Following Nationalisation, BR built some 23,912 of these vans. Although described as 'Standard', they were anything but because there were numerous variations, depending on where they were built and which batch they were built under. The only thing 'standard' was the basic dimensions, the use of 3-hole disc wheels and the fitting of vacuum brakes.
The first variation was the ends. While they all had corrugated ends, BR had three sets of press tools to produce these ends. It is probable that the first two sets of tools had been inherited from the LMS and LNER. Both of these produced a 15 corrugation end made up of three parts but the joint line on the top panels was in a different position - this gave either 3/4/8 or 2/5/8 corrugations.
Most of the early batches were built with one of these combinations.
The third end was made up of only two pressings with 16 corrugations, consisting of equal (8/8) corrugations on each sheet.
BR continued to use the original pressings on some batches up until 1958/9 and in one particular case, Lot No 2990, the first vehicles built had two part ends but by No. B773786, the vans were built using the 3 part ends in a 2/5/8 configuration.
The other obvious variation was the body sides. The early batches were built with planked sides and doors, however, a change was gradually made to plywood sides and doors. A separate diagram No. 213 was issued to cover this.
Faverdale and Ashford started building vehicles with plywood from 1952, whilst Wolverton did not use plywood until Lot No. 2990 in 1957 and then only the doors were plywood. The sides continued to be planked. It was not until 1959 that Wolverton built 'all plywood' bodies.
There were other minor variations which included the rainstrips over the doors. Early batches had a single curved strip over the doors whereas later batches had three straight strips, one over the doors and a shorter length strip either side.
Other variations included the use of different axle boxes, both plate and the RCH split type as well as different buffers.
The most common brake gear type was the 4 shoe Morton type with some later batches utilising the 8 shoe clasp type with Oleo pneumatic buffers and screw link couplings instead of the standard Instanter type.
Like all Slaters kits (and most 7mm scale kits for that matter), this model is supplied in a box which is suitable for storage of the completed model.
When opened, the box contains a collection of small parcels, neatly packaged in protective plastic wrap.
With the exception of the GWR cattle van, this kit is consistent with other Slaters kits in that no transfers are supplied. I have asked Slaters about this and was advised that they didn't want to duplicate other manufacturers transfers. That's fair enough, so why not buy them in and put them in the box like Peco/Parkside does with Modelmasters and several other kit manufacturers have done in the past ?
Getting Started - Building the Chassis
When building any rolling stock kit, I always start with building the chassis. If the foundations are square from the beginning, the rest of the kit will go together properly. If the chassis isn't square, the model can never be square and wil have all kinds of running problems for ever more.
Similarly, before assembling a chassis, I always check the 'trueness' of the wheels - how well the flanges run in parallel with each other. The wheels in this kit were shocking to the point of being unusable. In 7mm scale, there is absolutely no excuse for this. I contacted Slaters to obtain replacements, however, I had to keep chasing them up and to this date, they have never sent them. Past experience of Slaters customer service has, unfortunately, been very much 'take it or leave it, we'll do it if we feel like it' and certainly not up to the pro-active standard that one gets from other manufacturers. In the end, I shelled out and purchased new wheels from Kernow Models.
This kit is one of the earlier Slaters kits which does not have a compensated chassis, but it does have proper brass bearings. The chassis is a conventional solebar and axlebox/W iron construction which is straightforward to assemble and goes together squarely. Alignment and squaring up could be made easier with the provision of a few 'locating lugs' as one sees with other manufacturer's kits.
From past experience, I have found that it is often easier to attach buffers to the body ends prior to assembling the ends to the chassis and rest of the body. The buffers are a standard sprung type which most 7mm models use. The shanks are castings where you have to drill and file out to fit the buffers. Make sure that the drilling out is done to enable sufficient buffer depression movement otherwise the buffer springing will jam.
When assembling the body of any kit, make sure that the main base-plate is straight. On this kit it was fine, but due to the lack of locating lugs, I decided to 'weld' extra strips into structural locations to give the body some strength. Many years ago, I saw the end of a 7mm van (not mine) pulled off at an exhibition in public view. This occurred because the end was not secured properly - exactly as would happen if I didn't secure it properly on this model. You can get away with this type of construction in smaller scales, but once you start working in 7mm scale, you quickly realise why things are built on the real thing the way they are otherwise they wouldn't work. For example, real vans of the subject of this article had a rod passing from one coupling to the other with a very large intermediate spring. When hauled, a wagon would be hauled from its rear end, not relying on the strength of the buffer beam attachment on the front end.
Assembling the brake rigging on this model is not a straightforward process! This is the first kit I have ever built where the brake rigging is too long to fit between the wheels! You can fit it, but the brake blocks are jammed against the wheels, preventing them from revolving. Surgery is required to shorten the brake rods and re-build the cranks:
Any idea what this is ?
This is Slater's idea of moulding brake hangers to the sprews in this kit. I have also seen this on other Slaters kits. Here, I have used a cutting disc to cut around these parts, but can anyone explain to me why such tiny parts need something like 8 attachments to the sprew and why such small parts are moulded so closely to the sprews themselves ? This is just utterly rediculous! It is impossible to get these parts off the sprew without breakage and even harder to file them smooth with a file without breakage. At most, I'd suggest that one, maybe two attachments to the sprew is all that is necessary and that intertwining them like this is just complete unnecessary.
I have raised this with Slaters and was told that in the decades they have been producing this model, I am apparently, the first person to raise this issue!
This is another one of those areas which make Slaters kits 'onerous' to build. To that end, I fabricated my own guides using wire:
Finally, the brake pipes were fitted. These are really neat cast pieces. A really good idea is that the vacuum pipes are actually tight springs which fit over the end of the vacuum pipe. There is also a socket to be fitted to the other end of the spring which plugs into a retainer on the vertical vacuum pipe stand. If it isn't glued to the stand, it can be plugged together with the next wagon, effectively meaning that brake pipes can be coupled up and decoupled per prototype. Ingenious!
These vans were painted in BR Bauxite which was the standard colour for BR brake-fitted wagons.
Here is the completed wagon, ready for painting:
The instructions for this kit show the rain gutters as strips along the sides of the roof as I have modelled them on the picture below. Initially, I thought this was an error because I had always seen these as a curved arch above the side opening doors as shown in the first two pictures and several subsequent pictures here. However, I reviewed a number of books to find that this is actually correct and was a feature of the later builds. To that end, this adds a variational difference to the model.
I thought that the era of kits where the roof couldn't be fitted unless surgery was done to the body sides was in the last century, but apparently not, so I've had to file the tops of the doors so that the edge of the roof doesn't arch up over the doors:
And before the roof is fitted, we add some weight in the form of roof leading sheet:
No, it isn't prototypical straps, it is elastic bands holding the roof in place while the glue dries. Painting now completed, awaiting touching up:
The more observant will probably see that in the above picture, the roof edge bows up over the doors - it isn't caused by camera lense optics. This is really annoying because it means that the filing on the tops of the doors is insufficient and the roof is now fixed in place. Bugger!
Fortunately, the problem only afflicted one side and it wasn't hard to take a sharp knife under the edge of the roof and shave away more plastic on the tops of the doors. The roof detatched on the right end of the van and this made the shaving process easier.
Below, elastic band strapping has been re-applied to hold the roof in place while glue dries again, having got the edge of the roof straight. This kind of stuffing around is what makes Slaters kits time consuming and less enjoyable to build, especially when it is really basic stuff such as fitting rooves. There really is no excuse for this!
This article will follow the progressive construction of the kit - more to follow...
Graham Plowman (27/03/2020)
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