Tag Archives: brass

Hints on Putting Together Etched Brass Coach Kits

Jeremy Fletcher

 

Brass etch kits, or etching sets, provide a useful way to produce good quality models of non-mainstream or obscure prototypes which are not of interest to the larger commercial model manufacturers who need large production runs to cover the costs of specialised tools and dies.  They fill a gap between commercial models and scratch built models which many modellers may not want to attempt. Some people regard brass etchings as ‘hard’ as they usually involve soldering which is anathema.  Soldering is not really all that hard to do once you get started and gain some practice.   Basically it is just like using a liquid glue (Super Glue) which runs between the pieces to be joined.  The solder has to be melted to run by capillary action between the pieces and it sets when it cools off.  As for any glue, the pieces have to be clean and in the case of soldering the final cleaning of the metal surfaces is done by the flux.  The metal is first cleaned of dirt, oxides etc. using emery paper or filing. You could say the filing does ‘mechanical’ cleaning and the flux does ‘chemical’ cleaning. Oxides build up quickly on the hot soldering iron tip and need to be cleaned off regularly with a wire brush.  A potential source of complications occurs when soldering together long pieces.  Thermal expansion can cause warping or buckling.  It is best to ‘tack’ the pieces together in a few places; make sure they have not become buckled; and make corrections as required before going any further.  You may have to unsolder, let the part cool, clean off excess solder and try again.
 
There are various ‘suppliers’ of etching sets.  They generally supply few detail parts such as those mentioned below. Most modellers prefer to supply their own.  My own experience so far has mostly been with the Worsley Works coach etch sets and I can best comment on these.  These come as sets of etched frets and are really intended for use by scratch builders, providing hard-to-make parts such as panelled coach sides, fine grillwork etc.   Bogies, wheels, buffers, coach roofs etc. have to be arranged by the builder. Coach etching sets are generally provided with the walls, ends and floor but, typically no roof.   The floor may have fold down under-trusses and battery boxes etc. It is intended that the coach floor be made removable, held by screws, so that interior details and glazing can be put in after it is painted.  There are no instructions supplied with the sets and it is best to first study the various parts to visualise and decide on the procedures to follow and in what order.  The various sections should not be cut free from the etch frets until they are required for building up.  Care is needed when cutting them free to avoid unnecessarily bending and stretching.  The edges of the sections should be tidied up with a fine file so that they can fit up properly and cleaned where they are going to be soldered. 

The best way to build a coach ‘kit’ is to start with assembling the basic coach body ‘box’. The coach sides should first be curved if appropriate.   The ends can be used as templates for this.  The method of actually bending the sides is up to the discretion of the modeller. It can be done by bending around a suitable piece of pipe or such likes.  Care is needed to avoid stretching or wrinkling the thin etchings as it is difficult to straighten them again. The edges of the coach sides will normally overlap the ends at the corners.  To ensure that the corners can be put together square and also to make sure they are strong and rigid enough to withstand normal handling,  it is a good idea to put stiffeners inside the corners.  The stiffeners can be made from left over strip from the etch frets, bent into right angles.   They are soldered inside the coach ends, flush with the edges.  The coach sides can then be lined up against the stiffeners and first just soldered to these.  After any adjustments to get a proper fit,  the rest of the join can be soldered up.  The soldering is done from inside the coach to prevent ‘runs’ from spoiling the outside.  The coach body should be checked to be square before going further.

The coach body will typically be lacking in rigidity because of the soft flexible etchings and it will be necessary to add some reinforcing.   It is a good idea to solder in stiffener strips along the top edges of the sides.  These could be pieces of brass rod, or can provide a use for salvaged otherwise unwanted brass rail.  However, the coach sides may still be found flexible and it may be necessary to provide extra transverse stiffeners between the sides. A compartment coach will have interior partitions and these will help to reinforce a coach body.   Obviously it is necessary to avoid buckling when soldering on long stiffeners.

Making the roof for a coach is another story.   Normally no material is supplied by Worsley Works for making the coach roof.   It is very difficult to properly form a piece of sheet brass to the correct shape, particularly the more sharply curved edges without a special (i.e. expensive) bending jig. One could adapt a plastic roof from another coach, by (say) splitting it along the centre and widening it out or otherwise adapting to suit the etched coach body  It is possible to buy commercial wood lengths milled to various profiles and one these may be suitable or could be adapted to suit the particular coach.   Another way would be to make one’s own roof, either from solid plastic or built up from plastic sheet and strips or from balsa.  The roof when attached to the coach helps to make the assembly more rigid.

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UTA MED Three-Car Diesel Train

Jeremy Fletcher

 

It is not intended as a direct insult to the steam junkies, but my own personal preference is for old railcars etc. which have been neglected or ignored in the past by the mainstream as a lower form of life compared to  steam locos, which they are not! Only now are they receiving more attention and appreciation, but still individual prototypes only attract modellers’ attention after all have been scrapped and proper measurements are hard to get! I previously made a model of the long gone GNR railcar ‘A’ on which I wrote up an article for New Irish Lines, May 2005. I have since made a model of the UTA MED diesel train. I made my model of a three-car MED set using brass etchings which I got made by Allen Doherty (Worsley Works). The etching sets are a basis for scratch building rather than what are normally sold as a kit: they just include body sides, ends and floors. Other parts such as roof and bogies, have to be obtained elsewhere or made by the modeller. I made the coaches by building them up directly from the etchings rather than doing “overlays” on existing available coach bodies.   Suitable ‘donor’ coaches would be extremely difficult to get where I live!.   Building directly from etchings is certainly a much more laborious way of doing it as I found out! There is much more soldering and it  requires care to avoid excessive warping and distortion.

Worsley Works three-car MED set

Worsley Works three-car MED set

Worsley Works three-car MED set

Worsley Works three-car MED set

Worsley Works three-car MED set

Worsley Works three-car MED set

The Worsley Works MED coach sides came in individual between-doors sections, aligned in their correct relative positions only by the fret sheets and separated by the spaces for the sliding doors.  It was therefore necessary to attach these together by soldering in the separate sliding door etches to produce complete one-piece body sides before they are separated from the frets to maintain the alignments.  It is also easiest to curve the body sides to the correct profile using the coach ends as templates before removing them from the frets.  This is made easier by first bending the sides and the sliding doors separately before soldering the doors in place.  I added narrow brass strips between the sides and the door edges to give more “depth” to the openings.   The coach sides were very flexible and prone to buckling, so I made interior partitions from shim brass and added brass cant rail strips along inside the top edges to add rigidity. I made the coach roofs from thin styrene sheet (Evergreen) which I bent to match the profile of the coach end etches.  Working with styrene sheet has its own fun aspects as it tends to warp when joined with liquid cement! I made the cab ends by filing from styrene.   Much filing and fiddling were required! I used the etched brass floor sheets provided.  As they are very thin and flexible I reinforced them by soldering on pieces of discarded brass code 100 rail. 

I powered the MED set by means of small flat can motors with flywheels, one under each power car, hidden by the under floor/engine details, driving by flexible shafts to small homemade final drive gearboxes which ride on the inner axles of the bogies.  This gives four driven axles out of a total of twelve, with the problems of traction tyres!. I used Comet LMS bogies which I modified to give insulated sides, with insulated half stub axles (Athearn style) to give current pick up on axles.   All axles pick up.  I used Northwest Short Line nickel silver wheels, which stay clean and give good pick up, and the MED set runs smoothly.   I used Markits coach buffers and Ratio corridor connections. I made basic interior seats from styrene as the coach interiors are very visible through the many windows. The MED train runs fairly well on ordinary DC, but  I do not know how well it would run on DCC.

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Getting Started On Soldering: The TDR Three-Plank Wagon Kit

Paul Titmuss

 

It is evident from discussion that there are a number of modellers who want to progress to brass and nickel silver kits, but are loathe to make the jump because there seems to be nothing for the ‘beginner’ to try their soldering skills with first. I was at this stage once and still find soldering outside my ‘comfort zone’, but am becoming more skilled and increasingly confident, though I don’t profess to be an expert. The Tralee & Dingle three-plank wagon, available from Worsley Works is, I believe, a good starting point. It is low cost (£4.50 + £1.50 P&P), can be used for either 009 or 00n3, and if you bottle out can be stuck together with glue (I have built a wagon using epoxy resin). It is designed to fit the Parkside Dundas Tralee & Dingle van chassis. I am attempting to build Annascaul Station on the Tralee & Dingle Light Railway and whilst there is a lot of stock available from model manufacturers several key items are not catered for, the three-plank wagon being one of them. With the help of published and unpublished photographs (generously loaned by David Rowlands) I drew diagrams for the wagon and sent them to Allen Doherty at Worsley Works, who used them to  create the necessary brass etches for the kit. The best published photograph of a three plank wagon (and one I relied upon heavily in the diagrams) can be found in The Tralee & Dingle Railway by David Rowlands, published by Bradford Barton, p75. By the time of closure each of the remaining wagons had been reconstructed so there were differences between them.

Photo #1: This shows the etch, constructed wagon body and the completed wagon on Parkside Dundas T&D van chassis.

Photo #1: This shows the etch, constructed wagon body and the completed wagon on Parkside Dundas T&D van chassis.

Photo #2: The set up used for soldering. An Antex 25W soldering iron and stand, flux and 145° solder. I do not usually go to the extreme of soldering outside, but on a nice day its quite pleasant, but dont drop any parts!

Photo #2: The set up used for soldering. An Antex 25W soldering iron and stand, flux and 145° solder. I do not usually go to the extreme of soldering outside, but on a nice day it's quite pleasant, but don't drop any parts!

Photo#3: The first job is to tap in the bolt heads. I do this with a pin whilst the brass etch is resting on a piece of hardboard. A light tap is enough. When this is done flux and solder (tin) the insides of both sides and ends. When completed cut the parts out of the fret and clean up the rough edges with a file.

Photo#3: The first job is to tap in the bolt heads. I do this with a pin whilst the brass etch is resting on a piece of hardboard. A light tap is enough. When this is done flux and solder (tin) the insides of both sides and ends. When completed cut the parts out of the fret and clean up the rough edges with a file.

Photo #4: Line up the pieces, ensuring that the outside overlaps the inside section equally at both ends. I have recently acquired some little clips to help. The work is then held in a vice.

Photo #4: Line up the pieces, ensuring that the outside overlaps the inside section equally at both ends. I have recently acquired some little clips to help. The work is then held in a vice.

Photo #5: Flux is applied to the top edge and then solder run along the joint.

Photo #5: Flux is applied to the top edge and then solder run along the joint.

Photo #6: When happy with the join put the side or end on the work surface, inner side up and then apply heat from the soldering iron to help the tinned sides make a better bond. There should be a little solder on the tip of the iron to help with the transfer of heat.

Photo #6: When happy with the join put the side or end on the work surface, inner side up and then apply heat from the soldering iron to help the tinned sides make a better bond. There should be a little solder on the tip of the iron to help with the transfer of heat.

Photo #7: To join a side end place upside down on the work surface. The end piece goes inside the wagon side. Make sure the joint is fluxed. I hold the work in place with Blu-tack®. I also used some fine graph paper to help get the pieces square. The join between the two parts can then be soldered.

Photo #7: To join a side end place upside down on the work surface. The end piece goes inside the wagon side. Make sure the joint is fluxed. I hold the work in place with Blu-tack®. I also used some fine graph paper to help get the pieces square. The join between the two parts can then be soldered.

Photo #8: When both pairs of sides and ends have been joined I then solder up the remaining corners an the basic body shell is complete. You may wish to trial fit the chassis floor at this stage (see photo #11).

Photo #8: When both pairs of sides and ends have been joined I then solder up the remaining corners an the basic body shell is complete. You may wish to trial fit the chassis floor at this stage (see photo #11).

Photo #9: The strapping can then be applied. These pieces can be easily fixed using epoxy resin. If you attempt to solder the straps make sure they are tinned on the fret first, and would be an idea to apply the straps to the work before the sides are built up. The tall end straps are raised from the body and I glued these to strips of plastic card, and then these in turn were glued to the wagon ends.

Photo #9: The strapping can then be applied. These pieces can be easily fixed using epoxy resin. If you attempt to solder the straps make sure they are tinned on the fret first, and would be an idea to apply the straps to the work before the sides are built up. The tall end straps are raised from the body and I glued these to strips of plastic card, and then these in turn were glued to the wagon ends.

Photo #10: The corner plates need to careful bending in a vice. I held them between two rulers and pressed the edge over with a small piece of 1 x 1 timber. On the actual wagon the short edge went along the side so there is no need to panic if the two edges are not the same length. To complete the door straps lengthen the hinge gap by cutting into the etch. Place a fine piece of wire (not supplied) on the edge of the board (with Sellotape®) and press to shape. If the wire has been tinned and the job fluxed this is an easy soldering job. Cut off spare wire and etch before fixing in place. The door straps should just overlap the edges for the door sides.

Photo #10: The corner plates need careful bending in a vice. I held them between two rulers and pressed the edge over with a small piece of 1" x 1" timber. On the actual wagon the short edge went along the side so there is no need to panic if the two edges are not the same length. To complete the door straps lengthen the hinge gap by cutting into the etch. Place a fine piece of wire (not supplied) on the edge of the board (with Sellotape®) and press to shape. If the wire has been tinned and the job fluxed this is an easy soldering job. Cut off spare wire and etch before fixing in place. The door straps should just overlap the edges for the door sides.

Photo #11: The Parkside Dundas chassis can be made up. The floor needs to be carefully sanded to size, a tad off each end (including the sole bars) and a little more off the sides (circa 0.25mm each side) so that the body fits the floor (it might be an idea to fit this before the strapping is applied as a dry run). Dont get too carried away as it is easy to remove too much floor. Next the body is glued to the floor. Vacuum pipes need to be sourced (or those that come with the chassis can be used) plus couplings of choice added to complete construction. It is best to give the brass a coat of etched brass primer before painting and weathering to taste. Hopefully, you have now completed a first successful taste of soldered kit construction. Do remember that if you bottle out with the soldering then the kit can be glued together, so it wont be wasted.

Photo #11: The Parkside Dundas chassis can be made up. The floor needs to be carefully sanded to size, a tad off each end (including the sole bars) and a little more off the sides (circa 0.25mm each side) so that the body fits the floor (it might be an idea to fit this before the strapping is applied as a 'dry run'). Don't get too carried away as it is easy to remove too much floor. Next the body is glued to the floor. Vacuum pipes need to be sourced (or those that come with the chassis can be used) plus couplings of choice added to complete construction. It is best to give the brass a coat of etched brass primer before painting and weathering to taste. Hopefully, you have now completed a first successful taste of soldered kit construction. Do remember that if you bottle out with the soldering then the kit can be glued together, so it won't be wasted.

Acknowledgements:
Thanks to David Rowlands for the loan of photographs, Allen Doherty for the preparation of etches and Simon Starr for exchange of ideas.

Addendum:
If anyone has already purchased one (or more) of the three-plank wagon kits there was an error with the original production etch. The right hand door straps are now available on receipt of an SAE from Worsley Works. My third wagon was completed with these.

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