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.
Edited by MikeOxon