Switching the prototype locations of my modelling focus from a sleepy branch-line to a reasonably heavily trafficked mainline has had some interesting effects on my thinking about my hobby direction. As I can’t actually start building the layout I’ve been posting plans about yet I’ve been making some evaluations of various aspects of the plans I’ve been developing in my head and on paper. It’s been a fairly long while since I’ve had to contemplate the prospect of assembling multiple examples of a single type of rolling stock: modelling a branch has allowed me to avoid a large program of rolling stock modelling over the last decade or so. However if I wish to see the types of trains running on the layout I’m planning to build – read for that longer trains with multiples of the same vehicle – I’ve decided that it might be time to take a serious look at some of the kits available for some of the types of vehicles that will be running on the layout and to do a bit of preliminary test building.
There aren’t many types of vehicle I’m not going to need on this new layout and while I have lots of unbuilt kits in my cupboard I only have one or two examples of them. If I’m going to be outlaying serious amounts of money and time on longer rakes of rolling stock I want to make sure that what I’m building can be put together in a timely and efficient fashion. I’m going to need passenger, coal, wheat and stock trains for this new layout and in numbers that dwarf what I currently own and have operational. I can’t seriously imagine that I’ll be running multiples of these types of trains, Muswellbrook had something like eleven passenger trains in a normal 24 hour period in the 50s/60s and I simply can’t reproduce this. But I would like to have a representative sample of this traffic and that means at least one of each of these types. What fun! 🙂 I’ve been assembling and painting a few items of rolling stock over the last few weeks and finished off two wagons yesterday. So as there appeared to be an opening in my schedule I thought I’d get out an O-Aust kit of an LCH coal hopper I have on hand and take a look to see if it will suit my need for a “coalie”.
It turns out that the O-Aust kit is a reasonable starting point for the type of hopper wagon I want to model. It’s an extremely simple kit to assemble, with very few parts, but in putting together some prototype information I’ve discovered that the type of wagon I want is just one of dozens of this style of wagon that ran in the Hunter Valley and, as the kit is not an exact representation of the vehicle I require, I need to decide whether it’s close enough to suit my needs or whether I’ll need to come up with an alternative. The starting point in this evaluation process is that I imagine I’ll want to run at least 15-20 of these wagons in a train. Anything less than this (and I may end up with more) running behind a 50 or a Garratt will look pretty silly. At $140 per kit this is going to be an expensive exercise and if I’m going to invest anything like that amount of money in a single train the results better be worth it!
I started assembling the kit yesterday and managed to get the wheels under it by this afternoon. The bucket is a reasonably good representation of the prototype however I found a problem with the cast white metal side frames/W iron assemblies. The frame is supplied as 6 parts that need to be assembled with solder or glue. I found that one of the W irons/axle boxes is about 1mm lower than the other and this is of course repeated on both castings because they have been cast from the same pattern. As there is no simple way of fixing this (I checked the other kits I had on hand and the two I looked at are both the same) I had to solder the frame up with a deliberate twist in it to ensure all four wheels had a reasonable chance of touching the rails at the same time. I had approached this kit assembly with some trepidation: I’d resolved that I’d give assembling this kit a go straight out of the box, no sprung W irons or other third-party upgrades. This was in part due to the fact that I can’t see an easy way of installing springing onto such an open vehicle. However I will need to convince myself that the deliberate twist I’ve soldered into the frame is not going to cause major problems on a long string of these wagons.
What assembling this wagon has shown me is the desirability of putting a bit of time into making up jigs and custom-built holding devices to aid assembly. The white metal W irons on the kits I put together in this scale invariably need axle bush holes drilled into them and this can be carried out using a cheap pillar drill. However the workpiece needs to be held 90 degrees to the bit and as such a holding jig is a must.
Using styrene in this application is fine: there are no strong pressures placed on the styrene while the drilling is taking place and the styrene is more than strong enough to hold the part securely while the operation is carried out. If I end up assembling 20 of these kits the jig will get plenty of use.
I don’t know about you but I only have two hands. As such, when I’m trying to hold four separate parts square and level while I apply a soldering iron to the joints between these parts, I need some sort of holding aid. Investing about an hour to make an assembly jig for such a job is well worth the effort. I started the day by cutting up a small square of 9mm plywood that I used for the base of a second jig, this time one for soldering/holding the frame parts square and level to each other while they are soldered.
After spending a bit of time fiddling with the arrangements of the rails I glued these in place using PVA and some ME small rail spikes. The whole operation took about an hour and again, if I assemble a lot of these kits, this will come in very useful. It’s time well invested. You can see the small pads of strip wood I glued at a couple of locations to put the “twist” into the frame. It works but it’s not a terribly elegant solution and sure beats trying to twist the frame after it’s been soldered. I always write a label on these small jigs so I can work out what they’re for years down the track when I have the same job to carry out next time.
As is usually the case in these situations, making the jig took a lot more time than actually soldering the model together. I used Carr’s 70 degree solder and green solder flux to fix the parts together. I imagine you could use superglue but this is not a method I would seriously consider using. All in all I found assembling the kit to this stage a breeze but having to deal with the fault in the casting was a bit off-putting.