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Short trains for short layouts




Brake Third, Third, Composite, Brake.


Above: Small layouts require short trains. Recently I've been looking at prototype examples of short GWR formations in pre-grouping days, and options for employing them on Farthing. Here are some of the more obvious/common ones to start off with. Above are the classic Ratio 4-wheelers, with an RTR-bashed PBV at the end. The Ratio kits constitute a T47 Bke Third, an S9 All Third, and a U4 Composite respectively. I am not sure why these particular coaches were chosen for the kits, but if joined to a V5 PBV as seen at the back of this train, they form one of the sets built for the Ruabon & Dolgellau line in 1900 (although it is unclear to me whether these sets ever ran individually, or only in multiples?). Add another Composite, and you would have a formation similar to the Cardigan branch train around 1911 - albeit with different diagram numbers. The V5 was built from the ends of two Triang coaches, as described here.


Brake Third, Composite, Brake Third.


Above: The Brake Third / Compo / Brake Third formation was very common on GWR pre-grouping branchlines. There's a prototype example here. In this case the leading Brake Third is a Holden "Metro" coach, of which some were devolved to branch services and mixed with non-Holden 4-wheelers (eg the Faringdon branch set). The "Metro" is a modified Ratio kit using Shirescenes sides - a quick way to add a bit of variety, although it involves a number of compromises (details here).



Brake Third, Composite, Third, Brake Third, Siphon.


Above: This is about the maximum length of train I can reasonably fit in the bay platform at Farthing while still preserving full operational scope. The Brake Third / Compo / Third / Brake Third arrangement was another fairly widespread 4-wheeler formation. It was apparently known as an "A" set in Edwardian times and a "WW" set in the 1920s. In this case I have added a 6-wheeled low-roof Siphon at the end, built from an old K's plastic kit.


Of course, it wasn't all so streamlined! Far from it, in fact, as discussed in this entry. Personally I actually prefer the ungodly mix of different coach styles seen on many GWR trains, not to mention the really short trains that ran on some branches. But more on that later.


Sources: See GWR Branchline Modelling vol 2 by Stephen Williams for a discussion and list of formations on selected branches.


Note: The GWR would have called a Brake Third a "Van Third". I use the former term here as it seems more intuitive.

Edited by Mikkel

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  • RMweb Gold

Lovely stuff Mikkel, but could you tell me what the odd looking (to very non GWR eyes) loco in the last photo is please.

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...I am not sure why these particular coaches were chosen for the kits...

According to Russell (GWR coaches vol 1, figs 72,73), the prototype was a miners' train in a very good state of preservation photographed at Treherbert in 1948. The Ratio kits were made from photos and drawings that Jim Russell supplied to Mr Webster for this purpose.


As others have said, these are some lovely examples of early 20th century GWR branch trains, though I'm looking forward to the "...really short..." ones.




ps what's odd about no 34? ;-)

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  • RMweb Gold

Thanks everyone :-)  The loco in the last shot is No. 34, one of an unusual Dean duo built for the Cornish branches. It can be seen in action on Farthing here. The loco was made by Dave Perkins who had a similar interest in the Edwardian period. I've always thought the design looks a bit NER'ish, somehow, but can be seen as minor relations to Dean's larger ill-fated 0-4-4Ts.  


The coaches were brush-painted with the excellent Vallejo acrylics. The panels were done by flooding them with paint, a surprisingly effective method, I find, that does not require masking off. I've decided to repaint the rooves though, they're just too white!


I had forgotten about the reference in Russell, thanks Nick. Those worn down miner's trains make a tempting project - sometimes all that pregrouping splendor becomes almost too much of a good thing!

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  • RMweb Gold

Love the trains Mikkel. Regarding the Ruabon and Dolgelly (GWR spelling) train do you know what engine would have been used on that line to pull it.

Thanks Don

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  • RMweb Gold

Thanks Andy and Don. Sadly I don't know what engines pulled those sets. I was going to ask if anyone did....

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  • RMweb Gold

Thanks Ian. Looking at these trains here and on the layout it strikes me that it's all a trifle too neat, though. I know Edwardian trains were very clean compared to later times, but I still think they ought to be more weathered than they are (other than what little I have done on the underframes etc). I've been saying this for ages - just can't pluck up the courage to do it! Do others have that same dilemma?

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  • RMweb Gold

Thanks Steve. My Ratio 4-wheelers are in fact a bit of a quick-and-dirty job. Eg I never got around to adding the gas piping. Problem is, I've stopped noticing! There is better work by Steve Farrow here: http://www.gwr.org.uk/prot36.html

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The GWR distinguished between brake thirds that had large luggage van areas and those that only had space for a guard.  Only the later were called Brake Thirds, only those with a luggage van were called Van Thirds.

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  • RMweb Gold
On 12/11/2019 at 21:27, Penrhos1920 said:

The GWR distinguished between brake thirds that had large luggage van areas and those that only had space for a guard.  Only the later were called Brake Thirds, only those with a luggage van were called Van Thirds.

Thanks also from me for clearing that up Penrhos. It makes good sense really, "van" suggesting capacity to actually carry something.  So this train contains both a Brake Third and a Van Third. 




I suppose the "standard" formations mentioned by Stephen Williams (see main post) would not have distinguished between Brake Thirds or Van Thirds, i.e. either one or the other would have been used depending on requirements in the particular location.



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Van would be the term for a full brake. I.e. capacity to carry things but not passengers. 


I believe that the GWR were particular with their language regarding brake third and van third. It is clear they made the effort to distinguish.


I therefore suggest that your trains in the post would - in correct GWR parlance - be:


*Stands up for shooting*


Van Third, Third, Composite, Van

Brake Third, Composite, Van Third

Brake Third, Composite, Third, Van Third


although I haven't looked in Williams' books for a long time to check his terminology.


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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Rich, yes that's makes sense to me, and is how I interpret Penhros' comment.

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