Rites of Passage for a Model Railway - 12 : Non-Passenger Vehicles in Passenger Trains
Moving livestock - to the races, to market, to agricultural shows or to a new home
The starting point:
There is a wide choice of stock available, from long-wheelbase four-wheeled vans, covered carriage trucks (CCT's) cattle wagons, horse boxes and milk tankers to bogie utility vans and parcels or newspaper stock.
I shall begin with ready-to-run (r-t-r), Bachmann, Hornby etcetera as with the passenger stock, and work through kits in different scales from 2mm (N-Gauge) to 7mm Finescale, but chiefly 4mm scale body structures, i.e., the standard Double-O format of 4mm bodies on 3.5mm chassis, (EM Gauge and Scalefour conversions can be made from proprietary sources with some technical expertise and manual dexterity that most Double-O modellers can muster in the pursuit of high standards).
As you probably well know there is a plethora of r-t-r in the shops which the more adventurous 'mess' around with to achieve a more realistic appearance. There are no shop-bought models in my collection that I have not at least added scale couplings to. If you look at the DOGA web-site (I've added a link below to ease your transit) you will find a number of items I've altered with the addition of wire handrails, loads that can be taken out and inserted to appear as unloaded going one way and loaded the other... If you are a beginner you should be given a chance to express yourself in whichever way you see fit, whether by merely adding a coat of weathering paint or whatever. Skill levels are arrived at, gradually, and you will determine limits to aspire to, or to which you have time to achieve desired results.
Materials and tools are available with which you can work your own magic, if you feel the need to make your model realistic, and in the same way as you might have done with carriages. Bill Bedford produces an etched brass and wire kit you can assemble under your TPO or pacels corridor stock that will keep vehicles in a rake close enough together to resemble buckeye couplings with vacuum pipes. A friend of mine assembled several of these for me, as I they needed to be soldered together and I had no experience with the art. Now they are attached to my 'teak' Gresley corridor full brake that attaches to the end of a rake. By the same token if you wish to, you can file down the token ventilator cowling on the vehicle roof and replace them with either white metal or lost wax castings, along with more realistic sprung corridor couplings or buffers. These last are available in packs of sprung plastic buffers from Replica or Bachmann. There are several alternatives for sprung corridor couplings, some I used were from MJT - see the links in the carriage section. I think Ratio produces a workable version using concertina-ed black paper, but you could make some with thin silhouette paper. You take it as far as you want.
For non-corridor stock you can also use the Bachmann/Replica sprung buffers, or go the whole hog with Alan Gibson carriage buffers according to the region or company of your choice. Contact: email@example.com. These people produce model detailing items in 4mm and 7mm for standard and finescale modellers. There is also Branchlines' range to consider. Their main claim to fame is the model locomotive kit market, but they also produce parts for non-passenger carrying vehicles: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can still find D&S components in some dark corner of your modelshop or exhibition stand, lucky you!
What do we understand by long-wheel-based, four- or six-wheeled non-passenger carrying stock? Pigeon vans, horseboxes, milk tankers, utility vans or covered carriage trucks (CCT's), baggage vans. Hunt around at second-hand exhibition stands for Lima, Replica, Dapol r-t-r as well as some older Hornby vehicles. It helps if you know what is out there, what you need to find and who produced it originally or who later covered a re-tooled version, but that comes with experience. Then again those in the know only achieved their knowledge by hunting down through old boxes and asking questions of the exhibitors/retailers. I would never claim to know everything that is available for other regions outside the LNER. By studying photographs you will learn what sort of traffic crossed the companies/regions, find out what sort of GW vehicles you might find in, say, the eastern counties or the north. General utility vans (GUV's), horse boxes and parcels vans travelled widely, for instance. In the north-eastern area there would be a greater choice of LMS/Midland region stock, Southern stock was about as widespread as GW outside their own area. Passenger trains ran from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Bournemouth and Poole, for instance, with LNER stock and Southern stock interchangeable. Southern baggage or utility vans would be taken off or attached, ditto horseboxes on semi-fast workings and detached at intervals to de-stress the horses. Observation, reading and study helps root out the possibilities from the unlikelies.
Bradford and Liverpool were centres for mail order in England, as were several other towns in the north-west where you saw parcel vans and guv's from other parts. Whole trains would home in on these points, returns unloaded and empty vans laden to be sent out again. There are self-adhesive mini-posters produced by Hollar (available through Parkside Dundas, www.parksidedundas.co,uk) that you can apply to van doors or sides to simulate consignments sent out by these companies, either wholesale or retail.
Couplings: screw couplings, instanter couplings or three-link couplings are available from several sources, again Alan Gibson produce a range of screw- or three-link couplings. The Jackson range are available from 247 Developments, www.247developments.co.uk., with chemically blackened brass or natural brass links and sprung hooks. I prefer the Jackson screw couplings for their durability, but at times - if you're not likely to attach the vehicle to long trains or over-weight it - you can get away with fitting Smiths screw couplings. They are probably more scale-true, but they are fragile and should be handled with care. The Smiths instanter and three link couplings are available now with smaller links, as well as the slightly longer older type. Mostly, however, three-link or instanter couplings are unsuitable for Pigeon/parcels, GUV's, horseboxes, milk tankers and CCT's, more likely on cattle wagons.
Additionally CCT's, GUV's and assorted vans might be allocated to specialist carriers for carrying limited loads of cement bags, milk churns or newspapers down the branch. Short rakes of two or three, or individual horseboxes, cattle wagons, or milk tankers would also be attached on occasion to branch passenger workings for final-mile workings if whole trains were not warranted.
Parkside are also retailers of Model Master decals for vehicles, should you wish to re-number your r-t-r stock, or add detail as in instructions for loading/unloading. Then there is the Historical Model Railway Society (HMRS) who produce sheets of transfers for every pre-Grouping and pre-Nationalisation railway company and British Railways. Their range is Pressfix for water-adhesive transfers and Methfix using methylated spirit - you really need to know what you're doing with these, nor are methulated spirits available to under-18's! There are other manufacturers - consult the model press or your model retailer about these.
On the bogie van front, Triang Utility vans may be lurking around somewhere that you could re-wheel (the original wheels would never run through modern track), or attach new bogies from Comet or MJT. The plus-point of this veteran r-t-r vehicle is that it is fitted with opening doors. This means you can stand it in goods depots with doors open, parcels and crates within ready to be unloaded. Other than that, there are bogie GUV's, parcels and newspaper vans from Bachmann and Hornby being produced currently, or re-tooled from earlier versions. If you can find them, Replica, Mainline and Lima vehicles are available from second-hand stalls, swapmeets... You might even find them in the second-hand cabinet of your local retailer.
Out of the box or kitbuilt, for detailing or modifying (if you're up to it). Some four-wheeled vehicles you'd see on a branch line
Double O Gauge Association (DOGA)
- The Double O Gauge Association
The OO Gauge Association
On branch passenger trains, milk tank wagons would be marshalled behind the engine for a smoother ride, as would livestock wagons, horseboxes - even fish vans
Parkside kits for horseboxes, and fish vans
Parcels, newspapers, luggage, cars/carriages
Baggage brake and GUV
Pigeons/parcels, CCT's, Horse-box etc, plastic kits and bits
In the past few years new introductions have appeared on the market on the plastic kit front, more so in the way of wagons, but there are a fair number of four-wheeled non-passenger vehicles. Parkside Dundas have been leading the way in this line of product with their LMS, LNER and Southern CCT's, baggage vans, GUV's and horseboxes. I've added a number of these to my own fleet, namely Southern baggage and utility vans that I've liveried in the original crimson, ex-LNER and LNER CCT's. The Chivers Pigeon/parcels van has unfortunately been withdrawn from the market - whether for re-tooling I have no idea. I still await an e-mail from the present owners of the Chivers 'stable' as to what's happening with the kit RC416.
There is a certain amount of duplication in the SR stock, however. The same vehicles covered by Parkside were also available through Wrenn and Dapol. Having assembled the Parkside model and previously owned one of the Wrenn models, I would say the Parkside version has to be truer when finished well.
Recommendations for assembly and detailing:
With long-wheelbased vehicles or carriages I generally spray paint sides in crimson or whatever the era demands before assembly. 'Teak' can be painted when complete because the wood finish is best achieved by brushing horizontally on long body panels and vertically above the waistline. The ends can be painted beforehand or afterwards. It's up to you on that score.
Generally with enclosed vehicles, vans (including covered carriage trucks or CCT's) and horseboxes on assembly I reinforce the ends with scrap plastic squares and buttress the side-walls with scrap plastic section secured against the walls with plastic weld - a couple of thin scraps added to the underside of the section will stop it sliding downward. In the horseboxes the grooms' toilet and wash facilities are obscured by whited glazing so you can't see through anyway, the grooms' bunk/day accommodation is separated by thin walls, and you can't see in very well. You could always have the glazing down in one door and a groom standing close to the window opening. It's all down to your observation/imagination.
Instead of the plastic buffer heads supplied with Parkside, Slaters, Dapol/Airfix or Chivers Finelines I always use Alan Gibson's sprung buffer heads in the moulded buffer housing. You can either add the springs behind the heads (be sure to bend the buffer shanks to stop them coming out). As to couplings, I use either the Jackson (from 247 Developments) or Smiths' screw couplings. as I already hinted at, the Smiths' ones are more fragile but closer in scale. It's all up to you. Three-link or instanter couplings aren't suitable for these vehicles. Vacuum pipes are also applicable, so Branchlines' or Romfords' brass type or Springside white metal are suitable, for instance. For my money I prefer the Romfords' wire-wound brass version that look much more realistic and can be bent or cut to length safely without breaking. I've been buying them when available from the Engine Shed in Leytonstone, London E11.
Parkside wil exchange wheels if you model in EM or P4 gauges, or swap their usual profile metal wheels for Alan Gibson finescale plastic profile wheels.
I tend to use matt enamel paints, Humbrol, Revell and Precision (if I can find them), mixed in jam jar lids. Anthracite grey, black, rust red, sand or dust and tan are ideal for mixing weathered finishes; judge the mix, add a little grey and white if needed and consult colour photographs. Generally it was the bogies and underframes that were affected by running, as the sides tended to be washed regularly in pre-WWII years. Wartime and post-war wear and tear was more noticeable because of the lack of manpower in cleaning depots. After the nice new coats of paint were applied on or after Nationalisation, dirt soon accumulated. Stock on prestige express trains and Pullmans was more thoroughly washed down than on branchline or secondary mainline passenger and parcels services. So the further down the 'pecking order' you went, the muckier it would be. Country brancline stock tended to be that much cleaner than was used between the cities or within urban areas. Again I use HMRS and Modelmaster waterslide decal/transfer sheets. HMRS covers the different companies before Nationalisation and British Railways' regions are catered for on different sheets with steam and early diesel era stock and locomotives representated on one sheet. You may find yourself using more of a particular section of transfers and the only way out is buying more sheets. You might have a friend or club-member who needs those transfers you don't use, or you could even sell them on e-bay! Parkside sells the Modelmaster decals direct by mail order if you call them. The link is above. On these mini-sheets there are groupings of lettering, numbering and images that you can cut out and soak before application. The warning on their packs is not to let the decals float off the backing paper; work quickly but don't rush - if that makes sense. I've spoilt countless transfers rushing, or taking too long over the work (it seems sometimes as if I'd been working for the railway companies with the assembly lines I have sometimes followed, especially when I fulfilled my commissions through the Booking Hall in the 1990s. Much of the stock I built then was in British Railways livery, with black and cream lining applied by transfer along the corridor stock sides. I sometimes felt like chewing the carpet, the stress I put myself under)!
The last touch is spray-varnishing. For passenger train stock - including the full brakes - built for others I used satin varnish to look nice and crisp and catch the light. For myself I generally use matt varnish, because my own stock represents branch line use. With the Modelmaster decals you have to watch the letters don't start floating away on application, and matt varnish spray tends to make the backing look odd. The manufacturer recommends peeling off the varnish cover off on bigger surfaces, but unless your hands are rock-steady avoid this to prevent frustration.
ex-LNER Brake parcels, CCT, Pigeon van
Inspection saloons were vacuum fitted and tended to be drawn by passenger locomotives for ease of ride. Being braked, they were generally the only vehicle behind - or even pushed ahead of the locomotive. They developed over the years, although some were in use from pre-Grouping (1923) days until British Railways took them over and ran them within their original regions.