RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 14: Miniaturised Minerals

Hoppers, easily loaded and unloaded by gravity...

Bird's eye view of one of  Dgm 1/149 shown above. This one was modelled with the hopper doors in the 'open' position. When the load is inserted you can't tell this one from the others in a rake of wagons.
Bird's eye view of one of Dgm 1/149 shown above. This one was modelled with the hopper doors in the 'open' position. When the load is inserted you can't tell this one from the others in a rake of wagons. | Source
Trio of Parkside BR Dgm 1/149 Steel hoppers (Kit PC77) based on LNER Dgm 100, of which there were variants. Nearest vehicle is as assembled before numbering, behind are numbered and weathered wagons as would have been seen anywhere on the system
Trio of Parkside BR Dgm 1/149 Steel hoppers (Kit PC77) based on LNER Dgm 100, of which there were variants. Nearest vehicle is as assembled before numbering, behind are numbered and weathered wagons as would have been seen anywhere on the system | Source

A few examples

Chaldron wagon in lamentable state of disrepair - what it does show well is the strapping and brake lever (see over rear wheel), even in this rusted condition - see below for a larger view of a restored chaldron wagon at 'Head of Steam', Darlington
Chaldron wagon in lamentable state of disrepair - what it does show well is the strapping and brake lever (see over rear wheel), even in this rusted condition - see below for a larger view of a restored chaldron wagon at 'Head of Steam', Darlington
Slaters' 20 ton NER wooden-built hopper in mainstream LNER livery (1920s-1930s). The loads for these need a slightly different support fo accommodate the low lateral wall halfway along (inside). They're easy to build, having completed seven.
Slaters' 20 ton NER wooden-built hopper in mainstream LNER livery (1920s-1930s). The loads for these need a slightly different support fo accommodate the low lateral wall halfway along (inside). They're easy to build, having completed seven.
This is one of my own re-worked Dapol 21 ton LNER steel-built mineral hoppers with de-mountable load. Basically 2.5mm plastic card, layered, painted, PVA-spread, sprinkled with real coal granules. Raised to height with plastic blocks added to ends
This is one of my own re-worked Dapol 21 ton LNER steel-built mineral hoppers with de-mountable load. Basically 2.5mm plastic card, layered, painted, PVA-spread, sprinkled with real coal granules. Raised to height with plastic blocks added to ends | Source
Another one of my own wagons. This is the Dapol 'Airfix' BR 16t mineral with one door down. coal 'residue' left in wagon bottom. Kit modified to take Smiths (W&H) 3 link coupling hook shaft and weighted on underside. Heavily weathered, as you see
Another one of my own wagons. This is the Dapol 'Airfix' BR 16t mineral with one door down. coal 'residue' left in wagon bottom. Kit modified to take Smiths (W&H) 3 link coupling hook shaft and weighted on underside. Heavily weathered, as you see | Source
'Cupboard' door mineral wagon, one of many built in Britain for SNCF and returned. They weren't as good as the end tippers with 'chute' doors on either side (as above) and were eventually taken out of mineral traffic
'Cupboard' door mineral wagon, one of many built in Britain for SNCF and returned. They weren't as good as the end tippers with 'chute' doors on either side (as above) and were eventually taken out of mineral traffic | Source
One of the British Railways' 16 ton standard mineral wagons - I have some made up from Dapol/Airfix and Parkside kits as well as Hornby and Bachmann ready-to-run self-detailed types
One of the British Railways' 16 ton standard mineral wagons - I have some made up from Dapol/Airfix and Parkside kits as well as Hornby and Bachmann ready-to-run self-detailed types | Source
'Loco Coal' says it all, coal wagons to bring the fuel to keep the locomotives on the rails to bring the goods, freight, minerals, passengers to their destinations. This is a modified off-the-shelf model with removable (real) coal load
'Loco Coal' says it all, coal wagons to bring the fuel to keep the locomotives on the rails to bring the goods, freight, minerals, passengers to their destinations. This is a modified off-the-shelf model with removable (real) coal load | Source

Think of coal wagons and what picture presents itself in your mind?

Do you think of a few wagons on a branchline train, some filled with coal for local merchants or for the stationmaster to augment his income, perhaps give his porter-signalman and lad porter a share in the profits for bagging up? Or do you think of exchange sidings, with wagonfuls of coal to be shipped out to yards or docks? You'd be right both times, although the first picture is a little more romantic.

Think again in model terms. How many different kinds of coal wagon can you envisage on your layout? Does it have a loco shed, perhaps a coal depot or even a pit alongside? In model terms nowadays, what with the range of kits and finished resin-cast building models and the possibility of either kit-bashing or scratch-building you've got more or less free range in what you make of your model. You've a choice between a sleepy little branch line station with a depot that will take perhaps two or three wagons, and a full-size club layout with coal pit or ironstone mine and yards-long (in model terms, remember) exchange sidings.

So what types of wagons do we see in the station coal depot or exchange sidings? Well, depending where your pit/mine is, you've got lots of choice.

Starting in the North East (where else?) you've got wagons largely built by either the London & Nearly Everywhere Railway (LNER) or further back, the North Eastern Railway (NER) and even the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR). In the 1930s the LNER brought out their 21 ton hopper wagons, built mainly at Shildon (local). Dapol brought out their version around twenty-thirty years ago, both painted and unpainted. Recently Parkside Dundas (ph: 01592 640896) brought out their kit version. As I already had quite a lot of Dapol's, I didn't think it necessary to buy the kit. I may yet change my mind! Going back in time we have the plastic kit version of the wooden North Eastern hopper from Slaters (www.hamodels.co.uk) - to go with their NER 'Birdcage' Brake-van if you're modelling the pre-1920s era. Earlier than that are the early 'Chaldron Wagons' - if you're modelling Seaham Harbour you could have the chaldron wagons on your layout even in the 1950s/1960s! The people to look for here are RT Models, www.rtmodels.co.uk., who produce a white metal kit with an etch for details such as brake levers and brake 'mechanism'.

For those who are hesitant about building wagon kits there is a range of ready-to-run (r-t-r) hoppers and other coal and mineral wagon types from Bachmann and Hornby (aside from the Dapol model of the 21 ton mineral hopper). You have the option of a conversion job, with Smiths (W&H) 3-link brass couplings (either chemically pre-blackened or normal brass) and sprung hooks. Unless your eyesight is good or you wear glasses, don't bother trying to install these. They're very fiddly and need patience to assemble, and that's aside from taking off the original r-t-r coupling and mounting and boring through the headstocks to make a hole big enough to take the shaft of the hook. I usually use a small drill bit, say 0.5mm, and then open it up vertically with a craft knife blade. Unless you've got strong fingers don't try this, or allow children to try it. You could finish up with lacerated fingers! Many r-t-r wagons also have steel weights that need to be taken out - after levering apart both halves of the wagon - and replacing with either cut lead sheet or 'liquid lead', (miniature lead balls sold by Eileen's Emporium). The length of the steel wagon weights prevents the installation of the coupling hooks even when cut down.

In other regions there were mostly private owner six and seven-plank 13t wagon types, many built by Charles Roberts at Gloucester or Wakefield. Slaters do a kit for these with transfer-printed sides and well-detailed brake and door-hinge mouldings. You can also buy the transfers from Modelmaster through Parkside, of an extensive range shown in their catalogue. These wagons had bottom-opening doors, side opening doors that dropped onto bash-plates, and an end-door marked by a long white diagonal stripes on the sides. Then there were also the various types of Loco Coal wagon types, mostly represented as wood- and steel bodied by Hornby and Bachmann, although Parkside and Cooper Craft do kits for the LNER and GWR versions. Parkside also produces a five-plank North British Railway (NBR) loco coal wagon kit. By and large the six and seven plank private owner wagons were widespread throughout Britain, inlcuding the Yorkshire, Lancashire and Midland coal fields for industrial, commercial and home delivery.

I also prefer to build my own coal loads, beginning with measuring the length X width of the load-space, cut a piece of 2mm/2.5mm plain Slaters' plastic sheet, and (after measuring the depth of the wagon to about 1mm below the rim) build supports for the 'load level' in an 'H' formation, with the 'cross-bar' of the 'H' half the depth of the 'side-bars'. Attach the 'H' formation laterally with liquid polystyrene or Plasweld (the latter is stronger). Take a sheet of 1.5mm/2mm sheet and cut 'levels', progressively reducing the size of the surface, and cut off the corners, gradually rounding them off. Add the layers, two or three is enough. When dry spread plastic filler over the layers and allow to dry. [This method can also be used for other bulk mineral loads such as ironstone or limestone etc]. Paint the load surface in the base colour, a little darker than the covering layer will be, for 'depth'. Spread white PVA or diluted wood glue over the painted load surface and sprinkle your 'load' material' over it. Allow to dry and, 'Hey Presto', you've got your Mineral load!

Take a look at the pictures on the right...

See how the real thing was designed, built and maintained. Maybe you could build a wagon workshop on your own layout. There'd be a lot of activity to model, materials in, assembly line, wagons/carriages under construction, wagons/carriages out. And/or then there's the loco side, part-built kits would come in handy. See how you get on...

...and in Close-up

A pair of laden Hornby Iron Ore tipplers on Fiddleyard 1 of the Thoraldby layout.
A pair of laden Hornby Iron Ore tipplers on Fiddleyard 1 of the Thoraldby layout. | Source
A pair of the end-brake coke wagons (seen above). There were coking ovens at works in the North East as well as others that supplied works from outside the area
A pair of the end-brake coke wagons (seen above). There were coking ovens at works in the North East as well as others that supplied works from outside the area | Source
A Dapol private owner wagon, weathered and several planks scraped clean of the original paintwork (to resemble replaced planks) with Modelmaster wagon number transfers  The 'v' on the side indicates bottom doors for unloading into coal drop cells
A Dapol private owner wagon, weathered and several planks scraped clean of the original paintwork (to resemble replaced planks) with Modelmaster wagon number transfers The 'v' on the side indicates bottom doors for unloading into coal drop cells | Source
Modified Bachmann model of a British Railways' Diagram 1/100 slope-sided 16 ton end door wagon. Originally built by Charles Roberts of Wakefield, later wagons were built by McLellans of Glasgow in 1945 for the Ministry of Transport.
Modified Bachmann model of a British Railways' Diagram 1/100 slope-sided 16 ton end door wagon. Originally built by Charles Roberts of Wakefield, later wagons were built by McLellans of Glasgow in 1945 for the Ministry of Transport. | Source
British Railways 24 ton hopper ironstone wagon to diagram 1/162. 1,500 were built by outside contractors for BR; others built to similar diagrams for the LNER, LMS and private owners (I have several in Dorman Long, Bell & Co and BR livery)
British Railways 24 ton hopper ironstone wagon to diagram 1/162. 1,500 were built by outside contractors for BR; others built to similar diagrams for the LNER, LMS and private owners (I have several in Dorman Long, Bell & Co and BR livery) | Source

Loco coal

Off-the-shelf loco coal wagon with load, finished in BR grey with early ownership transfers and designation strips, 'Loco Coal Only'
Off-the-shelf loco coal wagon with load, finished in BR grey with early ownership transfers and designation strips, 'Loco Coal Only' | Source
Steel-built LNER 'cupboard door'' loco coal wagon complete with painted 'rust', bent tension bar, muck and load
Steel-built LNER 'cupboard door'' loco coal wagon complete with painted 'rust', bent tension bar, muck and load | Source

A must on layouts with steam locomotives, 'Loco Coal' wagons were seen everywhere between Thurso and Tonbridge, Ipswich and Ilfracombe (that's ILFRACOMBE in case you were confused by the two verticals at the front).

Motive power depots outside the North-east tended to be labour-intensive before the days of coaling towers. In the North-east originally coaling locomotives was carried out by men employed just for that job, just as fitters and fire-lighters went about their work around the sheds. Often there was a poky rest room at the backs of coaling stages. A shunter pushed empty wagons off the ramps and laden ones on, up a slope. A roof was usually provided for the workmen, and sometimes water cranes were close at hand - sometimes built in to the wall adjacent to where the engines stopped below chutes to be coaled. After coaling towers were built - the one at.York was nicknamed the 'Cenotaph' for its shape - smaller wagons were employed, that could be hoisted one after another, tipped and emptied into the bunkers. Below the drivers only had to wait and a man in the control box high above pressed a button or pulled a lever to let tons of the black stuff drop into tenders or bunkers. Wonderful thing, gravity. thanks Isaac. Just a shame the poor fellows had to climb up all those steps!

High walled wooden wagons of 21 tons capacity initially formed the bulk of the loco coal wagon fleets around mainland Britain and Ireland in order to fulfil the need for coal without endless lines of wagons crowding the sidings. Between the wars railway companies began to turn to steel for both loco coal and commercial supplies, to avoid the bottom planks charring (endless shunting, to-and-fro motion of wagons in transit resulted sometimes in fires breaking out where the bottom layer rubbed). The coaling towers also appeared around this time, and where siding space was limited lower capacity wagons could be turned around quicker.

Here's a taster for the last in the series...

North Eastern Railway Diagram S1 8 ton Ironstone Hopper, fitted with end brakes - see ROPFAMR 26 on Self-acting Inclines. These wagons were introduced late in the 19th Century on Standard Gauge ironstone mine railways in the North East until 1920s
North Eastern Railway Diagram S1 8 ton Ironstone Hopper, fitted with end brakes - see ROPFAMR 26 on Self-acting Inclines. These wagons were introduced late in the 19th Century on Standard Gauge ironstone mine railways in the North East until 1920s

For real period charm see the 'Bramblewick' layout in the Model Railway Journal

The layout was a joint effort by several Scalefour modellers (18.83 mm gauge = 4mm/foot scale) in the 1980s-1990s, begun by Hull-based artist Tom Harland (now unfortunately deceased). The quality of the scenic modelling was convincing down to the rivets in the buildings, the rust on ironwork, the rock formations and peeling paint on some of the buildings.

Tom was the guiding light in this project, his own forte being scenery. He sketched in the Robin Hood's Bay area ('Bramblewick' is based on RHB, the name coming from Leo Walmsley's stories about characters in the area, the town on the maps marked as Robin Hood's Bay is known locally as 'Bay Town'). The period the model was based on was late 19th-early 20th Century, pre-WWI and the modelling reflects this era with fine North Eastern Railway (NER) wagons, carriages and locomotives. My reason for including the model in this part of the 'Rites of Passage' is the excellent fleet of mineral wagons built from etched brass, white metal and plastic kits (very few ready-to-run models are available for the NER area in this era).

*Bramblewick was not meant to be an accurate representation of Robin Hood's Bay, rather a representation of a North Eastern country station on North Yorkshire's rugged coast.

Tom Harland in his studio finishing a painting of Whitby Harbour
Tom Harland in his studio finishing a painting of Whitby Harbour | Source
The viaduct - a module added to the layout - with a very short pick-up goods going over. Vintage NER locomotive and rolling stock.  Note the 'Birdcage' Brake
The viaduct - a module added to the layout - with a very short pick-up goods going over. Vintage NER locomotive and rolling stock. Note the 'Birdcage' Brake | Source
A scene of Bramblewick - I have copies of MRJ No.51, 1991, No.102, 1998, and No. 153 2004; there are at least another couple of editions that featured this handsome layout
A scene of Bramblewick - I have copies of MRJ No.51, 1991, No.102, 1998, and No. 153 2004; there are at least another couple of editions that featured this handsome layout | Source

Illustrated with colour images wagons in context - to show mineral and freight traffic en route and in marsshalling yards - and in close-up to show 'warts and all', rust, rot, wear and tear. Robert Hendry includes older preserved wagons to show differences in construction and livery

A few images to show coal depots including 'Thoraldby'

Great Grandad - chaldron wagon from S&DR days with 'dumb buffers'. Wagons 'butted' one another in transit. Buffers were introduced on goods and passenger stock by mid-19th Century, although earlier stock could be seen running, as at Seaham Harbour
Great Grandad - chaldron wagon from S&DR days with 'dumb buffers'. Wagons 'butted' one another in transit. Buffers were introduced on goods and passenger stock by mid-19th Century, although earlier stock could be seen running, as at Seaham Harbour | Source
Coal drops and Lime Cells at Goathland Station on the NYMR - lime cells were enclosed to prevent lime dust from getting into passengers' eyes and lungs. These NER hopper wagons came in around the late 1890s
Coal drops and Lime Cells at Goathland Station on the NYMR - lime cells were enclosed to prevent lime dust from getting into passengers' eyes and lungs. These NER hopper wagons came in around the late 1890s | Source
Close-up of steel coupling hook on a NER wood-built coal hopper - Masham's restored coal depot, near Ripon in North Yorkshire
Close-up of steel coupling hook on a NER wood-built coal hopper - Masham's restored coal depot, near Ripon in North Yorkshire
Looking from below at the open hopper doors
Looking from below at the open hopper doors | Source
A pair of ex-LNER 21t steel hoppers (modified Dapol) and one ex-NER/LNER 20t wood-built hopper, all in early BR livery at Thoraldby's coal depot. Typical BR North Eastern Region scene carried over into the post-war era. Eight cells for four wagons
A pair of ex-LNER 21t steel hoppers (modified Dapol) and one ex-NER/LNER 20t wood-built hopper, all in early BR livery at Thoraldby's coal depot. Typical BR North Eastern Region scene carried over into the post-war era. Eight cells for four wagons

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