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Blog- Jon020's Workbench Blog - A pair of "Modern image" ViTrains 47 - detailed and weathered

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Stories of my demise have been greatly exaggerated; I’ve been around, but spending my modelling time, modelling rather than writing... but here’s an attempt to readdress that.


Some months ago I acquired a pair of ViTrains 47s. I’d always admired certain aspects of these models, not least their bogies, and the opportunity to pick these up in these liveries was not passed by. The Virgin loco was acquired after I missed out on a trip to Warley as some small compensation; the DRS one was picked up in early December as an early Christmas present to me. The Virgin livery was one that struck home with me as I recalled seeing these operate the cross country services at Stockport whilst I lived there in the 90s; the DRS livery is one I’ve admired for a while; i think it’s the nicest of modern liveries today, and the revised version recently unveiled has enhanced this further. So, whilst both models would be subject to detailing and some repainting, the bodysides on each would remain almost as presented.


Coincidentally, I found that the two models represented “twin” locos; Virgin 47805 and DRS 47802. Paradoxically, both of these locos operated top-n-tail on a number of services whilst both operated for DRS until quite recently. 805 is still earning its keep, in fact I’ve seen photos of it working what I presume to be the Norwich short-set today, but I think that 802’s days are possibly over... making way for the new order 68s.


I’ll tackle the DRS loco first as this needed a little more work.

I wanted the model to represent the prototype as closely as possible and 47802 has some oddities. Firstly, it has non-standard buffers, presumably to help prevent bufferlock when shunting at low speed, but my observations suggested that the bufers at No.1 end resembled those of a Class 31, whilst the buffers at the No.2 end resembled those of a Class 60. Fortunately, both are available as Hornby Spares (I think I used Peter’s spares for these). The other item that singles 802 out is its multiple-unit working connector; for a while it was equipped with a recessed straight plug rather than the elephantine proboscis of the majority of the class. Unfortunately, ViTrains chose to represent this only with a transfer which I did not feel was good enough.

Other areas of treatment would be some refinement to the bufferbeams, shawplan roof fans and grills and laserglaze all-round (almost).


The loco was disassembled with some trouble... the glazing and fans unit were secured with a considerable amount of glue, but some careful prising won the battle.


The first step was to replace the transfer connector unit; I chose a 0.4mm drill in a pin vice and drilled holes in the corners and around the edges... before cleaning up the edges with a square Swiss file.

I then cut some squares of plastic card to represent the buffer plates, through which holes would be drilled to take the Hornby buffer shanks.


These looked fine to start with but second thoughts later on would drive a “plan b”.

To back-fill the connector recess, a square of plastic card was cut and glued in place at the correct angle to provide the right nose-down angle to the connector unit; the front edge of this plate was chamfered to provide a neat front finish.

Holes were then drilled in the new buffer plastic plates and the new buffers were trial fitted.


To be honest, I thought that these were a bit chunky, so I looked through my spares-bits box and found that I had a Shawplan Class 56 bufferbeam detailing etch that I’d used the bufferbeam steps for on my 47, but the buffer plates were still in the bag... so I removed the plastic squares and tried the etches; these are quite old etches but they serve the purpose and looked a lot better once trial fitted with the buffers again, seen here at the other end this time.


The MU connector housing was then drilled out with a 0.3mm drill near each corner and a short length of 33 swg wire inserted to protrude slightly to represent the plate bolts. A fifth hole was drilled centrally to take the “pin” of the MU connector once I’d made this from plastic rod and microstrip. A further slither of plastic card was added under the hole for the ETS connector, to represent the connector mount, based on prototype photos.


It was then time to mask the locos up and apply some colour, with 805 had been brought to a similar, paintable stage. In reality this is quiet straightforward and addresses a bugbear I have with these models, namely their thin finish... which really shows poorly on light colours and in this case, it’s the yellow. There’s also a bit of a seam/lip around the nose join, and sanding this down first is useful. For some reason, I added the handrails to 802, so these went yellow too. Once masked, I treated both locos to some Railmatch post-84 warning panel yellow (202) though my trusty Iwata revolution. Once dry, I treated the bufferbeam and buffers on 802 to some white primer to provide a good base for the red paint later. Once dry (and the Railmatch primer does take a long time to dry) I added representation of the cross-beam air-supply pipework using 33swg nickel wire and thin plastic rod pieces, that were hollowed out to represent unions. This was secure in place with some Bob Smith Industries Super Gold+ CA glue – which is a great non-blooming superglue that I’ve started to use a lot (similar in viscosity to Zap-a-gap green – but works really, really well).


The lamp brackets were fitted too. These are nice little mouldings but a bit fiddly to fit, the BSI glue did a good job here – noting that 802 only has these on the 2nd man’s side.

Then I moved on to 805’s buffers. These are the normal 47 buffers but I didn’t like the “flat” ViTrains ones, so I repeated the exercise I’d performed on the Bachmann ones, I stripped them down and popped them in a minidrill and spinning this up, I reprofiled the buffers with some fine papers – getting the correct profile. A hole in the centre face was drilled out with a 0.4mm drill held steady with the buffer spinning. The image hopefully shows the improved result which takes only a matter of minutes to do.



Then it was on to the bit I’d been dreading ... that of the roof grills. The etches are exquisite and represent the right weave (choose the right one!) but they are fragile; I’d broken a few whilst working my Bachmann 47 project previously, so extra care was taken... and it all worked out splendidly. The mesh is removed from the fret and then I use a grinding tool in my minidrill to de-burr the grill edges, then roll it slightly using a soft foam surface and the soft plastic handle of a swiss file, and then place accurately and tack down with Zap-a-gap Pink (thin) until secure. Once these are in place, the same approach is followed for the grill surround... and glued in place. Then keep fingers clear. Once dry, I decided that the best course of action was to get some paint on quick (paint seems to strengthen them – yes they’re that delicate). So I masked up the bodies leaving just the grill section exposed


...and gave them a few gentle wafts with some grey Halfords primer... which works a treat.


With 802 put to one side, attention turned to the bufferbeams of 805, which are of course different and not able to be modelled using the ViTrains parts alone.

A rummage through my spares box finds a few Heljan 47 sprues with (thank goodness) some ETS modules of the desired type. In comparison, these look alot bulkier than the ViTrains ones, but i think it’s ViTrains that got this wrong not Heljan.

I blanked out the appropriate fittings with plastic card (per prototype photos) and added the Heljan fittings complete with wire “cables” that were drilled into the fittings and passed through new holes drilled into the bufferbeam. This was a bit of a fiddle, but the end result looked reasonably effective.


Then it was back to the paint shop, where the roof grills were sprayed a matt black (to be adjusted later) and then the engine compartment sections were masked out and painted Diesel roof grey – again all with the airbrush. Finally, the bufferbeam on 802 was masked up and sprayed matt red, and the ETS and other fittings to 805’s bufferbeam were painted white as a base of the orange later, and 802’s handrails picked back out in white.



The buffer beams were finished off with a mix of ViTrains and Heljan pipes (choosing the best for each fitting) and a Hornby screw-link coupling which cosmetically look fine. The pipework was picked out in white and then the buffers were fitted to 802, along with the MU connector that I’d made from plastic rod and microstrip. Fittings on both were painted orange and the plastic buffers on 805 were painted with Humbrol gunmetal Metalcote and then polished to give a nice metallic finish.



Whilst not evident in most photos, the cabs were painted and drivers assembled. I had some spare Bachmann drivers that I bought quite some time ago and by amputating them from the waste, they can be made to fit in the cabs. I also adjusted their right arm positions to that they could be reaching for the controls appropriately. I painted these following the layers process... dark base colours followed by lighter highlights ... which gives a good effect - it was described by “Northern Maiden” I think on this forum a while ago. These were glued in to their cabs for positioning later on.


One further failing of the finish of these locos is that they tend to look a bit “flat”. I therefore decided to bling the models up a bit and as I had chosen to represent them as relatively clean locos, I sprayed the entire bodysides, roof and ends with Precision gloss varnish. I found I had a can of ready-to-spray varnish so gave this a go and it worked quite well. I was less impressed a few weeks later when I went to use it again to find that the whole tin’s contents had turned to the consistency of jelly.... which was then disposed of L

Anyway, this provided a good base for the additional transfers that I needed to add back to the yellow ends, for the overhead warning flashes on both and black loco numbers for 802, all of which were from Fox transfers.


Once dry, I glazed the locos using Shawplan Laserglaze, neatly dropping each screen into the opening and securing with a bean of Johnson’s Klear. I retained the original cab door glazing pieces on 802 as these carried DRS transfers and whilst I’m sure these can be procured, I saw their retention as a small concession to be lived with.


The roof fans were fabricated and painted red. These were affixed to the existing fan units with cocktail stick pieces as axles secured through new holes drilled into the plastic mounts. Once fitted, they looked fine.



I’d not been idle with the chassis either, I’d cut out a section of the fuel tank ends (the triangular end section) and replaced this with a square section to better represent the shape of the tanks. I fashioned some fire pull frames from plastic card and attached these with a strengthening piece behind to the chassis underside. These were then painted white with a red boarder.

I lowered the ride height by removing the metal spigots that run through the bogie tower. This allows the bogies to sit a little higher and gives a pleasing gap between the bogie and body. Clearances are tighter but sufficient.

802 has/had a different speedo pick-up on the centre axle of the no.1 bogie, so the provided unit was replaced with a plastic hub and wire assembly, with a plastic card cover fabricated to replicate prototype photos.


Chassis and bogie details were all fitted and the entire assembly was sprayed with a matt black/weathered black mix to tone the whole thing back. The piperwork, springs and fittings were then picked out on 802, per prototype photos before the whole assembly was weathered lightly using my Premi-air airbrush (preferred for weathering) and various subtle shades of Railmatch sleeper grime, frame dirt, brake dust, light rust and roof dirt.


The roof of each loco was also lightly weathered (more heavily on 805) to represent general roof grime and exhaust, again using the airbrush and careful application/wiping with soaked cotton buds... but to give a gentle misting effect.

Some light dirt misting was applied to the bodysides of 805 and the buffers were “greased” using some thick silver/black mix which was then flattened with a flat surface.

Initial train assemblies looked promising




After exhibiting at a local model show, I removed the hastily applied windscreen wipers (Class 55 items) and set about making the correct class 47 items. These are Shawplan items (as you’d expect) and made using a neat little etch and a piece of 33 swg wire that I add to represent the blade. This is glued along half its length and then bend away to form the blade and wiper arm separation.



Once the glue has dried, I blacken the wire with a permanent marker to represent the blade.

These are then affixed into the loco nose ends through small holes drilled in the wiper are recesses, as shown; apologies for the narrow depth of field in this shot... the camera was in quite close.



Then, DISASTER! One further aspect that I’m not a fan of with these models is their clip-on, clip-off body... or rather not-clip-off. It was as I was trying to remove the body of 802 that I managed to put a finger through one of the roof fan mesh grills. ... which ended up costing me a little in the swear box. Sometimes, it’s best to put a model down and walk away... so I did.

After a day or three, I had a hunt around and found that I had a spare grill mesh in the drawer. So, I removed the damaged mesh’s surround carefully and pried the mesh away. I cleaned the surrounding area of the hole to get a good bond and applied the new mesh, and then applied the mesh surround. So far so good! The whole area was masked and re-primed with Halfords paint.



It was then a job of deciding how to best finish it off. I masked and sprayed the area around the mesh in black, as before, and once dry, masked the loco except the roof section and applied some gloss varnish in sections to the roof to delineate the sections and “lift” the entire look. Again, once dry, I then weathered the roof section, but this time, I started with some frame dirt and a little black to add some shades of browns into the engine cover covers, and then slowly built up the darkness of the paint to apply, waft-like to the general areas, especially over the cabs, but leaving more of the roof sides clean. Darker colours were slowly applied (805 was getting a similar treatment) until i finished with a very black mix lightly for soot stains around the engine exhaust.


I’d not been happy with the buffers on 802, so these had their faces painted with a lighter shade of Metalcote (Steel I think), after which the grease treatment was given only to the centre of the buffers to make them look clean but certainly used – just like they’ve been appearing in some recent pictures for a magazine subscription leaflet (REx).


After a few days drying, reassemblies were attempted, carefully, and a few photos taken for posterity.

In the sunlight, the finish does look quite striking. I think they look clean, but used... hopefully as they would have appeared in 1994 (for 805) and 2007 (for 802).





I’m still quite attached to the livery of 802 but it’s not in keeping with my period-of-choice so this will possibly seek a new home. 805 has a different look and whilst the livery is not quite as appealing to my eye as that of DRS Compass, it does cause a tug of nostalgia from my days in Manchester when I saw these in operation – this was back in a time when the railways had lost their interest for me – oh how I wish I’d been differently enthused back then (hindsight’s a wonderful thing), but this one will need to find a new home too... otherwise it’ll be resprayed into BR Blue... and that will never do will it.

Anyway... thanks for reading.


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