Wrack and Ruin

A mid-life crisis in narrow gauge

Breaking Eggs

I should have guessed it was a bad day when the pancakes went wrong. For some reason, a tradition has evolved of having American-style pancakes for breakfast on Sundays in our household. My youngest Junior Research Assistant always mixes the batter, usually with practiced ease, but yesterday the egg simply smashed into fragments, with yolk and pieces of shell dripping off her hand into the bowl. Whisking the batter, I managed to splatter a fair amount around the worktop and floor. Then I burnt the pancakes - not just the first batch but two further ones.

Not knowing when to quit, after breakfast I carried on with the build of my IP Engineering Freelance Two Compartment/Guards Coach kit, which was tantalisingly close to a running state. I’d fitted the undercarriage and wheels the previous day, and only want of a 2mm drill prevented me adding the couplings; the wire hooks simply would not fit into the predrilled holes on the buffer beams, even after drilling out with a 1.5mm drill. I also needed the drill for some improvements to my Rapier loco, so I made the trek down the hill to B&Q (in the unreassuring knowledge that I was about to pay over the odds for something that would cost half as much if I’d been able to wait for an online order).

Well, those hooks certainly fitted after enlarging the holes in the buffers - they dropped right through. Quick squirt of superglue and a brief wait and we were all set. I wanted to conduct a load test with the Rapier before fitting the roof, in case I decided to add some extra weight although - hefting it in both hands - this suddenly seemed an unlikely requirement.

It didn’t go well. A combination of the wider carriage body, reduced lineside clearance due to that damn lawn, minimum radius curves and an underpowered engine meant that this blotchy crimson and white monstrosity would have been fine if we’d been recreating the bit in “The Titfield Thunderbolt” where they all get out and push. Rather less satisfactory from a running point of view.

Sigh; think again. The instructions said to fit the wheels centred at 170mm - in retrospect, I should have reduced this a tad. I found someone on a forum saying they’d gone for 140mm centres to get round LGB Radius 1 curves (which are 24” radius, even tighter than Peco SM32), although there’s probably a risk that the extra outward swing on the body could drag any linked vehicles off the rail. It looks like I’ll have to unglue the axleboxes with some acetone and redo it, and even then I doubt my Rapier will have the grunt to haul it in its present state. To be fair, the kit was originally bought with one eye on live steam in the near future, but right now I’m not sure even an Accucraft could successfully drag it round my tight corners.

Fortunately, I have another IP Engineering coach kit on hand, and it’s a shorter one. Unfortunately, I found gluing and painting the body of this one was a real drag; I mean, it took literally years (on and off, and more off than on). However, North Pilton Works do some basic but very nice, pre-assembled and painted coaches with interior detailing for not much more than the price of a kit like this. Figure in the cost of glue, paint and accessories and they look like bargains. Hints have duly been dropped regarding Fathers Day.

With a little of the day remaining, I opened the bag containing the IP Engineering Plate Frame Simplex kit and took a proper look. I really like the idea of having a little engine like this, with a short rake of tippers, and I’d also like to have something else that runs, but this is a whitemetal kit that’s a clear step beyond the ‘Ezee’ Rapier. After some filing down (and straightening out), I went with ye olde faithful superglue for the first try at fitting the frames together. Nope, that ain’t gonna work, although it was remarkably effective at sticking the parts to the work surface. It looks like it’ll have to be the epoxy resin, which is going to make this one much more time-consuming to piece together. There’s a good blog post detailing construction of one, which starts simply and rapidly becomes rather involved (although admittedly, the builder does go overboard on enhancements and mods). There is a crazy amount of detail to assemble, right down to gluing the individual slats on the driver’s seat (dude can sit on an upturned bucket for all I care). I think we’ll be lucky to see this one on the rails before xmas. In the interim, I might get hold of a ‘Kate’ presfix kit to see if that can be thrown together any quicker. One thing I would prefer is for all new locos to have four wheel drive to improve their haulage capabilities on my dippy track; IPE used to sell an optional axle chain drive for this purpose, but it’s no longer shown in their online shop; the nearest equivalent appears to be the Delrin system from the States. If it works, I am sorely tempted to try retrofitting this to the Rapier.

On balance, I don’t enjoy building kits. They always seem to involve gluing narrow edges together, which is a fairly precarious business. Very few of them are available in materials other than whitemetal or plasticard; there were some very nice precoloured resin models around a few years ago, but they’ve all gone off the market now. Painting is a huge ballache. If I had all the time in the day and a permanent work area to do nothing else, it might be different. As it is, I got into this to run things, not to spend hours hunched over the kitchen table inhaling toxic fumes and swearing at poor tolerances.

To end on a bright note, stealing some ideas from Mr Wood and others, I added a bit of detailing to the Rapier so that it looks a bit less “will this do?”
Handlebars, exhaust pipe and radiator cap (and some glazing, but you can’t see that). Might even stretch to some vents and a driver if I can source the right parts. ‘Andsome, in’e?