also later standard Parkside – a pair of PA16 solebars with plate axleboxes will acquire the 4-shoe brakegear from the current kit.  The mismatched join in the corrugations needs some thought, and I also should come up with something just a tad more delicate for the brackets that the doors fasten back onto…

Before leaving the subject of these kits, one common misconception concerns the vans that had doors mismatched with the body sheeting.  This variation is provided for in the retooled Parkside kits but unfortunately, the assumption is often that because the alternative parts are provided, they can be combined at will.   Not so, unfortunately; whilst several thousand planked ones were built with plywood doors, the opposite combination is not thought to have happened (although some early standard Shocvans do have this arrangement, due to 1950s materials shortages, there’s no evidence of it on standard vans).

The reasoning behind this combination is something I discovered some years ago in some 1950s BR committee notes at the NRM.  Apparently the original design of door had been causing damage to a particular user’s traffic, due to an internal gap into which loads could shift.  To avoid this, a new design of door that eliminated the gap was put in hand.  This new pattern of door was only designed in plywood, whereas the previous pattern of alternative body sheeting continued, producing some 4,000 or so vans with the mismatch.

A bit of more obvious variety doesn’t go amiss in an otherwise homogenous fleet, and one little known variant is the roof ribbing that appears in the first row of wagons here, behind the slave cab of D4500.   I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but a small number of vans have it.  The majority I’ve noted have been ply vans with 8-shoe brakes from a late batch that were signwritten for particular users but one other, an earlier 4-shoe ply, was written for Crosse & Blackwell traffic, so there may be some connection in the type of traffic carried.  One of the three Lots of fruit vans based on the BR standard van also had this type of roof.  Oh and whilst you’re perusing that Tinsley pic and taking in the wealth of wagonry scattered about, have a look at the van in the middle of the third row, between the 21T hopper and the Covhop … thoughts on a postcard perleeeze 🙂

Another model that entered the mix back in 1985 was the David Boyle-era Dapol production.  Again, it’s another one I like because despite its general chunkiness, it catches the proportions very well in my opinion.   On the downside, the end vent is too small and the flat part of the diagonal bracing too deep;  the broadside below shows how this has been carved off and replaced with thinner microstrip:

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This van runs on the Red Panda underframe for the BR 8-shoe brakegear, with MJT self-contained buffers. It’s one that was done a while ago and ran in the initial Culreoch fleet, and is here awaiting slight relettering to suit the earlier ’70s.

Moving on to a possibly less expected contender, I mentioned in the banana van piece that I had a soft spot for the old Dublo rendition of the BR standard.  This might well be partly due to the number of the Wrenn derivatives that I worked on again back in the ’80s, and I still have a few of them together with one or two unpainted bodies.   Despite its assorted shortcomings, I’ve always thought it caught the look of the type pretty well.  The planking and diagonal bracing take a liberty or two but the main issue is with the roof curvature, which is a tad too sharp and more akin to a GW design van, together with the seriously undernourished bonnet ventilator.

Another comparison then, but not between the Wrenn and a more correct model, but between unmodified (left) and modified (right):

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Rebuilding the roof on  a one piece moulding would obviously be a foolish thing to do, but my minimal mod here (which I also apply to the Dapol vans), is to use spare Parkside vents tweaked so that they overlay onto the existing vent.  Whether the significantly greater width of the correct vent creates an optical illusion that ‘flattens’ the roof curve, or whether it’s simply the disguising one error that draws attention away from another, I’m not sure, but as a way of bulking up a rake without too much effort, I’m happy enough with it.

Incidentally the vents I use were obtained very cheaply some years ago, but it’s not the hardest job to knock them up yourself in plastic card.  You’ll note that I haven’t restored the lost bolthead detail, which again is in line with the ‘quick and dirty’ ethos as the ends will be the part least visible. In which case, you might ask, why alter anything at all…

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A side on shot of the modified van again brings in the theme of making the best of old models that have a decent finish.  The current Bachmann 4-shoe chassis fits well enough and a selection of transfers and Hollar posters complete the impression.  I still won’t run these vans next to a ‘correct’ BR standard, but as a short cut in a long mixed freight, possibly mixed with vans of pre-BR design, they should pass muster.

A model that might by now be conspicuous by its absence is the Bachmann RTR model, which to be honest I was a bit disappointed with when it appeared.  Some of the contemporary criticism focused on the thickness of the ironwork, which is something I tend not to fret about.  More of a concern to me was that I could see from side by side comparisons with other stock (both vans  and other types) that the proportions just weren’t right somehow.  I’ve never fully analysed it but I think it’s a combination of a slightly tall chassis (not uncommon in RTR) with maybe up to a millimetre shortness at the eaves.  It’s a shame, it was  a model I really wanted to like because like all Bachmann stock, the liveries and lettering are well observed and nicely applied.   Not a major issue though in the bigger scheme of things, it won’t matter at all to many users  and it has to be said that it’s a rare blip in a range of freight stock that overall just goes from strength to strength.

And finally, purely for the sake of completeness, I should mention the Lima model of the standard van.  About which I’ll say no more than that there was one.

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Filed under Vans, Wagon kits

Bachmann OBA

Although later than my principal period, I hang onto a few 1980s-ish bits and bobs that I did ‘back in the day’ of Culreoch and Wintringham Haven, particularly as Ken (Gibbons) still retains more than a foothold in that scene.   One such is this Bachmann OBA, repainted into shabby Freight Maroon from the EWS model that was one of the initial introductions.

Dealing with the mechanical bits first, these wagons will convert to EM if you want them to – as long as you use ‘proper’ scale wheels and not just pulled-out Bachmann ones, which have wider treads and will take up too much width in the axleguard units.  This underside shot shows this, and also the block of plastic that I glued at the back edge of the axleguard unit to prevent it swivelling too much.  Moving onto cosmetics, the factory rendition of the roller bearing axleboxes is a bit unconvincing on these models, so I replaced these with Chivers mouldings – the image is clickable and there’s a telltale change in the paint finish that shows how far back the mouldings have to be filed:

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As ever, the livery details were my main interest and the vehicle represents an Ashford product from the first Lot built, 3909, and having been retro-fitted with Bruninghaus springs for Speedlink work.    Although the wagon’s been around a while, I took the brief opportunity on sunshine the other weekend to take these next few updated pics.

As well as the usual toning down and odd scuffs, there are odd replacement planks picked out in either black or a different shade of red.   This is something which affects  all wooden bodied opens, but BR’s air braked fleet seemed to have even greater propensity to it than earlier traditional stock; some of the piebald concoctions to be seen  by the time of the EWS takeover were quite fantastic:

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Another characteristic effect I wanted to replicate was the maroon overspray onto the inner ends, something I’d picked up on from a period photo.  I’m sure an airbrush would produce this perfectly but all I did was stipple small amounts of paint with a cotton bud:

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As an aside, this livery is one of those that courts misunderstanding and mythology.  Quite apart from the exact shade and the related arguments over what ‘maroon’ actually is, it was a livery used from late 1975 and gave way to the flame red and grey mix from 1979.  Once weathered though, it can be indistinguishable from the earlier brown/bauxite shades, and many people think that’s what it is.  I remember on a visit to Carlisle Currock some twenty years ago, someone scraping the side of a stored VDA with a coin to prove otherwise…

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The final shot shows a later development, some ‘new’ modelling!  If I recall correctly, the packing cases  were done a couple of years back for Llangerran’s appearance at Thirsk show.  They’re intended to be vaguely MOD-looking although owe more to the method used (block and sheet balsa) than to the photos on Paul Bartlett’s site that provided the impetus.   They’re made up as four sets of two, back to back, and the sizes worked out well enough for two pairs to fit in a traditional 10ft wheelbase Highfit.  Transfers are from various aeroplane kits, a hangover from my lad’s younger days and kept, as one does, because they ‘looked useful’.

Wagons do look better with loads though, it gives them a purpose.  I have a shoebox full of equally likely-looking bits and bobs to work on, and I wish I had more time to devote to the subject.

As explained in a parallel post on my other blog, Hal o’ the Wynd, life has been a bit full lately and this awful ‘winter that won’t let go’ has delayed all sorts of projects, but as most of my recent dabblings are nowhere near finished, I thought I’d dig out something that was, before this blog became one of those with no activity from one year to the next!  I am however currently conducting a journey around some of my ‘in progress’ minerals over on  Modellers United,  so if you’re not averse to single-subject threads and models that are not shiny RTR any more but look like someone’s had a barbecue on them, feel free to drop by and take a look.

On the subject of Llangerran, Ken’s layout now has four shows under its belt and  a new page here for it is under construction – check back soon for pics and (if I can get the file formats sorted) video as well…

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Filed under Wagon loads, Wagon weathering

Spring shows

A couple of recent shows, at Nottingham and York, have provided some enjoyable and varied opportunities for playing trains.

Cully sallies south

First up, Culreoch’s second trip back south of the border, in the capable hands of its new owner Jamie Wood and co-operator Dave Franks (of Lanarkshire Models & Supplies note).   It was pleasing to be able to give them an hour or so off on the Sunday, and also to make reacquaintance with the layout, which looks well and now has the benefit of some lovely 1960s stock, marshalled into authentic and thoughtful formations.

I don’t often do badges, not when I’m theoretically a punter anyway, but it’s good to know they were there.  Rather than another layout shot, I’ll provide a loco portrait to showcase  one of Jamie’s own lovely Black Fives, although Dave had brought one or two of his own exquisite creations, including another Five, a 4F and a very nice kitbuilt Fairburn tank.   Good use was also made of Jamie’s Standard 4 tank, recreating the image of ‘the Mad McCann’ at Creetown which will be known to Port Road afficionadoes!

Bomber jacket required

During March I also took an opportunity mooted for some time of training on the Hull MRS ‘Stealth Bomber’, so named because of its unusual shape and the ‘cockpit’ arrangement of one of the operating positions.  This was something very different for me; I’ve obviously been used to being around the creations of our narrow gauge section since joining the club as a teenager, but have never operated them at a show.  The ‘Bomber’ or to give it its correct name, ‘Crumley and Little Wickhill’, is a very well thought out layout in all aspects, and with the standard of scenery, a real pleasure to operate.

The above shot is courtesy of Steve Flint and the Railway Modeller, and is of the intermediate station Little Wickhill.  In the near distance, a goods train is dropping down the hill to the crossing point, and hidden to the right is a further incline down into Crumley.  A siding runs past the abandoned tipdock to the right and also serves a cattle dock, and is probably my favourite spot on a very atmospheric layout.

Last train from Bonchester Bridge

Finally, a farewell to Brian Sunman’s second exhibition layout Bonchester Bridge, a North British terminus station located in the Borders of Scotland, about equidistant from Jedburgh and Hawick.  The layout is now over twenty years old and featured in the first volume of British Railway Modelling, although because of the pre-digital nature of the available images, I’ve not been able to feature it here before.

Having once been retired, ‘Bonny’ has over the last few years made reprise appearances at a few shows.  The time comes though to move on, other projects come to assume prominence, and the layout will shortly be in the hands of a new owner.

We had to have a wee dram of course to see the old girl off, and pictured above are some of the people who have been associated with her in some way or other over the years.  Left to right, they are Ken Gibbons (who, most importantly, provided the Scotch), Steve Flint  (editor RM), Brian himself, your scribe, Mal Scrimshaw (taller), York Show acting manager, and Paul Windle.  Not shown, being behind the camera, is Paul Derrick; the three last-named gents  being instrumental in the construction of the ‘Bomber’.

Brian originally ran the layout with early 1960s steam power, including a B1, V3 and N2, but in recent years a slight shift to the later ’60s made sense, using the proprietary diesels with superior mechanisms that had been easily converted to EM for use on Peffermill Road.  

The pic above shows a class 26 clearing the last few wagons from the yard, in just the way that must have happened on so many branches like this in the 1960s and ’70s.  And now, with mention of Spring and the inspiration glands recharged, it must be time to at least think about doing some modelling!

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Filed under Scottish railways, Uncategorized