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Horse Power




One of the things to remember when 'turning back the clock' is the former widespread use of horses, which continued up until WW2 and lingered even into the 1950s. I felt I needed to learn a bit more about how they were used, so that I could replace some of my more modern traffic with appropriate period vehicles. I found the book 'Great Western Horse Power' by Janet Russell, which proved to be a mine of information but seemed to concentrate on large depots and cities, whereas I was interested to know what might be found at a small country station. Then I spotted a photo of a horse bus at Bampton Station, on the Fairford Branch, and decided that this would be a good starting point. I bought the P D Marsh kit of a one-horse bus, which turned out to be a reasonably straightforward white-metal kit.




The interlocking joints at the body ends might have seemed a good idea to the designer but were hard to get to fit well, in vew of flash and distortion, and were also very difficult to disguise in the finished model. Eventually, I ended up with a reasonable appearance, as below (note that luggage rails are not included in the kit). I've since seen that there is an etched brass kit of a similar vehicle available from Scale Link so, perhaps, this will be a better bet, next time




To complement this model, I bought another couple of kits from the Langley range - a small farmers cart and a larger van. Langley, very usefully, also supply a range of wheels, which I have used to convert a pneumatic-tyred old 'Merit' plastic model into an earlier type of vehicle.




The differences between the horse breeds in the two Langley kits are very noticeable. I suppose the equivalent to 'rivet counting' in the equine world is knowing all the different breeds of horse, and the details of harness for various applications. I'm just beginning to understand how the collar provides the 'pull', while breeching straps enable the horse to hold back a following vehicle. While at Swindon Steam museum recently, I took the opportunity to examine and photograph the harness on their scene of a horse and parcels dray. I need to do a lot more reading yet!


I think my own railway should be classified as a 'working diorama', as one of my main interests is setting up small scenes, within the overall layout, to illustrate specific themes. I found an old photograph of horse shunting in progress at Barnstaple Junction, back in Broad Gauge days, and decided to try and emulate the scene, as shown below, where the horse is attached to a provender wagon. Note that the horse is in the 'six foot' (actually much wider on former BG lines!) and pulls from the side, to avoid being run over if the wagon 'runs away'. As usual, a few other people feel it is necessary to watch the proceedings!




I found a very useful plug-in for Photohop (and Elements) from www.photo-plugins.com , which simulates the effect of various Black & White film types - even old non colour-sensitive emulsions - and can also add grain and toning effects. It does a great job of 'turning back the clock' as shown below:




Now that the longer evenings are coming, I am considering several other projects of which, more later.


---EDIT (26 Sep): I felt the thread looked a bit insubstantial for pulling the wagon, so tried some fine chain instead. Better, I think - now perhaps a bit heavy!








Edited by MikeOxon

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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, this is very inspirational, some really nice example of GWR horsepower!


I wasn't aware Langley had a range of wheels. I've been looking for some wheels for a couple of scratchbuilding projects, so thanks a lot for the tip!

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Thank you, Mikkel. I value your comments and am glad that my tip is useful to you. 


You showed me how important it is to have some human activity in scenes like this!  I have a long way to go, before the whole layout reaches a satisfactory state, but setting up little scenes like this helps to maintain my own enthusiasm.


The building at back right in the photos is a creamery, so I shall have to think about suitable traffic to serve that.



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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, yes I agree it helps keep the enthusiasm up to do scenes like this. I suppose it is simply an adult form of playing!

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