By Brian Dominic

The varnished Jurassic wagon.

When you get into cheap ‘n cheerful modelling, you tend to look very carefully at the cheaper rolling stock kits: you wouldn’t really want to have a wagon in a rake that’s cost more than the loco! You sometimes have to look very carefully and wander down some very obscure back roads to find what you want (with the notable exception of IP Engineering, whose Ezee range is eminently affordable – the B-I-G coaches only cost £30).

Having done that, I offer you a couple of budget priced kits. The first is a small 4-wheeled wagon by Jurassic Models, laser-cut from ply and business-card-quality card stock and costing £14.50. Like all Jurassic models, this comes without instructions, but does come with wheels, axles, axle boxes and pins for couplers – much better than some of his other kits, for which you have to supply these parts. One very important instruction that you do need to be aware of, is that as this kit uses “tab and socket” joints, rather than the more usual “tab and slot” construction, it’s vital that you clean out the sockets thoroughly with the end of a craft knife (or ideally, the end of a small scalpel blade) so that the tabs fit in properly, before you start assembling in earnest.

What you get in the envelope – I think the “piece of ply” approach to packing all the little bits is GREAT!

I actually built one of these at a U3A (University of the Third Age) Open Afternoon recently. It was quite interesting, working out how few tools and materials I could get away with, and in fact I was able to manage with very few. The first job was to roughen up the top edges of the wagon, so that it would look “used”. After that, I stained the woodwork with my patent diluted Indian Ink wash: once this was dry the basic “box” was assembled. Whilst the glue on this was drying, I made up the two solebars with bearings, axlebox body and card overlays, the whole being spray painted black on completion.

The “distressed and stained” example.

By this time, the “box” was solid, so final assembly with wheels and solebars completed the main build. I had already detached all the strapping pieces from the card sheet and painted them with black acrylic paint (which dries very quickly) so it was a simple matter to glue these on and paint the underframe section and buffer/couplings with the same paint to complete the job, which took a whole two-and-a-quarter hours! In comparison, the other one illustrated was sprayed with matt varnish, as I like to have at least one wagon “in the raw” on the layout to show people.

The pair together.

The other wagon is a mine tub, built from a kit supplied by Phil Sharples, (01535 690348) who has a range of 18 kits whose fame is currently spreading by word of mouth (and word of Internet – his eBay ID is vwmonkeyblue). This kit, though very simple to assemble and costing just £7.50, comes with comprehensive instructions (2 sheets of them) which are a great help in deciding what goes where.

The mine tub kit displayed (it comes in a plastic bag).

It is so well cut that it can be fully assembled dry, which is what I did by way of a trial run. Having seen how it all went together, the “box” which forms the body of the wagon was assembled, as was the base and uprights. If you are going to use the supplied tee pieces for your couplers, it might be advisable to drill out the holes for these in the top sheet of the base (the one that forms the floor). 2.5mm will do the job (and it stops the tee piece going in too far) and glue these into the floor of the wagon before you continue assembly – there’s nothing to get in the way of clumsy fingers. I eventually evolved an assembly method where the uprights were glued into the middle layer of the base first: this means that the bottom and top layers end up perfectly in alignment. It’s awfully difficult to slide the sections of the sandwich of three layers when you put the uprights in – don’t ask me how I know this!

The “dry” assembled body.

These two sub-assemblies were then spray painted – black for the base and bauxite (red primer) for the body. A warning here – I have never known laser-cut edges to absorb so much paint – 2 coats plus a going-over with a brush. Next time, the cut edges would benefit from a smear of PVA to seal it before painting, or else sanding these edges back to bare MDF before painting. The result? A delightful little wagon. I’ve only got three more to build, but they should be done for Llanfair.

The completed job. Note to self: must take more care when inserting axlebox into frame (but it does run OK).

Text and photos by Brian Dominic.