7mm On Heather's Workbench - Festiniog Fancies

Discussion in 'Area 51' started by Heather Kay, 13 January 2018.

  1. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    In my usual scattergun approach to build schedules I am embarking on yet more new territory for me.

    Considering the contribution made to Britain's economy during the Industrial Revolution, the narrow gauge lines often seem to be overlooked by many. Today, they are slightly twee tourist things, with quaint steam engines, gaily painted and highly polished. A century or more ago, they were tough workhorses, hauling the products of their owners to docks and other larger gauge lines. In a relatively short amount of time, I have begun to learn about and appreciate the smaller gauge lines, for I have been commissioned to build two Festiniog Railway locos.


    The kits originate from the Wychbury Loco Works, now in the Mercian Models stable. In the box, etched brass upperworks, etched nickel silver chassis, and a mix of cast brass and whitemetal details. From the parts, it is possible to build examples of short and long wheelbase locos that were originally built by the George England works in London in the 1860s - though the finished models, like their full-sized counterparts, will be far removed from the original locos. Running gear is Markits 14mm wheels, and a simple gearbox. They will be built to O-16.5 standards.

    For this build, I am constructing "Prince" and "Princess", in their rebuilt form as they operated between about 1906 and 1920. They have a 4ft 6in wheelbase, and require some trimming and adjustment of the parts. The kit is capable of producing the 5ft wheelbase locos "Welsh Pony" and "Little Giant" as well. The original locos still exist, though "Princess" is cosmetically restored and doesn't run under power. The client has sourced some period images, and I've found a useful Wiki web site and images on Flickr which will all prove useful.

    I had planned to build both kits in tandem. However, a slight hiatus occurred when I checked the contents. One kit was bought secondhand, and sadly is missing one of the etch sheets, and some castings. I've been in touch with Trevor Cousens of Mercian, and he will have a body etch and the missing castings for me in a few weeks. Top man. Meanwhile, I dug into the other kit and made a start.


    The characteristic saddletanks of the later rebuilds are preformed. For the short locos, a slice needs to be removed, marked by a half-etched line, and then the close set rivets can be punched out. I was dubious about being able to maintain a straight line of rivets following the half-etch dimples, so I practiced a bit on the offcut pieces. In the end, think I managed a fairly neat job.


    The gap at the top is intentional. Joining the sides to the front and back caused a little muttering and singed fingers. By various means I managed to prop and hold the sides in register with the ends so I could spot solder until I was happy. The sides did need some adjustment to flatten the curve a little bit, but it all ended up reasonably square.

    A flat strip is provided on the etch to be soldered in the bottom of the tank sides to reinforce them and stop them bowing inwards. I elected to use some brass angle from the stock instead.


    Yes, it does look like nothing's changed, but I've sweated the front overlay on. Handrail knob holes need to be opened up for the centre of the handrail.


    And a little while later, knobs, grab handles, and rivet strips were all attached. The whistle base is a folded up affair, while the dome and filler lid are cast objects not currently attached. The rivet strips have to be cut to fit around the castings, which is relatively straightforward with care.

    The brass used for the etches is reminiscent of 4mm scale kits. It is very thin compared to the chunkier material I'm more accustomed to with standard gauge loco kits. I'm not complaining, mind. I simply have to adjust my handling routines accordingly.

    Tomorrow, I think it will be time to construct the running plate and smokebox. This evening, some more time poring over images for details.
    Last edited: 26 January 2018
    Peter Cross, Wagonman, Neil and 15 others like this.
  2. mth

    mth Western Thunderer

  3. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    Hi Mat. Yes, that's been bookmarked! :thumbs:
  4. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    Stage 2: footplate and smokebox.


    Catering for two wheelbases, you are instructed to identify the correct half etch fold lines for the appropriate version you're building. The lines you don't need should be flooded with solder to strengthen them against bends. I thought I was being careful by marking the appropriate lines, but still flooded one of the ones I needed. Silly. Equally, the running plate and valances have to be shortened appropriately. I managed that without error.


    Valances fit into half-etch lines, and the buffer planks are fitted at each end. Where the footplate is trimmed back, the buffer plank line is lost, but any competent solderer can handle that. I find there are all kinds of alternative couplings that can be used in this narrow gauge modelling world. The kit caters for a more or less working representation of the real thing on these locos. The client plans to use Alex Jacksons, but I really need to see an installation on this kind of vehicle to work out if further modifications will be needed. For example, there's a steam chest ahead of the front wheels, which I presume will affect how an AJ is installed on the front of the loco, always assuming it would still be possible to fit the system in such a short length. Anyway, so far, so straightforward.


    The smokebox is formed of a front plate, with suitable marks for the centreline and dimples for handrail knobs, a back plate, and the wrapper. The latter needs forming, so I annealed it gently and spent a while carefully forming the curves to match the formers. I elected to fit the front plate, as that's the visible one and needs to be the neatest joint. I started by marking centre lines all over the shop to try and help me keep bodging to a minimum. Once the wrapper was formed, I tacked it top centre, then spotted solder all round. The rear plate was a conundrum, as I couldn't see how I could hold it in place without support. In the end, as it's hidden and only really needed to keep the smokebox shape, I found a clothespeg on edge held it up while I could spot solder it into place.


    Now comes some head scratching. Somehow, a method has to be found to attach the tank and smokebox to the running plate. There are no marks or attachment points, so I've marked a centre line in various places to aid me. Reference is made in the instructions to soldering the cab front plate to the back of the tank and using that to hold things in place. I'm not clear on the smokebox end, but there are some etched odds and ends that represent the sandbox bases and a cast weight, so they'll help eventually - if only to hide any splodgy soldering. Current thinking is to use brass angle as something to keep the tank aligned on the running plate, and also work small tabs onto the tank front to keep the smokebox in place.


    Here's how it might look eventually. I think the cab front plate will come into play, but I need to check the side sheets bulk it out properly as it's supposed to be slightly wider than the tank, which it isn't right now. That may be one of those compromises we have to allow.

    I'm bored now. As it's Sunday, I shall go and do something more interesting than brass wrangling!
  5. Ian@StEnochs

    Ian@StEnochs Western Thunderer

    What could be more interesting than BrassWrangling on a Sunday?

    Locomodels likes this.
  6. ceejaydee

    ceejaydee Western Thunderer

    Love the England engines - part Rev Awdry's fault and part seeing the real thing.
    A fleeting glimpse of Prince on what I thought must be steam tests at Porthmadog on a damp June afternoon whilst waiting on the train to head towards Festiniog back in 2000 is an imahe that remains in my mind and on a photo somewhere.

    Would love a couple of models of the England locos in early cabless square tank form and later form as the iconic shape they are.

    Will be a pleasure to watch these locos take shape on your workbench :thumbs:
  7. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    Overseer posted a scratchbuild in his Oddments thread earlier. I was quite surprised at just how much these locos changed over the years. Not much of the original builds seems to have survived!

    As for brass wrangling I can only really stand so much in a day, hence my comment. Eventually, I just have to put the tools down and walk away before my marble makes a bid for freedom. :confused:

    Good progress today, with some ideas that worked and others that didn't quite as planned.


    Fitting the tank to the running plate relies to a great extent in having the smokebox and paraphernalia fitted. So, I made up the folded chimney base and lamp bracket (not fitted in this shot), plus the sanding pot bases and the representation of the cast ballast block. I decided that spots of solder could be used to hold the smokebox in place since they will mostly be hidden from view by other parts.


    A closer view showing the ballast block after I'd cleaned up my non-invisible soldering. The sanding pot bases are made of two etched parts each, one designed to form the curve. I can't help thinking a casting would be a better idea, but with care they make up nearly square and flat.


    Now thoughts turned to attaching the saddle tank assembly. Using some K&S 6mm brass angle I made a bracket at the front, fitted to the running plate. With a little adjustment, I managed to get a nice tight interference fit for the tank. From the illumination provided by that lightbulb, I did the same at the back. There is now no need to physically attach the saddle tank to the running plate. Pleasingly, it's currently held by friction alone. This will make life simpler for whoever gets the joy of painting these models. The saddle tank can always be glued in later if needed.




    This is where I've got to. I found a slight gap at the rear of the saddle tank, as it's set slightly forward on the running plate. I judged the gap to be about the thickness of the etched material, so I dug into the stock shelf, found some usable brass sheet, marked up and cut out a plate to cover the rear of the tank. Making up the cab was fun. I'm not a fan of soldered butt joints, but with the help of the engineer's squares (ever helpful) and a magnet, I managed it. Bluetack held the cab front on my flat block, while the squares supported a cab side. A quick dab with the iron and it held together. Repeat for the other side, and then fumble about for the back sheet, and the cab was more or less assembled. Not quite square, but nothing a gentle tweak couldn't cure. The roof has been formed, but will need to be removable.

    The problem now is how the cab attaches to the running plate. I am rather in favour of small section angle inside along the bottom edges. Something else that exercises me somewhat is how to form the firebox. The real thing has a nice brass rounded edge, which I am supposed to form from flat parts. A job for tomorrow, perhaps.
    LaScala, john lewsey, P A D and 8 others like this.
  8. ceejaydee

    ceejaydee Western Thunderer

  9. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    I've been kind of losing impetus with this little loco. It's down to hitting little obstacles that annoy.

    The client reminded me he would like the cab spectacles open. This is catered for in the kit, but requires the holes in the front and back plates to be opened up. This is ideally done before assembling the cab. I missed out beading around the rear door, also ideally done before assembling, etc. I decided the safest thing to do was disassemble the cab. :rolleyes:


    The real locos have a brass bed knob either side of the cab opening. According to the instructions, this is replicated in kit form by removing the shank from a handrail knob and soldering it - how isn't discussed - to the top of the side sheet. A cursory poke around the Internet found some photos of "Welsh Pony" which revealed square stanchions behind the sheet, topped with the knob. In my metal stocks I had some square section brass tube, albeit a little larger than scale. Cut to length and soldered either side the cab sheet openings, and I made a nice solid location point for a brass knob. The little strip at the bottom of the opening, by the way, is supposed to help prevent distortion of the side sheets during construction. This is a big fib, as it doesn't do anything sensible at all. In fact, if you want to build one of these, my recommendation would be to low melt solder some nice thick brass wire across the opening instead.


    I worked out how the firebox was supposed to go together. There is some thought that the front edges might be polished brass, so I'll think about that later. To hold the cab to the running plate, not a word is said in the instructions. After several sessions of holding the cab aligned with the tank assembly and making various marks with a pencil, then sitting and pondering about life, the universe and everything, I decided short lengths of milled 2mm brass angle at strategic locations would hold things together. It's damned useful stuff, I find. I must replenish my stocks next time I see some.


    Please forgive the messy soldering of the cab sheets. I have already explained I dislike butt joints, and this is the consequence of joining it all up to my satisfaction, and then doing it all over again! I did consider running a length of wire up each corner to reinforce things. It turns out the structure is quite solid once assembled, and more so once in place on the running plate. Some careful scraping and filing will tidy the mess up later.

    Once more I find I'm running out of puff. Cab details need doing, more information about how many whistles the loco needs, fettling the chimney, starting the tender - oh, and making the chassis. I think I need to find the opposite colour to "jade". :D
    john lewsey, P A D, dibateg and 8 others like this.
  10. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    I seem to have spent a lot of time today not getting very far. I think I've actually got further than I think.

    First, the cab door stanchions caused a stir. The client wondered if they weren't a relatively modern fitting. I spent a happy hour or two, while snow fell from the sky and Billy-puss snoozed on the sofa, seeking an answer. Turns out I was right, but the stanchions aren't actually square section. They are L-shaped section. So, the square ones will have to come off and be replaced.

    Meanwhile, I went about fitting the chimney. It's a whitemetal casting, and needed a little tidying to be presentable. Happily, the spigot on the bottom allowed me to clamp it in the Dremel and run files and sanding sticks over it. I repeated the trick with the sand pots, though they'll be fitted much later. I had to drill the smokebox out to take the cast spigot. During that operation, the rear smokebox former fell out. To be fair, it was only tacked in place. I decided to bin it and, while I had access inside the smokebox, to make a firmer attachment than just the simple tack solder joints at the front. The end result is the smokebox is now firmly attached and snuggles up to the front of the tank assembly nicely. The chimney was finally low-melt soldered in place.

    What next? Back to cab shenanigans, I think.

    The client, as they do, had decided he really wanted the rear cab doors open. Like the spectacles, the doors seem to be perpetually open, giving ready access to the tender. In fact, in latter years, the doors have simply been taken off completely. Happily, I'd only tacked the one-piece door in place, so it came out without complaint. Running a sharp craft knife down the half-etched centre line let me split it in twain. I suspect they'll have to be painted and then glued in after all the other painting is done.


    The next job was to sort out cab detailing. Like many locos, it pays not to take much heed of the way they look now. Sadly, there aren't any photos of the cab dating from before preservation, so it's a case of intelligent guesswork. The safety valve, for example, is a prominent feature on the tiny firebox. This kit contains a brass casting, which responded nicely to tidying up like the chimney. It doesn't actually reach the roof, though. The real valve protruded through the roof - there's a hole for it - to vent steam safely into the air. I rummaged in my metal stocks and found some tube just the right diameter to slip over the top of the casting. The inside diameter just happened to be right for another tube that also fortuitously was the right size for the roof hole. A bit of soldering extended the casting so it stuck out of the roof, with a nice hollow appearance. Happy with that, I soldered the safety valve to the top of the firebox. There'll be some further detailing I'll work out, but the end result will be a positive location for the roof so it can be left loose.

    A further rummage in the stocks found some L-section that ought to be ideal to replace the square stanchions. A job for tomorrow, I think.
    Len Cattley, P A D, mth and 4 others like this.
  11. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    With a short warm spell - for an English January, at least - I've been in and out of the paint shop on another job. In between bouts of spraying, I have pressed on with the cab fittings.


    The stanchions have been replaced. I've fitted the boiler gauge glass, a brass casting a mite too big but it'll do. The regulator quadrant is on, and I've made my favourite confection of brass tube, wire and scrap etch for the whatever it is that's attached to the safety valve.

    (I just forced myself to find out what "it" actually is, and now I know. It's a spring balance system to control the safety valve. Obviously. ;))


    The rather two-dimensional reversing lever and quadrant has been installed to the left of the firebox. It's a bit too close to the stanchion, so expect barked knuckles! It'll do, lost in the cab gloom, hidden by a driver. I'm currently thinking the smokebox assembly would be best attached to the cab. The alternative is to fix it to the floor, but I think sliding the cab over it after painting might risk damage. Once all the paintwork is done, the various assemblies can be glued in place if necessary.

    I will add some brass angle under the roof to provide a positive location along with the safety valve pipe, then thoughts will turn to making the critter go. I keep forgetting the tender, but that may well be light relief after building the chassis!
    Last edited: 23 January 2018
    john lewsey, Stuart, dibateg and 4 others like this.
  12. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer


    On wheels! The chassis is a fold-up affair, with some extra spacers. The cylinders and ash pan hang from it.

    Despite all the evidence before me all along, I've only just realised this loco is designed to run on 14mm gauge track. I guess I'm going to have to knock up a short length of test track, then.

    EDIT: As seems to be the way with this commission, the kits I have are sent to try me. One box has O-16.5 axles, and the one I chose to build has 14mm axles. The client actually wants 16.5, so we're going to have to source a replacement pair of axles. Meanwhile, I've pilfered the right wheelsets from the other box so at least I can make this little blighter run. Well, at least I won't have to make some 14mm track now.
    Last edited: 26 January 2018
    LaScala, Greengiant, P A D and 3 others like this.