Here’s another story about a 7/8″ scale Welsh two foot narrow gauge model I built a couple of years ago…
For some reason, despite 3 or 4 unfinished projects on the workbench, I got the bug to build a model of the original Talyllyn No. 7 for my 7/8” scale Idlenot Light Railway. The prototype was the Penrhyn Quarry Railway quarrymans carriage “H” but with a roof – essentially an open third.
In the early days of the Talyllyn preservation society, six Penrhyn quarrymans carriages made their way to Pendre. The Talyllyn shops constructed three cars from them: Nos. 7, 8 and 9. Nos. 7 and 8 were simply Penrhyn carriage bodies (“H” and “P”) with their 2′-0″ wheels replaced with 2’-3” gauge wheels from Corris slate wagons to suit the Talyllyn’s gauge. Each seated 18 passengers. (The Penrhyn though squeezed 24 workmen into each carriage!) No. 9 was an 8 wheel, bogie trucked frame with 2 Penrhyn carriage bodies (“C” and “D”) mounted on top. The volunteers added a roof to No. 7 while Nos. 8 and 9 ran open to the sky. Being a bit decrepit to start with none of these cars were in service all that long (we’re talking the early ‘60s) but they helped fill a shortage of passenger rolling stock at a critical time. By the way, the frame from No. 7 was later repurposed for the Talyllyn Refreshment Van or “tea van”. The Idlenot is certainly going to need one of those. It’s on the short list.
Despite laser cut kits being available in 7/8” scale for these carriages I decided to build mine from scratch. I worked primarily from old photos and plans in Bernard Rockett’s Penrhyn Quarry Railways, Part 1. In addition, Great Railway Eras No. 9 Talyllyn 60 has nice photos of both No. 7 and No. 8. The Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modelers’ Penrhyn Quarry Railway Modeler’s Guide had a few pages on building the 16mm kit versions of these carriages and that was helpful too.
John Bate’s tome, The Chronicles of Pendre Sidings, provided much behind the scenes information – he was there, after all! I learned of the channel underframe stiffeners from the text and a photo showing No. 7 tipped partly over. The stiffeners were added to stop the shimmying that was causing alignment the axleboxes. That’s certainly something we want to avoid on the Idlenot.
The body and underframe of Idlenot No. 7 are made largely from basswood. The ends are aircraft ply scribed to the correct board width. A 16g steel subfloor gives the car a little heft. 7/8ths Railway Equipment Co. axleboxes and Sierra Valley gauge 1 spoked wheel sets were used in the spirit of the basic running gear on the prototype. Many brass “lil” pins were added for carriage bolt detail. (I always thought my English granddad was saying “Lillpins”. Fifty or so years later, I realized they were just small.) Corner strapping was formed from styrene strips and dress pins. Angle braces for the seat backs and the underframe’s channel stiffeners came from styrene shapes.
Accucraft round face chopper couplers – standard on the Idlenot – were mounted along with Penrhyn style eye rings from Talisman. The inevitable holidays were filled with Squadron Green putty and the body given a coat of sanding sealer, then gray primer. In deference to its Penrhyn roots, the finish coat is a dark, brownish, purplish eggplant color. Not having a color sample to work from I mixed Polly Scale PRR Maroon and AT&SF Blue to get a shade I thought close – maybe aubergine. It took quite a few airbrush coats to get even coverage. The number “7” was hand painted in white on each end.
The seats are bench slats, as on the later run of home-built Penrhyn cars, with a varnished finish. These went in last. Two letters “H” were fashioned from brass, shined up and attached to each side. Not trusting adhesive to hold these on for very long a sturdier mounting method was sought. I drilled through #70 twice on each letter then through the car sides. Dress pins were pushed through from the inside, soldered to the front of the letters, trimmed and cleaned up. They’ll never come off!
The roof and stanchions are constructed from brass for strength. Using the car body as a jig, the stanchions were cut from square brass tubing, drilled and mounted to the sides with 0-80 nuts and bolts. Then, when everything was squared up, the letterboards were soldered to the tops of the stanchions with resistance soldering tweezers.
Brass crosspieces were fashioned to the arch of the roof by sawing and filing. Soldering the two frames foresquare to the crosspieces was problematic until I thought to leave the side frames bolted to the car sides and push them together against the crosspieces with bar clamps. I turned to an 80W iron for this work being careful to keep each stanchion clamped to the letterboard as I went around. Now the entire roof assembly could be easily handled as a unit.
I decided on tinplate sheet as a sub-roof. It solders so easily. And it was easy to bend to the arch of the roof. The roof frame was turned upside down and soldered to the sub-roof in a rolling fashion, again using the 80W iron. Once in place, the sub-roof was trimmed to size with a pair of household scissors.
After an overnight bath in citric acid the roof assembly was clean and ready for paint. Masking off the roof top, I gave the frame a coat of rattle can etch primer in that lovely new shade of monkey vomit green followed by an automotive satin black.
The finished appearance of the roof was to be a canvas look which I do with cotton cloth. Since I couldn’t shellac to the nonporous tinplate subroof I instead used rubber contact cement. After ironing the cloth smooth and wrinkle free I coated it with cement. The tinplate was cleaned with acetone and it too was coated with cement. In 20 minutes or so the cement flashed dry. Then, the cloth was carefully draped over the roof and, with the help of a warm dress iron, bonded to the tinplate. Finally, the rooftop was given a coat of gray primer and several coats of white to represent a heavily leaded paint finish. I don’t weather my passenger rolling stock as the Idlenot volunteers take loving care of their roster so it’s finished off with Testors Gloss Cote.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that everything went smoothly. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. Ask my wife about the film of rubber cement I left on her iron. Some ideas just didn’t work out. I can be ham fisted and sometimes a little impulsive. Part of the model building craft is learning to overcome or at least skillfully hide your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to throw out a part or an entire assembly for that matter and do it over! The first body for No. 7 went straight into the tipper. I didn’t like it. It just didn’t look right.
My large scale models are meant to be viewed from several feet away in the garden so I try to strike a balance and not rat hole into too much fine detail. The three foot rule is in force. Or is it the ten foot rule? I forget. Generally, I don’t bother much with underframe or interior detail if it can’t be seen with the car upright on the rails.
With the roof assembly bolted to the body the carriage was finally complete. It’s numbered Idlenot Light Railway No. 7 and, I must say, looks quite the tart – making the scene in aubergine.