The two wagons shown below are examples of brake fitted vans which are currently available from Bachmann. Both are very nice models, however, like most fitted RTR wagons available, they are missing the tie bar between the axle boxes:
This article shows you how to make this modification to your wagons.
Early BR wagons as shown above were built both as "unfitted", which were only fitted with manual hand brakes and "fitted", where there was both vacuum brakes and manual hand brakes fitted.
Unfitted wagons were usually painted in light grey whereas fitted wagons were usually painted in Bauxite (which generally weathered to a brown colour), crimson (such as meat vans) or white (such as insulated vans).
A typical goods train formation would therefore place all the fitted wagons behind the locomotive and the unfitted wagons on the back of the train. This was done so as to maximise train braking capability.
It is the fitted types which are the subject of this article.
Types of Fitted Brakes
BR wagons mostly had one of two types of vacuum brakes fitted. Firstly there were "clasp" brakes where there was a brake block on both sides of each wheel as shown in the first picture below. The second type only had one brake block on each wheel and these were pushed outwards against the wheels as shown in the second, third and fourth pictures below:
The latter type is the subject of this article.
Note how there is a tie bar connected between the two axle boxes in the right picture. The purpose of this bar is to stop the vacuum operated brakes pushing the wheels apart and thereby reducing the effectiveness of the brakes. This was not necessary with the "clasp" type brakes because there was no mechanical force pushing the wheels apart.
To fit the tie bar to the models, some basic preparation must be done to the guard irons. The mouldings have a representation of the tie bar fitted, although the tie bar itself is missing. In the picture below, the rivets on the moulding are filed down to make the surface smooth. I now file the entire representation of the tie bar away such that the surface of the guard iron is flat:
I then use lengths of Evergreen plastic strip No 112 and glue these to the W irons using Super Glue. Sometimes I use Evergreen plastic strip No 111 for a 'finer' appearance, depending on the item of rolling stock. Be aware that these strips are fragile.
The use of Evergreen strip represents rectangular section tie bars which were used by the GWR and BR. The SR used round section tie bars. These can be modelled in a similar way using brass rod of suitable diameter, flattening the ends where they attach to the W irons with pliers, and gluing them on.
It is important to ensure that the strips do not touch the undersides of the axle boxes, but instead, line up horizontally with the bottoms of the W irons as denoted in red in the following picture:
I then paint the underchassis with a track colour brown, fit the wagon back together and apply some weathering using Carrs powders:
Note how the backs of the wheels are painted. If this is not done, they will stand out when taking photographs - flash guns find them very easily!
Gallery of similarly treated Wagons
The pictures show wagons in various stages of completion, which have had axle box ties bars added:
Graham Plowman June 2009
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