Tag Archives: irish railways

A Pair of CDR ‘Twins’

Paul Titmuss

 

The twins: the van on the left is from Ninelines, that on the right (and next to the loco in the next photograph) is the Alphagraphix/Inscalemodels combination

The "twins:" the van on the left is from Ninelines, that on the right (and next to the loco in the next photograph) is the Alphagraphix/Inscalemodels combination

Maybe surprisingly there are two kits available for the County Donegal Railways 1893 Oldbury vans in 4mm scale. One is the ‘heritage’ plastic kit by Ninelines, introduced around 1989, the other a card kit by Alphagraphix from around 2002. I’d built the Ninelines kit many years ago when I had first started in 00n3. Very straightforward as you would expect and it is a shame that with the demise of Ninelines it may no longer be available. I was fortunate to acquire the card kit for this van as I wanted to use it for the Inscalemodels brass chassis kit designed for this van (and as a replacement for the basic Ninelines chassis).Care is needed in cutting out the parts for the card kit. I find the corners of the framing the most challenging. I followed the instructions provided. In 4mm scale I would not advise any backing of the timber framing with scrap card, everything seems to fit well without. The painting of the card edge can also be tricky. I used Humbrol enamel paint, applied along the edge, from the back, with a fine brush. It would be helpful to have a suggestion of suitable paint colour to use in the instructions as I’m very poor at colour mixing. With a range of greys in front of me I eventually opted for Humbrol Slate Grey, No 31, which seems a near match for this kit. Other kits will vary.

I’d already soldered together the frames, etc provided by Inscalemodels. They needed shortening a little at each end to fit the van body. I backed them with balsa wood so that they could be stuck to the mount board that formed the floor of the van. The masters of brass out there would do a more professional job I’m sure. I finished the chassis using 10.5mm diameter wheels from Alan Gibson. The roof is made from corrugated plastic-card glued to a balsa former and is removable. The vacuum pipes were completed with brass wire, wrapped around with iron wire for the hose, acceptable at a glance. A brass pin soldered to the pipe fits through a hole drilled into the end of the van and, glued from the inside, will hopefully hold the pipe in place without causing damage to the card if it gets knocked.

Shunting at Lispole... now how did two CDR vans get this far?

Shunting at Lispole... now how did two CDR vans get this far?

Close-up of the Alphagraphix kit

Close-up of the Alphagraphix kit

The Alphagraphix card kit takes much longer to produce and I’ll let the reader judge whether it’s been worthwhile! I find building three card kits a year is enough, though there is something addictive about them and they definitely should not be discounted. I’m currently building the CDR bogie wagon by Alphagraphix, and there is that wonderful combination of a card kit with soldering to tax one’s skills!

[Paul also tells me that his  Annascaul, Lispole and T & DR web sites have gone down with the expiry of his freeserve web address. The preamble from Freeserve said this would not happen, but then it became Wanadoo, and then Orange so he assumes that the rules have changed. At some point in the future he hopes to resurrect them, in a superior format.  Ed]

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Some Irish Conversions

Denis Grimshaw

 

Whilst these models are not built to fine-scale standards, and certainly not to a professional level, they do reasonably represent the classes modelled. In any case, using 00-gauge track at in 4mm scale gives much larger discrepancies than slightly inaccurate driving wheel diameters or axle spacing. The WT-class 2-6-4Ts Nos. 4 and 57 are Hornby Stanier locos, modified with Comet tank and cab sides, the bunker rebuilt in plasticard, outside steam pipes and a top feed. Painting is in post-war NCC style, rather than UTA (albeit incorrect for 57: I must get round to renumbering this engine to the 1-10 series). The VS 4-4-0 is a Hornby Schools, with a new brass sheet cab and other modifications in plasticard. The GNR SG3 0-6-0 is a Mainline LMS Class 4 with a new brass sheet cab and firebox, and other alterations (particularly the tender) in plasticard. It needs a new dome with a rounder top. The GSR B1a 4-6-0 is a Mainline Royal Scot, with modifications in plasticard, and repositioning the dome. All are hand-painted – some better than others! As my main interest is in operation rather than precise modelling, they give an adequate effect at relatively minimal effort! Whilst most of my models are NCC (with a layout based on Coleraine and Portrush) some poetic license has allowed other railway’s trains to occasionally visit! Scenery will hopefully be improved once I retire and have a bit more time at home.

GSR B1a Macha

GSR B1a 'Macha'

GNR(I) VS class No. 210

GNR(I) VS class No. 210

GNR(I) SG3

GNR(I) SG3

NCC Jeep

NCC Jeep

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A Rake of Coaches: Or How Solving One Problem Leads to Another

John Mayne

 

It started out simply enough early in 2004. I saw the listing for a laminate brake standard on the Worsley Works web site and thinking it was a model of the 1958 brake composites, I bought the coach and a Deutz loco kit. I had been involved with the MRSI Loughrea group for many years and thought these models would give us a more accurate representation of the branch line in the “modern image era.” The only thing was that I was in the middle of planning a move to New Zealand!  So the Deutz and coach have never had a trip on the Loughrea layout. The Deutz is essentially a complete loco kit without wheels motor, detail castings and turnings, the coach basically consists of sides ends and underframe, the builder has to source roof, bogies, interior, detail casting and bogies. While the Worsley Works coaches are basically similar in design to Comet, the main issue is in forming a roof as most Irish stock is wider than the British; Comet and MJT extrusions are too narrow.  I model on 21mm gauge and while proprietary Commonwealth bogies might pass muster, I wanted the model to be as accurate as possible and bogies would require custom made side-frames. I was impressed with the detail of the coach and ordered an AEC railcar set, a Laminate second and a Park Royal coach: in for a penny,  in for a pound. Basically the idea was to commission any special components required such as bogies, roof extrusions or pressings and detail parts from UK manufacturers, to complete my own models and test the potential market.

Disappointingly, few of those I contacted responded or demonstrated a willingness to follow up on a serious enquiry for the design and  manufacture of components to compete the project. I had experimented with forming the roof profile variously from brass, plasticard and balsawood without much success, there is little practical guidance on scratch building coaches or metalwork in the contemporary model press. Commissioning an extrusion locally was prohibitive. Eventually I followed Allen Doherty’s suggestion of using a proprietary extrusion as a basis for cutting and filling to a wider profile. Bogies are based on MJT torsion bar compensation units which are easily adaptable to the wider gauge, and other details are a mixture of Comet and MJT components.

The Coaches:
Unlike the relatively rapid development of the BR Mk.1 stock, Inchicore like the GWR in the 1930’s, seemed to have difficulty in building two batches of coaches to the same design and went through several stages of development before the arrival of the Craven stock in 1963. Briefly the 1953-4 period  saw the introduction of a wide range of hauled stock based on a development of Bredin’s GSR flush sided timber framed designs, including open and compartment coaches, buffet, restaurant cars and mail vans. The earliest vehicles ran on GSR design bogies and traditional steel under-frames, later batches incorporated Bulleid triangulated under-frames and Commonwealth bogies. Even in the 1950’s such stock would have been expensive and labour intensive to produce and not readily adaptable to mass production, requiring a large highly skilled workforce to machine and assemble components. The Park Royals with their prefabricated components allowed volume construction using a semi-skilled workforce. Significantly though designed for suburban and main line use, only one design of body shell was produced.

1379 class Park Royal suburban coach

1379 class Park Royal suburban coach

The laminates (aluminium, insulation, plywood panel) are best described as of modular construction with several body designs (based round a small number of components), again allowing rapid construction. There appear to have been at least four designs: a brake composite, 70 and 64 seat main line standards and a suburban coach. I recall laminate coaches being refurbished at Inchicore in the late 1970’s. Each coach was stripped down to roof, ends and under-frames, and re-skinned; either CIE still had a stock of body panels or the manufacturing capability existed. One theory was that it was originally planned to replace the bodies after 20 years, but this was no longer required following the introduction of monocoque design in the 1960’s. Inchicore appears have briefly reverted to timber frame body design for its final batch of twelve coaches (ten standards and two firsts) before the arrival of the Cravens in 1963. Significantly these coaches used the heavier BR pattern of Commonwealth bogie.

The brake standard appears to be based on the 1970’s conversion of laminate coaches to brake standards rather than the 1958 brake composite design. The brake standards of this era were converted from laminate suburban stock and 1953-4 composites. The Worsley Works kit is of a different pattern and appears to be based on a conversion of a main line laminate standard. Two laminate brakes are preserved one the DCDR at Downpatrick, another by the RPSI as a service vehicle in their Dublin excursion train rake. The laminate standard and the Park Royal appear are to be accurate representations.

1448 class laminate standard

1448 class laminate standard

The etchings make up in a similar manner to the Comet coach kits, with the body sides and ends designed to be removable from the chassis. There is a half etched representation of the joints between the body panels, a distinctive feature of the laminates. The chassis comprises a main floor etching, with fold down truss rods, with separate etchings for solebars and a lower body stiffener making up into a nice solid chassis.  The solebars on the laminates and Park Royal coaches do not run parallel with the sides, the coaches running on Bulleid’s triangulated under-frames.  I have left well enough alone, though solebars, say from brass angle, could be set up in a jig to capture this subtle and distinctive feature of CIE stock of the era. The sides are easy enough to curve using brass bars and a straight edge. The Park Royal sides are etched in three sections with over lapping tags but are a bit flimsy being half etched.

Laminate coach - first section of roof in position

Laminate coach - first section of roof in position

I would rather use a formed sheet metal roof like the TMD Bredins, should a suitable one become available. I recently completed a C&L narrow gauge coach: forming the arched roof even with the down ward curving ends was simple enough, though forming a “modern” elliptical roof is a different matter and a subject seldom if ever covered in the main
stream model press. The etched brass assembly is soldered, and the aluminium roof extrusion glued in place using cyno reinforced with epoxy resin, with a strip of plasticard to reinforce the joint between the two sections of aluminium and support  the filler.

Laminate brake standard

Laminate brake standard

In the end on Allen’s suggestion, I used a Comet BR Mk1 roof extrusion cut down the middle the gap filled with body filler. The roof detailing covers a multitude of sins and lifts the model. Comet torpedo ventilators and PC lining strip  gives the roof its distinctive and  jointed appearance.  I decided to include a fairly high level of detail with door hinges, knobs, handles, toilet filler and communication cord pipe-work. Next stage is pattern making and castings for bogie side-frames, dynamo and vacuum cylinders, heating and  vacuum pipes, couplers, finish painting, build layout, couple up to B141!

Laminate coach sides clamped while glue sets

Laminate coach sides clamped while glue sets

Worsley Works underframe, MJT bogie compensation units, plasticard spacers for 21mm gauge, MJT LNER buffer shanks

Worsley Works underframe, MJT bogie compensation units, plasticard spacers for 21mm gauge, MJT LNER buffer shanks

Laminate coach with Comet seating units, plasticard floor and bulkheads

Laminate coach with Comet seating units, plasticard floor and bulkheads

There is also a lot of useful information on building etched brass coaches like these on the Comet Kits website: http://www.cometmodels.co.uk/ Follow the links: Downloads  Building Coaches the Comet Way.

[Ed: for more details see the following paper on coaching stock built for or by CIE from 1945 to the arrival of the Cravens: Kennedy D (1965) Modern CIE Coaching Stock Journal of Irish Railway Record Society 7 (37): 14-61]

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Converting the Murphy-Bachmann 141 Class Diesel to 21mm Gauge

Denis Bates

 

The General Motors 141 Class diesel of CIE was introduced in 1962, and for over 40 years has been among the most successful of the Irish diesels.  So it was not by accident that Murphy Models chose it for their first foray into a completely designed Irish model (the previous Woolwich Mogul and the NCC Jinty were of course repainted versions of the English models).  So, although my main interests are in steam days, and particularly the BCDR, I couldn’t resist purchasing one, with a view to re-wheeling it to 21mm gauge and P4 standards.  The prototype is described and drawn in two of the model magazines: by Tim Cramer in Model Railways for March 1977, and by Shane McQuillan in Practical Model Railways for June 1986. The latter article describes also the building of one, from a kit by the Model Irish Railways group. Comparing the Murphy model with the drawings, I could find nothing amiss – except for the buffer spacing. The buffer centres should be at a spacing of 6’3”; on the model they are at 23mm (5’9”). I presume that is to match the spacing of other Murphy-Bachmann models, at English spacing.

I first determined that a P4 wheelset would fit between the bogie frames, and it does, just. My main mistake was to dismantle the loco as far as possible – this is not necessary, as the bogie frames can be levered off. They are similar to those of the Bachmann Class 20 diesel (described by Keith Norgrove at http://www.norgrove.me.uk/index.htm). A screwdriver is used to prise out the frames, which appear to be identical on the two bogies. The wheelsets can then be prised out of the bogies. Each wheelset has an offset plastic gear wheel, two brass bearings which are a push fit in the sideframes, and brass wheels with insulating sleeves. Measure the distance of the gear from the ends of the axles, before tapping out the wheels and sleeves using a small drift and hammer. The gear wheel can similarly be tapped off the axle.

If the model is to be converted to EM gauge, all that is necessary is to cut 2mm steel rod to the appropriate length, and put the gear and wheels on. Although there is a spline on the original axle for the gear, it seems tight enough on a plain rod (a smear of loctite could be used to anchor it firmly). To keep the axle laterally in place, two brass sleeves, or an appropriate number of washers, should be added between the gear and the bearings (or between the bearings and the insulating sleeves (see figure). For conversion to P4 and 21mm, the original brass wheels can be used, but have to be turned down to receive P4 rims (these are obtainable from Alan Gibson on special order). It is also possible to turn down the existing rims to P4 standards. For those without a lathe, it may be possible to purchase P4 wheels to suit. Before finally inserting the wheel sets, the pickups need to be adjusted so that they bear on the backs of the wheels. On the Bachmann wheelsets, the hub projects further out than the rim, and does not fit easily between the sideframes. However, the insides of the frames can be filed out (about 0.5mm or more) to give clearance. I used a cylindrical dental burr to do this, held in a drill press, and hand held the frames. Once finished, the loco ran just as well as it had done on 00 track. Now to try it on Adavoyle Junction, out of period though it be!

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Something New; Something Old

David Malone

 

Several modellers have had a go at fitting sound chips into the Bachmann-Murphy 141 although some seem to be using slightly larger speakers than I did. To replace the unusable round one supplied. I did no filing, just snipped the corners off the oblong speaker’s plastic frame, and soldered the wires from the cut off speaker to the new one. I did not know that there were speaker terminals on the lights board. I have fitted my two, black 141 and 181, with Ultrascale wheels, to 21mm gauge. The wheels are intended for the BR “Western” class, and feature protruding hubs. I removed these using a chisel shaped hobby blade, wider than the tyre diameter. They can then be shaved off, using the outer tyre face as a limit stop, a few minutes work per wheel. I had to reduce the supplied axles length by 0.75mm.  The little gear wheel sits on a splined bit of the axle, and slides on the 2mm axle, but a touch of Locktite is all that is needed to secure it. I made the mistake of mounting the gear central on the axle, it should be slightly off set to fully engage the gear in the bogie, I will tweak mine over.  The pick up phosphor-bronze strips need bending out to touch the back of the wheels, and act as a side control spring. Now came the big test, would it run? It worked fine on my 3’ length of straight track, but what about my 5’ length, with a reverse curve 4’ 6” into 4’radius, with rail depression in excess of 1mm staggered in the curve: how would the rigid axles cope? Well, much to my pleasant surprise, they stayed on the track, no problem. Since then I decided to file about 0.5mm off the inside of the side-frames, just to provide a little extra clearance, and reduce the chance of the paint on the wheel disc wearing away.  Looking at the removed wheels, I think the protruding rim of the tyre could be turned off until the tyre is scale width, and then the flange could be turned down to P4 or EM profile, thus avoiding a twelve week wait and the expense of Ultrascale wheels.

Treated and untreated bogies. The untreated one is my CIE Supertrain liveried 181

Treated and untreated bogies. The untreated one is my CIE Supertrain liveried 181

Two versions of the 141 on 2mm gauge track

Two versions of the 141 on 2mm gauge track

I am now doing a bit of weathering on my 141/181s. I overdid the exhaust staining on the roof of the orange one, fortunately using acrylic so it washes off. On the sound chipped ones, I removed the grey bridging plate, and turned the speakers over, so they are face down into the
flywheel void, thus creating a sound box. It does seem louder, even with the hearing aids turned off. A dab of black acrylic on the silver speaker back makes them all but invisible through the grill. The next job is to fit all the plumbing to the “Pilot”, and try to combine the very neat etched coupling links with Exactoscale bits to form a strong coupling. The supplied ones are extremely neat, but I don’t think the little plastic pins would last long in service.

The J15 is finished, at last. I started it in 2006, having had the kit since 1985!!!  I found that the tender spring hangers that I mentioned were on the fret all the time. I thought they were the loops that some tenders had around the springs. A case of read the instructions.  In the RAF and civil aviation, the instructors always gave advice before you went into any written exam: “Read the d*** questions!”  Translated into model building this becomes: “Read the d*** instructions!”

J15 on 21mm gauge track

J15 on 21mm gauge track

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GNR Butter Van

Alan O’Rourke

 

In the days when everything went by rail, some companies found it worth while building highly specialised vehicles for perishable traffics, which attracted premium rates, even if it meant those vehicles must have spent half their time running empty. One such traffic was dairy produce, and the MGWR, GSWR and GNR all built special “butter vans.” In the era before electrical refrigeration, these vans employed various cooling mechanisms like double roofs and  multiple small vents in the body, presumably to make full use of the draft when in motion. I have not seen detailed plans of the internal layout of these designs, but I am guessing that they may have been “double-layered” with ice between two skins of planking, or may have used some sort of system where the evaporation of water from a porous surface (as in the older type of terra cotta milk or wine cooler), by taking latent heat of vaporisation from its surroundings, could effect considerable cooling.  I seem to recall a school physics experiment which demonstrated this phenomenon rather well. It involved bubbling air through ether in a copper beaker, the beaker sitting in a small pool of water on a wooden block. By the time all the ether had evaporated, the whole apparatus was so cold that the beaker was frozen to the block by a lump of ice! Alphagraphix now make a 7mm and possibly a 4mm kit for this vehicle. I am grateful to the IRRS archives and Mr Brendan Pender for access to the GNR drawing and permission to reproduce it.

GNR butter wagon

GNR butter wagon

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Lineside Details: GSWR Mileposts

Alan O’Rourke

 

Irish railways used a number of methods to mark distances: the symbolic steel sheet squares, diamonds, triangles and arrow-heads of the MGWR were probably the most original design. Other companies used metal, stone or wooden markers. The GSWR used substantial granite mileposts on its original lines, but later, and on the absorbed WLWR routes, used the smaller cast iron patterns shown here.  These diagrams come from drawing in the IRRS archives. I am grateful to the Society for permission to reproduce this and Brendan Pender for his help in accessing the archives.

Quarter-mile marker

Quarter-mile marker

 

Half- and three-quarter-mile posts

Half- and three-quarter-mile posts

Side and front elevations of the top section of a whole mile marker

Side and front elevations of the top section of a whole mile marker

Side and front elevations upright. Height from bottom surface of base plate to lower edge og the numeral plate is 3ft 4.5in

Side and front elevations upright. Height from bottom surface of base plate to lower edge og the numeral plate is 3ft 4.5in

GSWR stone milepost and cast iron quarter milepost, both from near Nenagh

GSWR stone milepost and cast iron quarter milepost, both from near Nenagh

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Norwich to… Cultra?

Steve Rafferty

 

Of all the numerous visits to model railway exhibitions I have made, only once have I been rewarded with sight of an “Irish” layout (Adavolye at Epsom). Putting my faith in providence, my money on a budget airline ticket and my reliance on a relative to provide one night’s sleeping accommodation, on Saturday 15th November 2008 I travelled to the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum at Cultra to see the ‘Friends of Cultra’ model railway day. I was in search of something Irish, and I was not disappointed. There were thirty-three layouts and stands to view amongst the magnificent setting of the main hall at the museum. The “hook” for many younger visitors was no doubt “Ffarquhar,” the very original Thomas the Tank Engine layout built by the late author of the books. There was a wide variety of other layouts, British, American and Continental themed, all of a very high standard, but as my quest was for something “Irish,” it is these layouts that I wish to comment on. 

For me personally the most interesting layout was “Killagan” (OO gauge). Why? I trust our fellow member Colm Flanagan will not be offended if I say it was a “basher’s” delight. I have no skill when it comes to working with kits or etched brass, etc. Therefore I tour the swap- meets looking at second hand carriages with a view to “now what could I hack that into?” The standard of Colm’s work I consider both exceptional and inspirational. The sight of the Mogul and the Jeeps hauling near ‘true’ UTA stock, as well as the MPD’s, the MED and the ‘Class 70’ set, all running in a credible Irish setting, were on their own worth the trip. It demonstrated to me just what can be done with proprietary coaches and a flair for imagination to achieve a real “Irish” looking product. Did I mention the “North Atlantic” set – delicious!

For the narrow gauge enthusiast, Alan Gee’s “Donegal” (OOn3 gauge) is a must see. The very accurate replication of Donegal town station and the CDRJC trains is complemented by the moving road vehicles system which forms the back drop. This year’s show was the first outing for the North Down MRS’s “Ballymoney” OO gauge layout, featuring not only a credible representation of the original broad gauge station, but also the 3’ Ballycastle Railway. Moving to a larger scale, Norman Bailey and John Pollock’s layout “Ardkrowin and Duncluchan Town” (O gauge) was impressive. While Duncluchan Town is fictitious, Adkrowin is loosely based around the layout at Ardglass as it was. Another ‘first outing’ was Paul Green’s “Kilbrandon” (S gauge),  an exceptional example of not only going “Irish”, but back to a time before any of us were born – April 1900. The layout is inspired by and based on Killorglin on the defunct Valentia Harbour branch, with the addition of an imaginary branch line to increase operating interest. The whole layout (mainly scratch-built) is to a very high standard.

A simple yet entertaining layout was the South Dublin MRC’s “Rosslare Strand” (OO gauge). The end section scenarios, especially the Bray Head one are a demonstration of how three distinct scenes can be accommodated within the strictures of a small (-ish!) layout. Another small, yet interesting, layout on show was Jim Poots and Gareth Hutchinson’s “Slieveroe” (OO gauge), based on an imaginary border location in modern times. Moving back to the narrow gauge, “Ballynure-Doagh” (OOn3 gauge) is a commendable effort by the Ballyclare High School MRC. Although not built as an “Irish” layout, “Ballyrichmond” (OO gauge) is a layout built by the Model Railway Society of Ireland as a Southern Region branch line. However,  with the use of some Irish rolling stock and a few judiciously placed features, I think it just about succeeded in masquerading as an Irish location. Lastly it is fair to say I was in awe at the superb modelling standards demonstrated by the (static) display of 7mm scale models built by Messers Mulholland, Aspinwall and  Crockart. Shame they were not actually running. Together with all the above, Allen Doherty of Worsley Works and Des Sullivan of Studio Scale models were on hand with trade stands. A very large selection of Irish railway books was also on sale.

Was it worth it for just one day and a return air flight? You bet. I, for one, will be attending next one. My thanks to those exhibitors, especially Colm and Ian, who took time to answer my questions, and to the Friends of Cultra I say: “well done.”

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Something a Bit Bigger…

 

I am grateful to Neil Ramsay for these photos of his wonderful 15mm scale model of CDR  six-wheel saloon no 1. The bodywork is cut from plywood, built up in layers to produce the panelling, the  use of real wood in this scale gives the  effect of the grain, and imparts more ‘atmosphere’ to the model. The axle-guards were gravity cast (from Neil’s masters) in white metal by John Campbell, who also provided the lamp-tops.

The interior is fully detailed, always a good idea for saloon stock, and especially in the larger scales. The internal mirrors are cut from old CDs with real French-polished woodwork and carpeting from dolls’ house wallpaper. The dining chair is a dolls house model in 1/24th scale, with a new seat from Das modelling clay. They are not really proper scale models of the originals, but give the right ‘feel’ when looking through the windows.

The chassis is built with  simplified Cleminson units,  a mixture of home made components  and sprung bearing assemblies from Ron Grant. The centre wheel assembly is shifted sideways by the linkage to the outer wheels. The problem in a model like this is trying to achieve maximum lateral movement of the centre wheels, as this determines the minimum radius (just about 5’) it will go round.  Springing greatly improves the running: in fact Neil’s  six-wheelers run better than bogie coaches and suffer less from buffer lock as the ends don’t stick out so much on curves. Wheels are Slaters gauge 1 split-spoke 37mm diameter. Neil recommends  Slaters 31mm diameter spoked wheels for the 2’ CDR and LLSR wheels. These wheels are coarse scale G1 and work really well in the garden.

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The UTA’s Finest Train

Colm Flanagan

 

My story of this train goes back to late 1966, when I was a boarding pupil at Coleraine Institute. Going home for the occasional weekend pass, we boarders were gathered as usual on the down platform at Coleraine Station one Saturday morning. The train from Londonderry came into view way down the line, having curved off the Bann Bridge. By now the UTA had repainted quite a few MPDs into red and white, so as the train approached I assumed it was one of these leading the set. However, as it got closer I heard a distinctly un-MPD sound, a deep rumbling throb, then the train swept past me and I had a glimpse of a large, greenish engine behind the windows of the leading car. Clearly it was not an MPD. The seating was high backed with grey and red upholstery which definitely looked superior and a welcome change from the rather drab green upholstery of older trains. Then we had a glimpse of first class compartments, with seats trimmed in blue, as the train slowed. The restaurant car was an old friend, 550 (ex UTA diner 87, now repainted red and white to match the rest). At the back was another power car rumbling like the leading one. I thought, as did others at the time, “My, it’s a NEW train!”

The completed six-coach set

The completed six-coach set

That was my first glimpse of the trains which I consider the best diesel train that the UTA put into service and certainly a candidate for the best diesel trains in Ireland to date. We knew them as “DEs” – the term “Hampshire” was used by some others more attuned to the GB scene, because of course the power arrangements were the same as used on BR’s Southern Region.  The power unit was a chunky EE four-cylinder generator driving electric motors on the power car rear bogie.  They never reached the very high speeds an MPD on a good day could do, but they were definitely a “proper” modern train with the lighter panelling inside and very comfortable modern seating;  the ride wasn’t the best at the back of the power car and the vibration there was high –and remained so to the end of their lives. You can still experience it for a while (slightly muted) on the NIR class 450 DEMUs, which are now the last of their kind in public operation in the UK. In the un-powered “trailers (there was a first / brake, restaurant and two thirds, all compartment stock), the ambience was similar to that of an LMS or BR Mk1 express train. Later the power cars received names of “Rivers” under NIR and they lasted until the mid-eighties when the bodies were scrapped and dumped and the power units taken to Derby for re-use in the Castle / 450 class.

I’d built a number of 4mm model MPDs and a three-car MED train previously, and these have been covered in New Irish Lines. But I’d always liked the idea of doing a DE set. The question was how? During research for my book on UTA diesels I came across some articles, photographs and a few drawings (of the power car and 87/550) and from these I decided to build a six car set as two of these sets operated the principal services on the ex NCC main line.  The power cars were something of a challenge. They were 63 feet long, with side ventilation grilles in the power compartment. With these, sundry doors and a unique front cab; there was no chance of a simple bodge here. The SR trains, although mechanically similar, looked very different. I had, however an old three-car Lima Class 117 DMU and realised that the under frames of these, suitably hacked by getting rid of most of the engine bits underneath, would do. In the case of the DE trains, the rather large Lima pancake motor isn’t a problem; it’s no bigger than the real engine was! Indeed, in the dummy car I built a plastic card “engine”; I have since acquired a 4mm model of the EE power unit from a firm called Southern Pride, but haven’t got round to fitting it yet. From memory these engines were a greeny/grey shade when new.

72 and 711

72 and 711

548 and 701

548 and 701

The sides of the two power cars were made from the same source as my MPD/MED models, panels cut from Hornby LMS Stanier coaches and then glued together – “cut and shut”.  SE Flushglaze windows improve them no end. Charlie Petty at DC kits provided underfloor etches, roof exhaust panels, and sundry grilles from his SR DEMU kits: beware if fitting the grilles, make sure you use butanone glue as the normal plastic weld glues won’t hold them.  In fact, I had a problem too with the Lima bogies when I tried fitting a plastic card yaw damper/shock absorber (or whatever it was) that is prominent in photos of the EE bogies. I couldn’t get them stuck as the Lima plastic is slightly flexible. In the end I got a useful tip which was to use a combination of MekPak and Evostik. This worked well. The bogies were not a BR design and I have not seen anything like them on any other model to date.  I lowered the bodies on the under frame as they seemed to sit too high:  this is an awkward job on the power bogie and quite easy to make a mess of. A better, though more expensive way of doing the under frames might be to take a Mk1 coach under frame and fit a Black Beetle power bogie.

Under construction

Under construction

Under construction

Under construction

Then I had to build those cab fronts. I used sheet plasticard and cut the windows out, then glued them to the sides and made the rounded edges with filler. The headlamp housing was made from part of a plastic tube filled and sanded down to shape, quite a fiddly job. But once painted the whole thing looks rather well. The train is a little narrower than scale, I think, judging by end on photos, but I can live with that, as it runs on 16.5mm track anyway! Painting the fronts was also quite tricky, I cut curves into masking tape (I prefer the Tamiya product) to reproduce the swooping lines of the livery.  Arguments rage about what colour was used precisely: I just used BR “blood” and white. The crest that adorned the front of these trains for the first year or so of their lives, I’d love to have, but can’t figure out a way of doing it – yet. Anyway, some of them ran briefly without any insignia on the front before the NIR one came into regular use.

After all that the trailers were relatively easy. I’d originally thought I would simply respray two Hornby brake ends and two composites, but when I started looking at the trailer coaches in a bit more depth (there’s an excellent photo of one of these in Des Coakham’s book on Irish broad gauge coaches) I realized, that, not for the first time, the UTA ones were quite different in some respects. The first/brake (701) had only four compartments and  being first class they were of course considerably wider than second class. I modelled mine by cutting panels out of the Hornby composite and the brake end to get close to the correct layout. The all second class ones had both lavatories at one end, similar to the slightly earlier Cravens coaches on CIE, rather than one each end, as BR and the LMS had arranged them. So I had to do some switching of a few “panels” around to get them near correct also. The good news is that they are correct length – viz. 57’.  For that reason I modelled the rebuilt restaurant car 548; this had been a 1924 built NCC coach and worked with the MPDs in original form. The first six car set got 550 (ex-87), a 60’ coach, when the second DE set entered traffic there was need for a second restaurant car. The North Atlantic diner had worked with the MPDs, but was not fitted or refurbished for use with DEs, presumably because with its totally different window pattern, a complete rebuild would have been needed and it was just deemed not worth it.  So 548 was re-skinned and given a look that matched the other coaches quite closely.

The finished product

The finished product

So that is it, for now.  I still have to apply numbers and someday will get round to it. This train, like its prototype, has been quite a favourite with the public when it has been shown on our UTA era layout “Killagan”. Someday I may re-engine it with a smoother newer power unit, and I would quite like to fit sound modules when someone does one with that wonderful distinctive throbbing beat I remember so well. Which might mean looking at DCC…but that will be another story.  I am building a new layout partly based on Coleraine in the 1960’s, so I’ll be able to re-create the moment I referred to at the start of this article, in my own home, one of the great delights of this hobby of ours.

The finished product

The finished product

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