Kit Reviews








Cambrian Models for Society: £3.95
Only Available to members through the 3mm Society Shop

Thanks to the generous bequest of the late John Fisher, the Society has been able to commission a number of Great Western wagon kits, of which this 16ft-long 5-plank Open Merchandise Wagon, dating from 1925, is the first. The neat body is by Cambrian Models and the chassis the familiar Parkside nine-footer. The body parts are nicely detailed, with plenty of angle irons and boltheads and a well-modelled sack-barrow door whose bottom plank is angled on the outside and the inside (a 3mm first). Optional extra parts enable the wagon to be built with a sheet rail and Dean-Churchward brakes.

The two sides, two ends and the floor fit together well, and just for a change the floor drops in from the bottom. As ever, Cambrian corner mitres are approximate by comparison with Parkside’s masterworks, but only a little filling and fettling is required. The top edges of the sides are rough and need sanding down level with the tops of the corner plates. Once these little tasks (in truth no more tiresome than removing a bit of flash) have been done the bufferheads can be glued in place and the chassis fitted in the normal way. In no time an attractive wagon is ready to paint. As usual, I fitted Worsley Works etched brake levers instead of the Parkside mouldings.

Paul Furner’s instructions are as always clear and informative, and include brake and livery details. These wagons lasted until the early 1960s and travelled all over the railway, so you don’t need to be a GWR enthusiast to justify running one or two. It’s a kit John Fisher would have liked a lot.

3mm Society: £5.50 yard; 5 yds £25.00 + P&P
Available through the 3mm Society

Modellers using 14.2mm gauge track have been after a product like this for years. Now at last it has arrived. For your money you receive a bag of sprues of track base panel sufficient for one yard, together with instructions, plus Society Code 60 bullhead rail for one yard; there is a discount for purchasing five yards at a time. There are two panels to each sprue, each panel consisting of six sleepers joined together by a thin web underneath where the rail will go; on alternate sides there is a gap in the web, to allow the panel to be curved. A Stanley knife will detach a panel from the rest of the sprue, cleanly and in no time at all.

The sleepers are very cleanly moulded, with a textured surface on top to prevent them having an unnatural smoothness, and the 3 bolt chairs are very neatly moulded. The sleepers are spaced at scale 2ft 6in centres, a common spacing, are the normal scale 10in wide, and a scale 9ft long. This is correct for anything up until 1918; after that 8ft 6in sleepers were gradually introduced for main lines, and after Nationalisation 9ft sleepers were found mainly in sidings. If you have a good guillotine such as a NSWL Chopper then you can chop 0.75mm off the ends of the sleepers in a batch of panels very quickly indeed to produce 8ft 6in panels. The sleepers are 1mm deep, which should give them enough strength while being easy to ballast. The first picture overleaf shows a sprue as received, a detached panel, and a panel whose sleepers have been reduced to 8ft 6in.

The instructions are brief but appropriate. Give the rail a good wipe; I ran cotton buds along it. Remove any burrs on the ends. Make sure the rail is the right way up, then feed it through the chairs. That’s all there is to it. The rail goes in very easily indeed, and once in the track can be flexed as easily as any flexible track I’ve ever come across: it doesn’t come better than this. I did wonder if the rail was being held too loosely, but the chairs seem to hold it in the right position with no sideplay, and a Finney & Smith track gauge fitted perfectly.

For laying track I normally print out a track template using Templot software, place some double-sided tape along the line of the track and build the track on top of that. Now we 14.2mm gaugers tend to be a fussy lot, and like to get things like the sleepers in the right positions as indicated on the template, which means that they need to be closer together where the rail joints are deemed to occur. I started with some straight track; once I’d fed the rail through the panels I turned it over and cut a bit out of the webs on both sides where the sleepers needed to be closer. Holding the track above the template and starting from one end, I found it quite easy to position each sleeper in the right position both sideways and along the track and when satisfied to press it down onto the tape. I reckon the end result is actually neater, and an awful lot easier, than the track I build by hand. The result is shown in the second picture. The next issue is laying curves. If you’re not fussy, there’s no problem. But if you want your sleepers in the right places then the spacing is no longer adequate, so you need proceed as for the straight track but cut the webs between all the sleepers.

Another issue relates to turnouts. As currently only plain track is provided, you’ll need to be able to match it to turnouts produced by some other method. The critical measurement to match is the height of the rail top above the base of the sleepers; on the new track this is about 3mm. I normally use Ian Osborne’s chairs glued to 0.75mm-thick Plastruct or Evergreen strip for the turnout timbers, for which I found that the equivalent measurement is 2.9mm. I reckoned that the 0.1mm difference should be OK if the two methods meet in the middle of a bit of rail, but it might be a good idea to avoid the two methods meeting at a rail joint. In the case of a turnout the solution seemed to be to replace the sleeper I’d normally use at each rail end with a sleeper cut from a track panel.
To test the curving and turnout issues, I decided to try something I’d had in mind for some time, to build a “difficult” piece of track to see how my stock coped with it. In Templot I drew a 32in-radius curved track, sharp for 14.2mm gauge, and placed an asymmetrical Y turnout in the middle. I built the turnout in the normal way but used a panel sleeper at each track end. Then I added the curved plain track. Like the straight track, this went in place very easily; however, I did curve the rail beforehand to the 32in curvature of the track, to avoid side stresses and their effects, and reckon that this was a good idea. I tried both short-wheelbase goods stock and a long-wheelbase Fruit D on the track, and all worked fine. This is shown in the picture.

This superb product is very reasonably priced, and it will give those interested in 14.2mm gauge a terrific boost. If this is where your interests lie, then get some. You will find uses for it which you’ve hardly thought of.

The next step for the Society is to produce individual chairs to match, for point building. The sooner the better! Buying this track now will help finance that expensive investment, so will itself yield further benefits. Well done to all those involved in this track’s production.

Nigel Brown



Parkside for 3mm Society: £4.75 + P&P
Available through the 3mm Society

The production of this kit was made possible by the generous bequest of the late John Fisher

In an attempt to encourage collieries and coal companies to forsake traditional low-capacity wooden wagons, in 1924 the Great Western built large numbers of 20T all-steel wagons to several slightly different designs. They were hired to a good number of coal carriers and traders, including Stephenson Clarke. Their popular name came from Sir Felix Pole, then General Manager of the GWR. In 1927 the design was changed, fixed ends replacing double end doors, to create high-capacity Loco Coal wagons. In the early 1950s BR abandoned the use of dedicated loco-coal wagons and the fixed-end Felix Poles were used for commercial coal traffic from the then until their withdrawal in the 1970s. In BR days the capacity of these wagons was increased to 21T.

This new kit can be made as a Dia N24 Coal Wagon with two end doors or a Dia N27 Loco Coal Wagon, with Dean-Churchward brakes – and, with a little ingenuity, a number of other diagrams with conventional brakes, as Paul Furner’s detailed illustrated instructions explain. Even if, like me, you’re not much given to following instructions, you’d be well advised not to mislay them this time. As well as the entirely new body mouldings shown below, the kit also includes two versions of the familiar Parkside 12ft wagon chassis and the more recent accessory sprue, which includes original and replacement axleboxes. Paul clearly explains which parts to select from these to make each of the possible variants.

Thanks to Parkside’s usual perfect corner joins and a floor that drops neatly into place, the body goes together very easily, in just a few minutes. Make sure you don’t use too much solvent as there is a chance of its squeezing out and making a mess of the delicate rivet detail on the corners. The fixed-end wagons have self-contained buffers with plastic heads, the end-door type RCH spindle buffers with the usual turned steel heads.

The instructions show livery details through photographs of model and preserved prototype. In GWR times, the end-door wagons were dark grey and the loco-coal ones black. In the BR period both types were pale grey with black underframes and numbering on black patches. By the 1960s and 70s they were nine parts rust, a finish modellers seem to enjoy applying. Any kind of weathering, however gentle, will accentuate the beautifully delicate rivet and angle-iron detail of this splendid kit. Those of you who have been 3mm modellers since the dawn of time will remember how hard it was to assemble the K’s white-metal version of this wagon square and make it run satisfactorily, and will welcome this top-quality, easily-assembled and far more accurate kit. I think we can be sure John Fisher would have approved.




Parkside for Society: £14.50 + P&P
Available through the 3mm Society

In 1939 the LNER built some distinctive four-wheeled CCTs with vertical body planks, toplights and three sliding doors each side. At 37ft 6in long, they were the largest British CCT and useful enough for BR to build another batch in 1950. Like Southern PMV and CCT utility vans and GWR inside-framed Siphons they carried parcels and newspapers well into the Rail Blue era.

This latest Society plastic kit is as impressive and – in the main – straightforward to build as Parkside kits always are. It consists of sides, ends, floor, roof, detailed chassis and delicate footboards. If you have built the Fruit D or the Southern utilities, you will find construction of this van familiar. As ever, precise corner joints make assembling the two sides and two ends easy, and the floor slips in as exactly as always. The solebars, complete with springs and axleboxes, to which axlebox covers are glued, butt against ribs under the floor to make a foursquare rigid chassis which runs sweetly, despite its long (23ft 6in) wheelbase. The late Dave Southam showed how to compensate the generally similar Fruit D in Mixed Traffic 164.

Basic body and chassis construction takes very little time. Before going on to the details which take a lot longer, it is time to give the body sides a coat of paint. The toplights can then be glazed: the inside of the body is neatly rebated to accept 15 x 2.5mm strips of clear plastic. It is best to fit the clipped-top buffer heads to the shanks moulded on the ends and smooth the feed pips off afterwards, when you have something larger to hold. The parts for the asymmetrical LNER vacuum brake system fit simply enough and there is enough meat on the v hangers to enable them to be drilled 0.6mm to take a wire cross shaft. I was working on a pre-production sample, without instructions; I have no doubt Paul Furner will, as usual, talk you through this and other operations.

The moulded roof is a snug fit. There are pop marks on the underside, to be drilled through to take the eight torpedo ventilators. Don’t be tempted to sand off the three moulded discs on the roof centreline: they are the covers of the oil lamps fitted to these vans.

Left to my own devices I think I might have soldered six sets of steps from staples and brass angle, but in the interest of a fair review I used the frail-looking plastic steps and supports. The supports are tiny, and a lot of care is needed in cutting them from the sprue and cleaning up their mating surfaces. You will also need a clear picture of one of these vans to see what you are supposed to be doing, good eyesight and a steady hand. Although I prefer Mek-Pak for plastic-kit construction, the longer setting time and extra grab Liquid Poly offers were essential here, allowing the parts to be aligned squarely and left to harden (as the photograph shows). I took my time, cleaned up with a fine file when the solvent had hardened and was rewarded with steps which are surprisingly robust, unlike the very vulnerable brake-lever racks (I broke one of those before the van was finished, so replaced them with bent staples). Fortunately the finished van will never have to be taken off my layout – but if your stock has to travel in boxes to and from exhibitions, you will need to be extremely careful with this one. Heavy-handed people would be well advised not to attempt the steps.

The model can be finished in LNER brown, with white lettering, BR carmine or maroon lettered yellow, or Rail Blue. In all periods CCTs were filthy except when fresh out of the shops. For the BR steam-era livery, there is a transfer panel, including all the tiny dimensional information, for E1330E on Cambridge Custom Transfers Sheet S1. Paul Furner has commissioned other transfers for this van, reviewed below.

Although there are delicate moulded handrails on and to the left of the six doors which some will want to replace with wire, those who enter their seventh decade this month will probably be content not to. The kit is rich in detail, a fine companion to the other parcels vans in the range, good value for money and yet another fine Society kit developed by Paul Furner – his last before stepping down as New Products Officer.


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Updated 26-07-09

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Last updated: 20-03-2007