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Early GWR Passenger Brake (Break) Van



blog-0888015001447609799.jpgIt's been a longer interval than usual since my last entry in this blog. Readers of the forums may know that this is because I recently spent a month in SE Asia and, in passing, took a few photos of the Sabah Railway


Before I left, I had decided to build a brake van to accompany the early 4-wheel coaches that I described in a previous post . Like the coaches, the brake van is based on the photograph taken at New Milford shortly after conversion of the South Wales lines to standard gauge in 1872. There are three vans in the photograph, all of an earlier design than diagram V2, for which an etched brass kit is available from the Broad Gauge Society (BGS). The earlier van is of straight-sided construction and, therefore, seemed a simple task for scratch-building and would, once again, provide me with 'something different'.


While I have now built several coach sides by using my Silhouette cutter to create the panelled detail, I decided to try a different method of assembly for the present coach, which I thought would make it easier to align the various layers. I am pleased to be able to report that this has turned out to be the case and I intend to use this method, described below, for my next build and, possibly, to re-build some of my earlier coaches.


The first step, as usual, was to prepare drawings of the chosen prototype. I do not have a good side-on illustration of the prototype so have had to make several assumptions about the dimensions. In particular, I assumed that the panel sizes were the same as on the later diagram V2 van. The van in the foreground of the New Milton photo shows the layout of the panelling very clearly (different from the V2), whereas one of the vans in the background is the opposite way round and shows more detail of the guard's end. Taking these together, I made the following interpretation of the original vehicle, resulting in a body length of 20' 6".




I was unable to read the number on the sides of any of the vans in the New Milford photograph, so chose a number from one of the vans involved in the Shipton-on-Cherwell accident of 1874 . This has the additional advantage that I know this van worked in the Oxford area, where my layout is set.


As before, I designed the sides as three separate layers; the inner having cut-outs to represent the window drop-lights, the next layer being colour-printed to represent the main detail on the sides, and the top layer representing the outside framing. For this model, however, I decided to construct a whole box, so as to create the body first, before applying the outer, cosmetic, layers. This mode of construction meant that I could concentrate on assembling an accurately aligned structure, without risk of damaging any external detail.




I used my Silhouette cutter to mark out the sides and ends of the main body shell on 20 thou (0.5 mm) plastic card. There was very little detail cutting required - simply the drop-light for the guard's compartment, one each side, and the end windows. I find it quite difficult to snap out small details, such as windows, when using the Silhouette cutter with 0.5 mm card, so I cut an additional two diagonal lines within the window aperture. By working from the centre of the window, I can fold the resulting triangular sections back, to form a clean break at the edges of the window. A little work with a small round file is sufficient to clean up any roughness at the corners. I assembled the sides and ends around a rectangular floor plate, cut from 40 thou (1 mm) plastic card, using polystyrene cement, to create a firm, rigid structure.




Once the cement had hardened, I painted the areas around the drop-lights with Venetian Red colour, where it would show through the window apertures in the detailed side layer. I then attached the side layer, pre-printed on photographic paper and varnished with Humbrol 'Satin Cote', by means of bookbinders adhesive - carefully aligning the window apertures over the drop-lights in the inner sides. Varnishing the ink-jet printed sides is essential, to prevent damage from the water-based PVA.




The next step was to add the guard's look-outs, for which I had left apertures in the printed sides (etched brass look-outs are available from the BGS but have a different pattern of framing). I made a 'solid' body for each look-out from a rectangle of clear perspex, filed to form the rounded lower edge and sloping top, where the main roof overlaps the side projection. The resulting plastic shapes were then glued into place on the sides of the vehicle, using a hard plastic adhesive.




I had prepared printed front and sides for each look-out, to match the main body, and added these before applying the final layer, which is the outside framing, painted black before attaching to the body. With the printed overlays and outside framing in place, this (somewhat superannuated) small boy was delighted to see the light shining through the guard’s look-out windows ,when lit obliquely! This lighting also brings out the depth of the outside framing, which adds a lot to the 'character' of the model. I have fitted MJT compensated W irons under the floor, which I was pleased to find are back in stock, and I received mine by return of post.




Finally a view of the model, lurking in an industrial-looking area of North Leigh, at the back of the creamery.




I found that building the body shell first was much better than laminating the sides first, since it meant that the sides received far less handling during assembly and it was easier to align the various layers. I hope the model has more than a passing resemblance to the prototype photographed at New Milford in 1873. There is still work to be done on the under-frame, and I need to find a source of long-shank buffers, but I am pleased that the body has captured the mid-19th century 'look' and will soon be able to run in the 'Ox & Cow' local service to Oxford via North Leigh ...... which reminds me that I still have to complete a tender for No.184 :)



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Having the silhouette cutter to do the terribly fiddly panelling layer, and doing the colouring and lettering on the printer, has made it all dead easy, it seems. You've still had to mastermind the job, and get the layers to line up on the base box, so still not a total breeze, for a good looking little model. Glad to see some models appearing again.

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I agree, Northroader.  I don't do 'difficult' and 'complicated'  :)  


With the Silhouette, it's a case of trying to choose what to model, knowing that almost anything is possible.  I see, though, that others are now using it in much more complex ways, to scribe surface details, as well as simply cutting out.  I need to catch up with the current trends :)

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  • RMweb Gold

Wow Mike, this one must be the best yet - and that says a lot. A beautiful little van. The look out is very effective, and the framing really brings out that 3d effect.


What material did you print the coloured side on?


Can't wait to get...er... wish for a Silhouette cutter this christmas!

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Hi Mikkel, I'm glad you see an improvement, too - I think my latest method of assembly does give better results!  Apart from the look-outs, this van was particularly easy, as there is no 'tumble-home' to the sides.


For the printed sides, I use HP gloss ink-jet photo paper (210 g/m^2).  After the ink has dried, it is essential to apply a coat of varnish, to protect the image from damage, when gluing on the outer framing.


I find that the varnished photo paper is pretty tough and provides good colour and detail.  I have tried printing onto styrene sheet, as described at http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/page-20, but could not get as good a finish.

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  • RMweb Gold

Thanks for the info Mike.


For a tumblehome van, I suppose you could still build the square box (perhaps with thicker sides) and then sand the sides to get the right profile.

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Hi Gareth.  The New Milford photograph shows no sign of any tumble-home and, I believe, this feature only started to appear after the new carriage shop was established at Swindon. 


To quote from 'The Great Western at Swindon Works' by Alan Peck : "The early carriage designs were of the simple slab side and flat end variety ...... more sophisticated carriage designs were in hand, and Lot 57 ........finished in May 1872 was the first of the new generation of carriages  from the completed shop."


Having built models of carriages from before and after this date, the difference is striking and I plan to illustrate this in a future post.




Hi Mikkel, Andy G (uax6) has shown a way of creating a tumble-home at http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79446-coach-bodging/?p=1272768and I may try this method.

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Thank you, Chris.  On the whole it is quite easy - at least putting it together is, after you've prepared the artwork for the cutter. 


This does mean that you have to get to grips with a CAD program (I use Autosketch but there are many others, including Studio, that can do the job) but I found that, once you've go the hang of it, churning out GWR-type panels goes quite quickly - there's a lot of cut and paste after the first one is done!



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  • RMweb Gold

Nice to see this pop up again. I think it's one of my favourites among your many interesting builds. You really are an expert in combining different techniques, materials and modelling 'schools'.

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Nice you've looked in again, Mikkel.  For a simple van like that one, using plasticard + Silhouette is probably still the fastest method.  I could 3D-print the body but it would take ages and probably be no better.  I would probably use inkjet-printable vinyl now for the coloured sides.


It is a neat little vehicle, much simpler than the later V2, which it closely resembled but with a simple box body.  There are several in view in the New Milford photo, together with an interesting collection of cattle wagons - all 'narrow' gauge, of course, since the South Wales lines were converted in 1872.

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