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Tales from the carriage shops

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3 hours ago, David Holman said:

Great work John and as ever, not just fine models, but historical detail too. Never knew the coach partitions were cream, while that looks to be a classic train for the J26.

Cream was a standard sort of interior colour used by - at least - the MGWR, GSWR, DSER, GSR and CIE.

The DSER, from Senior's memory, had its carriage insides mid-brown to waist level, and cream above that. I think CIE might have done that too on some 6-wheelers, but I've no proper info.

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8 hours ago, jhb171achill said:

Cream was a standard sort of interior colour used by - at least - the MGWR, GSWR, DSER, GSR and CIE.

The DSER, from Senior's memory, had its carriage insides mid-brown to waist level, and cream above that. I think CIE might have done that too on some 6-wheelers, but I've no proper info.

My first train ride was on a Summer afternoon in a non-corridor coach from Killiney to Tara Street around 1968-69 after taking the bus from the City Centre to Dalkey and walking along Vico Road with my mum her sisters and my cousins on a big day out!

Don't remember the colours but the partitions were matchboarded possibly cream, the coach part of a Summer rake of GSR/GSWR coaches hauled by a black diesel that was leaking oil all over the place, my first impression of a CIE train.

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  • 6 months later...

Its a long time since I did any personal modelling, I recently started working on my Irish narrow gauge stock a useful distraction when New Zealand recently went into lockdown.

I decided to focus on my narrow gauge stock as most of the locos are due for repairs as they are getting long in the tooth and I have some unbuilt wagon kits.


I started with my T&D locos as they do most of the work on the layout. 6T lost one of her cylinder wrappers and the couplers require replacement. Model parts tend to disappear when the fall on the floor so far the chimney from Keadue Goods Shed, a section of wall, a coach roof and one of 6Ts cylinder wrappers have disappeared without a trace despite a thorough search of the floor and under the furniture, our neighbourhood's version of the Bermuda Triangle.


A couple of years ago I acquired 4 Foxrock Models C&L Cattle Wagons and 2 C&L Open wagon kits to form a Cattle Special and strengthen on of the Arigna coal trains. The bodies are high quality resin castings with a fairly complex etched brass chassis, the Backwoods wagon chassis although very good are relatively un-detailed by comparison.


First job was to dismantle 6T to her main sub assemblies (but not dismantle the chassis!), so I can fabricate a new cylinder wrapper and modify the chassis to fit the new couplings.  


The new wrapper is formed for a piece of 0.20" brass (kit scrap), the scribed line is the wrapper width.


I used a GW Models rivet tool to emboss the rivets, good practice if I ever get round to building a CVR Sharp Stewart 0-4-2T!


The marks on the right are from the tools clamping bolts.


I cut the wrapper to the correct width using a tin snips gradually cutting away strips parallel to the line the finishing with a fine file much easier than a piercing or razor saw.


Cut waste material distorts while wrapper stays flat, one more cut to make before finishing with file.


Wrapper dressed in place, I started at running board level dressed the wrapper round the cylinder ends then gradually trimming to the finished length.


Starting to look like a loco again wrapped temporarily positioned with Blu-tac.


The kit was designed with L shaped frame spacers fore and aft, which leaves insufficient room between buffer beam and spacer for a Kadee HOn3 draft gear box. I had originally fitted my T&D locos with Microtrains N Scale loco couplers which have a short draft gear box that just about fitted, but gave trouble in service.

The first step was to partially remove the vertical section of the frame spacers, by first cutting notches with a piercing saw. 


Then snapping off the vertical section, the notch section cut leaves a narrow vertical section in place at both ends to avoid weakening the chassis.


The kit was designed for scale chopper couplers and I had already formed a cut out in the buffer beams for the N Scale Kadees which were slightly widened for Hon3. 

6T was overhauled and appears to have been painted black before sending to the C&L in 1957 and ran with a hand written 6T on the buffer not the traditional shaded transfer.




Coupling problem seems to be solved, loco and wagons now have matching coupler heights and knuckles!

The next challenge is fixing the coupling at the cab end. The chassis fixes to a captive 6BA bolt/stud under the cab floor, it looks like I may have to secure the coupling mount box with a 12BA bolt drilled and tapped into the body securing bolt!










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So to the wagon chassis assembly:

The chassis kit is designed to capture detail variation that existed between individual C&L wagons and wagon types during the railways history, including variations in wheelbase and ironwork.

The first job was to solder a reinforcing strip along one edge of the fret, as recommended in the instructions. The strip minimise distortion while opening out bearing holes & packing pieces(with a tapered to broach) to clear top hat axle bushes.


I used a strip of scrap brass, soldering clamps are by Micro Mark.

I use phosphoric acid flux (Ranex Rustbuster diluted with distilled water https://www.bondall.com/ranex-rustbuster/ not sure if anything similar is available in Ireland or UK) with DCC Concepts 145° solder.  The solder basically runs into the joint by capillary action avoiding blobs of excess solder.


Bearing holes opened out and reinforcing strip removed


The next stage of the assembly involves assembling a number of small parts. The square washers are packing pieces which fit on the inside of the (not quite) W iron assembly, the packers with spring attached fit on the outside of the W iron assembly


I found the simplest way to assemble the units was to solder the bearings and packing pieces to the W irons before folding the units into a U shape. This was easy to do with the fold lines facing down and the bearings facing up, a hot iron flux and minimum solder on the tip of the iron.


I then soldered the 2nd layer of the spring/w iron in place.


Folded W irons waiting to be soldered to the chassis


The chassis is designed for the longer cattle wagons and short opens. Shortened by breaking off at the half etched lines and the solebars by folding.


The "W irons" fit between the solebars, the holes in the w irons align with holes in the chassis and can be set up for a 7' or 7'6" wheelbase. I omitted an additional spring axlebox layer which fits below the solebar.


The main reason for the complexity.

On the Cavan & Leitrim and the majority of Ulster's railways (broad and narrow) wagon the Axleguards were bolted to the outside of the solebars with axleboxes and springs on the inside unlike the "Southern" Companies and the GNR

The kit includes 3 alternate sets of cosmetic axleguards to cover the more common variations between C&L Wagons


Cosmetic axleguards soldered in place. I will remove excess solder with a fibreglass brush before painting, in this case solder acts mainly as a key for paint.

The kit includes axlebox covers and brake gear, but that's another days work!


One that I assembled earlier for comparison, I did not realise I used different axleguards on the wagon on the left.

The standard of detail, pattern making and casting of the wagon bodies are exceptional for a resin cast model. The resin is quite flexible and delicate parts unlikely to break off during normal handling and use.

The C&L had a small fleet of cattle wagons 81-100 that could carry 10 2 year old cattle one more than most contemporary Broad Gauge wagons (13'6"-14') because of their greater length.

Wheels are from my surplus stock and may require replacement its difficult to maintain a consistent back to back gauge as they tend to slip on their axles (even with Locktite)

I will probably use these wagons for Fair Specials as there is a photo  of a train of these wagons is CIE days, 4 and a van is a bit short, 5 and a van just about fits in the fiddle yard.























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I fitted the brake levers and vacuum cylinders to the wagons but gave up on the brake hangers, shoes and linkages as they were a bit too fiddly for my eyesight and fingers to assemble.


Chassis superglued to bodies, I even mislaid a couple of vac cylinders which might turn up some day.



Cut of cattle wagons in grey etched primer. I first sprayed the wagons with an "Adhesion Promoter" (automotive wax and grease remover) before spraying with primer, this minimises the risk of paint flaking off both the brass and resin substrate.


3/4 view of cattle wagon, I still have to fit the axlebox covers!


Standard small C&L open wagon, this wagon appears to be base on the original Metropolitan 40--5Ton wagons introduced for the opening of the line in 1887, the C&L appear to have added an additional 18 wagons---6T wagons before the large scale introduction of 'foreign' open wagons by the GSR & CIE to cater for the increasing coal traffic  from the mid 1930s to the late 1950s.





6Ts re-assembly, cylinder covers replaced, coupler mounting plates fitted to the chassis fore and aft and chipped/damaged paintwork treated with Carrs Metal Surface Conditioner and Metal Black, the loco body needs to be washed to remove dirt and chemical residue.

I am un-decided whether to simply touch up the chipped worn areas or try a light coat of my new weathered black mix which I use for wagon roofs. 

Colour photos indicate that 6T was painted black before she arrived on the C&L in the Spring 1957 and appears to have remained in reasonable condition while working in the railway.






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  • 2 weeks later...

Last weekend was something of a milestone: I had been planning to replace the worksurface of the outdoor work bench/large scale loco maintenance area with a sheet of ply for some time but was delayed when our 25 year old Honda CRV was written off in a crash, getting a replacement vehicle sorting out a roof rack and 2 week Covid lockdown in Aug.

I bit the bullet and bought a sheet of ply to protect the garden railway before the tree surgeons arrived to remove a dead tree, trimmed it down and installed the new worktop on Saturday.

Its said the larger the scale the nearer it comes to operating and maintaining a full size railway and 1:20.3 scale for modelling 3' narrow gauge on 45mm (Gauge 1) track becomes pretty close with track and trackbed requiring regular maintenance and replacement as parts wear out or decay.

I had to replace the ties (American for sleepers) on half of the main circuit and yards after 6-7 years use as a result of UV damage to the original plastic sleepers and a recent inspection indicates that the remainder of the main circuit is due for renewal after 10-11 years use although the original section installed 12 years ago is still good. Fortunately the rails are probably good for another 10-15 years.

More pressing the ties and crossing timbers on the turntable/loco yard turnout at the main yard on the outdoor section are becoming over-due for renewal.


The turnout was handlaid using yellow cedar timbers as an economy measure compared to buying ready assembled switches, the timbers were milled to match the Accucraft Narrow Gauge track used on the main line which did not match available ready made 1:20.3 switches.

This was my first hand laid 1:20.3 switch was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain as the timbers were no longer holding the spikes due to splitting and some of the timbers had started to rot.


Replacement timbers laid out beside existing switch

I had decided to replace the cedar timbers with Sunset Valley plastic timbers several years ago but had not gotten round to it, being a service track speeds are low and heavy locos usually re-rail themselves without too much fuss.

Replacement timbers appear to be a mixture of Sunset Valley Gauge 1 and Narrow Gauge!


Replacing timbers between crossing & switch components.

Rather than completely dismantling the turnout in order to maintain gauge and the relationship between the switch and crossing components.

I drilled out the holes for the spikes with a 1.2mm drill, punched home with a hammer and nail punch.


Existing cedar timbers removed in switch and toe area, new headblock timbers fitted.

The turnout is resting on packers to allow the spikes to be pushed home as they project through the timbers.

The next stage of the assembly is to turn the turnout over bend/clinch the projecting ends of the spikes against the bottom edge of the timber, not the easiest thing to do with blackened steel spikes.

I left out the timbers under the switch rails as I need to fabricate and solder new slide chairs/plates in position before installing the timbers.


Mock up with crossing and switch timbers fitted.

Approx. two afternoon's work to get to this stage a new Narrow Gauge No 4 Switch would cost approx. $100us plus shipping.

I usually use No 6 switches for running lines with No 4 switches for secondary trackage or tight spots were a No 6 will not fit







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6T is back out on the road working coal traffic following her repairs, I completed the kit in the late 90s so hopefully she should be good for another 20 years!


Passing Keadue with a laden coal train for Boyle or possibly Sligo. Prototype C&L coal trains usually loaded to 10 wagons & a van, though staging roads will only take 5.

There is some snagging to complete I am not happy with the rear coupling mount and front spectacles require re-glazing with Crystal Clear, need to sort out a front vacuum pipe and above all a crew.


Although the original paintwork wasn't bad I gave the loco a quick re-paint and finished the loco with the last of my stock of Testors Dullcote, the loco was still in reasonable cosmetic condition after its 1st years service on the C& L but the sheen had gone off her black paintwork.

I used HMRS Presfix LNER loco transfers as the numerals are similar to those used by CIE, the biggest challenge was forming the letter T from an E!


The coal wagons are my own resin castings from a brass master with custom lettering by SSM 15L has developed a distinctive sag from overloading/pulling out of the mould a bit too soon.

The horsebox in the background is a refugee from the Clogher Valley, I will have to build a matching passenger brake and a Sharpie to go with the horsebox and my two CVR coaches.

No progress to report on the cattle wagons and new opens, will have to order couplings, wheels and lettering.



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  • 3 weeks later...

Back to Large Scale work, I finally completed the refurbishment and re-installed the Loco Yard turnout and carried out maintenance to switchstands as part of the Spring maintenance programme (the absolute bare minimum to keep trains running.


Refurbed turnout with all ties spiked in place. 


Underside of turnout all projecting spikes clenched/bent over. This was the most difficult/painful part of the whole operation, the spikes have needle sharp points, bent over using a small pin hammer and a short piece of rail as an anvil in the web of the point rails.


Refurbish turnout installed on layout ties (sleepers) on plain track is due for replacement later this year.  The ties on the main running line and siding trackage (running loops) to the left of the photo were replaced 3-4 years ago as part of an upgrade of the yard.


The last of the handlaid turnouts with yellow cedar ties and modified barrel bolt Ground Throw in the freight yard, the ties on the plain track are due for replacement, but the switch continues to operate flawlessly 11-12 years after its installation.



The Switch Stand targets work on the same principal as disc signals used on the early railways, If the disc is visible stop, if the disc is not visible the line is clear,



The switch in the foreground is set for the siding or diverging line, approaching trains in either direction are required to stop before proceeding through the switch at reduced speed (15mph max)

The switch in the middle distance is set for the main line Disc is no visible the Fan Tail indicates that a train can proceed through the turnout without stopping at reduced speed.



Not the sharpest the switch in the foreground is set for the main line , the switch in the mid distance set for the Wye Track.

While the cast brass switch stands have been quite troublefree the targets have been an on going maintenance problem the section of shaft above the top of the casting is a brass tubing and easily damaged by pets and unfamiliar operators who try to change the point by twisting the target rather than lifting the lever.

The shafts on both targets were damaged and eventually snapped off at the top of the casting. I repaired the targets by trimming back and boring out the damaged ends of the tube to take a steel pin (galvanised nail with head removed) and reduces the risk of accidental damage as the pin is pressed into rather than rigidly fixed to the casting. The fantails are an etching that's superglued to the target.







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