Chris Cox has recently been working on easy-to-build 4 mm whitemetal kits of some of the small and distinctive wagons of the early 1840s, as well as his better-known kits for the LBSCR. He has produced masters for three Birmingham and Gloucester Railway wagons (ballast, mineral and a fascinating general goods wagon with slatted sides), as well as two early London and Birmingham Railway wagons. He was kind enough to send me samples to build, and they are all very impressive.
The first thing to say is that they have been designed to be as easy as possible to assemble. The BGR wagons and the small LBR wagon all have the axle boxes moulded onto the side, so that building the kit is essentially a matter of fitting the two ends and the two sides together to form the chassis. Chris has even added clever notches along the sides that hold the ends in place (although a set square is still needed to ensure the parts really are set at right angles).
The photo above shows the small London and Birmingham wagon under construction. Yes, the wagons really are just two inches long, so one can produce a very impressive freight train in say eighteeen inches! (The Birmingham and Gloucester was an important freight line linking the workshops of Birmingham with the ports of Gloucester and Bristol, but the steep Lickey Incline meant the goods trains were still limited to a maximum of around 15 wagons.)
The Birmingham and Gloucester wagons have the ends cast with the buffer beams, with the sides added to the chassis after it has been built up. The model supported on the paper pad and pile of plastic cards in the photo above is the B&GR general goods wagon. The models on the left are the small L&BR wagon and, in front of it, the B&GR ballast wagon that is still waiting to have the sides added. The kits do not have floors, so I used my usual Lottery plasticard with a ready-scribed veneer of plasticard on top. (In the photo I used 1mm planking - it should have been 2 mm!)
I used my usual Poundland superglue to assemble the kits, and found that it only worked on the white metal if I first primed the surfaces to be stuck with a thin coat of superglue and allowed it to dry before adding a second layer and joining the parts. Holding the pieces in place for half a minute was enough to start the setting process, although I would suggest leaving any super-glued joint for at least an hour before moving it.
For OO modellers, I found Bachmann 12 mm spoked wheels are ideal for the kits. Chris included pin-point bearings with the kits, which fit into the holes in the axleboxes to produce very free-running models. Since I'm modelling in 3.5 mm I used Alan Gibson's 10.5 mm wheels instead (4 mm modellers use these for Lowmacs). Because they are small models (only 5 cms long) and relatively narrow, they don't look over-scale next to Bachmann's HO Norris loco.
These were all well-designed, easy-to-construct kits that I really enjoyed building. I finished by painting the Birmingham & Gloucester wagons with Humbrol Brick Red paint - no one really knows the B&GR goods livery, but it may have been a red-brown colour. The London & Birmingham wagons were probably painted light grey. (In 1840 few if any railways put their name or initials on the sides of their wagons - usually a wagon plate was the only proof of ownership.) There's a couple of excellent photos that show Chris's own painting of the wagons on his blog.
So it is now possible to model an early British railway, the Birmingham and Gloucester, without scratch-building! And that seems even more unlikely than Leicester City winning the Premiership or the US electing a reality TV star as president ...
BTW, if people aren't familar with the lottery cards they look like this:
One thing I have found useful is to use a map pin for marking out lines to cut on the card, rather than a pencil: the point of the pin is thinner and allows a bit more accuracy than even a sharp pencil line. I make a small hole on the surface of the plastic roughly every 1 cm / half inch, then I just cut along the dotted line: