My local club, Southport Model Railway Society, has a modelling competition each year for members, judged during the annual exhibition at the end of September. This year’s theme is ‘Wagons and wagon loads’, with the option of entering either a rake of three proprietary wagons, each with a different scratch-built load, or at least one scratch-built or kit-built wagon with load.
Flushed with success from winning last year’s competition (a weathered Andel Models coal hutch kit, thank you for asking) I decided to combine both options, and go for three scratch-built wagons. And as a world first for me, they would be in 7/8ths scale. The fact that Accucraft are bringing out a Quarry Hunslet in that scale is pure coincidence, and had almost no effect on my decision.
Whilst looking for suitable prototypes I came across Sierra Valley Enterprises. They sell 7/8ths scale models of 9ft narrow-gauge flat cars and gondolas. These looked appealing and more importantly, easy to make using various sizes of stripwood from the local B&Q. I chose 45mm gauge partly because it corresponds to 2ft in the prototype but also because the wheels, complete with my precision-made brake gear, would be that much more visible to the discerning competition judge.
The initial construction was fairly straightforward, using the Sierra website photos as a crib. The brake gear was somewhat more fiddly, employing assorted bits of metal, wood and plastic for the shoes, rods, handles and ratchets. Likewise for the axle boxes. I shied well away from trying to scratch-build knuckle couplers, preferring instead an adaptation of the flap-and-pin Heywood couplings used on the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway. After several stints of ballast-shovelling on the Ratty I have first-hand knowledge of the effectiveness of this type, including how they stand up to head-on sheep impacts. But that’s another story.
The choice of load was also subject to the ease-of-building test. Most sheds are just planks nailed on to wooden joists, and in this scale the universal eBay lollipop stick is just about the right size. So it seemed just a matter of cutting sticks to size and gluing them across a frame of 9mm square strip. It more-or-less turned out that way, although for some unknown reason a few gaps appeared between the planks when left to dry. Perhaps the model was just trying to emulate the prototype a little more convincingly - the very first self-weathering model? Superglue was used because of the quick setting time, backed up in some instances with wood glue. Painting made use of Tamiya acrylics, olive green for the wagons and brown for the shed components.
The roofing felt was made up from rolls of paper painted black, with sand sprinkled on the wet paint. The lunch bag, stove, bucket, screwdriver, lock and key are from clay, as are the sand and cement bags, the latter two enclosed in clingfilm to represent transparent plastic bags. The toolbox and spanner are from plasticard, the paint cans from dowel and the nails from beheaded brass pins.
The competition requires the wagons to be displayed on a length of track, which posed a problem as I had not long since sold my excess 45mm track to another SMRS member, in urgent need of a garden railway to fight off some unwholesome veteran car urges. I did however have some spare SM32 rail lurking in the uttermost pit of darkness that is the far south-western corner of my own 1:1 scale shed. As an aside, this is a converted garage, wood-lined, insulated and carpeted as testament to my own hard-earned victory over kit-cars and vehicles of that ilk. Thank you, Automotives Anonymous. Wisdom comes with age, but I still have to take the lack of an MX-5 one day at a time.
With sleepers cut from stripwood on the scroll saw, and 15-year-old Peco chairs recovered using more NETAA procedures, the track was rapidly constructed and laid onto a random piece of scrap wood that was just the right size. More randomness in the application of assorted scenic powders and the job was done. Not quite sure about the rather hairy green rope, but it will do for now.
Finally, I have found a use for the rectangular brass sprues from Peco rail joiners, the ones with little holes in them. They make excellent hinges when cut in half and glued back-to-back with a bit of rod down the middle. And thank you Adrian for reminding me that I need a door knob to go with the lock and key. Such details could just tip the balance come showtime...