Jump to content
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Broad Gauge Mail Coach - part 4





I’ve been spending quite a lot of time thinking about undergear for my Mail Coach. Apart from building a kit for an N6 Horse Box, which included fairly detailed brake gear, this is an aspect I have tended to ignore in most of my scratch-built models.


I have described myself as an ‘impressionist’ modeller but, somehow, now that I am exploring the Broad Gauge and an earlier period, I feel a certain responsibility to try to be more historically accurate.


The Broad Gauge Society kit instructions include some information about later vacuum-braked systems, including those using clasp brakes with outside linkage. I must confess that, having looked at these diagrams, I still cannot work out how the opposing brake shoes would operate in opposite directions.


I also found drawings that include early clasp brakes in Alan Prior’s book of 19th Century Railway Drawings, from which I extracted the following brake gear (removing extraneous details and colour-coding the linkages for clarity)


Based on a drawing by Alan Prior - GWR brakes 1845


It has taken me some time, from closely examining these drawings of various components, to determine how everything fitted together, in three-dimensions. The following sketch tries to illustrate my conclusions.


3D sketch - GWR brake layout


The final brake pull rods were paired both inside and outside the wheels, with one set of rods linking all the shoes at the leading sides of the wheels and the other set linking the trailing sides. These rods were driven by lateral shafts at each end of the vehicle that were connected by further pull rods to the brake wheel, located in one of the second-class compartments. I have not finally decided how much of all this rodding to include in my model, especially since a full implementation will prevent removal of the wheels for maintenance.


In the meantime, while making up my mind, I have been painting the body of the coach. This has been the simplest GWR paint job I’ve ever done – no chocolate and cream, to keep separate, and no picking-out of the mouldings in black. These early coaches were, apparently brown all over.


I sprayed an overall coat of red primer first, and then used an aerosol can of Ford Rio Brown for the top coats. There are still several details to be added but I have put the curious ventilators on the roof, which were such a characteristic feature of the prototypes.




The roof has raised another uncertainty. The GWR painting instruction of October 1864 decreed that the tops of the carriages should be painted white. We know that this applied to the upper sides but was it also a change for the roofs, as well?


Great Western Way (1st ed.) comments that, in view of the use of luggage racks on the roof and the need to service the oil lamps, the early coach roofs were unlikely to have been white. Light grey is suggested but my personal feeling is that there is quite a good case to be made for black. After all, these early BG carriages do look a bit like garden sheds, for which black seems a ‘natural’ colour. A plain tarred roof seems quite appropriate but I would welcome any other views.


Edit (19th Feb) : The following photo of 'Meteor', derailed on the South Devon Railway, shows a dark roof on the, presumably, brown carriages.




For the moment, I have shown my roofs in grey primer. There’s even the possibility that the lower roof (possibly with luggage rack) was black and the upper roof (with skylights) was white!


I hope to have a completed chassis to show in the next post.




Link to Part 5

Edited by MikeOxon
restored images

  • Like 7


Recommended Comments

  • RMweb Premium

The practise for coach roofs was to form by t & g boards laid lengthwise on supporting curved sticks and then cover by canvas stretched over. This was then waterproofed by layers of paint. Bear in mind the texture of the canvas is totally different to coach sides, which are wooden panels, well sanded and varnished to finish. You could attempt to keep the sides clean and smart, but the roof would just get dirt and grime forming into the roughness over its life. I think it's best to start with Matt white, but experiment with darkening the surface. A van roof I did recently got grey paint over the white, which I mopped with a paper kitchen towel to get a faintly dappled look, then when dry plenty of black pastel chalk powder dropped randomly and brushed crosswise.


Link to comment

Thank you Northroader.  I've used the kitchen paper method myself for the 'stained' roof look and think it works very well. 


I'm still unsure about these early (pre-1864) roofs, though.  I've been looking at stage coach images and these always seem to show very dark, probably black, roofs, which were also used for luggage and seating.  Since these provided the original models for railway carriages, I can't help wondering whether these followed suit.  I've been looking out for early railway accident illustrations, which might show carriages on their sides, and found one from the SDR which shows dark roofs. (now added to my entry)


It also seems strange to me that, whereas the sides of stage coaches were often brightly coloured (as were early carriages for the Liverpool and Manchester railway), the GWR apparently used dark, plain colours from the start.  This must have given the Directors some mis-givings; hence, the order for white tops after 1864.


Incidentally, the GWR built many coaches with papier maché panelling throughout the 1850s, including these mail coaches.

Link to comment

It is indeed, Mikkel.  As I get into an 1860s mindset, innovations such as vacuum brakes enter the realm of futuristic science fiction :)

Link to comment
  • RMweb Gold


Again very interesting.  I am a bit worried by the number of broad gauge trains off the rails, especially as Brunel claimed it was safer at high speeds.  He is looking a bit sheepish on my painting table at the moment.  Talking of which thanks to that kind Mr Stadden will Blanche's mother make an appearance, or will she have not travelled that far?

Link to comment

Ah yes, Chris, but the point is that the carriages stayed upright on the broad gauge whereas, on Stephenson's gauge, they usually toppled and killed their occupants.


Since the Broad Gauge reached North Leigh in the late 1840s then I suspect the Wilcotes were in residence at the time, although I suspect Sir John was still quite young and may not yet have met the future Lady Wilcote. :)


Incidentally, A. Smith in his book 'Railways as they really are", No.V, published in 1848, reported that an Act passed on 27th July 1846 authorised certain branches from the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway, the first to commence in the parish of Northleigh, in the county of Oxford, and end at Witney

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...