Wrack and Ruin

A mid-life crisis in narrow gauge

Kate Out of the Gate

Yesterday I completed the IP Engineering ‘Kate’ diesel locomotive kit. It feels like it’s been going on for months but in fact it’s only been four weeks since the last blog post describing the start. There was however a longeur in the middle where I did little other than adding another coat of paint every evening when I had a spare half hour. (I hate painting, or rather I don’t mind painting itself - which is quite therapeutic as you smother grey primer with green/red/black - but I hate waiting for it to dry.)


I fitted another Delrin chain set to this one so the traction, particularly given the extra weight from the whitemetal engine block, ought to be pretty strong. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to test this yet as the rechargeables I was using while assembling the chassis had run out of puff by the time it was ready.

The worst part was trying to slot the switches through the holes in the cab and then line up the fixing screws and tighten them, with almost no clearance for a screwdriver. (Tip: either use a right-angled one or a very thin, long-stemmed one.) It’s a very tight enclosure in which to manipulate anything, and of course there are trailing wires in the way, not to mention soldered pins do not make for a comfortable hold. When I finally had them installed, I discovered that one of the leads had broken off the motor terminal during all my fumbling around, so it would never go without applying yet more heat and flux. (…Why does this scenario sound familiar?) It might perhaps have been easier to leave the back panel off until this part was done, although I can see how that could complicate painting. I also think I could have opted for longer wires to the motor, which I’d avoided thinking it meant less to stuff inside the cab. Anyway, I pray it never goes wrong because I’m not sure I’d ever want to dismantle it all again. (Why can’t kit makers just give us single, three-way switches instead of separate ones for direction and operation?)

Looking forward to taking this out for a spin once the batteries are recharged. I have an excellent test of its hauling capacity in mind, although it’s probably not a service the R&R would normally run: the North Pilton Works carriage that my Research Assistants kindly ordered as a Fathers Day gift arrived a few weeks ago.

IMG_20170702_162405~01 Although it’s a small (two compartment-sized) coach of appropriate dimensions by narrow gauge standards, it suddenly looks like a bit of a fat bloater next to all my existing stock. It’s so large and low-slung in fact, that it simply wouldn’t clear the trackbed as it stood, a problem I had also encountered with the IP Engineering three-compartment carriage. So I grabbed my trowel and got down on my knees (“…And I began to prayyy” ♬), and started to dig out large tufts of grass wherever they were encroaching on the track, turning an almost submerged trackbed into what felt like a motorway. Suddenly, it went from a look of overgrown, rundown WHR circa 1938 to freshly laid, modern contractor standard WHR post-2000. Not quite what best pleases me, but it looks like this will be the required maintenance level if I’m ever to run full-sized stock.

Despite all that effort, and the aching fingers and joints that resulted for the following week, the Rapier was still unable to pull the coach round the entire line, usually coming to a stop on the curves because, I suppose, of the extra resistance from the flanges coupled with the heavier weight. So let’s assume Jodi, I mean ‘Kate’ (it’s all go in nerdland), will be better.

The carriage itself is very nice, with some basic but pleasing detail inside, and probably built to a better standard than I would have managed. However, the finishing is a little rough in places, with one set of steps being slightly misaligned and the roof not quite fitting snugly as you can see in the photo (due, I think, to the inner glazing obstructing it). But I’m not going to quibble as I suspect these flaws can be resolved, and certainly with less effort than building a complete coach from parts.

Meanwhile, the half-complete Simplex chassis still lurks behind in the workshop…

Update: Video proof that Kate can haul the NPW coach.