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Building an old Toad (part 1)



This covers the start of planning and building a Toad (GWR Brake Van) for the layout. Not one of the usual Toads (from Association kits), which come in 20 and 24 feet lengths, with four or six wheels and a capacity of 16 to 25 tons, but the earlier outside-framed variant with a length of 18 feet and capacity of 10 tons.




This is one I did earlier - not finished yet (missing buffers, couplings, handrail, and with the roof still loose), and flawed by a couple of mistakes in the construction process. I will attempt to provide a few step-by-step pictures and descriptions of the process over this and a couple more blog articles.



Built prior to 1888, with an initial capacity of 10 tons. Some (about 50) were upgraded around 1919 to 12 tons, being fitted with self-contained buffers, and receiving the diagram number of AA16 (the initial version had no diagram number - when the diagram book started around 1904 many older vehicles were omitted).


Details (though rather scanty) in GWR Goods Wagons by Atkins, Beard, Hyde and Touret ("Atkins"), including a photograph and drawing. A larger version of the photograph appears in Great Western Wagons Appendix by Russell ("RWA"). Date of the photograph is unclear - Atkins suggests 1888, RWA suggests 1900.


Unlike more modern Toads, they had grease axleboxes. Although Atkins indicates that twin clasp brakes were standard from the early days, the photograph shows conventional wagon-type brakes.



In the period I am modelling (1900-1910) most GWR brake vans appear to have been of the AA3 variety - 18 ft long, 16 or 20 ton capacity - and 500 of these were built between 1889 and 1901. However, I believe that the traffic on my layout would probably not have followed this pattern - a large proportion of the freight was fitted, and would probably have had some of the vacuum-piped "A" versions from the AA2 diagram (278 built 1902-1910), whilst the light local freight would have been a good candidate for the older lighter (undiagrammed) Toad which I cover here.


Components needed

Etch from David Eveleigh (see small suppliers in the products section of the 2mm web site for contact details, but I don't think the entry is up-to-date).

Also required

Top hat bearings - 4 for the wheels, and (optionally) several for alignment of multi-level etches for soldering

Wheels - 2 axles of 2-010 6mm 8 spoke (technically they should be 6.2 mm for 3 ft 1 in, but I think this is close enough)

Buffers - According to Atkins et al, the typical buffers in use at this time would have had a 1 ft disc and a 3 in shank within a round unribbed buffer guide, on a square base. Availability of Association buffers varies, so "nearest available fit" will change from time to time - I have some 2-072 (turned brass, round base, 2.1mm head) which I intend to use.

Couplings - I use DG (2-110)

Brass wire - about 8 inches of thin wire for handrails - I will probably use some surplus from the DG coupling packs, as I only fit loops at one end.

Brake handle (in the verandah) - probably the "short brake standard" from N Brass Locomotives, which looks like a suitable match (Thanks to Richard Brummitt for the suggestion)



Probably conventional GWR grey, though I think Great Western Way suggests brown was used in earlier days (pre-1896 as I recall from skimming a copy recently). This would include the underframe. According to the photograph, the handrail appears to be grey, unlike the white used on later versions. Though the roof is nominally white, I would expect it to have darkened to grey/black (unless the van was recently painted, which this probably wouldn't be).


Lettering (white)

"G.W.R" (note no trailing ".") in 5 inch block capitals (without serif) on lower left, with number in similar size and style on lower right (excluding the verandah area). Photographed example is numbered "12009", so it is likely that 120xx would be a suitable number. Allocated station (Newport in the photo) is shown in centre of the side, in italics/script - will probably be "Wellington" in my case, though I have my doubts how legible that will be in italic script in 2mm (i.e. about 0.8 mm high).


Alternatives lettering styles

Cast plates were used for GWR and numbers around 1896 to 1902 - it's possible that this style might have been applied to some of these brake vans, but unlikely, as I think it was used only on new production.

After 1904 the name style changed to "G W" in large (25 inch) letters, which would probably have been applied in the first repaint after 1904. The G and W were placed in the upper/ecntre part of the left and right panels, and the number moved from bottom right to bottom left.


The number was generally also painted on the ends of the wagons after 1904, in similar 5 inch size, but it seems unlikely to have been applied to brake vans in this manner.


Additional details (optional)

Sandboxes in the corners of the verandah, with straight sandpipes (for wet sand - curved pipes for dry sand were adopted after WW I), but none indicated on the example photographed.


Making a start

The usual exhortation "read the instructions (several times)" doesn't apply here, as there are no instructions provided. Instead, study the etch (several times), and work out which bits go where, which bits to discard, and which bits to assemble first.


I decided it was probably safe to fit the top hat bearings, so I did that in my now-usual style - ream out the holes large enough for the bearings to fit in (but still remain fairly tight), then holding the etch firmly down on the bearings add a little solder around the bearing (solder paint in my case - others may prefer solder plus flux) and apply heat with the soldering iron.




The etch, with top hat bearings soldered in


The underframe can then be cut out and the solebars bent up. With my first build I chose to leave the V-hangers alone at this stage, and continue with the assembly of the solebars, returning to the v-hangers and brakes later, but on the second one I did the V-hangers and brakes next.


The tabs on the brakes help to locate the first one correctly to the underframe, then the second one to both underframe and the first brake, but will probably need a bit of cleaning to ensure the two halves fit together. There are some holes which can be reamed out in the v-hangers and the brakes, through which a wire can be threaded to assist in holding them in the right position, and also to provide extra detail, but I omitted this step (although I reamed out the holes as much as I dared, I don't have any wire small enough for the holes).




The three odd leaf-shaped pieces attached to each of the inner solebars serve no obvious purpose, so I removed them.




Wheels inserted, and W-irons bent in/out as appropriate to ensure that they rotate freely.

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Looking forward to seeing this develop. From the first photo it appears to be a very well detailed etch. I've built a couple of these in 4mm from the ABS white metal kit, one in early form and one as AA16 (see this blog entry).


There are a couple of other photos in Russell's original Pictorial Record of GW Wagons, figs 238-9. Neither are dated, though one is still in service and the other in use as an S&T tool van. Between them they give good views of each end.




Edit: one detail that I can't make out on your photos is that the top edge of the floor-level horizontal part of the outside frame has a chamfered edge all round. You can see this on my photos, though I think the ABS casting exaggerates the feature.

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Thanks for the comments Nick.


Yes the etch appears to be good quality - deficiencies are more likely to arise from my soldering and/or photographic skills (or lack of). Photographing tiny models at small range is still difficult for me, whereas I manage relatively well at greater distances. Perhaps there will be a bit of sunshine in the next day or two and I will try for some better pictures..


I had forgotten that entry in your blog - thanks for reminding me. There is also a 2mm etch for the W2 cattle wagon which is the third item on that page, which is on my "to do" list, but I haven't obtained one yet.


I appear to have mislaid my copy of Russell's original Pictorial Record of GW Wagons some years ago - if it doesn't turn up again, I will need to buy another one.


I see that you have painted your brake standard in grey - I was considering painting mine in white, based on the one I photographed at STEAM, but having looked again at various photographs grey looks more likely (though not conclusive).


I suspect that the etch was largely based on the Atkins/RWA photograph, which appears to have no significant chamfering. I will see if I can add a small fillet of solder to suggest the chamfer when I finish it off.


Having looked again more closely, I see one thing that appears wrong for the 2mm etch, against either your cast 4mm models or the Atkins drawings or the Atkins/RWA photograph. The position of the chimney - in the centre of the length of the wagon, instead of the centre of the enclosed part



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I hadn't really thought much about the brake standard. If anything, I'd assumed a grey column with a white handle, probably with most of the paint rubbed off the handle and showing as polished steel. Maybe it was something that varied over time or between depots? I recall a discussion some time ago on RMweb about whether the handrails on early AA3s should be white. IIRC the conclusion was that this started around or after WW1 and earlier examples were grey.


I suspect there may have been some variations in stove and chimney positions. The one reused as an S&T tool van has it further towards the end and close to the side.



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Thanks for the comments


Jerry -

I admired your brake van at STEAM a couple of months ago. As I recall, you said that it took about four hours to build - mine took rather longer, split over several sessions, but I agree that it goes together well. There's a few minor traps in the process to fall into, which I hope to point out in the narrative (which reminds me - one was that the v-hangers bent the non-usual way, namely with the half-etch on the inside of a 180 degree bend, so I need to add a note on that).


Tom -

Yes, it will be something to show off at the next WLAG Meeting, instead of an armchair planning session - another "almost finished" wagon. When one of the promised underframe conversions comes out, I will be able to add that and have a complete "almost finished" train - probably about midsummer I forecast...


Nick -

Yes grey with a polished (through paint having worn off) handle sounds likely for the brake standard. Alternatively, as you say it's quite likely it varied which would justify alternative treatments. In the photo which is my main reference it is certainly too dark to be white.


Variation in chimney positions also sounds likely. I will see how difficult it is to move mine to the "right" position, and use "variation" as an excuse if it doesn't work out.



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I hadn't really thought much about the brake standard. If anything, I'd assumed a grey column with a white handle, probably with most of the paint rubbed off the handle and showing as polished steel. Maybe it was something that varied over time or between depots? I recall a discussion some time ago on RMweb about whether the handrails on early AA3s should be white. IIRC the conclusion was that this started around or after WW1 and earlier examples were grey.


I've not seen anything to disagree that painting of brake handles white commenced around the time of WWI, although some were still not painted such. I had assumed that grab handles/handrails and other such items followed the same development around the same time.

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