Thankfully the three coaches constructed from a mixture of mainly Trains, Shire Scenes and Ratio parts are now completed and boxed ready to be handed over to the painter at Expo EM. I'm still not sure whether the quality of my work justifies the considerable expense of having them professionally painted.
However this has left me with three spare Ratio chassis (two short and one long), some roofs and the sides for a composite. In addition I have many spare sides acquired in the distant past but as there are no chassis I have no idea where they came from. This set me thinking that I could make up three coaches using, for the most part, Ratio components but with the knowledge gained from using the etched components I thought I could add a fair amount of additional detail. I had the sides, end and roof of a composite that I could not use with the etched chassis, a set of sides for an all third and for the long chassis I thought I would get the Shire Scenes sides for the third brake with duckets at the end. This for no other reason than it would make a change from the usual Ratio brake third.
I have made many of the Ratio coach kits before but despite this on my first coach I merrily cut off all the pips on the chassis sides, belatedly realising that some should have been retained to locate in the holes in the floor. My usual method of assembling the underframe is to locate the bearings and wheels whilst the glue is still tacky, wrapping an elastic band around each end to hold the wheelsets firmly in the bearings and then standing on a sheet of glass (a small mirror is one of my most useful tools) with some weight on the floor. However cutting off the pips did create a few problems as the elastic bands pulled the sides of the chassis in.
I had hoped to preface this entry along the lines of "Detailing Ratio 4 wheel coaches without the need for the Mainly Trains kit" However I had several of the Mainly Trains Dean Churchward brake gear etches which I used so that was out of the question. I would have thought however that the parts I used would be readily available elsewhere.
Taking the chassis first, I was impressed with the level of detailing in the springs and axleboxes. The brake gear however is lacking and I replaced this with parts from the Mainly Trains etch. The photo below (again apologies for my camera) shows the parts I added in their unpainted state.
The Ratio brake blocks were drilled to take the etched brass yokes which connect each side. The V hangers, brake actuating and cylinder cranks all came from the etch all connected up with brass wire. I omitted the vertical rod connecting the yokes and the rod from the brake actuating crank as this is not visible being behind the wheel. I also added the gas filler. I noticed that some of the brake hangers were almost identical to the gas filler bracket so made up a bracket adding a piece of wire to represent the nozzle. Most of this is in fact hardly visible but it brings the chassis almost up to the same level of detail as the Mainly Trains kit. The latter does score however with the superior solebar detail which cannot be replicated with the Ratio kit. One afterthought, I added the gas pipes from the ends of the cylinders.
The body is well detailed but I thought separate handrails and door handles would look better. I used handrails (or should that be commode handles) from Roxey Moulding with etched brass door handles included in the MT chassis etch. Etched brass cannot replicate faithfully a round handrail but I thought these, and the door handles in particular, vastly improved the appearance. It can be difficult to pare off the plastic handrails neatly and holes need to be drilled exactly on the line of the moulding to accomodate the etched handrails. One problem I had with one of the sides was that in trying to file down the inside to fit the MT chassis I inadvertently took off part of the outside resulting in a small chunk taken out. I used filler on this but it is still visible.
The ends had a little re-working, I pared off the handrails and replaced these with wire as also with the lamp bracket. The MT kit refers to the vacuum pipe as being to the right of the coupling so this was moved over. I didn't bother to replace the alarm gear though. Whilst I can't claim all my stock has metal buffers, I don't like plastic and Markits supplied suitable turned alternatives. I felt the Ratio buffers (like the vacuum pipes) were a little puny but the Markits ones may be a little on the large side, they are after all intended for bogie stock. Oddly, those supplied in the Mainly Trains kits are even larger.
Finally, the roof had the rainstrips, gas piping and associated brackets added. As I've mentioned before, bearing in mind this is the part of a coach most people see this simple step improves the appearance out of all proportion to the time taken in accomplishing it.
The sides were painted all over chocolate to represent the (economy) livery many of these old coaches received in the early 1930's. The transfers are Pressfix and caused some grief. The Pressfix sheets I used were years old and had lost their adhesion with the result that separate letters tended to float about on a film of water. The numbers were an absolute pig and I resorted to varnishing each number separately before fixing the next one. I do find it irritating that you need to buy a whole sheet, and they're not cheap, knowing that the 95% you won't be using can't be stored for any length of time.
The result is shown below (using my wifes' camera this time):
The transfer film shows up far more on the photo than it does to the naked eye.
The all third is well under way although the chassis awaits its' Gibson wheels. This has been painted chocolate and cream but in researching the details of this livery I made an interesting discovery. I always assumed the two colours were divided by a black and gold line. In fact whilst this was the case with prestige coaches, on lesser stock the colours were separated by a yellow line only. Fox supplied suitable transfers.The brake third has a completed chassis but the sides are currently unavailable.
On a separate matter, whilst looking at the Markits website I noticed that they did GWR loco buffers with a larger head. Whilst I'm very pleased with my model of 5807 from the Puffers etched kit the effect is ruined by the ridiculously small buffers supplied that, stupidly, I fitted without a second thought. For years I've been looking for large buffer heads with shafts that will fit the existing base, as the loco was painted professionally (by Larry Goddard) replacing the whole buffer assembly was out of the question. Joy of joys, the Markits ones fit and even though I can't spring them as the chassis prevents this, the improved appearance is remarkable. The Markits website is well worth a look.
I hope other modellers find these notes useful. There seems to be a lack of detailed knowledge of these coaches which results in the differences between kits of supposedly the same prototype. The MT kit has very detailed instructions and using the information gleaned from these I have been able to improve the Ratio kit.