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More on the John Bull tender

Posted by Ian Simpson , 13 March 2018 · 401 views

1840s John Bull horse box brake van
More on the John Bull tender

In an earlier post on Bachmann's John Bull locomotive I described the difficulty of converting the high-sided shed covering the tender drive into any British-style tender. My own rather lazy approach was to adapt the existing body to resemble an early van (although good vans were rare beasts in 1840; most early railways simply flung a tarpaulin over everything).

 

Nigel Hill has been rather more inventive, building a couple of very attractive replacement bodies. Both transform the tender drive into a useful piece of stock that looks great sitting behind non-motorised locos. He's kindly given me permission to describe his models here.

 

Removing Bachmann's own body from the chassis is a real puzzle until you know the trick. The front of the tender body has a gap in the green plastic just below roof level. On the left hand side of this gap you should be able to spot or feel a raised strip of metal that prevents the body sliding off the chassis. Simply insert a small screwdriver blade beneath the lip of the plastic and gently prise it over the metal strip. Once it is free of the metal, the tender body can simply be slid upwards off the chassis.
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Nigel's first design is for an break van [the original spelling] made of plasticard. In 1840 most goods trains still ran without a brake van, which must have contributed to the extraordinarily high levels of wear and tear reported by early wagon superintendents. But primitive brakes similar to Nigel's model were beginning to come into use as more powerful goods locomotives allowed freight trains to become faster and heavier.

 

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A particularly attractive feature of Nigel's model is the lantern lookout on top of the roof, made from transparent plastic. This model is still work in progress, and I think it will be wonderful when it's completed and painted out.

 

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The pipes loaded on the low-sided wagon in the photos below are Chris Cox's marvellous castings of the London and Croydon Railway's atmospheric tubes. Since the tubes were provided by contractors, they are very similar in appearance to the ones used on other atmospheric railways like the South Devon in the mid-1840s. Let's hope this Company isn't planning to make a similarly expensive mistake ...

 

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Nigel's second model is based on a Great Northern Railway horsebox, although many other railways had very similar designs. It is also built of plasticard, this time with horizontally scribed planking. Nigel points out that while early prints often show a horse box and carriage wagon attached to the end of the train like an primitive version of Motorail, railways soon learned to move the horseboxes next to the loco to give their valuable occupants a smoother journey. That's useful, because a powered horsebox is definitely better sitting right behind the loco instead of pushing an entire passenger train.

 

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Because the horsebox towers over the Bachmann coach roofs, at first I though Nigel had built it in 4 mm scale rather than 3.5 mm! But when I checked the drawings I found he really had built it in HO: the prototype's roof was 11 feet above the rail tops, more than a foot higher than contemporary coach heights. Early coaches couldn't make full use of the loading gauge because of luggage stored on top of their roofs, oil lamp covers, even brakemen sitting on top of them.

 

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And Nigel's primary interest isn't even early British railways - it's Scandinavian and especially Norwegian railways.

 

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Delightful scenes and a fascinating post, thanks Ian.

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Ian Simpson
Mar 14 2018 12:20

Thanks, Chris. It's great to write a blog when someone else has done all the hard work! And it is such a pleasure to showcase other people's work (especially when they are as nice as Nigel).

 

The two things that struck me when I looked at the photos on screen were (a) how much Nigel's models improve the scene, and (b) how wrong I was to think that a single coat of paint would be enough for the figures. I know people tended to patch up and mend their clothes much more in the 19th century, but some of those passengers look positively threadbare! I'd better build some Parliamentary coaches so they can afford to travel ...