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Two More Early Coaches




blog-0127739001435616021.jpgAs an excuse for not having added all the finishing touches to my early GWR composite coach, I wrote that I was planning to build its companion coaches that appear in the 1873 New Milford photo.




Whereas I found a good side-on photo of the composite coach, I have not found anything similar to help me determine the dimensions of these other coaches. Because of their small size in the New Milford photo, and their angle, I found that I could not estimate their length with any accuracy. So, I decided to assume that the compartment sizes were similar to the end compartments in the composite.


From the above photo, there appears to be a fair bit of white panelling between adjacent compartments, which suggests that these may be 2nd class rather than thirds but, on the other hand, there are only two oil lamps on the roof, such that one lamp is shared between two compartments.


In contrast, a side-on view of an early 2nd class coach, shown in Great Western Way, 1st ed. P55, has smaller-seeming compartments, each with an individual oil lamp. I have made a 'colourised' version of this latter coach, as shown below:




I suppose that the design differences between these coaches reflect the rapid evolution of railway carriages through the first half of the 19th century. After all, it was only a few years earlier that 3rd class passengers travelled in open wagons and seats were fitted to the roofs of some coaches 'for those who preferred to travel outside'! [ref 'Our Iron Roads', Coghlan, 1838]


Faced with a dilemma, I decided that the solution was to follow both courses and build two coaches. I decided that the New Milford coaches might be old 2nds, downgraded to 3rd class, which seemed to be quite a regular occurrence at the time. For example, the old coach that shed a tyre and caused the accident near Oxford in 1874 had been downgraded in this way.


The other (GWW) coach looks to be an even older design, with its curved-top windows and open spoked wheels, but I decided that it would provide additional variety to my stock. It's not my intention to take my whole model railway back to the mid-century but simply to include some of the older coaches that would have persisted on branch lines until around the end of the century.


For the New Milford coach, I started from the drawings I made for the composite, shown in a previous post: I then made all four compartments the same size as the outer compartments in the composite, resulting in an overall length of 23'. It's not easy to make out the wheelbase from the photograph, so I kept this to the same 13' as in the composite. I realise that my dimensions are only approximate and that, if ever I find a better photo, a re-build may be necessary The result of my ‘cut and shut’ job on the composite drawing is shown below:




For the old 2nd, shown in GWW, I scaled the photograph to give a similar height to that of the New Milton coaches. This resulted in a wheelbase of 12', which seems appropriate for the overall length of the vehicle – around 20’ 6”.


I drew the coach sides, using 'Autosketch', and cut these out with my Silhouette cutter, to produce three laminations - the outer two on photo paper, printed with the image of the real coach, while the innermost is of plasticard, so that it can be 'welded' to the floor and ends. The actual construction of both coaches followed exactly the same process that I described in my previous blog entry:


I've now built several 19th-century coaches, using laminated sides cut out with my Silhouette cutter. The cutter proved especially useful for replicating the curved-top windows in the early 2nd class coach. The dirty marks at the ends of the cream sides are not the result of my sloppy painting but are present on the original (1880) photograph!




I've gradually improved my technique and, this time, I decided to apply a coat of Humbrol ‘Satin Cote’ to the printed sides, before removing them from the Silhouette backing sheet. This made it easier to apply a smooth overall coat of varnish and did not affect the ease of removing the sides from the backing sheet or of the 'chads', for the window openings. It also made the printed surface less vulnerable to damage from the Bookbinders' adhesive that I used to glue together the laminations. This adhesive provides the necessary 'slip' to allow the laminations to be registered accurately and does not seem to introduce any warping of the sides when it hardens.


So, I finish this post with a couple of shots of these old coaches on local trains at North Leigh. They are not finished but I was impatient to see how they looked on the layout!




Definitely not the types of carriage in which young Blanche would wish to be seen! I suspect she might have referred to them rather disparagingly as 'cattle trucks' - indeed, I believe that this rattling old local to Oxford was known colloquially as the 'Ox & Cow'.




Now that I have refined my construction techniques a little, I really should re-build the Wilcote family saloon. It’s hard to believe that it’s 18 months since I built my first Silhouette coach sides!




ps I really must build a proper tender for No.184

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  • RMweb Gold

Good work on the coaches Mike you have a pretty unique collection of models.


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Thanks Don.  I got the bit between the teeth after I converted a Dean Goods to a Stella!  Then the Silhouette cutter opened up the possibility of 'bespoke' coaches.  There's nothing like making a model to give a 'feel' for how these early designs differed from more familiar stock.



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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike,


Must admit I'm downright envious of your "Ox & Cow"! But the green and evil monster  in me notes with a certain glee that you are now in that typical situation we modellers tend to get in: Having done all the fun bits on the coaches, they now need all the tedious detail added :-)


Only joking of course. I love the curved top windows on the early second. A very appealing coach (whatever Blanche may think).

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Mikkel, you are so right - in fact my entire railway is littered with unfinished projects :)   Not only that but I feel I should re-build a lot of my earlier experiments. 


One very essential detail, before I can do anything, other than view static scenes, is to fit couplings to all these coaches!


The main thing is that it brings a smile to my face, when I look at the fantasy I've created :)

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  • RMweb Gold


Excellent!  I really like you coaches.  It is nice to see something completely different.  I am preparing an order for 20 assorted Cambrian coaches. ;-)

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Glad you like them, Chris.  If you have a Silhouette cutter, its really quite easy to get to the stage I've shown but, as Mikkel pointed out, the devil is then in the detail!

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A little late in the day, but that GWW coach looks llike it may have rounded corners, particularly the right end. The shadow of the roof is the thing that's giving me the impression. The narrow longtitudinal panel bearing the handles and class also seems to look 'odd' at the ends if the side was flat. The only other explanation for the shadow is that the roof is wider right at the corner, possibly to project water from the rain strip.


Being in the same boat (although on a premier railway :) , I share your frustration at the lack of prototypical information.


Whilst I am here, thank you for sharing all your experience coach building generally and specifically on a Portrait. It is very useful and much appreciated.




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I think you might be right about the rounded ends, Richard, and I also agree with you about the longitudinal panel. 


Having made a start, I shall hope to refine my modelling to include such features in the future.  I feel that the Silhouette machines have opened up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to scratch-building these early coaches! 


Thank you for looking in.



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