By Nigel Town

March 2014 will see the publication of the Modellers Guide to the Festiniog Railway. This will be the third in our series of Modellers Guides, the first two featuring the Penrhyn Quarry railway and the Leighton and Buzzard railways.

This Model of the Month previews one of the models featured in the guide. The photographs here show some of the construction stages, and clicking here will take you to the downloads section where you will find the templates to make your own.

This model is something a bit different. The challenge was to produce a quality model with minimal cost, yet still produce a detailed “high fidelity” scale model.

This model is of one of the Festiniog Railway gunpowder vans. A a potted history shows that Boston Lodge supplied a number of these to a standardised design. This explains why a number of the quarries had similar wagons. The main external details are the steel cladding. There is an early photo of the inside of one of these wagons that shows the internal wood planks running the length. This makes sense when you look at the steel cladding and the massive number of rivets used in holding the steel plates together. The three hoop bands would serve little structural purpose in normal circumstances. If there was ever an accident the hoop bands would contain any small explosion. The basis for this model is from a photo study (by Tim Gregson) of one of these wagons which now resides at the Bala Lake Railway. Additionally there are a couple of useful photos on the Festpedia website that show the interior of the wagon body.

The other striking feature is the single sided brake mechanism. With this mechanism both of the levers pivot, the vertical lever is connected directly to the lay shaft, the arc shaped lever is fastened to the wagon body. This arc shaped lever has two halves, with the vertical lever sandwiched in between and it is arranged so that as the lever falls the brakes are driven on. As the arc shaped lever has to be lifted the vertical lever is released from the ratchet.

This chassis is built on a small square of card from a cereal box. The solebars are made from 3mm x 4mm bass strip wood. The axle guards are Binnie parts. These are glued and pinned onto the solebars with superglue and Peco rail tacks, with the small sizes of wood I drilled the holes first to avoid splitting. The solebars are slightly further inset on this model so that there is no problem with axle length. The model uses standard Slater’s wheelsets 1618FRW. The axles on these wheels are slightly shorter than the prototype, so the solebars need to be nudged in a small amount. The track pins protrude through the wooden solebars and have been filed back to smooth, ultimately they will be concealed but more of that later. The central chassis stretcher is made from a slightly deeper section of material. On the prototype this stretcher is an I-beam, the model uses a plain rectangular section.

The main part of the body of the van is made from two pieces of medium stock paper. These are printed on the inside for the fold lines. The rivet detail is embossed simply by pressing a ballpoint pen at each point. I used a green cutting mat to have a small amount of “give” under each point. When assembling these parts use the smallest amount of PVA. PVA glue can cause a rippling effect if too much glue is used. I found this the hard way during the build of the second prototype. Using a thinner card means that the templates can be printed in a conventional home printer. The downside is that there is less strength in the material. The body of the van is filled with a core of material. This is made from thicker corrugated material. This core is built up in a number of layers forming a laminated core. These layers are only glued on their horizontal faces, and onto the bottom of the van body. The first prototype bit the dust when I tried to build in a series of internal ribs to strengthen the structure. For the second attempt I went for a solid “core”. This core needed to have strength without being too heavy. I used some corrugated card. It was a case of using what was to hand. The mistake I made with the second version was to glue the core to the vertical sides on the van. Gluing the core to the vertical sides also caused the rippling of the sides, and led to the scrapping of prototype number two.

So on to the third attempt… This was made in the same way laminating the core from card. The core was cut to a tight fit and not glued to the sides or bottom. Each lamination in the core was glued to its neighbour only. For the curved section at the top 5 vertical pieces were glued on edge to run the length of the body. These simply support the roof as it curves around the top.

The detail strapping was printed, embossed, cut and glued in that order. This just makes the parts easier to handle while they are being embossed and was another thing that I figured out the hard way! The only complex overlay is the reinforcing around the doors. I made this in one piece and then embossed it and cut it out carefully. I made the mistake of printing it out from the external side, and then embossing it from the printed side. Too late, I’d run out of time to redo it. The printed templates have been reversed for this part now. The door hinges are simple strip cut and glued in place. There are no templates for these as they need to be cut from thicker card (too thick for most photocopiers and printers). The door clasps are simply folded up from the templates and then mounted on a thicker card base to stand them off the face of the door. The pivot point for the locking bar is made from the “holes” from a hole punch with some thicker card again.

With the body complete I painted the whole before adding the locking bar and the brake lever. I hand painted the first coat to seal the paper.

With the body drying I returned to finish the underframe. The brakes are made as one unit. I made mine from 3 laminated layers, with 4 thicker pieces of card (one each side of each brake block) to bulk up width for the brake blocks. This assembly was then glued onto the underside of the base. The frame sides (solebars) of the base on the prototype are metal with rivets and bolt detail. To represent these I printed off and embossed the detail onto an overlay that is glued onto the wooden frames.

The ratchet for the brake mechanism was the final component for manufacture. This is tedious I’ll admit and just needs a sharp craft knife and a big dose of patience. The two halves were cut at the same time, and then a “filler” was made for either end, the handle and the pivot.

For painting the body top coats I used a Halfords Cellulose satin black spray. The first couple of coats need to be really light as the paint absorbs un-evenly into the card.

The finished model; Well I’m pleased with my first cardboard exploits, all I need to do now is figure out what to do about couplings and give it a run……

If you’d like to see the finished model, and my two earlier prototypes, they will feature in the “display only” section of the Modeller of the Year exhibit at the National Garden Railway show on the 12th April 2014 at the Peterborough Arena.

Nigel Town