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Set 4 - Modernity on the Cheap: Part 3 - Plywood Horror



This is the story of a cheap and nasty kit for a cheap and nasty coach. Actually that's a little unfair - to the prototype


In recent years Coopercraft , like the Cheshire Cat in Alice , has been slowly fading away. Two or three years ago, before matters reached the final stage of a Smile Without a Cat, I purchased a couple of kits from their stand at Ally Pally.


One, the Kirk non-gangwayed LNER 51' full brake was a decent kit, and was built some time ago.


The other was the Mailcoach kit for the Tourist Brake third . For some reason , these slightly unusual Gresley vehicles have always caught my interest - they were not teak, they were built for a rather different purpose, and they stood apart from the general run of LNER coaches in most respects. However they do seem to have been used in general service post war - and here was a plastic kit . Moreover I reckoned I could build a plastic kit..... Added to which, here was a mainline corridor brake with an unusually high seating capacity which might well appear on marginal duties like short portions .


I'd heard one or two grumbles about the kit from the likes of micklner and Tony Wright - but I assumed that as their level of refinement as far above mine (and above what is being attempted with a theoretically quick 'n cheap fleet of coaches for RTR kettles) this just meant it wasn't really up to the standards of a Comet kit. Little did I know.......


Firstly some comments about the prototype, since there appears to be little on the internet - the following rests on Harris' LNER Coaches.


Once the Depression began to ease, LNER management decided it was time to eliminate the remaining 4 and 6 wheel coaches from revenue service. One pocket of this would found in excursion traffic where 36 sets of ex GN suburban 4 wheelers displaced by the Quad-Artics had been retained [The idea of KX to Skeggy in those makes Liverpool St-Cromer in a Cravens unit seem positively civilised....]. The LNER commercial management wished to compete with coach operators, and Gresley came up with the idea of some special modern excursion stock as a part-replacement. Five 12-car sets were ordered in 1933, each comprising two Brake 3rd Opens , four articulated all 3rd twins and two buffet cars. Four more sets were ordered in 1934-6 and one in 1939


These coaches were all opens with low backed bucket seats, plywood paneling, and finished in a surprising green and cream . Interiors were cheap Art Deco, and by the mid 1950s a BR report was speaking of the buffet cars - by then in general service - as "truly very bad indeed". High backed seating seems to have been fitted post- war. The plywood panelling was liable to deteriorate badly and many of the coaches ended up replated with steel panelling. They finally disappeared in 1963-4, though a couple of buffets lasted on the LMR (who must have been desperate) until 1967.


These coaches seem just right for a place like Blacklade


I wanted to check the actual colour of Railmatch maroon jars against the Hachette Mk1 since patch painting was required. So - I did the obvious thing and hauled the Tourist Brake kit out of the cupboard. The sides are moulded in clear plastic with raised window frames and whatever opacity they acquire is given by the paint...


The maroon was dark. I tried lightening it by applying a coat of Railfreight Faded Red (=pink) on the inside. And after a couple of coats of paint I found I was committed, and the Porthole Brake 3rd was laid aside unstarted.


Matters have now reached this stage:




I think this has now taken 4 coats of brush-painted maroon, and a certain amount of patching along the way. Tony Wright , who evidently has a higher-opacity red, only required three. In the circumstances it's a reasonable finish, but nowhere near sprayed standard. It's also had about three interior coats. The opacity still isn't all it should be around the window frames - painting these without getting paint on the glazing is very difficult, especially around the ventilators


And I was several coats in and part-built before I realised there were long sunken marks at the bottom of the sides in several places (Perhaps the mould pressure wasn't quite high enough?) . I rubbed back and patched the worst of these with filler, then touched back in. Obviously I should have spotted these, and filled them systematically, at the start : I suspect they weren't terribly obvious on translucent sides - and of course I got stuck straight in to painting as a colour test patch.


There is a pinhole in one of the door droplight windows. I've tried patching it today with some Microsol product - only to find the whole bottle has congealed over years in storage. That's been thrown out


The seating provided seems to derive from longer (compartment?) mouldings , roughly sawn in half , apparently with a Junior hacksaw. Not having spare 2+2 seating available (the remains of some sawn up Mk4 interiors are not suitable here...) I cleaned it up as best I could , painted it and installed it, on the basis that you can hardly see the interiors of coaches anyway - so any unevenness won't be visible


The battery boxes were mere facades. As a bodge, I've thickened them up with a piece of 40 thou styrene glued behind. I didn't feel up to the delay, and the cost of sending away for proper Comet ones, when the overall quality of the kit is so mediocre. "Lipstick on a pig" is the phrase that comes to mind. I has whitemetal Gresley buffers on hand so I substituted them. The Gresley bogies seem to have built up ok - I just need to get my head around fitting Kadees


As I had bought a packet of 10 LMS/LNER coach duckets to replace one missing from the MTK Porthole kit , I used one here. It seemed a better proposition than the one in the kit


Then there's the roof. After a bit of playing around and thinning the ends with a Stanley knife blade, I reluctantly concluded that the profile of the roof moulding supplied , and that of the ends and partitions simply could not be reconciled . I therefore bought an aluminium roof from Wizard Models . This will need to be cut to length, and then a suitable - and matching - rake back filed on every corner. So far I haven't plucked up the courage to attempt it.


That is the current state of play. (And I've just realised I'm out of torpedo vents). The thing has been sat in a box for at least 3 months.


This is not a particularly good kit. It's certainly the worst coach kit I've encountered - but as my experience has been confined to Ratio, Parkside, Dapol and Kirk, I've led a sheltered existence.


I'm sure that the MTK Porthole must be better than this - though I may live to regret those words


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That will not be touched until after Ally Pally. (I am currently playing truant from a 128 and a Sector 37... I should be fitting handrails)


And I've just noticed that the bogies supplied in the kit don't have bolsters , only depressions, which look as is they should take a part - but there's no part to fit. Consequently the body would sit a couple of mill too low, and the wheels foul the solebars....

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