I've made further progress with the bodies, though it hasn't been without problems and blemishes , and I'm afraid the all third is definitely going to be the inferior model of the two. However the brake composite is thus far (fingers crossed) going pretty well
All the sides have been fitted,without any further damage to paintwork. I then moved onto fitting seats, and here I made a blunder from sheer ignorance.I dug out what turned out to be almost all of a packet of Ratio coach seating strip which has been lurking in a scrap box for very many years. This wan't enough to cover all requirements for these coaches and the second set of MR suburbans , so some undignified expedients and a Comet interiors pack had to be resorted to... But I sawed up the Ratio seating strip in the mitre box, painted it a golden brown with hastily mixed acrylics and duly installed the seats in most of the compartments of the all third. I had a problem in one place where solvent leaked onto the glazing and marked the compartment window, taking a little of the paint with it. This was bad enough but it was shortly afterwards that I checked a few photos, and then photos of other coaches and realised that even in third class compartments you shouldn't really be able to see the edge of the seat protruding beyond the window frame. And you could..... With narrow panels between windows on the compartment side , thick plastic compartment dividers and narrow compartments, the Ratio seating strips were too thick. I had made the classic blunder of blithely assuming that Ratio's seats must fit all Ratio's coaches properly.
I managed to extract the worst offenders (those where for one reason or another the seating strip wasn't entirely seated against the compartment divider) and filed these down from the back by rubbing up and down on a big coarse file on the workbench. I did the same with the seating strip for the compartments I hadn't yet fitted out, and for the third class compartments in the brake composite . Thus treated the Ratio strip was just about thin enough to just about sit behind the windows. But there was nothing I could do about those seats I had already installed which were firmly stuck in place. They are still visible behind the edges of the compartment windows . A damage limitation exercise , but not, sadly, a full cure . The brake composite is fine - the all third is compromised on one side. I have a feeling this set is going to spend most of it's life with the corridor side facing the viewer . For the first class compartments I used Comet seating strip , painted blue . I have no idea what colours the LMS - or even the LNW - used : post 1934, the LNER used brown moquette in third , and I had had quite enough of painting the coach in slightly different shades of mid brown, so I'm afraid I opted for an attempt to approximate the pre 1934 fawn moquette in third and blue pattern moquette in first.
It was at this point that it dawned on me that I don't possess a single book on carriage modelling , and have in fact being flying more or less blind, guided solely by some very hazy memories of misbuilt Ratio kits perpetrated in my early teens and a section of a DVD by Tony Wright on detailing and improving RTR - though that involves some heavy duty reworks, it doesn't, obviously, say a work about building kits. I must have at least half a dozen books and DVDs by various people on wagon modelling, a similar number on reworking locos and building loco kits, books on scenery, buildings , painting ... But when it comes to coaches, I suddenly realise that the cupboard is almost entirely bare.
Some Slaters figures were painted with acrylic and the tiny stump of an old paint brush . I took the chance to off load all the figures which are really not suitable for a modern image layout, so passenger traffic from Blacklade in the 1950s appears to consist very largely of nuns and National Servicemen
I've also touched up the paintwork where required: it's adequete rather than a top class finish. It seems necessary to paint the leading edge of the tops of the sides, else slight bits of grey may show when the roof is fitted
I've also made up the roofs - the two part lamp tops are a bit of a nuisence , and as I managed to damage two , I'd have been introuble if just building the all third. As it was, I had some spares on the other sprue. A point to watch for: although the understide of the roof marks different positions for lamps and torpedo vents for the brake third and brake composite, they've got the kit numbers the wrong way round. I drilled out the first two lamps in the position marked, fortunately checked them against the body before going further, and found they didn't line up with the first class compartments. They had to be hastily filled, and the holes marked for the other kit drilled out instead....
Some thoughts on the kits as a whole, from what I've seen so far. These kits are significantly more sophisticated and elaborate than the very straightforward MR kits . There are the first signs of the unnecessary over elaboration of seperate parts which makes the Ratio Maunsell Van B kit such a laborious chore to build - two part lamp tops, two part floor pan, seperate duckets, corridor handrail and so on. The need to build up the interior and assemble the sides round this makes for more work and parts, but it also results in a strong structure , and makes the kit rather heavier , which is a useful bonus. The fit of parts is good. By modern standards things like metal buffers and metal wheels are desireable features. The kits are still pretty straightforward to build: there is nothing I can see technically difficult for someone familiar with plastic kits , and provided you work with care a neat result ought to follow
I'm intending to build these kits as they come, but in one area I've had to deviate. Somehow I seem to have lost the sprue with the corridor connectors from one of the kits. A hasty rummage in the parts box turned up an MJT LMS gangway ,which I bought for some reason and have no other obvious use for. Since I'm building these coaches as a 2 car set, I'm going to fit the working MJT gangways in the centre of the set, with the fixed plastic mouldings at each end. I've therefore fitted a plate of 20 thou plasticard across the end of one corridor on each coach supported by a cross piece of 40 thou styrene across the inside of the gangway extension. This then will then form the baseplate for the MJT gangway - the other end gets Ratio's plastic moulding with endplate
I've also weighted the coaches to get them over the magic 100g mark (4 axles at 25g/axle) . This is easy enough in the brake composite - two slabs of lead flashing on the floor of the guard's compartment , stuck down with araldite. For the all third it was more difficult , but I glued pieces of lead to the inside of the walls of the toilet compartments , and to the floor next to the toilet compartment , to balance that in the toilets. I intend to build both coaches with battery boxes not gas tanks , and if I need any additional weight there should be room to superglue lead sheet inside the battery box mouldings