The 4mm 'Ratio' kits of GWR 4-wheel coaches have long been popular and probably provided an introduction to kit-building for a great many modellers. The moulds have been re-furbished and they continue to be available at an attractively low price. There's also a lot of useful prototype and construction information in an article by Mikkel at http://www.gwr.org.uk/proratio.html
I built several of these coaches back in the 1980s but now I want to add a little more variety into my late 19th-century trains. I have already described building a V5 passenger brake van, using Shire Scenes sides and, since this left me with a couple of spare T47 sides from the donor vehicle, I started to think about doing some 'kit-bashing' to create other diagrams.
One type of vehicle that I wished to model is the 4-compartment third, with central luggage compartment, which was a much-used type in the Victorian period, when everyone seemed to travel with a mountain of luggage! A few measurements showed that the central luggage section was exactly the same length as one compartment, so I decided to try cutting out sections, with double luggage doors. from my T47 sides, then inserting these into the space left after cutting out the central compartment from a new S9 (all-third) kit.
The plastic used in the current production 'Ratio' sides is of quite a soft 'cheesy' consistency and can easily be scored with a scalpel blade on the face. When folded back, the side split cleanly along the score-line. Whereas I split the S9 sides as close as I could to the ends of the middle compartment, I made the T47 parts slightly wider than necessary, so that I could pare them back with the scalpel, to match exactly the correct overall length of the coach side.
The type of coach for which I was aiming was diagram S5, of which 24 were built in 1874 - ref: http://www.penrhos.me.uk/Sdiags.shtmlBeing of an earlier design than the S9 (1891 - 1902), there are several differences that are not represented correctly by my simple conversion - the S5 had deeper eaves and a simple arc roof, rather than the later 3-arc elliptical roof. They were originally built on 6-wheel chassis but, since I have previously built this type of chassis, using Brassmasters 'Cleminson' kits, I know how to convert the Ratio kit. For the moment, though, I have completed them as 4-wheel vehicles.
I then started thinking about ways of a achieving a more accurate appearance. Previously I have made laminated coach sides by using my 'Silhouette' cutter. Now, I realised that I could use the 'Ratio' mouldings to provide a firm support and also to create the tumble-home in the lower body. Furthermore, the coach could be built first and the new sides glued on afterwards! This method automatically provides all the lining and lettering, and the outside framing can be added as an additional cut-out layer. For the S9 to S5 conversion, the cut-outs for windows match the locations in the 'Ratio' sides, so I simply skimmed off the surface relief and laid the printed sides over the resulting smooth surface.
Now that I compare the results of the two approaches, I am surprised by how obvious the differences are! (and not confined to my less-than-brilliant painting of the 'cut & shut' sides). I think that the relative proportion of the eaves panels and the windows completely changes the 'jizz' of the sides. Adding the 'Silhouette'-printed overlays to the 'Ratio' original has successfully turned back the clock by around 20 years
Stella-class no.3505 heads the Oxford express through North Leigh
The leading vehicle is a V5, followed by S5, then U29, U4, and S9
Inspired by this visual effect, I am now considering building some earlier types of coach for my layout. It seems that quite elderly coaches persisted on secondary services, long after their 'best before' dates. For example, the Inspectors' report on the severe accident near Oxford in 1874 http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/9435895.Devastating_train_crash_wrecked_Christmas/
provides full details of the make-up of the train. The train was double-headed by a pair of 'Sir Daniel' class 2-2-2s and there were 15 coaches, all of either 4 or 6 wheel designs. The root cause of the disaster was the breaking of a tyre on one of the wheels of the leading coach. This coach, No.845, had originally been built in 1855, as a second-class coach for the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway. It had been downgraded to third-class in 1873 by the GWR but was still in regular service on the OW&W main line, between Oxford and Wolverhampton, before being totally destroyed in the accident.
So, a 20-year old coach from the early days of railways was still in regular use in 1874. It is also worth noting that all the other coaches in the train were un-braked except for three 'break vans' that were near the beginning, centre, and end of the train. The number and type of each coach is given in the accident report.
Accident reports are very useful sources of detailed information about the make-up of trains in the 19-th century and for tracing the introduction of innovations such as communication cords and continuous brake systems. I shall use this information to guide my choices of coaches for future model-building.
Reference: 'Wheels to Disaster', Lewis & Nisbet, Tempus Publishing, 2008