Tag Archives: Hollar

Expo time

This weekend brings ExpoEM North and for the second year, I have the pleasure of being amongst the range of demonstrators there, along with my good friends Brian Sunman and Ken Gibbons.  Anyone who’s been to an Expo will know the unique atmosphere they have, and we’re very much looking forward to being there and seeing what else Derek Evans has lined up.  Demoing is probably less tiring than showing a layout, but that said, it can be even more difficult to see the rest of the show!

The overall theme of our little bit will be BR period modelling, and Ken will be taking an eclectic mix of projects which echo back to the spirit of Modelling the British Rail Era. Steam, diesel and very probably electric, from the ’60s to the ’90s all have a chance of making an appearance.  Brian’s main focus will be on buildings for our under-construction Waverley route layout, but he will also have with him some of the Carflats that he’s been working on for the same project. This pic isn’t my best effort and the wagon needs some finishing work, but it should show the effectiveness of what is essentially a simple conversion – based on an LMS Period 1 coach underframe as so many of the prototypes were:


I shall be presiding over my usual random mix of modified RTR and kitbuilds, and will also be taking my paintbox.  One particular project I’ll be giving a coat of looking at is my small fleet of grain wagons based on the Trix/Lilliput model.


The methods we use are not specific to any particular prototype or period, but that said, we recognise it’s a finescale show and will obviously slant things that way.  We all have some experience in regauging locos and stock so if you’re curious about easy steps into EM, ask away. And the same goes for anything that’s on show, or even that isn’t.  We’re there to talk, and don’t be put off if we look ‘busy’ or already have somebody at the table – it’s usually a case of the more the merrier 🙂

More details on ExpoEM North can be found on the Society’s own website.


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Filed under Brakevans, Heritage diesels, Mineral wagons, Off the beaten track, Scottish railways, Uncategorized, Wagon kits, Wagon loads, Wagon weathering

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.


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:


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):


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:


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):


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…


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.


Filed under Vans, Wagon kits

The LMS Van

The LMS, as the largest of the four companies, was the one which contributed most to the ‘pool’ of wagons controlled by the RCH and which of course eventually came into BR ownership.  Vast quantities were built to various designs, no doubt causing some degree of confusion at first glance.  As is often the case though, with a little analysis it is evident that a very large percentage of them had a distinct familial resemblance, with the corrugated ends that had first been used back in the 1920s and being essentially to one standard body shape, which also accommodated a post-war change to plywood body sheeting instead of planking.  The last batches to LMS orders actually appeared with BR numbers, and many lasted in significant numbers into the mid-1960s and hence the diesel era.

The vans of the  SR and LNER have recently been quite well catered for out of the box, together with Parkside’s retooling of its post-war LNER plywood van.  The old Mainline moulding for the GW Mink is now middle aged but still acceptable, and this leaves a gap that is surely ripe for RTR exploitation.  For now though, there are three principal LMS-pattern van models available which can round out the picture for a BR van fleet.   These are the venerable Ratio 591/5091 kit, a very similar one-piece moulding in the Airfix RTR range and Parkside’s PC42 kit, which although intended as a BR fruit van to a plywood LMS-inspired design, can be used to represent ordinary vans built by both the LMS and BR.  Contemporary with the Airfix model, an equivalent model appeared in Mainline’s range, easily recognisable by its crude working sliding door;  at some point this was retooled to lose the gimmick, but retained its squat appearance.  To be honest it’s best avoided, as the ex-Airfix moulding is way superior, still available from Dapol and secondhand examples are not rare.

The Ratio kit dates back some forty years now, an all-time classic wagon kit in my opinion, and is still a hard act to follow.  The assembled kit captures the look and proportions beautifully, particularly the characteristic corrugated end and the shape and size of the vent hoods.  Over 20,000 vans were built to the diagrams that it covers  (LMS D1891/1897/1978/2039), so it’s a model that can easily be justified on any layout from the mid-1930s to around 1970.

The one below is in progress, awaiting the ‘metalwork’ stage where it will acquire buffers and tiebars.  Most of these vans acquired additional diagonal strapping during BR days, and this has been represented with plastic strip.  The sharp eyed will see that I didn’t get this positioned spot-on the first time,  which irks me, but it’ll come right once it’s painted and weathered.  I’m also deliberating over providing boltheads on the additional strapping, it may provide an excursion for my Archers rivet transfers.

Although in shadow in this shot (showery in E Yorks today, indoor photography only), it also sits on a Parkside 10ft wheelbase underframe, which I used in order to give a bit of variety and portray a van with BR-pattern axleguards and plate axleboxes.  You can normally do this sort of thing with different chassis kit parts, although a little thought can be needed to accommodate the disparate brakegear parts.  The Parkside floor though fits as if it was made for the job. A second Ratio kit is in build, this one being altered to an early D1891 van with vertically planked doors, and will join a third van that’s been left as intended, although it will acquire a clasp braked, J-hanger suspended chassis courtesy of Parkside’s PA16 parts.  Not that there’s much wrong with the Ratio underframe as it comes, it can be used to represent  a van as vac fitted by BR or (by omitting one set of pushrods, the ones on the side without the Morton clutch), an  unfitted van as originally built.  Other than the rather thick moulding feeds, as visible here on those end sprues, the crispness of these mouldings could easily be mistaken for a modern Parkside kit:

Below is an example of the Airfix RTR  offering; one important recognition feature it depicts is that whereas pukka LMS vans have channel section vertical uprights, BR builds ( diagram 1/204)  have a different section.  The diagonal stanchions are also doubled at points. All of the BR examples were built in vac fitted form, again this is catered for by the appropriate parts from Parkside’s useful PA16 chassis kit:

A bit of added bolthead detail appears on that top board, and also seen here is a very distressed example of a trader’s label, of which more anon…

The Parkside PC42 van is a very rare thing, a model in their range which doesn’t convincingly capture the prototype.  This is because it mistakenly uses a roof profile more akin to the BR standard van.  It is possible to reprofile the top edge of the ends, but this still leaves the vent hood position looking a bit odd, so the solution I chose was to use the ends and roof from the aforementioned Ratio kit, which sets everything up right from the off and immediately shows how far out the sides are .  If you’re frugal in outlook, by the way, there’s no need to shell out for a brand new kit for this purpose as indifferently-built examples can be picked up for a few quid at swapmeets and can with care be dismantled for spares.

My part-finished model here shows the extra 40 thou or so that was inserted  between the body top and the roof.  Again a PA16 chassis provides the undergear, for what will be a BR built example of diagram 1/200. Well one day it will, although I’d vainly add that this is a ‘library’ photo and since it was taken, it has progressed slightly; label boards have been added, together with the boltheads along that upper join in the corrugated end.  LMS vans didn’t always have these details, and so I might just yet do another one as a relative quickie to pair with it.  It’s probably worth pointing out as well that the LMS ply vans, unlike the planked variants above, did have the pattern of upright shown here (D2108), although a small batch to D2097 didn’t have the diagonals and don’t generally seem to have acquired them later.

Other LMS vans that should be mentioned are an all-plywood wartime van, plus some to LNER and SR designs that were delivered during WW2.  There’s also the odd earlier van that can form part of the ’60s scene, and one or two of these might be along in due course.

Useful references:  An Illustrated History of LMS Wagons vol. 1, R J Essery; article in MRJ 205 by Mick Moore; plus the many photographic references provided by Paul Bartlett’s website, David Larkin’s books for Santona and Kestrel, and the late Geoff Gamble’s Cheona volumes.


Filed under Vans, Wagon kits, Wagon weathering

The great Southern roof mystery

One lazy weekend a few years ago, being in that particular mood of having quite enough that I should be doing, but nothing I particularly wanted to be doing, I thought I’d pick up on a comment made by a friend and dug out various of my Southern vans, the roofs for the comparison thereof.  The utility vans and Van Cs have appeared in various forms over many years, the goods vans are available as kits from Ratio and RTR from Bachmann, Hornby and Dapol (the latter two being the moulding introduced by Airfix/GMR in the late 1970s, and none the worse for that).

Now it’s fairly well known that these vans had a distinctive compound roof curvature, and this is obviously going to present a challenge to a modelmaker or  manufacturer.  An article by John Hayes in MRJ 120 deals with the construction of three vans from Ratio kits, a principal feature being replacement of the roofs due to their profile.  John says that all the published drawings of these vans show slight variations, which also doesnt surprise me as I suspect that even a good draughtsman is prone to ‘freehand’ a bit in such circumstances.  Geoff Kent also has some words of wisdom on the matter in volume 2 of his 4mm Wagon trilogy.

As with so many things though that are ostensibly models of the ‘same’ thing, the real problems start when you want to run them together.  So, some comparisons.  Firstly, a couple of utility vans, Parkside on the left – with my own ends here, in order to produce a PMV, but following (ish) the kit profile) – and Wrenn/HD at right:

Next, the old Airfix 12T at left (don’t be fooled by the even planking) and the Bachmann model at right:

I think those two, although not identical, are pretty closely matched as far as the profile is concerned.   There are discrepancies  with the positions of the bonnet vents and their shape, but those would be very difficult to work on.

Now the Ratio kit at left, again the Bachmann at right:

This to me shows how wrong the Ratio one looks – it’s much flatter, sort of squashed-looking, at the shoulders.  The vertical bits at the very sides are too short, accentuating an excessively peaked effect at the apex.   As this older shot shows, it actually looks more wrong when viewed side on:

Almost as an aside, this shot shows the SR-pattern brakegear with drop link, which was adapted from the Red Panda chassis of the BR clasp pattern gear.

Of them all, the Ratio is the only one I can’t live with and as I’d put a lot of work into the rest of the van, I bit the bullet and did something about it.  Trials with the Parkside CCT roof showed it would fit, with a bit of minor fettling; once cut to length, this was the outcome:

As mentioned, the roof needed a bit of work to sit snugly but the only thing I’ve done to the body ends is to file them slightly flatter across the central ‘third’:

I’m aware of the remaining slight gap at the shoulders, but I didn’t think it warranted destroying and restoring the capping strip, and since then the roof has  been painted and the capping touched in.  The whole job is a bit of an enigma really; it definitely looks better, and yet as that minimal gap shows, there isn’t all that much difference between the two roofs.  And I still have to order a replacement part for that PMV!

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Filed under Vans, Wagon kits, Wagon weathering