It seems that nothing is ever finished. The Langley ‘Prince’ that was the second working loco on Hafod Las (and the only reliable one) has been back in the workshops. By this stage in its life, Prince has had 3 different coupling types fitted – Bemo, MSE/Sprat & Winkle and most recently Microtrains – but has otherwise remained unmodified and untouched since the final shovel-load of paint was applied back in 2008.
I finally seem to have managed to get the Microtrains couplers to function (mainly by using the magnets actually intended for the system) and have built up a coupling height gauge – I’m not using the recommended mounting height as I needed to account for the height of Linda’s bufferbeam, so the proprietary version is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard – and have fixed it to a short length of track fixed to some plywood. A view of the height gauge along with an FR bug box can be seen below:
However, the modification to the loco to fit the new couplers (specifically the removal of the wires for the S&W couplings) saw some cosmetic damage to the tender in the form of paint flaking off and structural damage to the front of the loco, knocking off the vacuum pipe and dislodging the footplate. I could have patch-painted the tender and probably re-glued and touched up the footplate but I probably wouldn’t have been happy with this – another factor being that, foolishly, I didn’t prime the loco when I first painted it hence the propensity of the paint to flake off in bloody great big bits. With this in mind, I donned the hair shirt and started stripping the loco.
As always with Beardybloke projects, nothing is ever simple. As the loco was originally assembled with superglue (if it had been soldered, it would inevitably have ended up as a rapidly-cooling heap of metal on the workbench) I was more than a little reluctant to apply any form of chemical paint stripper to it lest it be reduced to its component parts. There are obviously several problems with manual stripping – namely in this case gouge marks (mostly shallow, admittedly) from the small jeweller’s screwdriver and craft knife used to strip the paint, and small bits of paint stubbornly refusing to leave even with the most blatant of hints. After tidying with a fibreglass scratch pen the most obvious missing chunks were filled, particularly areas where the filler from the original build had inadvertently been removed, sanded back and a coating of primer applied. Unsurprisingly a number of imperfections were still clearly visible and several iterations of this process ensued, including the removal of the handrails and filling of the holes for subsequent replacement with less oversized components. During this process the vacuum pipe was also araldited back in place 3 times and the footplate / chassis assembly glued to the chassis – if it ever needs removing, it’ll take a little bit of force to do so! Coupling mountings were built up to the appropriate height, and the tender has also been retrofitted with brass pinpoint bearings to ensure free running over the long term.
In general, the weather has been slowing the rebuild process down quite significantly as high winds or rain prevent any spraypainting from being carried out – and as a small job it’s all being done by aerosol as I’m too lazy to keep cleaning the airbrush, though the matt varnish will be airbrushed on. Handrails, transfers and a coal load (the latter two absent from the model previously) were all added and the two gold-painted whitemetal whistles replaced with Springside variants. These don’t appear to be exact matches to any known prototype carried on the FR, but given that a significant proportion of the brass components were *ahem* acquired by collectors during the years of closure, who’s to say what would have been used to re-equip the loco in my alternative universe? Finally, the new nameplates and worksplates from Narrow Planet were fitted (with the latter requiring some tweaking to the cabside lining) – from the photo below, you may also notice that Prince has had a sex change!
The numbers on the rear of the tender are a little high, but as I was running out of bits of the HMRS BR loco and coach numbering sheets to cut out, I decided to leave it at that!
By way of comparison, I have included a photo of Prince as-was, in pre-cosmetic restoration state below:
Unnecessary? Perhaps, but I’m a lot happier with the model now, and I think that I can actually call it finished - or will be able to do so after the spectacle plates and sandpot/cabside handrail knobs have been touched up in gold and a few bits of black touched up, followed by a final coat of matt varnish to seal the transfers and tone down the finish (and fitted a coupling to the front too).
A couple of lessons learned for the future though – don’t take shortcuts by not priming, or by not filling, filing and fettling properly – you’ll only regret it later down the line. I must admit to being better disciplined at this by now (to the unending frustration of my other half who has yet to see me finish a kit) but the temptation still remains to take the quick fix bodge route as previously!