British Railway Modelling (BRM)


- James Whitehead

I have a real liking for ex-London & North Western Railway (LNWR) locomotive­s, and, as I model a fictitious 1930s Joint GWR/LNWR (LMS) South Wales branch line in OO gauge, I always wanted a Webb 17in coal engine.

I recently bought An Illustrate­d History of LNWR Engines by Edward Talbot and was looking at the drawings of a 'Coal Tank' and a 'Coal Engine', and realised that the wheel size and axle spacings were the same, so I thought about converting my Bachmann 0-6-2 'Coal Tank', using the chassis and body to provide me with an 0-6-0 17in 'Coal Engine' chassis and body. I would worry about the Webb tender later.

It was starting to come together, but I knew that, once I started ‘hacking’ chunks off the coal tank body, including shortening the side-tanks and body and removing the rear trailing truck assembly, there was no going back. I bought an LNWR Coal Tank body off the internet and measured everything carefully using the excellent drawing in the aforesaid book. Then I measured it all again and, started.

I carefully removed all the pipework and handrails from the boiler sides and stored them in a safe place. Next job was to unclip the cab and roof. I then removed the trailing wheel and measured and cut the rear of the chassis just in front of the countersun­k wheel attachment drilling hole with a new Exacto saw blade. Once the bunker was removed, I replaced the cab and roof in its place and carefully cut the plastic with an Exacto saw blade.

The critical part, reducing the side tanks to the correct size, must be cut using a diamond cutting disc. I cut them slightly smaller than required because I didn't want to damage the footplate or remove the plastic boiler side near to the side tanks. I would rather file with a diamond file for hours than damage the footplate, and that is what I did, although, it only took me a few hours and that wasn’t too bad.

The LNWR body I used had Ramsbottom-type safety valves and, as I was modelling an engine from the mid-1930s, these had to be changed for a pair of Ross pop type safety valves, taken from the old Hornby 4F. These fittings can also be sourced easily online.

To fill in the boiler where it was damaged, I rolled a tube of thin Plastikard, gluing as I went along to the same diameter as the boiler and, once set, cut the sides out of this. The chassis is a tight fit, so I kept checking to make sure it fits into the bottom of the boiler. It was then a simple matter of filling the damage and shaping the boiler using body putty and fine sandpaper. I found the end of my wife’s nail files are brilliant. Don’t tell her!

Because the locomotive is DCC-fitted and I may fit a speaker in the tender, I decided to permanentl­y bolt the engine and tender together, so the speaker wire, when and if fitted, is not compromise­d. This is a simple job. A piece of thin brass wide enough to fit in the gap at the rear of the tender was drilled and shaped to the correct height and this can swivel. The bolt was firmly attached to the cast metal tender coupling lug because I didn't want this to wear. The bolt was passed through the brass locomotive attachment and lock bolted. I made a footplate and it covers the coupling. It's a little overwhelmi­ng, but I'm happy with that.

Fabricatin­g the hand rails on the ends of the tank cab sides was easy enough. Thin brass wire was used. I then hit the end of the wire with a hammer on an anvil to flatten it. I cut it to size, then cut it to the correct length, fixing it with a spot of super glue.

The next job was etching primer painting the tender and painting the locomotive. If you'd like a 17in Coal Engine and you have the skill, buy one of the excellent etched brass kits available. However, with a little care and expediency, you can create your own, especially, if like me, you find building etched brass locomotive kits a dark art. You may not be able to source a Gem tender and that said, putting a brass tender together would, in my opinion, be much easier to do than constructi­ng the engine. See the EBOR Group Facebook page for a video of this locomotive working.

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