Jump to content

A Conversion story - from an "L1" to an "S"

Recommended Posts

The following tale may amuse some of you, especiallly anyone who, like myself, goes back a few years (!) - it just goes to show, never throw ANYTHING away! You never know what you might make of it...now, read on.


My very first 2 rail model locomotive was an ex Southern Railway Tri-ang L1 4/4/0, bought simply because there was  a picture of one featured in a “Railway Modeller” at the time and I liked the look of it. Here's the magzine cover - and yes, I did buy Minic Motorways as well, and I still have the bus! Sadly, i can't think of any way of incorporating it into my present layout.




When I became interested in the Irish scene, in the late sixties, I had little thought of trying to actually model anything Irish –and like many others my thoughts turned to the GWR! But in the late 1960s I came in contact with some folk who were interested in our railways in Northern Ireland, and the L1 had already become a bit out of place on my layout. One day a friend suggested “why not repaint your L1 in GNR blue?” “S” class 171 was by this time regularly seen on specials for the RPSI and the idea took hold. The engine was duly repainted in sky blue. But of course it looked like what it was – a Southern LI in GNR blue!

I then decided to modify it somewhat, replacing the Belpaire firebox with a curved card one, and new wheel splashers, with the result shown below.  This was about 1971




Some years later the motor packed in, and as I had never lettered or lined 171, and the “conversion” was a bit crude, I decided to withdraw her from service, and she was relegated to the rear of my shelf of locomotives.


            But time moved on, and in 2004, when I had started to build UTA diesels and a Jeep and Mogul, I thought of 171 again and wondered if I might upgrade it a bit. I got a refurbished Tri-ang X04 motor and got to work again. By now I was involved with the “Killagan” UTA era exhibition layout, and after all, in UTA days “S” class locomotives did work north with excursions to Portrush.


The work involved was pretty extensive, and I had to go very carefully as the plastic on the bodywork was getting brittle – indeed after I stripped the paint some of my earlier card modifications came off and had to be either re-glued or more often, remade. So, if anyone is tempted to do a similar butchery job on an old engne, beware. Hornby produced a 2P in the seventies and then there is the Dapol model, and its newer Hornby version. The main issue of the latter models is the tender drive which I have found pretty erratic in quality -but you can usually get them quite cheaply, so buy two and use the better one!  The old Tri-ang X04 motor, though it sticks into the cab a bit, is a smooth runner in comparison, and it can still be serviced and parts got, after over fifty years.


I have detailed some of the work involved if anyone really  wants to have a go at this.


The smokebox front needs attention; file away the handrail, and then a filler round the smokebox door so the surround is almost flush with the door. A handwheel is needed here. A small triangular filler piece is needed at the foot of the smokebox too, and then two plasticard pieces to simulate the boiler mountings at the front.


Cut away the square Belpaire firebox and replace it with a round topped one made from plastic tubing, and remove the plastic handrail and steam pipes completely ( I originally left these in place!) Replace with new rail and handrail knobs to taste, as they say. If you are feeling brave remove the gear on the left hand side too – it’s quite awkward to do, but the “S” class did not have any such fitting on that side.


Then it’s time for the rear splashers and cab. These are quite different from the L1/2P as they had a stepped footplate. So a new straight footplate is needed in this area, and new splashers also, it’s quite fiddly, and you’ll certainly need photos at least to have chance of getting them anywhere near right. Fortunately there are lots of photos of 171 and her sisters from all angles in many books on Irish railways; she is probably one of the most photographed engines in Ireland!




One final detail was the chimney; I hadn’t changed the original but the more I looked at it the more I knew it was all wrong, so I was able to find a cast one (NER J27) which looked more correct; I was at the time unable to get a “real” GNR(I) pattern one though they are sometimes available. I added a bit of height to the tender sides as well.


I decided that I would not keep the engine as 171 but opted to repaint it black as the UTA did in the early 60’s. After a while I tackled the lining; there’s quite a lot of it on these engines with tricky curves etc.. I decided that my engine should now become GNR 172/UTA 60 “Slieve Donard”. Plates came as usual from Guilplates. Sharp eyed readers will also spot that the front coupling has come off, as I have decided that 60 will not work trains tender first. Crew were added and latterly tender fall plates and a few other details such as a better whistle, and so this is how she looked in 2006.




On my own layout and “Killagan”, both being more NCC than anything else, 60 got excursion work rather than the expresses although on her own home turf she would of course have hauled important services - the S class were second only to the V and VS classes of heavy 4/4/0 which the GNR preferred.


She ran like this until earlier this year (2014), some ten years after her blue was exchanged for black. Then, I decided that there were plenty of 4-4-0s running on the various UTA/NCC layouts I am involved with, and I had a few coaches built in GNRI mahogany, so maybe, what about a blue engine to pull them? So No 60 became 172 in lined GNR blue, in which condition she now operates. This meant I had to get her completely  re-wheeled –old Tri-ang wheels will NOT run through Code 75 points!  Indeed, they didn’t even run through my Code 100 double slip. And then I needed to do some extra work at the front end – the replacement of the old coarse wheels left a big gap above the front bogie which needed filled with false frames; I made a few other alterations and added guard irons as well.  In some ways I get fussier as I get older…but you have to stop somewhere.  And now 172 is on the layout ; the original loco had a thing called "magnadhesion" - magnets on the driving wheels which were supposed to give greater traction on crude steel Tri-ang track. I recall her being a poor puller on my Dublo track, but as the years have passed and wheels have been changed she can now manage a decent train - look at the picture below.





Of course, there are some lovely very accurate 4mm models of 171 etc., around now, and mine isn’t perfect, and to be honest if I wanted an “S” class now I wouldn’t start from where I did!  But, I still have a soft spot for this old lady – it’s not bad going for a loco which left the Tri-ang factory in Margate well over fifty years ago, and which had a role in spurring me on to “real” railway modelling.






So, if you've got this far,  go and dig into that old box of discarded stuff and you never know what you might achieve, if you're daft enough to have a go.


colm flanagan

Edited by colmflanagan
  • Like 11
Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice model and a nice story behind it Colm! Funny but back about 1992 when Steve Rafferty asked me to do an RTR S Class conversion for his UTA-era stud, the basis for that was a Tri-ang L1 also; I wonder if she's still going strong?




Not long after that, about 1995, I got a Tri-ang Hornby LMS 2P (remoulded from the L1) at a swapmeet, in slightly bent condition, with the intention of doing the same thing. But I hadn't the heart to put her under the knife and even tarted up the damage. She's now sitting behind me on the shelf...maybe one day...!

Edited by 33lima
  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm in touch with Steve from time to time, I'll find out if his one is still going.. I don't suppose we'll see any Irish Steam r-t-r models of the quality Paddy Murphy is doing for the diesels, so we will have to keep hacking away.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.