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A Tale of Two Tenders




blog-0092550001411680629.jpgI have written before in this blog about the convenience of using tender-drive for small 19th century locomotives, especially for 'single wheelers'.


In my earlier post, I described the conversion of two types of tender kit, both of which represented Dean 3000 gallon tenders. Since then, I've read 'GWR Tenders and all that' in drduncan's blog, which, amongst many other useful insights, showed the close similarity between Dean's 2500 gallon and 3000 gallon designs. He also comments on the tender for the Dapol 'City of Truro' kit, writing "But this is rather crude and will need lots of work to get it to an acceptable standard - but I'd love to see examples that people have worked on."


Well, here we go! I have several of these inexpensive Dapol kits and have found them to be a useful 'quarry' of parts for various models. Previously, I built one of the 'City' tenders around a Hornby X9105 drive unit, which has the 7' 6" + 7' 6" scale wheelbase appropriate for the 3000 gallon Dean tender.



Dapol 'City of Truro' with motorised tender


I've now realised that the 2500 gallon version would be a better match for many late 19th-century locomotives, including my model of a 'Stella' 2-4-0. So, I decided to see if it would be feasible to modify the Dapol kit to represent this smaller tender. I also needed to find an alternative drive unit, since the requred wheelbase is 6' 6" + 6' 6". Fortunately, Hornby have another unit, the X2024 (intended for 'James the Red Engine') with this wheelbase, so my first step was to buy one of these.


Next, I scanned drawings of the two sizes of tender from my copy of Russell's "A Pictorial Record of Great Western Engines" and overlaid these, to make a careful comparison of their dimensions. I was pleased to find that the lengths of the bodies differed by exactly 2 feet, which is the same as the difference in the overall wheelbases. This indicated that, if I made two cuts between each of the axles, I could end up with both the correct body length and the correct wheelbase!


My method is to do a 'trial run' by means of 'Photoshop' on the computer, before attacking any hardware. The following illustration shows my planned cuts, with the results overlaid, first, over the 2500 gallon tender drawing and then over a scan of the X2024 drive unit.




This simulation looked OK to me, so I made the necessary cuts in the Dapol sides,using my fine 'Silky' mini-saw, completing the 'cut and shut' job with 'Slaters Mek-Pak'. The next job was to clean up the sides, both to remove the raised lining (so thoughtfully included!) and any roughness at the joins. My favourite tools for this job are small wax-carving chisels, which work extremely well on the rather soft Dapol plastic. I always use the widest chisel possible within the available space, to minimise the possibility of the edges scoring the plastic, although this is hard to avoid completely.




After 'cleaning up', it is simply a case of building the rest of the kit around the Hornby drive unit. In the past, I have skimmed off part of the lugs on the sides of the drive unit but here I simply 'shimmed' the tender sides at their ends, with fillets of 20 thou plasticard, to achieve a good fit. The result is a tender that is about 0.5mm too wide but, for me, this is acceptable and insignificant against the '00' gauge compromise.


I adapted the lining and lettering that I had already drawn for the 3000 gallon tender and followed my usual method of printing a single sheet to cover the whole side of the tender, which also masks any slight scoring of the plastic. The result makes a very considerable difference to the overall 'balance' of my 'Stella' model, when the two are placed together, as shown below:



UPPER - with original 'Mainline' tender

LOWER - with shortened 'Dapol' tender


There's some final 'tidying up' to do (handrails etc) but I think it's quite a good result, apart from the wheels, perhaps, which are part of the drive unit.


As a footnote, I happened to notice, in the photo of a 'Stella' in Great Western Way (1st ed. p.31) that slates seem to have been set on edge along the sides of the tender, presumably to help secure a large coal load. I may try something similar, to disguise the 'motor hump'.



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  • RMweb Gold

Nice work Mike. I seem to remember somewhere a reference to placing large lumps of coal round the edges to enable the maximum coal load.


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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, those tests with the scanner and photoshop are very ingenious! Very interesting also to see the comparison photos, the shorter tender does a lot to alter the look. Visually I like the new version even better, there's a better balance somehow. The shades of the colours in those last shots are very convincing, you'd almost think it was metal!


Thanks also for the tips on the tools, they look very useful.

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Thank you for the comments, Don and Mikkel. . 


Although tender-drives are often criticised because of the large coal load needed to cover them, I often see photos with higher real loads than on my models! 


I find that using my scanner is great for deciding whether parts will fit together.


For this type of 'studio' photography, I use my Nikon D300s with flash bounced off the ceiling.  I sometime use additional light to bring out details, though not in this case.  The dark backdrop helps to obtain good exposure on the model itself and I do find that the soft lighting is very good for producing a realistic surface sheen.


I've changed the number of my 'Stella' to 3505, since this engine received a Belpaire firebox in 1905 and can, therefore, appear in this form, with red frames :)



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  • RMweb Gold

Thanks for the details on photography Mike, very useful.


I know what you mean about the high coal mounds on some tenders!

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