Having assembled the two brakes, I turned, with some trepidation, to the composite. This uses the Ratio sides and I was concerned that as these were thicker than the etched brass the problems with clearances might be more acute. Also as they were plastic I couldn't be so carefree with the soldering iron and I was concerned that gluing might not give as good a bond as solder.
With the brake thirds I soldered the sides to the ends and then, allowing for the slight overlap of the sides over the solebars, located the L shaped bracket that would take the fixing screws securing the body to the chassis. As I was concerned that the plastic sides would not take kindly to the heat, I soldered the brackets to the ends first. By using the roof as a guide, I estimated the correct position of the sides against the ends and allowing for that slight overlap of the solebar soldered the brackets to the end without the sides in place. Locating the roof showed that the sides were at the very limit of the width allowable by the roof so I filed the end of the sides down to reduce the thickness where they located against the "wings" and therefore the overall width. This had the advantage that the ends would more closely match the brakes which used the thinner Shire Scene sides. The next step was to Araldite the sides to the ends, I was grateful that the Shire Scene ends had the wings that folded out to give a greater area for the adhesive. Once again I located the roof in position just to ensure the sides and ends were located in the correct position.
Once the Araldite had completely set I then tried locating the body assembly to the floor. This was the point I had problems before, I can only think the width of the MT floor is greater than that in the Ratio kit as the body tends to sit on, rather than slightly overlapping the floor. Oddly the problem more or less resolved itself as the "wings" to which the sides are secured were at the top and halfway up the height of the body. The bottom of the ends, which weren't fixed, bowed out slightly to fit over the solebars. With the sides and ends in the correct position I filled the gaps at the bottom of the join between the ends and sides with Araldite whilst the body was located on the chassis. Having satisfied myself that the body was correctly located on the floor, I marked the holes for the 8BA screws, drilled the holes and soldered the 8BA nuts to the top of the bracket, ensuring the soldering iron did not linger longer than was necessary. Whilst I hadn't intended to fix the compartment partitions in place at this stage, I thought that as the assembly only relied on adhesive rather than solder, fixing the central partition would add strength. The photo shows the body at this stage, the internal soldering looking a little neater than on the brake thirds.
Now the time came to fix the roof, as will be apparent it would be impossible to solder the nuts on the brackets with the roof in place. The one slight hiccup was the partition, this was slightly too wide causing the sides to bow out slightly in the centre. This was simply solved by cutting a section out of the partition and placing a new piece of Plasticard over the gap once the roof was in place. As it was the roof only just covered both sides but once fixed with plastic glue (sides) and Araldite (ends) the whole assembly was quite rigid. The photo shows the coach virtually complete. For once, this coach was more straightforward than I expected.
Apologies for the focussing but a macro lens is out of my budget.
I had wondered just how much the MT chassis kits adds to the appearance of the Ratio sides so for comparison I attach two photos, broadside views of the unpainted composite and another of an old Ratio kit (in the livery for 1902) assembled as per instructions.
I think from most viewpoints there is little difference between the two. IMHO the Ratio kit can be improved by just two simple steps, adding the gas lighting pipes (as will be evident from the photo, something I am doing on all my old coaches) and paring off the end handrails and substituing them for brass wire looping round on to the carriage roof. I also have a set of the same three coaches in post 1927 simplified chocolate and cream and these do have basic brake rigging added. Again though from most angles this underframe detail just cannot be seen. To my mind the ends are the biggest drawback of the Ratio kit, not the underframe. There is no doubt that the etched ends, whether MT or Shirescenes, look better with the pipework etc. added separately rather than moulded on. The stepboards of the Ratio kit are also a drawback, not because they're not realistic, they are far too fragile.
I don't know what other GWR modellers do but I'm never sure what colour to paint the roof. Yes there is the odd photo of a pristine white coach roof but more usually they seem to be shades of grey depending on how long the coach has been in service since its' last repaint. I've alternated between painting the roof white and then weathering it or just painting it a light shade of grey. Common sense dictates that the roof started white and would weather unevenly (i.e. with blotches and streaks) but photos show an even grey colour.
Finally, recent blog entries by MikeOxon prompted me to search out a photo I took of the side of a BG coach at a Bristol Museum (I think it's called the "M Shed" now) which I had forgotten about. It's remarkable that this has survived for so long and gives us a real insight into the liveries and construction of coaches built over 150 years ago. The coach was probably withdrawn in 1870 and is in the same condition as it was then.
Because this is not on a preserved railway it is probably not as well known as it should be.
Hope this is of interest.