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Why on earth would anyone model early British railways in HO?

A few of my reasons for modelling 1840s railways in HO:

1. I like microlayouts! In the early 1840s most trains were short (many mainline trains only had four carriages at this time, and even that could be a strain for some of the low-powered locos). And an HO layout takes up just three-quarters of the area of an equivalent OO layout, which helps as well. The photo for this post shows my attempt to answer that age-old question "Can you build a station on an A4-size baseboard?" The mock-up suggests the answer is yes, if the footprint is 23 x 4 inchs and you use a traverser at one end. So anyone with a 48 x 12 board can really let rip!
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2. There's some stock available. In the photo I've used the Bachmann 4-2-0 Norris locos (the prototypes were used on the Birmingham & Gloucester, Aberdare and Taff Valley Railways and then sold on to collieries, contractors etc in the 1850s) to test clearances. The coaches are also by Bachmann (the "Prussia" coach from the Potsdam Railway: broadly similar to British coaches of the time, but if there's interest I'd add a post on how to Anglicise them). The figure are by Prieser, who also make nice horse-drawn carriages and carts for the period,

3. Track is easy, especially if you aren't a rivet counter. Most early railways used versions of flat-bottomed rail, so I've used Peco streamline points in my mock-up. Sleepers are likely to be completely hidden in this period as ballast was usually laid above the tops of the sleepers, which does open up new approaches to ballasting. Much to my initial surprise the short wheelbase Norris locos will run over a series of three small radius Streamline points in succession without a hiccup.
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4. Early locos had low-slung boilers (due to the pioneer engineers' concerns about stability), and this gives them a rather "broad-gauge" appearance when viewed from the front. As a result OO models of early locos can look a bit top-heavy, even to someone with my coarse-scale eyesight. However HO has the advantage of true scale distance between the rails, so that the locos and coaches match the proportions seen in early lithographs and photos.

 

5. I like the challenge of modelling early railways (although there's actually a lot of info available if you're into historical research), and I like the challenge of modelling more modern British railways in HO as well. In both cases you need to use a bit of ingenuity and you will learn to appreciate anything that can be pressed into service. Combine the challenge of a minority scale (for British modellers) and a minority era, and you need never be bored again!

 

And why am I trying to fit a station on a piece of foamcard 23 by 4 inches? I just fancied a station and fiddle yard that would fit on a desktop!

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Looks very interesting Ian. I have the same Bachmann stock packed away for a possible future project and would definitely be interested in learning how to Anglicise the coaches.

 

Gary

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Looks really promising, try and make some room around the envelope you've formed to expand into what space you have for buildings and so on.

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Many thanks for the kind comments!

Northroader's right about the scenery. I'll probably replace the leading turnout with a Y point. This will let me have an island platform between the tracks, instead of just a measly half-inch wide platform at the rear of the layout which would be hidden every time a train pulls in. Then I can place a retaining wall along the back of the layout behind the rear track. 

Particular thanks to Gary for his encouragement. I will write up my approach to anglicising the Bachmann coaches properly, probably in a couple of weeks' time. For me the biggest issue is the lack of running boards: by the 1840s railways were getting rid of the type of steps modelled on the Prussia carriages and replacing them with a sturdy board running along the entire length of the carriage around axlebox height. A length of L-shaped plastistrut or brass strip is probably best here. I'll discuss other issues such as the curved ends of the carriages, the roof profiles and the lamp covers when I write a post on these useful little coaches.

Mention of Anglicisation made me realise that the same stock could be used for US and European railways as well. Lots of US railroads bought Norris's locos, and they were popular with early German and Austrian railways. (They had a good reputation for climbing gradients, which is why the Birmingham & Gloucester bought so many to tackle the Lickey Incline.)

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Lovely models there, and a very interesting period. 

 

I guess on the one hand a lack of particularly detailed history for this era can be quite frustrating when it comes to research, but that can also work to advantage in allowing a little 'artistic licence' when recreating the rolling stock and associated details.

 

Either way I'll look forward to furure posts :)

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What an eye opener! I had no idea Bachmann did this stock. I look forward to the description of modifying the coaches.

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I probably should have mentioned that the models are made by Bachmann US, not Bachmann UK! And I certainly should have checked Bachmann US's website first, since I've just seen they are no longer selling the models. The models were released in 1986 and I think Bachmann must finally have sold the last of them.

The best way I've found to track them down at a reasonable price is to go to eBay, home in on the railway model section and search for "Prussia" or "Lafayette" (the names of the two versions of the loco that Bachmann produced). Other 1830s and 1840s models they produced turn up fairly regularly under the headings "John Bull" and "de Witt Clinton" or "deWitt Clinton". In the past I expected to pay around £30-35 for a second-hand loco and £5 for a coach plus postage, buying from private sellers rather than the more expensive commercial ones. But I haven't bought any for a couple of years so I may be a bit out of touch with auction prices.

Southernboy's absolutely right, filling in the gaps is half the fun. Plus it's a brave soul who insists you've got the shade of lining completely wrong on an 1840 locomotive!

For anyone interested in reading what their local railway was like in 1840, I'd suggest a look at Francis Whishaw's remarkable survey "The Railways of Great Britain & Ireland", available free on Goggle Books at https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dxFfAAAAcAAJ&pg=PR1&dq=Francis+Whishaw&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Francis%20Whishaw&f=false and downloadable as a PDF file.

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Thanks for the info. I did gather they were Bachmann US. A shame they're out of production, but ebay is probably the way to go as you say. I was thinking of a cheap and cheerful conversion of one of the coaches.

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A fascinating project Ian. I also didn't know about the Bachman US  products nor that locos were imported to Britain from the USA that early.

Were the Norris locos precursors of the Cramptons (where the driving axle was behnd the firebox) ?

 

In general, going back that far "early British railways" can rather mean early ralways full stop as the same British technologies appeared elsewhere in the world before practices started to diverge. I happen to be interested in French railways (so H0 is already a given and I agree about the low slung boilers emphasising the narrowness of OO track) where British practice seems to have had a longer influence than in the States (left hand running, bullhead rail. side buffers etc)

In the 1840s the few railways there were even more British.  For example, Joseph Locke was the chief engineer of the Paris-Rouen railway opened in 1843 and Thomas Brassey its main contractor, the very first railway signals in France were GWR disk and crossbars, and there was even an atmospheric railway. It used the same Samuda system that Brunel couldn;t get to work properly and worked succesfully for thirteen years from 1847-1860.

Edited by Pacific231G
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Interesting stuff! 

 

Particulsrly interesting that the Lickey Incline was a problem even at that early stage..

Edited by rockershovel
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Interesting reference, which I intend to peruse in depth, and an interesting era to model, so good luck with it. The fact that it is H0 is a sort of useful bonus.

 

There must be Adleren around in H0 too; I'm sure I've seen a Maerklin one. A very standard product of the time, so highly transferable, I'd think.

 

Checked, and it is Trix, not Maerklin, and available from eBay at not too ridiculous prices.

Edited by Nearholmer
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interesting concept, also shows how much content was hidden in blogs by the old forum design.

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Thanks so much for the comments! I’m gobsmacked at the blog getting so much attention today.

 

Can I suggest the following RMWeb blogs and topic threads to anyone who would like to know a bit more about modelling the 1840s:

 

Rudititanic’s 3D printed 1840s locos and stock, available in both 4mm and 2mm

 

Tabitha and Edwardian’s North Eastern-themed school project layout  

 

A general discussion thread on early British railways 

 

Chris Cox’s very impressive Bricklayer’s Arms layout  Chris also produces wonderful 1840s / 1850s 4mm white metal kits as 5and9 Models.

 

A very useful review of Trix’s Adler locomotive by 47137 

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@Pacific231G

 

Thanks for a very interesting comment. I'm not sure how far Crompton was inspired by Norris's locos, but he can't have been unaware of them.  There is one noticeable difference between the two engineers' locos: on Crampton's designs the driving wheels tended to be large for speed, while Norris's drivers tended to be small for power.  The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway used its Norris 4-2-0s to haul freight trains up the Lickey incline, but used more traditional British 2-2-2s with large driving wheels for its express mails. 

 

BTW the forerunner of the Norris design is Edward Bury's small bar-frame locos, as used on the London & Birmingham, London & Southampton, Liverpool & Manchester, etc. William Norris nicked Bury's design, beefed it up a bit and replaced the front axle with a bogie to cope with the roughly-laid track of the early American railroads. Bury tried to sue him in the US courts (Norris was based in Philadelphia) but lost. I often think that an H0 Norris could be made into an 00 Bury pretty easily.

 

Yes, in the late 1830s and early 1840s British, European and American railways are using very similar designs, mostly British as you say. And the British companies all tended to buy standard locos and stock from a few commercial builders, so that most early models can be used in a range of settings.  For example my own little layout could represent a small branch in New England or southern Austria just as much as one in Gloucestershire. It would just need a change of backscene to move the layout to a completely different country.  

Edited by Ian Simpson
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@Northroader

 

[Embarrassed cough!] Well, not a lot, I'm afraid. But I have got a work plan to do a job a week for the next three months, and as a result I will start posting again. My initial jobs are to install a working signal (a disc signal that will rotate using a coffee stirrer rod with a crude cam connection), simplify the wiring (at the moment the layout has three electrical sections, the two tracks and the traverser, but I've realised that it really only needs one section if I use the points to isolate unwanted locos), and build the world's simplest battery controller so the layout can be operated absolutely anywhere.

 

My aim is to do everything using the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). The more low tech the solution is, the better I'll be pleased with it. To be honest the layout is largely a test bed for experiments. Although I suppose it could double up as the world's most boring exhibition layout:

 

Middenshire Notice to Patrons.jpg

Edited by Ian Simpson
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Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked such a question really, I’m sure what you’re up to is going to turn out well, and best wishes with making progress. That’s a very good poster you’ve knocked up.

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There's a guy in the TCS, who creates a "loose lay" layout using the Bachmann and other commercially made 'earlies' (IIRC, he has a good few from the old K's Milestones series), with suitable scenic setting including the last run of a stage coach, and it always generates a huge amount of interest. My gut feeling is that even a tiny layout will do the same, because it is an era that is so seldom represented at MR exhibitions.

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12 hours ago, woodenhead said:

interesting concept, also shows how much content was hidden in blogs by the old forum design.

Agree entirely, I could never seem to manage the separate Blog area(due to being thick, Is'pose), so to include them in the "View new Content" area is a real bonus for me....means I don't miss absolute gems like this. Big plus for the new system.

 

Rgds..........Mike

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15 hours ago, Ian Simpson said:

@Pacific231G

 

Thanks for a very interesting comment. I'm not sure how far Crompton was inspired by Norris's locos, but he can't have been unaware of them.  There is one noticeable difference between the two engineers' locos: on Crampton's designs the driving wheels tended to be large for speed, while Norris's drivers tended to be small for power.  The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway used its Norris 4-2-0s to haul freight trains up the Lickey incline, but it used more traditional British 2-2-2 with large driving wheels for its express mails. 

 

BTW the forerunner of the Norris design is Edward Bury's small bar-frame locos, as used on the London & Birmingham, London & Southampton, Liverpool & Manchester, etc. William Norris nicked Bury's design, beefed it up a bit and replaced the front axle with a bogie to cope with the roughly-laid track of the early American railroads. Bury tried to sue him in the US courts (Norris was based in Philadelphia) but lost. 

 

Yes, in the late 1830s and early 1840s British, European and American railways are using very similar designs, mostly British as you say. And the British companies all tended to buy standard locos and stock from a few commercial builders, so that most early models can be used in a range of settings.  For example my own little layout could represent a small branch in New England or southern Austria just as much as one in Gloucestershire  

Thanks Ian

Looking at it again, I think the Norris 4-2-0  locos were perhaps more the forerunners of the classic American 4-4-0  arrangement with the same "three legged stool" principle that could, along with bogie rolling stock, cope as you say with America's more roughly laid track.

 

Looking at its first railways,  most of the first earliest locos in France used the same 2-2-2 wheel arrangement as Britain (Der Adler might be a useful starting point but I notice that the Trix/Maerklin set relies on an electrical connection between all  three carriages to provide pick-ups for the mechanism located I think in the leading carriage; not so useful for shunting)

 

By moving the single driving axle behind the firebox the Crampton design enabled it to be much larger, while still having a low centre of gravity.

Est_210_Crampton_187.jpg.dc811d845860fd38aaa02ee5e089e126.jpg

 

It's not very clear why Thomas Crampton's patented arrangement  was so much more popular with railways in France (127) and the German states(135) than in Britain (51) though longer runs between stops may have had something to do with it .  

Edited by Pacific231G
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Thanks, @Pacific231G you're absolutely right to see Norris's 4-2-0 design as a direct ancestor of the classic American 4-4-0.  I think a couple of photos from Smith H Oliver's The First Quarter-Century of Steam Locomotives in North America, free to read or download at www.gutenberg.org/files/51976/51976-h/51976-h.htm illustrate your point nicely:

 

The first photo is a replica of one of Norris's locos with a cab added, used in a film to represent an old-fashioned loco running during the American Civil War. It still just has the single driving wheels, but otherwise looks quite at home in an 1860s setting.

 

The second photo is the earliest known 4-4-0, built in 1842 - apart from the extra set of driving wheels and the cab (which was a later addition, I suspect), it's very like the Norris design.

 

I've never known why the Cramptons weren't more popular in Britain. I'd love to hear any theories.  

Lafayette 1956 film.jpg

1840s People's Railwayp030.jpg

Edited by Ian Simpson
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The Crampton question might boil down to weight-distribution and, therefore, adhesive weight and tractive effort.

 

With a 2-2-2, careful calibration of the spring-response-rates on the different axles can ensure that a relatively high proportion of the available weight is available for adhesion ........ essentially put a stiff spring on the driven axle, and softer springs on the carrying axles. I wouldn't be surprised if half the mass was carried on the driven axle, and a quarter on each of the carrying axles.

 

I'm struggling a bit to work out how one would spring a Crampton to optimise the percentage mass on the driven axle, but if you look at the French example posted by 231G, the springing on the two carrying axles is clearly different, which hints at some care being taken over this point. My surmise is that it is difficult to load the driven axle of a Crampton so as to make effective use of the available mass. Did it have equalising beams between the carrying axles?

 

The Norris looks to me as if it would naturally want to load the driven axle, and that it would be a matter of careful design, around the exact position of the driven axle, to get sufficient mass onto the bogie to allow it to undertake its steering function.

 

Views?

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