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As you will be aware from various posts on my blog (eg Freight operations on the PLR and About the Railway), I am interested in running trains for a purpose. My railway serves various lineside industries who (fortunately) make use of the railway to transport raw materials and/or finished products. To increase running potential I recently installed three new sidings on the railway, one of which I designated would be used by a sand quarry. (see Progress Report 75). In reality, there used to be an extensive sand quarry adjacent to the mainline station at Beeston but siting it there on the PLR would have provided very little opportunity for sand traffic on the line, so I decided to shift its location to Bickerton, the other end of the railway which of course, would necessitate the provision of additional traffic. For a while, I considered using the rake of tippler wagons which I already use to transport the ore and spoil to and from the copper mine, however, I felt this would have over complicated traffic movements and so I decided to construct an entirely new rake of hopper wagons specifically for the new sand traffic.
I have always admired the rather quirky wooden hoppers used on the Snailbeach and District Railway system and when I discovered there was a good line drawing in the back of my copy of The Snailbeach and District Railways (Eric S. Tonks, Industrial Railway Society, 2007), I started looking around for a set of donor wagons to short-cut the construction process. I didn't have to look far, in my boxes of bits were a dozen secondhand Hartland Loco Works (HLW) mini wagon chassis which my mate in Australia had sent over when they were thinning out a fellow modeller's collection
A comparison of the dimensions of the HLW chassis with the Snailbeach wagon drawing suggested only a few compromises needed to to be made, though I would have to hack the deck of the chassis about a bit to replicate the open frame nature of the Snailbeach wagons.
After a bit of trial and improvement with a razor saw, I ended up with a chassis which was close enough to the Snailbeach wagon for my purposes and so I then mocked up a couple of hoppers from thin card to produce something which was proportionally close to the original but would fit the aperture in the now hacked chassis. I now felt that construction of the nine wagons needed for the rake could begin in earnest!
Construction processModifying the HLW wagon chassisAs the HLW chassis which I had inherited had all been used previously on a fellow modeller's layout, they were a varied mix of parts in a range of conditions.
The first job was to dismantle the chassis into its component parts. They clip together and so just needed to be prised apart.
Next, the upper deck was marked-out to indicate where the cuts would be made. The cut along each side coincided with the mounting holes, 18mm from the edge.
The cuts along the leading and trailing ends were 12mm from the edge, with a 10mm x 10mm protrusion into the hole to accommodate the coupling mounting peg.
After scoring the cut lines with a scriber, a razor saw was used to initially deepen the score lines and then, once the blade had broken through, to finish the cut.
The mounting holes were filled with Squadron White Putty ......
....and sanded smooth.
For chassis which included planking, the divisions between the planks were filled with Squadron White Putty and, once dried, sanded smooth.
The solebars were deepened with the addition of a 5mm wide strip of 1mm thick plasticard. This was glued with VitalBond thick Superglue.
The ends, sides and upper surfaces were scribed by dragging the blade of a razor saw over their surfaces to simulate wood grain.
Dumb buffers (15mm x 10mm) were fashioned from two pieces of 5mm thick PVC foamboard ....
.... and attached to the endplates on the headstocks.
Corner brackets were made with 6mm x 10mm and 6mm x 9mm pieces of 1mm thick plasticard.....
.... attached to the corners with thick superglue.
1mm half round nail art gems were superglued on to the side .......
.... and end brackets to represent bolt heads.
Two 6mm x 86mm lengths of 5mm thick foamboard were glued across the upper deck of the chassis, 38mm from the ends, having been scored with a razor saw for wood grain effect.
Two 132mm x 6mm pieces of 3mm thick foamboard, with 3mm x 18mm notches cut into each end .....
...... were scored to simulate wood grain and then glued beneath the chassis, 5mm in from the sides of the hole.
Two 4mm x 5mm pieces of 1mm plasticard were glued 8mm from the holes and adjacent to the transverse beams on each side of the chassis deck to represent the base of angle brackets to hold the hoppers in place (see below).
Similarly, two 4mm x 5mm plasticard brackets were glued to each end, 27mm from the sides and 5mm from the ends. Two 1mm half round nail art gems were glued to each bracket as bolt heads.
The hopperThe components for the hopper were cut from 2mm thick plasticard to the dimensions shown here:
Planks were then scribed on to each exterior side, at alternating 8mm and 10mm intervals, and wood grain scribed on to the sides with the blade of a razor saw.
The edges which would butt together at an angle were chamfered slightly by dragging the blade of a craft knife along them at an angle. I found the angle wasn't critical as the thick solvent adhesive filled any cracks during construction.
I then glued the four upper parts of the hopper together, using the grid lines on a cutting mat to ensure they were square. Note: The ends were glued inside the sides.
The structure was then flipped over and rested on a couple of offcuts of 5mm foamboard, and two of the trapezoidal lower pieces of the hopper glued on. I found this to be the most successful way of fixing these tricky parts together.
The remaining two lower sections could then be glued on.
Two 32mm x 20mm and two 25mm x 20mm pieces of 2mm plasticard were cut out and scribed across the centre of the 20mm sides .......
.... to form the base of the hoppers. A 25mm x 28mm piece of 2mm plasticard then formed the cap before being glued into the bottom of the hopper.
Four 25mm x 10mm and four 25mm x 9mm lengths of 1mm thick plasticard were cut and glued to the corner edges of the uppermost part of the hopper to represent metal angle brackets.
Similarly, four 71.5mm x 9mm pieces with 5mm triangles removed from each end were glued along the sloping ends of the hoppers and .......
....... four 76mm x 10mm pieces of 1mm plasticard, with 11mm triangles removed from each end were glued to the sloping sides of the hopper.
Finally, four pieces of 18mm x 9mm and four pieces of 18mm x 10mm pieces of 1mm plasticard were glued along the corners of the lowermost section of the hopper.
The straps which supposedly hold the hopper to the chassis were made from 4mm wide strips of 1mm plasticard. The side straps were 45mm in length and 38mm from the ends, and the end-straps 39mm in length and positioned 30mm from the sides. I found it easier to glue the straps to the vertical sides first of all ........
...... and then fold them over to the sloping sides.
I used thick superglue with an accelerator spray to fix the straps to the sloping sections to avoid having to hold the straps in position while the plasticard solvent adhesive hardened. The tension in the straps tended to spring them back off again even after I had assumed the solvent had adhered them. With the accelerator spray, the superglue held them firmly after little more than twenty seconds.
1mm half-round nail-art gems were then glued to the brackets to represent bolt heads. Their positions coincided with the centres of the planks but doubled in number at the ends of each bracket. I found the most effective way to fix them was to use a cocktail stick to apply a small dot of thick superglue to the required position .....
.... then use the residue on the point of the stick to pick up a nail art gem.......
....... and transfer the gem to the dot of glue. Because the glue dot was larger in surface area than the tip of the cocktail stick, the gem would happily become detached and glue itself to the model. It could be repositioned with the point of the stick to ensure it was in exactly the right place.
Any excess glue could be removed with a small piece of paper towel.
I decided not to add gems to the lowermost section. partly because it would not be seen and partly because it was a tight fit into the chassis and I didn't want anything interfering with the fit.
The chassis and body were now ready for painting. A couple of coats of Halford's grey primer from a rattle can and then the metal fittings were picked out with black acrylic paint using a fine paintbrush.
Final AssemblyI toyed with several ideas for joining the hopper to the chassis - even experimenting with brass strips and escutcheon pins on an early prototype, but I was not happy with the results.
So, eventually, I decided to keep things simple. I happened to notice that the black cable ties which I had in store were 4mm wide and also that if I carefully removed the ratchet catch from the end, they could quite convincingly represent the ties holding the hoppers to the chassis. Slots were cut into the hoppers at the ends of the retaining straps and also in the chassis at the ends of the bracket-based. The cable ties were then threaded through these slots........
..... and held loosely in position with the ratchet catches which had been removed from the ends.
Once all eight cable ties had been threaded through, they were tightened in sequence (opposites first) .......
...... until the hopper was held tightly and evenly on to the chassis. The excess lengths of cable tie were snipped off.
Brake gear was manufactured from pieces of brass strip. The vee-hanger, 20mm x 8mm, the outer hangers 24mm x 4mm (with 4mm at the end folded up), the catch bracket 50mm x 4mm, with 20mm folded up behind and 1mm holes drilled at 3mm intervals. The brake lever 45mm long, 4mm wide, tapering to 2mm. The actuating arms 28mm long and 3mm wide and the shoes 10mm x 5mm filed to a concave profile as shown.
These pieces were soldered together with domed escutcheon pins inserted into the pivots, using a simple jig to hold everything in place for soldering.
An 85mm x 126mm piece of 4mm ply was cut out, as was a slightly larger piece of foam packing (I would have used expanded polystyrene but had none available).
The foam was stapled to the ply, leaving one edge unstapled so scraps of foam could be inserted before the final edge was stapled.
Strips of ply or balsa wood (whatever was to hand) were then glued beneath for supports, ......
.... before the foam was smothered in PVA and fine sand sprinkled over.
The load was then inserted into the wagon. Some trimming was necessary on some of the wagons to ensure that the loads could easily be removed to allow the wagons to run Down the line as empties.
The wagons were then lightly weathered. Firstly being daubed with a thin black/brown mix of acrylics, which was wiped off while still wet to leave deposits in the cracks and crevices. Orange, brown and burnt sienna acrylics were then stippled on to some areas of metalwork to simulate rust and rust streaks.
The whole process was repeated another eight times, with some batch-production taking place to ease the construction process.
You might notice that some of the wagon chassis have not retained the coupling mounting bracket. I decided that I would make two rakes of four wagons and permanently couple them together with chains - thus obviating the need for coupling mounts except at the end of each rake. The ninth wagon has couplings at both ends allowing it to be added or removed from the rake should, for example, I decide to include a different wagon in the two rakes of four to transport other supplies to the quarry.
The wagons are mounted on Bachmann 24.5mm metal wheels which are smaller than the 32mm plastic wheels provided with the HLW wagons. This brings the deck of the wagons down more closely to prototypical level above the rails. By coincidence, these were the wheelsets which I inherited with the wagons - a happy coincidence!
I have developed my own form of LGB style hook and loop coupling which is less obtrusive than the plastic originals but which retains the advantages of hook and loops - ie cost effectiveness, reliability and ease of coupling/uncoupling. More on this to follow (see How I constructed replacements for LGB hook and loop couplings - pending)
ConclusionI am pleased with the outcome. The wagons retain some of the charm of the Snailbeach originals but, because they have been constructed on tried and tested HLW chassis they are almost totally reliable. I have had to make a few compromises in their design, but my railway doesn't profess to be a scale model of any particular prototype. As I always say, my models are 'inspired' by the originals.
The wagons have entered service and nicely augment traffic on the line. This now means I must have at least four locomotives in steam during an operating session and integrating the quarry trains into an already packed working timetable adds yet another complication. Certainly one which I relish!
The quarry siding has been enhanced with some loading hoppers for the wagons (see How I constructed some loading hoppers for the sand quarry - pending). I am now trying to figure out whether I ought to try modelling the interchange sidings at Beeston Market where the sand and copper ore trains unload on to either canal barges or mainline wagons. An interesting proposition!
A short video showing the wagons in action - before they were all weathered.
This article first appeared on riksrailway.blogspot.com
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