Tag Archives: Northern Ireland Railways

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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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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“Nearly Irish”

Colm Flanagan

 

With the arrival of our first really good RTR Irish diesel, and coaches to match by the time this is published, the thoughts of some modellers are beginning to consider whether a steam loco might be viable as a commercially produced model.  If this were so I’d vote for the LMS NCC/UTA/NIR/RPSI Class WT (Jeep) 2-6-4T.  Will it happen; who knows? But in the meantime, are there any ways of getting something like it?  The similarity between the ex-NCC 2-6-4T and its British mainland counterparts has often been remarked upon and in the last few years we have been favoured with Hornby and Bachmann giving us just about all the variants of the LMS/BR “equivalents.”  Over the past few years, as readers of New Irish Lines may remember, I have been building a chopped version of the Hornby Fowler tank which most folk have been very kind about.  New models of the UK 2-6-4Ts have appeared since then, so I thought it might be of interest to do a “state of play” round up, specifically looking at which, if any, of these is closest to the “Jeep.”  There were five variants (that I know of) on the theme:

  1. The original Fowler tanks produced for the LMS.  Modelled by Hornby in the 1980s and ’90s.  A super-detailed version was produced more recently; a renumbered version of this is due this autumn.
  2. Some later versions received side window cabs.
  3. Stanier then produced a variant with a taper boiler, whose dimensions were otherwise the same as the Fowler.  Hornby have recently produced this one.
  4. Fairburn produced a similar locomotive with a slightly shorter wheelbase.  Modelled by Bachmann – still available.
  5. BR produced a standard 4MT tank rather similar to the Fairburn; Hornby Dublo first made a model of this in the 1950s and Bachmann do a model which has been in their catalogue since 2002.

It was between the appearance of 4 and 5 that Ivatt supervised the building of the “Jeeps” – they were possibly designed by Stanier back in 1943 (according to JRL Currie) but building didn’t actually start until 1945.  The first 10 arrived in Northern Ireland in 1946-47, the latter eight 1949-50 (50 was the last actually delivered to the NCC, the rest to the UTA).  So, we seem to have quite a bit of choice.

To begin the consideration, we have to bear in mind certain things.  All of the English locos had wheels 5′ 8″ or 5′ 9″ whereas the Jeeps had 6′ 0″.  The Jeeps had a smaller diameter bogie and pony truck wheel; all of the English locos had longer fireboxes/boilers and shorter bunkers than the Jeeps.  With the exception of the Fowler (1 and 2) they had different wheelbases, mostly between the front pony truck and leading drivers.  Therefore for total accuracy, build your own, or wait in hope for a scale RTR model.  Anyone following either of these approaches may read no further!

Next a major issue: by the time the Jeeps were built, taper boilers were the norm in England, but the Jeeps had a parallel boiler, as it was decided to use the same one as had been used for the earlier mogul tender engines.  On the face of it this rules out all variants except 1 and 2.  However, let us assume that you don’t want to carry out major surgery (and it would be major: I certainly haven’t even tried it!)  Taking the most modern engine first:

The BR Standard 4MT:
Built some years after the Jeeps.  This has side window cabs and a built up bunker which looks reasonably “Jeep-like.”  Also, the front cylinders are high and angled, again, quite good.  This is the only one to have the correct pattern of two steps to the tank undersides, although an early drawing shows the single step on No. 5, the first to be delivered.  This is of course an error as any photographs will quickly show.  There is a continuous footplate, though the Jeep had a cutaway.  However, the “look” of it (whichever version, Dublo or Bachmann, you use) is just too “heavy” in my eyes and that, coupled with the points above, rules it out.

The Fairburn:
The first of which were built in1945, shortly before Ivatt took over as LMS loco superintendent.  Fairburn died suddenly in October 1945 and was replaced by H G Ivatt.  As the BR version has side window cab and bunker, these look more angular than the BR one.  This loco also has a cutaway front footplate.  It has a single step under the side tanks.  Allowing for the points made above, it looks not unlike a Jeep to my eyes.  One slight issue is that there is a definate “kink” in the top of the side bunkers, though this isn’t really noticeable on the model.

The Stanier:
Built in the 1930s.  Side window cab bunker, similar to Fairburn, but with a continuous footplate, similar Fowler frames and the cylinders are at a lesser angle to the horizontal.

The Fowler rebuild:
Built in the late 1920. The good news!  Wheel base dimension is accurate.  Side window cab (though see above); no cutaway on the footplate, and cylinders as Stanier design.  But it has a parallel boiler which is correct, and it’s a bit long overall (as is the original).  If you contemplated doing a small bit of chopping this would get you near with cutting away the footplateand altering the profile of the tank underside, neither a big job.  The bad news: this is the one variant nobody currently makes!

The Fowler original (1926-27):
As above but the cab has no side windows, these have to be cut out and new window frames made, which is what I did on my own conversion; I also cut away the cab and this lengthens the bunker, then did other things, etc. to produce my engines, which take it out of this survey’s remit.

So my conclusion?  If I wanted something “Jeep-like” with no work, just a repaint job essentially, I’d get a Fairburn.  For a little extra work, alter the bunker underside, fit a handwheel to the smokebox (a very Irish thing, that) and repaint, even better.  If you are prepared to do more, than I reckon the Fowler is the better bet to start from.  You’re still left with some compromises of course, but so far that’s the best I’ve come up with.  And if Murphy Models or someone else decides to go for the first proper scale Irish RTR steam loco, my vote goes for a Jeep.  In UTA days they were found on every line still open, they took excursions to Dublin, and in RPSI ownership No. 4 has travelled everywhere in Ireland and still operates today.  The “universal” engine, in a way its builders would never have foreseen.  It could look equally at home with a rake of Cravens coaches of any era, NCC/UTA coaches of Midland style, or the RPSI set.  Of course, if this superbly detailed ultra-accurate WT appeared then I might have some secondhand conversions for sale on eBay!

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