Part the third...
Stock and running.
I have been away from the hobby since 1997, during which my poor stock has been involved in several changes of address, some of them uncomfortably impromtu; things are more settled now. Prior to that it spent a period in storage between shows and operating on a club layout, during which the rot was already beginning to set in. Stuff has gone astray, whole boxes of it, I know not whither. Some stuff was stored at the club and eventually donated. But a core has survived and is still with me. This consisted of detailed up rtr with some kits.
Locos were, at the start of the Cwmdimbath project, a Westward 64xx 6439, 2x Mainliine 57xx 6740 and 8750, the latter being bought before Mainline got the 8750 variant in the shops. They were both originally 5764, but have been renumbered. 8750 has the cast whitemetal cab from an older K's kit (and the numberplates). There was a Mainline 56xx renumbered as 6604 which I repainted and lined in ferret and dartboard livery, again before Mainline produced an rtr with an excellent similar livery, and an antediluvian Airfix 61xx, originally 6167 I think, in cycling lion lined black, which I renumbered as 4162 in 1948 unlined green with 'BRITISH RAILWAYS' in GW 1920s style script, and a Lima 117 dmu cut, shut, and bodged into a passable 116 in early unlined green with whiskers.
Passenger stock is a pair of Airfix A30 auto trailers, one in plain maroon and one in blood and custard, an Airfix B set in plain maroon, and a Replica Stanier BG in blood and custard. There is also a Perseverance brass GW inspection saloon. Unfinished projects are a Nu-cast TVR rebuilt 'A' class, a Rhymney 'R' whose provenance I cannot recall, both in an advanced state and worth completing when I've got time, and a Silurian Period Triang Southern 'utitlity van' BLV stripped down and awaiting suitable bogies.
Freight stock is a shadow of it's former self, and consisted of half a dozen vans and opens and a fitted toad. Difficult to pin down the provenance of these as chassis and bodies were indiscriminately swapped in the old days.
Not a bad start for Cwmdimbath. The locos needed renumbering into suitable Tondu inmates, but we had the basis of an auto to shuttle back and forth to Bridgend, a workman's to the ROF factory at Tremains (we are being inspired by Abergwynfi, remember), and a daily pickup freight. The colliery is assumed to be down the valley offstage anyway. Goody, no need to lay out cash on new stock just yet and I could concentrate resources and effort on layout building. Ah, that first fine careless rupture...
The above stock was all equipped with scale couplings of the appropriate types, screw and instanter, except the passenger stock and dmu which are permanently coupled bogie to bogie with twisted wires, a bodge that passes for vacuum and steam heating bags well enough especially in the case of the close coupled B set; scale screw couplings and bag details are provided on the outer ends. This led to problem 1. I have lost, over the intervening 20 years, the eyesight and steadiness of hand needed to operate this system. Furthermore, my 2' radius turnouts were causing buffer lock when propelling despite being laid Minories style to prevent it. There was a period of soul searching and trips to my local model shop (Lord and Butler, thoroughly recommended, no connection) for new couplings to replace those broken in storage. The second of these trips did not produce the amount of reserve stock of screw couplings I wanted, and they were out of stock of instanters; Peter was unable to say when new stock would arrive. This cast further doubt on the concept of scale couplings, which forced the issue and I accepted the inevitable. It was either tension locks or Kadee, both of which look awful IMHO on traditional British outline stock. Kaydees were considered, but I couldn't justify the expense on a tiny blt (ok, I know that's counter intuitive but I reckon they are of much greater value on a big layout where it is difficult to reach things). T/l are not as ugly as they used to be, and I made the decision to revert to them as standard, very much feeling that I was no longer a proper modeller, but instantly relieved to have made the decision so that progress could be made.
That in itself led to some issues. Much of my stock has had the original t/l mountings either destroyed or compromised to clear space for the scale couplings, and I have had a good bit of faff refitting them and getting them to a working height tolerance, some on home made mounts and glued on pending a better solution. I made the error of assuming that everything had to be the same depth below the vehicle body, but it proved that it had to be the same height above the rail and these are not necessarily the same thing... It has taken me about 6 weeks to achieve reliable running and coupling, and a 'spade' uncoupler that will work without catching on the buffer beams of some but not all stock is still a work in progress, but I see light at the end of the tunnel now. The passenger stock is still permanently coupled with twisted wires, but the outer ends have had to be fitted with t/ls on the bogies, and I had cut off the beams which carried them originally when I put the scale couplings on all those years ago; again, new beams had to be made up and fitted at the correct height without interfering with the swing of the bogies or the wheels or axles.
And the problems did not end there. Problem 2; on it's first outing on test, 6439 seized solid after about 10 minutes of it's customary excellent running. A wheel had become loose from it's axle and gone out of quarter and gauge. I attempted a repair but have so far failed to get it back on square and true, never mind solve the related issue of the bent out of shape nickel silver coupling rod which the loco apparently had sufficient power to damage. I doubt the loco will ever be a good runner now, and I replaced it with a Baccy 6422, a lovely little runner with which I am very happy, but my wallet isn't.... Then, only a few days later, 6740 died in a similar manner; when I opened her up to see what could be done I discovered a fairly advanced state of mazak rot, and for the time being withdrew her from service. One of her split chassis blocks broke in two during handling. If this were not enough. about 10 days after that, 8750 gave an almighty screech and came to a seized halt. Dreading the worst, I opened her up and stripped her down to components; there was nothing I could see the matter with her except that the centre axle was near to wearing through the chassis block on one side; a deep U shaped space had already been eroded in the top of the chassis at this point, and the block was on the point of collapse. I was starting to consider modelling Woodham's by now, and opened up 6604 for an examination; her centre axle was wearing in the same way and she was clearly on borrowed time.
My locos were dropping like flies and I was clearly going to have to lay out a good deal of cash to replace them. I know, cue the violins and pass the hat, but I am a poor pensioner on a very limited income and with to all intents and purposes no savings, so this was becoming a major worry and I was re-appraising the viability of the whole project; remember the original brief was to keep it cheap.
But I'd seen a secondhand 56xx chassis for about a third of the cost of replacing the loco with a new one using the same body moulding and offering no advance in detail terms at L & B when I'd bought the 64xx, and went down the week before xmas to buy it. It is of the modern Baccy type like 6422's, and sat under 6604 easily enough after an evening of fitting and fiddling, so should give reliable running for a long time. I mentioned that I could do with a similar chassis to resuscitate my dead 57s, but they seem to be out of production at present, and was directed to a s/h current chassis equipped Baccy 7739 at the back of the shop that I'd missed, apparently in mib nick. My wallet was screaming in pain by now, but she couldn't be left in the shop!
I've now got a reilable fleet of 4 nicely running locos and a dmu (the old Airfix prairie is pretty much bombproof, and has already had a driving wheel replaced to dispose of the traction tyre which only b*****d up the running anyway, so I am completely confident I can deal with anything she might throw at me in future). 7739's chassis can be swapped under 8750 or 6740 if I want to ring the changes, and the idea of 2 low cab panniers in different liveries appeals; 6740 in GWR plain lettering austerity, perhaps? But I do feel a bit as though I've been through the mill with it, and sympathise with my 4mm Tondu shed foreman who must have had a few sleepless nights wondering how to provide motive power for the Cwmdimbath services. And my 'keep it cheap, you're only a poor pensioner' policy is in tatters, bloody expensive tatters at that.
All the locos will eventually be renumbered as Tondu denizens, 6601, 7742, and 6410 being the favourites at the moment, and 4162 will wok an imaginary parcels turn from her home shed of Barry. But I'm still 2 locos short of the original running stud, and eventually more will need to be acquired. A 94xx and a 4575 are in theory the next purchases when they are available, but of course any secondhand bargain that I have funds for will find it's way into my possession...