Monday, September 17, 2018

How I bashed a couple of cheap US style gondolas into UK open wagons

Recently, I bashed LGB and Newqida box cars into something more appropriate for my UK-based narrow gauge railway (see How I bashed an LGB box car and How I bashed a Newqida box car). I then remembered that I had two very cheap US style gondola wagons which had been sitting on my shelf for about the last ten years while I figured out what to do with them. If I could modify box cars, why not gondolas?

Wagon 1

I decided to start with this wagon because it was going to be the most challenging. The previous owner had painted it green (quite badly) and so I would have to contend with that as well as the modifications.

 As can be seen in this photo, the biggest discrepancy in the wagons was their size, when compared to one of my existing open wagons.

 The chassis was joined to the body by four screws, one is each corner.

These were removed .......

..... and the body separated from the chassis.

The first job was to modify the body - as this would dictate the way in which the chassis would need to be changed.

As with the Newqida van, I figured that if I removed the endmost panels on the sides of the wagon, it would reduce its length without losing the detailing of the centre doors. My trusty Xacto razor saw was pressed into service. I use a razor saw as it tends to be easier to keep the cuts straight.

Once the sides had been cut, the cuts were linked by a cut across the base.

Thus, the end panel could be removed.

This process was repeated at the other end.

The end faces were then cut from the end sections, using the mouldings for the corner braces as a guide..

The process was repeated for the other end.

The next job was to reduce the height of the sides. I decided it would be best to remove three planks from the middle of the sides, to enable me to retain the mouldings for the catches on the topmost plank. The first cut was two planks down from the top.

 The second cut was another three planks lower down from that.

Thus, the middle section could be removed, .......

..... allowing the upper two planks to be joined to the lower two planks.

However, the diagonals would no longer line-up and so these mouldings were carefully removed......

by scraping them away with the blade of a craft knife.

The ends were easier to reduce in height. Three planks were removed from the top.

I had noticed that the green paint had not adhered to the plastic particularly well and could be removed with a scraper.

The base, sides and ends were attacked with craft knife blades until most of the offending paint had been removed.

And so, reconstruction of the body could begin. I discovered that the plastic used for the bodywork could be bonded with standard polystyrene cement, and so the ends were attached first, ...... 

...... followed by the sides.

Inevitably, some of the joints needed to be tidied up with Squadron White Putty filler, .....

..... and the holes where features such as vacuum pipes had once been attached were similarly filled.

 In addition, the diagonals on the doors needed replacing, using 1.5mm thick plasticard.

I now turned my attention to the chassis. It was now, clearly, too long. I realised the wheels now needed to be moved closer to the ends of the wagon body and so .......

.... the buffer beams were removed, ........

..... as was the end section of the chassis.

The chassis was still 24mm too long and so this was removed from the centre of the chassis to enable it to fit neatly under the body.

I retained the buffer beams, but added some cosmetic nut and bolt heads from Cambrian Models. I had to use thick superglue to attach them as the plastic used for the chassis was not receptive to polystyrene cement.

The body was given a couple of coats of Halfords' Grey Primer from a rattle-can aerosol .....

... and the raised mouldings of metal fittings were painted with black acrylic paint.

 The chassis was then re-attached to the body with screws - this was partly because of the uncertainty over the effectiveness of glues on the two types of plastic and also so the wagon would be easily taken apart if further modifications were needed.

 Cosmetic brake gear was added (see How I make brake gear for my wagons - pending).

.... and my own variation on LGB couplings added.

 At this stage, I felt the wagon was finished and so took it outside for a few photos. However, it looked slightly out of proportion and so ........

...... I added another plank, from plasticard, to partly cover the solebar.

Somehow, this seems to give the wagon a better balance.

Unlike the other open wagons on my railway, the doors on these wagons appear to be hinged vertically so the two doors would swing open like barn doors. On all my other wagons, the whole side is hinged to swing downwards. There is therefore greater need for a lower plank on which would be mounted the hinges. The lower plank is probably not necessary on this wagon, but I feel it looks better - and besides, it's my railway!

I am quite pleased with the outcome. The newly bashed open wagons look much more at home with my existing rolling stock.

... though they do look a bit too new and so will shortly become weathered to make them more careworn and slightly dilapidated.

Wagon 2

Rather than going, step-by-step though the bashing process followed for the second wagon (which was much the same as for the first), I decided to shoot a time-lapse video showing each stage of the construction.

This wagon has a slightly different design to the other and so I decided to make it in the style of a curved-end open wagon, such as those which were found on the Southwold Railway.

I actually prefer this one. It somehow looks better proportioned.


I am pleased with the way these two wagons have turned out. Having been sitting on my workshop shelf over the years, I had contemplated selling them but decided they would not fetch a great deal; they were cheaply made and I felt of limited appeal. However, they now look quite at home on my railway which, in its imagined history, bought up redundant stock from other narrow gauge railways which were closing during the Great Depression. I have tried searching for prototypes on which they might have been based and drawn a blank  - so maybe they were actually constructed in the Peckforton Light Railway's own workshops from bits they had lying around.

I will keep my eyes open to see if any more of these wagons turn up on eBay. They were made by Echo Toys in the 1990s and were included in fairly cheap train sets with plastic track such as those designed to run around the base of Christmas trees.

I have found one wagon advertised on the USA eBay website (where presumably there was a bigger market for this style of model) and, although its Buy It Now price of £6.10 seemed quite reasonable, the £26.00+ postage charges were slightly off-putting.

I'll keep looking though.