The 44 I’ve always Wanted

I’m always interested in people who have vivid childhood memories which form the cornerstone of their involvement in model railways; a train set under the Christmas tree, an uncle who worked for the railways or holiday travel aboard a train with compartments. I’ve long marvelled at the ways these formative experiences sow seeds of interest in railways that blossom into a life long passion in model railways. So how do I explain my involvement in the hobby when I so patently didn’t have any such formative influences? No member of my family worked for the railways and train sets were well out of reach at Christmas. I haven’t spent a lot of time pondering it but if I was pushed to try to explain my involvement it’s probably the lack of such early influences that led me into the hobby. As a young boy I had friends who did receive train sets as gifts and I would have given a body part to have one too.

While I may not have trodden what appears to be any of the above mentioned well-worn paths into the hobby, this doesn’t mean I am bereft of significant influences and memories that have shaped my involvement. Trips to the city on the old Sydney red rattlers is a vivid memory as is the ozone smell of the city circle. However probably one of the strongest influences occurred on a hot summer’s afternoon about 20 years ago when I visited the rail yard at Grafton on the way back from a north coast holiday. Sitting on a siding close to the road was a 44 class loco in the candy paint scheme which had seen far better days. The huge beast was idling quietly away in the sunshine and I was transfixed. At that time I had only just re-entered the hobby and my familiarity with this class was limited to owning a Lima model of the locomotive. I won’t bore those of you who have no experience of the Lima 44 with details of its shortcomings but, upon seeing the real thing up close, to say I was speechless would be an understatement!

I immediately became a 44 class fan! In spite of this fondness for the class I’ve never really owned what I would describe as a satisfactory model of a 44. Along with many other modellers I did the “standard” upgrade on the Lima 44: new motor, flywheels, Athern trucks, white metal/brass details and a paint and weathering job. This work made the model look and run better but it just wasn’t right! The body was short and too fat and the nose just didn’t have quite the right shape and no amount of fiddling was going to fix it. Probably like a lot of modellers, I made the best of it and eventually sold my upgraded HO 44 when I shifted to O-scale. Since changing scales I have watched with a small degree of dismay the proliferation of superb HO models that have flooded the market including a beautiful 44 class. On more than one occasion I’ve resisted the temptation to buy a HO 44 at an exhibition. The manufacturer of this loco has really got the look right and if I was still modelling in 1:87 I would be the proud and happy owner of a couple of these locos. But I’ve moved on! 🙂

44’s were off the agenda for me until I bought a 1:43.5 KHIAC 44 a couple of years ago. I hadn’t planned on buying one but the price was right and to me the model captured the look of the real thing to a sufficient degree to satisfy me. I’ve written earlier on this blog about some of the work I’ve done to the internals of my model and I’m not going to get into comparisons between the KHIAC model and the Bergs/O-Aust/Haskell version here. I’ve got mine running well enough, the thing looks the part and the finish is excellent, even if some of the details aren’t quite right.

A couple of days ago I decided to take a break from working on Morpeth to put a little time into two shortcomings on the 44. The first of these is the lack of couplers (or any really convenient place to install them) and the lack of weathering on the model. After doing some checking I’ve determined the alterations I’m going to have to make to the front and rear pilots to install my choice of couplers. I’ll detail this process in an upcoming issue of 7th Heaven, the quarterly magazine of the Aus7 Modellers Group. I’ve been longing to weather my 44 for almost two years but I couldn’t really ever find the time to devote to it as I tried to get the layout to get it ready for the Aus7 ExpO in March. The other day I managed to get to a point where I felt I had the time to weather the loco and I set to with gusto.

I started by separating the body from the chassis and checking whether the glazing could be removed without damage. The answer was no, so I reassembled the loco and blocked out the windows and lights with blue tack. I find this an ideal masking material as it is pliable enough to push into tight corners but it won’t stick strongly enough to anything to cause damage. I started the weathering by dry brushing on some Rail Brown, dark rust and Roof Brown along the prominent exposed edges of the loco body, the grills, the side frames, fuel tank and pilots. I allowed this to dry overnight. In the morning I mixed up some Weathered Black and gave the whole loco a very light airbrushed dusting of this to blend the dry brushing and dull the sheen of the original red and yellow. I then gave the vents near the motor a going over with Alclad Manifold Exhaust and finished off with some Floquil Dust and Mud. After this had dried I dusted on some black Carr’s weathering powder around the engine vents and along the roof.

I’m happy with the result: it reminds me of that day in Grafton even though the paint scheme isn’t the same. Hey you can’t have everything and anyway, I don’t like the Candy scheme 🙂

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