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Improving the Hornby Saint

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The Hornby model of the GWR Saint was released in 1986 and is, unbelievably, the only ready-to-run model of the 29xx class to date. The model was produced at a time of economic hardship for Hornby and perhaps understandably they tried very hard to keep their costs down. The Saint was basically a re-tooled version of the Hall class model, with a reworked cab and larger driving wheels. Unfortunately, this has produced a model that has quite a few shortcomings, but of course this has the positive effect that we have a nice little modelling project on our hands!


To start with, you will need a donor engine. I happened to find a cheap, second-hand, Clevedon Court at a local toy fair, but either one of the Hornby Saint variants will do as they all used the same body moulding. They are essentially the same model in different liveries, but there are some variations.


I don't know the full extent of these differences but from my own experiance they are mainly concerned with motorisation and the cylinder assembly. For the most part the Saint David and Saint Catherine models had a motorised Churchward 3500g tender, and Clevedon Court had a motorised 4000g tender, and each of the variants normally had the more refined cylinder assembly, as shown here.




Hornby also made Saint Patrick too, but I've never seen one 'in the flesh' so I can't reliably comment on the tender / cylinder assembly but I beleive they were made in China, and therefore may well have internal/mechanical differences that you would have to take into account.


My donor engine, Clevedon Court, looks like it had been hacked about a bit before I came across it - perhaps someone had used a Hall chassis block and rewheeled it because it has a body-mounted X03 type motor, and what looked like the remains of the Hall cylinder assembly. The Hall had round slide bars and a 'wrap-around' crosshead. It looks a bit odd, and it seems that the previous owner of my engine had decided that they didn't like it very much and had replaced the round slide bars with short lengths of flat brass bar stuck in with epoxy glue, and had changed the crossheads for white metal ones.


Uncouple the tender and put it to one side for later. Remove the bodyshell by unscrewing the retention screw located at the back of the cab, above the drawbar. The body has a projecting extension to the frames at the front of the chassis that slides into a slot underneath the smoke box, so once the screw is removed, the body will lift up and off the chassis. If you have a Saint scale drawing to hand, for a laugh, place the bodyshell on that and have a look at the differences between the actual locomotive and the Hornby interpretation. The cab, firebox, boiler and smokebox are all compromises, each not quite right, and all because the tooling was a rehash of the Hall bodywork, itself rather dubious. When I first looked at this problem, I confess that I couldn't see a way past it - it looked hopeless. After a while of just staring at the model and drawing, it struck me that if you didn't put the model on the drawing, then the model was very presentably proportioned. It was as soon as you plonked it on a diagram that you saw where the problems were. Being pragmatic about things - how often did I actually run my locomotives on top of scale drawings ? Hmmm. Not very often. OK, so I had decided to accept the Hornby compromises by and large, but what was I not prepared to accept ?


The biggest single problem I had with the bodywork is at the front end. The curve of the footplate, just forward of the cylinders is far too shallow, and spoils the overall look. That would have to be sorted out. I wanted an earlier version of the engine, so the outside steam pipes would have to come off too. I was sorely tempted to hack off the moulded-on injector down the side of the boiler, but it seemed like a lot of work. The injector seems to be moulded under-scale and is largely hidden by the over-scale handrails, so I decided to live with the injector. The chimney and safety valve were to be replaced with brass versions, so they need to come off too.


If the first rule of model locomotive building is get a drawing, the second is get a photograph of your chosen prototype, and I would recommend you do this now if you havn't already done so. My choices to hack off the outside steam pipes are based on the fact that I wanted to model the engine as it would have looked before World War One, but you might want a different period for your model, so get a photo and check the detail. Even if you can't find a photo of the exact engine you want to build, you might find a photo of another class member in similar condition. This isn't perhaps the best approach, but if it's your only option, it's better than nothing. I wanted Clevedon Court with no outside steam pipes, but with top-feed fitted.


Armed with my trusty scalpel, clippers and razor saw, I set to work removing the bodywork features I didn't want. The chimney and safety valve come off fairly easily, but the outside steam pipes are quite tricky to remove without damaging the surrounding bodywork so be careful. The smokebox door will pop out of the smokebox, and with this removed I cut off the moulded-on lamp bracket and also the door dart which I replaced with a turned brass version. Two holes were drilled in the cab front, above the firebox, to represent the small windows that used to be there. Check on a drawing to get the position right, and check your photos to see if your engine had these windows - at some point many engines had these windows plated over.


The biggest job is the removal of the front footplate so that the curve can be improved. With a razor saw make a cut, from underneath the body, at the point where the curve meets the flat portion of the main footplate (see diagram). Try to keep this cut at right-angles to the footplate and once complete gently tidy up any rough areas of the footplate with a file.




With this done, examine the resulting footplate part. The body locating slot should now be clearly visable - this slot needs some work as when we stick the footplate back on again, it will be in the wrong place! Cut away the thin strip of plastic (shown blue in the diagram) that spans the top of the slot and cut a new strip of 20th plastic card, the same width, and glue this at the base of the slot (shown green in the diagram). This is also a good time to clear out a slot for the scale coupling hook and while you're at it, cut off the moulded plastic buffers and replace them with a turned brass set.




Now re-attatch the front footplate by gluing back to the main footplate, but mount it underneath the footplate and flush with the front edge (see diagram). This has the effect of shortening the body by approximately 2mm and increasing the depth of the curve on the footplate by about the same amount. This makes the body look much better, but has the unfortunate effect of allowing the locating metal bar to stick out of the front of the footplate! Temporarily attatch the body and scribe a line across the projecting bar, remove the body again and cut away the excess with a junior hacksaw.




When viewed from the side the new front-end now looks rather nice, and certainly much better than the old version. What spoils the effect is the amount of daylight you can see between the bogie and the bodywork. To represent the framing on the prototype, cut out dummy frames from 20th plastic card and glue them either side of the strengthening ribs that run underneath the footplate.


The replacement chimney and safety valve were now fitted, using quick-setting expoxy, and milliput was used to tidy up any gaps in the bodywork resulting from the aforementioned surgery. For instance, the area under the smokebox, where the steampipes used to be, will need careful attention. I like to make this job the last thing I do of an evening so that the filler has overnight to dry out thoroughly.


At this point you may want to add etched lamp irons, but you might find that they get damaged during painting, so it's up to you. I prefer to do them now as I always seem to make a mess with superglue when I'm fixing them on. Don't forget there were brackets for spare lamps on the left-hand side of the body (looking forward), just in front of the rear splasher. Once this is done, the next thing that to do is to wash the bodywork in warm soapy water so that it is ready for painting and leave it to dry again.


I did consider a new set of drivers for the chassis, but decided against it from a cost point of view. However, I did think that the bogie could be improved so I swapped the Hornby bogie wheels for a set of Jackson wheels. Any make will do - I just happened to have a set of Jackson wheels handy. It is quite surprising what a difference this simple change makes to the look of the loco - try it and see!


Before launching into the painting of the bodywork remember to check that the body is completely dry before starting on a new coat. It is really difficult to overstress the importance of a dry, dust-free environment for painting. The body was undercoated using a grey Halfords aerosol and (after a nice long session drying out) the body was brush painted using Precision paints. When brush painting, don't be disheartened if the paint looks like it is drying 'patchy'. This is not unusual, and after a top coat of Railmatch Satin spray varnish, this effect will dissapear. Also, the varnish really makes a difference to the paintwork so take extra care when applying it. After yet more drying, the lining was applied using HMRS transfers and the CGW name and numberplates for Clevedon Court were added. Brass vacuum pipes were added to the front end, as were lamps and screw couplings.


As I said at the start of all this rambling, my donor engine had a 4000g tender. I wanted an earlier tender, but didn't fancy spending too much money on it, so I settled on a Churchward 3500g kit from Mainly Trains. These kits consist of a plastic ready-to-run tender top, an etched brass chassis and a set of Jackson wheels. They are easy to build and go together well. I added a white-metal water scoop to the basic kit just as a finishing touch, and once built the tender was painted and lined using the same methods as the loco body. Please excuse the lining on the cylinder covers - I didnt notice I'd damaged it until after the photo was taken.




So there you have it. Quite a nice looking model of Clevedon Court as it appeared in about 1911, give or take a year or so. If I was to do this exercise again (and I think I might) what would I do differently ? I think that I would try to improve the look of the cylinders - they are rather short. There is too much daylight underneath the front of the boiler as Hornby have moulded the boiler without a bottom, so this would need looking at. Finally, the smokebox saddle is the wrong shape, and could benefit from a little bit of remodelling. Food for thought, I think.


This whole exercise is very much a compromise, but then again what isn't ? My advice is don't worry about your hobby - enjoy it.

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