Heljan Class 52 Brake Gear


The Heljan class 52 'Western' is supplied with a pack of brakegear parts for fitting by the modeller.
The paperwork supplied in the box recommends the parts be fitted by those 'who wish to display their model'. Unfortunately, if fitted, the parts highly restrict bogie movement such that the loco cannot be run, even on 5 foot radius curves! The parts are really only of use for static display models, which is a real shame because the brake gear is a characteristice detail of these locos which if omitted, makes the model look incomplete.

This article describes an alternative method for fitting brake rigging which enables the bogies to move and therefore, enable the model to be run on a layout. I have tested it on Peco code 75 double slips without any problems.


Fitting Brakegear

The brake rigging is attached using stretchers which fit into holes on the sides of the bogies. Unfortunately, as supplied, the stretchers won't actually fit these holes, therefore diameter of the stretchers needs to be shimmed down. When this is done and the stretchers are fitted into place, the brake blocks are clearly set at a wider gauge and don't line up with the wheels. They also prevent nearly all bogie movement.

The first modification which needs to be made is to the plastic brake rigging parts. The connecting rod which passes across the face of the wheels needs to be cut off right up against the brake blocks. The rod is far too over scale/thick and if present, we simply cannot move the brake blocks in line with the wheels.
Once this is removed, we then cut each of the four stretchers on each bogie to shorten them. They need to be shortened such that when fitted, the edge of the brake block is very slightly proud of the wheels. This is so that when we fit a replacement connecting rod, it doesn't touch the face of the wheels:


The brake block must not stick out too far otherwise bogie movement will be compromised.
We glue all of the stretchers into their respective holes using Superglue - they need to be securely fixed because if the loco negotiates a curve which is to tight, the brake blocks will foul the bodyside skirts.
Be aware that this model is designed in a way that we have to glue these parts in place, but if we do and we ever need to dismantle the bogie in the future to get at the gears, we will need to break these parts off.

Once all the brake blocks are in place, we can attach a new connecting rod. In this instance, I used the same parts from an old Brassmasters detailing pack which I had purchased for a Lima Western which I no longer run. The rods are nickle silver, but any strip made of this material or brass will be suitable. Metal is a better option than plastic because it is stronger. The picture above and the picture below both show the new rods glued in place with Superglue, nothing how both ends of the rods are fixed:


The following is the completed work, prior to painting:


The underchassis must then be painted, including brake gear, wheels and suspension detail. I use a mix of Humbrol 33 Matt Black and 113 Matt Rust to achieve a brown which can be seen applied on the vehicles in the background of the above pictures.


Fitting Screw Couplings

This loco has had screw couplings fitted, including the corresponding spring. Unfortunately, another design fault of this model is that rather than using self-contained sprung buffers, this model uses the sprung wire suspended between both buffers and attached to the body in the middle method - right where the coupling passes through the buffer beam!
I constructed an alternative buffer springing method:


In retrospect, fitting proper self-contained metal sprung buffers (as I did for Bachmann class 37 buffer beam modifications) would have been a better option as they work and look better, but this solution does work satisfactorily.
Fully sprung Romford couplings, which had been modified using my method described here to make them flexible, were then fitted.


Graham Plowman (31/8/2009)



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