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Coach-building by David Gibson


My first attempt at ‘O’gauge coach-building was a Southern Railway bogie luggage van from a ‘Slater’s’ kit. This went together well even though the body-sides and roof each come in two sections which have to be carefully aligned to produce an accurate model. Next attempt was an LMS period III steel-sided 50 foot full brake (diagram 2007) and was one of Malcolm Binns’ extensive range of etched brass coach kits under his ‘Sidelines’ label  I particularly enjoyed building this kit as it was my first attempt at an etched brass coach, and it went together very easily thanks to Malcolm’s design and precise etching, and not least his advice and guidance (Malcolm is a CDOGG member). Soldering the sides and ends together took no time at all, and the extruded aluminium roof clipped into place so accurately that the basic rigid body shell was achieved in about twenty minutes. I have since built two LNER Thompson non-corridor coaches from Sidelines kits and again they present no problems if the necessary care is taken to ensure that the body is absolutely square.


I have always had a ‘soft spot’ for LNER Gresley teak-panelled coaches (inspired by childhood memories in the North East) and the plastic modular parts produced by Ian Kirk has enabled me to assemble a respectable collection at a very reasonable price. Ian’s concept is to produce standard panels which can be mixed and matched to create a range of different vehicles, in the same manner as the real ones were. Most of the panelled vehicles have joints coinciding with door frames which disguise the joints nicely, others, such as the open stock and buffet car, need a little more care to hide the panel joints. Also in Ian’s range are steel flush-sided coaches where the joints need to be rubbed smooth, and if done carefully do not need to be filled, but if hairline joins are evident, a little filling will sort it out. I have built two LNER Thompson corridor coaches by this method and can confirm that an excellent finish can be obtained. The moulded bow ends and the slope-ended roofs of the Gresley corridor stock (the latter vacuum-formed) can, with patience and care, produce very accurate representations of these distinctive vehicles. Ian sells packs of parts which include side panels, ends, roof, interior partitions, floor and bogie parts and basic underframe mouldings, leaving the builder to source wheels, buffers, roof vents and other fittings of their choice for whatever level of detail the individual modeller requires. He will also sell you parts from any of his kits so that you can kit-bash, modify or build other vehicles not yet included in his range. I have used this approach to build a diagram 167 Gresley Buffet Car, as modified by BR in the late 1950’s, by replacing some of the panels and window mouldings. All my coaches built from Kirk kits have replacement underframe trusses made from brass angle and strip to make them more robust.


My most ambitious project has been a Gresley teak diagram 164 Travelling Post Office (TPO) sorting van, using the lower part of standard Kirk panels and scratch-building the upper part of the panels. Forming the recess for the pick-up net and scratch-building the pick-up equipment was a taxing but rewarding experience. I will let you decide from the photographs if it was successful.


I visit the Great Central Railway quite often, and this enables me to study the Gresley coaches located on this excellent Heritage line at first hand.


I  have had a lot of help from members of Railway Vehicle Preservations (RVP) the Group responsible for the restoration, operation and maintenance of the coaching stock on the Great Central. I particularly enjoy seeing the ‘mail drops’ operated by RVP using their collection of LNER and BR-built mail coaches. I can thoroughly recommend membership of ‘Friends of the Great Central Main Line’ (FOGCML) and of RVP, and if you have never visited this line, particularly on one of the many Gala weekends, you are missing a real treat.


The accompanying photographs illustrate some of the various kits and coaches mentioned. My hope is that this brief account of my experiences may encourage others to ‘have a go’ at building. All you will need are some basic tools, plenty of patience (never rush your modelling – remember that it is a hobby and you are meant to enjoy it) and take care in what you do; keep trying and you will be amazed at what you can achieve. I always remember what a good friend and accomplished modeller quoted to me many years ago: “The man who never made a mistake never made anything”.


If you have any comments, or if I can be of further help, I can be contacted through this website.

                                                                                                David Gibson.


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