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Mega kits GWR 1101 Docktank kit review - part 1

GWR 1101 class dock tank

I feel very guilty about the fact that it is now well over a year since I added anything to this page. My apologies to anyone who has been patiently waiting for the continuation of the story. I had a break to do some aeromodelling and consider just how I was going to produce the dome and safety valve bonnet. I also needed to work out just how to produce a crosshead from the parts supplied.

I wondered just how to resume without confusing things too much and decided to produce a part two so that this part could remain as is until the whole thing is finished. Hopefully, I will eventually combine the two into something cohesive...

Part 2 can be found here.

The kit - The motor and wheels - E & OE - Decision time - Chassis assembly
Body assembly - Cab interior - Painting - The prototype - Conclusion

Following on from my 'warts and all' review of the CRT 1366 Pannier, I built an Acme 16xx Pannier which was straightforward enough not to need comment. I now had two locos which were clearly too big for any 'minimum space' layout that I might build so I cast around for something smaller.

There were a large number of 0-4-0 industrial tanks that were absorbed into the GWR, most of them saddle tanks. I also discovered that there was a sidetank loco (six of them, in fact) built by Avonside for the Swansea Harbour Board. These were fairly unique as they had 'Great Western' on the sides. Another thing that makes them different is that they are not included in the Agenoria range.

With 'Home of 'O' Gauge' on the point of closing, I discovered that their 'Mega' kits included this loco so I bought one. On opening the box, I realised for the first time that this loco had Walschaerts valve gear. At least it went some way towards explaining the high cost of the kit!

It was already clear that this one was going to take a while so it became an immediate candidate for an on-going review. See the date above.

The kit

Kit parts

The second discovery was - no drawing! Well, there were drawings of the etches which served to identify the parts, but nothing on the assembly. There are two pages of typewritten notes on the assembly and some very vague sketches of the valve gear. Well, nobody said this was a beginners kit. I ordered the appropriate Skinley drawing from Phil Brice in the hope that this would make things clearer.

There is a nickel silver etch for the chassis, connecting and coupling rods and the valve gear. There is a brass etch for the bodywork with some half etched rivets and some rivets to be embossed from the rear. The boiler parts of this etch are supplied ready rolled. A bag of whitemetal castings contains the chimney, dome, safety valve, backhead and smokebox door. A similar bag of brass parts includes the sprung buffers, reversing lever, regulator and cab gauges, plus chassis spacers and axle bushes. There was no sign of a smokebox door handle, although this is included in the parts list. The etch includes parts for both the early square cab and the later rounded type. It also includes a complete set of cabside number plates for all six locos - that's at least 20 worth from any source, pity you only need one of them!

Whitemetal parts

Curiously, I've yet to see a whitemetal dome that didn't need a lot of work to be done on filling various holes and dents and this was no exception. I sent off to Laurie Griffin (LG Miniatures) for a brass one, along with a couple of smokebox door handles. Alas, Laurie doesn't do the correct dome for this loco, so I may have to fill and fettle the whitemetal one.

Dome

As an aside here, I found quite a lot of material on the web about Walschaerts gear. These included a reversing animation (http://home.new.rr.com/trumpetb/loco/rodsr.html) and an article on how to assemble it in 'O' gauge (http://www.gauge0guild.com/Gazette/article15_9.htm).

The Skinley drawing finally arrived after the post office devised some new route via Outer Mongolia. It's a beautiful drawing but it raises as many questions as it answers. There's nothing on the cab interior or the brake gear. On the other hand, there's a good drawing of the valve gear (every version I've seen is different) and it confirms that the cab handrails are tapered. The bad news is that the drawing suggests that the Slaters wheels suggested in the kit instructions are wrong! I've already got them, remember. To make things worse, the correct wheels are available from that source.

I went looking on the web for information on industrial locos and GWR absorbed engines. This turned up a couple of books which I thought might be useful. Not so, I'm afraid. Russell's book on GWR absorbed engines contains nothing. Odd that since the list in the book is dated 1925 - after the grouping. Another book on West Midlands industrial locos revealed very little. I had already established via the web that Avonside supplied several similar locos to Cadbury's and hoped that this would be a source of useful information. Alas there was only a list of locos and one picture which I already had.

The motor and wheels

Having seen an add from MSC Models in the 'Gauge 'O' Guild Journal' for a Mashima 1833 motor, gearbox (25:1 ratio) and flywheel at an attractive price, I sent off for one. 25:1 may seem a little low but the loco has small wheels. This is a very nice unit with a milled brass gearbox frame, far more substantial than the folded up type that I have used previously. Hopefully, it will be quieter running.

Motor/gearbox/flywheel Gearbox

The wheels were ordered from Slaters (3' 9" diameter 10 spoke, ref 7845NW). There has been some correspondence in the press about these wheels being supplied 'pre-rusted', but these were alright.

When I ordered the wheels for my 64xx pannier, these did arrive in a rusty state and with crankpins missing. I sent a fairly polite email to Slaters, pointing this out and was rewarded with a reply telling me that I was an idiot - it wasn't rust and could be cleaned of with Brasso. I must try that one the next time I have my car MOT'd! It actually needed a lot of work with a fibreglass brush to clean them up.

I also pointed out in that email that the 'pip' on the plastic moulding that stopped the steel tyre revolving was becoming so big that it was difficult to use their plunger pickups. Once again, I was a moron and this was a moulding pip that could be removed with a sharp knife. Not without removing the tyre from the wheel it can't.

I protested at their tone and was told that it was in a like manner to my original mail. Not so. It seems that Slaters have a quality control problem AND a customer relations problem.

But, I digress. These were OK and I added the etched balanced weights, blackened the rims and painted the wheels black. One job done (or so i thought).

E & OE

Its becoming increasingly clear that the lack of an assembly drawing is a serious omission. Maybe I was hasty as I can't get back to Home of 'O' about this. It seems rather unlikely that someone would supply a large number of cab fittings without some info on what to do with them. The drawings of the etches have about half of the items numbered and only half of those are mentioned in the instructions.

I discovered that Redcraft Precision Models had taken over Mega Kits and emailed them to see if they had a drawing. I received a positive response and the promise of a drawing. The bad news is that I already had everything that is available, there is no drawing.

Having confirmed that the suggested wheels are wrong, that represents a fairly substantial error. The wheels recomended have a crank throw of 7" (full-size) and it is clear from the Skinley drawing that this should be 11 - 12". A throw which is only half what it should be would make several things easier, but it would look totally wrong,

If you follow the assembly sequence given in the directions (build the cab and tanks and insert the boiler/firebox), it would be very difficult to get the firebox in on its own and probably impossible to get the boiler in with it.

There is a half-etched line along the bottom of the running plate which appears to be to help with alignment of the valences. This places the valence well inside the edge of the plate. It's clear from photos that the valence was flush with the outside edge of the plate. Having made up this unit, I now have to decide whether to leave things that way or to add some cosmetic valences.

There are three virtually identical sets of valences in the kit. One set are plain, while the other two have slightly different rivets at one end. One of these is half-etched with a line of rivets at one end. A process of elimination, plus photos, suggests that these go along the top of the tank sides with the rivets at the cab end. This leaves one plain set and a set with a line of staggered rivets at one end. It seems that the ones with staggered rivets go along the edge of the running plates with the rivets at the cab end, despite the fact that the instructions say to use the 'plain' valences. None of these is numbered. See later.

The frame spacers supplied place the frames much too close together. It is necessary to either pack the axle bushes out to fit the wheelsets or space the frames further apart. I chose the latter. Either way, you have to make/supply your own spacers. This is actually a fairly serious omission since the difference is something like 2.4 mm. Anyone who used the spacers supplied would run into an increasing number of problems.

The etched holes for the handrail knobs on the fronts of the tanks are in the wrong place, as are the etched holes for the steps on the smokebox and tank fronts. See notes elsewhere.

The cast whitemetal dome supplied appears to be intended for a saddle tank and the radius on the base is much too large to fit the boiler and there is no way to correct it. I can see no way around this other than to find another dome.

Decision time

With a couple of months already gone and no real progress, some decisions had to be made or this thing won't get finished in my lifetime. I ordered the other wheels indicated by the Skinley drawing and what I could make out from the pictures I had (Slaters 3' 9" diameter 12 spoke, ref 7846M). These are listed as MR 'Deeley' wheels, which does make a certain amount of sense as the locos weren't built by the GWR and the wheels had to come from somewhere. There are a couple of other possibles with 11" stroke in the Slaters list, but I had to do something. I doubt whether Avonside had the fascilities to make their own.

Wheels

On the left, the wheels according to Mega Models. On the right, the wheels according to Skinley and the scant photographic evidence that I could find.

I decided to make a start on the kit and assume that the brake gear had separate pull rods on each side (inside the wheels), rather than a single rod in the centre. I hoped that other details would make themselves clear as I went along. One other decision was that I had to go to the Telford show in September but, alas, I didn't make it.

I decided on the square cab as, although it doesn't really fit my intended time period, I think the rounded cab is ugly. It would be difficult to get it correct (again, all the locos were slightly different) and even more difficult to make it removable.

The motor/gearbox unit can be fitted quite neatly entirely inside the tanks and firebox without obstructing the cab. Plunger pickups will fit above and behind both wheelsets and there will be no need to remove any of the brake supports or linkages.

Motor/gearbox position

Chassis assembly

The holes in the chassis sides for the axle bearings are way undersize. This is probably to give you the chance to check the spacing against the coupling rods but means that some careful reaming is required, you can't just attack them with a file. I did a dummy run on the assembly to check that the chassis would fit the body and then put things aside to press on with the body - less things to get wrong there with my lack of prototype info.

Chassis frames

With the basic part of the body assembled, I did another dummy run of the chassis complete with wheels and Motor/gearbox to check the fit of the motor. No problems there, but I was surprised by the amount of side play in the wheel assemblies. I had previously thought that I might have to remove material from the axle bushes to allow the gearbox to fit between them. This was wrong because the gearbox will fit quite well between the bushes, the problem being that the bushes protrude well outside the frames. The most likely conclusion here is that the frame spacers supplied are for coarse scale.

There is no problem packing the frames out to the correct spacing, but I thought that this might produce problems with the location of the cylinder ends and motion bracket. In fact, there is no register on any of these to locate the side frames, so the frame spacing can be whatever you like.

I had noticed earlier that the rear fixing bolt was very close to the buffer beam and would restrict the fitting of the rear coupling. Since I had to play around with the frame spacers anyway, I took the decision to move the rear spacer forward and locate the rear fixing bolt nearer the centre of the cab. It's covered by the cab floor anyway.

I began the assembIy of the chassis by laminating the coupling and connecting rods. I've never liked this job because I never make a satisfactory job of it. The laminations are always visible after cleaning up. Attempts to add more solder around the edges simply push the laminations apart and make things worse. All the rods have three layers. The rods are quite skinny and opening up the holes for the Slaters crankpin bearings leaves very little material. The motion bracket also has to be laminated from two layers. There's also another bracket to be added to it.

Laminated parts
Rod end Motion bracket

I found a pair of frame spacers from another kit which were wider and needed less packing. Two 8BA washers each side gave the right spacing and I was able to trial fit the wheel sets and decide the final position of the plunger pickups. Having soldered in the axle bushes the brake hanger wires were soldered in and the motion bracket soldered in place. This meant that I could play around with the wheels and rods before soldering in the frame spacers. All of this was done on a sheet of glass so that the chassis was dead square. Having got the chassis square, the good news was that the wheels also sat flat on the glass so no ajustment was necessary.

The bad news was that the coupling rods fouled the motion bracket at the bottom of the stroke. I was sure that the stroke was correct so I went back to my pictures of the real loco for clues. It is fairly obvious that the motion bracket on the real thing doesn't extend in to the chassis frames. It goes in far enough to support the lower slide bar and no further, so that the rods actually go below the bracket. This is actually good news, in one respect, because it makes it much easier to get the wheels into position without having to remove the rods. I may have to eat those words when I come to assemble the valve gear.

Modified motion bracket

With that settled, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the wheels rotated without any tight spots. Sometimes I get it right first time! Incidentally, it's worth swapping the rods side to side to check if one way is better. If so, mark everything so that it is repeatable.

The slide rails are another area of the kit that can only be described as 'vague'. They are one of the items on the etch that are numbered and referred to in the instructions. There are three slidebars in proximity to each of the piston rods and another two elsewhere, giving a total of eight. As four bars are required we have to assume that each is to be made up of two laminations. That gives a very skinny bar and leaves you to decide whether the laminations are vertical or horizontal. There are two etched holes in the piston end etchings (I've learned to distrust all etched holes in this kit) which suggest that the laminations are vertical. The folded over brackets on the motion bracket clearly suggest that they should be horizontal. Neither of these arrangements make sense when considered with the parts supplied for the crossheads.

My guess here is that the original intention was that the bars should have three laminations - like the rods. At a late stage somone realised that four bars were needed, not two, and two more laminations were added (six more were needed!). Something more substantial was required to make things look right. I had some 1/16" brass angle and soldering two pieces together with an offset gave me a bar that was 1/16" x 3/32" (sorry. metric fans) which is about right. I filed a lug on the end to locate in the etched holes in the cylinder ends, which helped to position them.

Slide bars

With the bars in position, I did another dummy run with the wheels and coupling rods. As expected, there is very little clearance between the rods and the slide bars. The first thing was to reverse the crankpin bushes on the front axle and solder them to the crankpins so that i could file the ends flush and attach with a locknut inside the wheel. This gave about 1/16" - 3/32" clearance each side which should be enough to allow the crankpin to clear the crosshead. There was some sideways movement on the axles and I used Slaters packing washers to give equal clearance for the rods on each side, rather than equal spacing from the side frames.

Reversed crankpin bush

It was no great surprise to discover that the front axle cannot be inserted/removed with the slide bars in place. I removed one bar to insert it and resigned myself to working around it from here on. There is just enough room to juggle the wheel retaining screws into position.

One interesting point on the chassis concerns those fingers which extend down from the side frames to the running rails to remove any obstructions. On many kits these are a part of the side frames. In this case, they are separate with etched rivet detail, which is far better. However, the photos that I have of the real locos appear to indicate that only 1102 had these fitted. They are clearly visible on this loco and apparently absent on all the others. This could be time related, maybe they were fitted/removed at a later date. The Skinley drawing shows them fitted.

Etched parts are supplied for the brake rodding. These have slots at each brake to allow for the operation of the steam brakes fitted to these locos. Strictly speaking, these should be round bars with a fitting at each brake. The sideframes have etched fittings for the operating shaft under the cab and these include the crank which operates the rodding. The problem here is that we have the chassis frames and brake rodding all in line (and interfering) with each other. Solution: cut off the crank and replace with a new one inside the frames. I also added a crank and dummy rod up to the brake standard in the cab. This was soldered to a new crossmember needed to brace the sideframes after moving the rear frame spacer so that the rear fixing bolt didn't obstruct the rear coupling.

Brake rodding Brake rodding

Body assembly

As stated above, I assembled the basic running plate together with the basic chassis to check that they matched, then pressed on with the body.

The buffer beams are laminated from two layers with embossed rivet detail on the outer parts. There is a lot of rivet detail to be embossed in the kit and this is best done with the parts still on the fret. I use a darning needle in a pin chuck. You can do the job with just finger pressure but a light tap with something small (not a hammer) does a better job. You are then left with curved etches! You can remove the curve by rolling on a flat plate. I actually use a thick piece of glass and roll with an extension from a socket set. Roll it on one side, then turn over and do the other. Repeat as required.

Buffers & buffer beam

The sprung buffers supplied appear to be rather large but are actaully very close to scale. The square bases need the corners rounding off and some sort of bolt detail added. I originally thought of drilling holes and inserting a piece of brass wire. When I tried it, there was no way that I could drill a hole through the buffer and two layers of buffer beam with enough precision. If the buffer beams need to have rivets embossed, there is no way you can leave the bolts off the buffers, so I shall have to find another way. Incidentally, the holes in the beams for the buffers are too small. I blackened the heads as usual but found it difficult to get an even coating. I suspect that the material used is not mild steel. I consoled myself with the thought that the real thing must have been pretty rough anyway.

The instructions say to assemble the cab around the floor. I've never thought about it before, but very few etched kits include a floor. Some will include a piece of material from which to make a floor, leaving you to do the fitting. On the basis of two loco kits which DID include a floor, neither of them fitted. In this case, the floor has two parts to be folded down to represent the raised section visible in the door opening (I now know that every loco was different). There was no way that it could be folded to get it within the width of the cab front and rear. So, cut them off and solder them in position, then clean up so that they fit.

Having done this before, I added the reinforcements around the windows before putting things together. I also added the tines on the front windows. From pictures of the Cadbury's locos it appears that these were needed because the only place to stow coal was on top of the firebox (no bunker). I also added the lamp irons to the cab rear because they are easier to position at this stage.

Cab front Cab rear

Where would we be without a glassfibre brush?

The kit actually provides two sets of lampirons. One set is a part of the main etch and another set is supplied as a separate etch. The former are rather hefty and oversize, while the latter is a beautiful delicate thing which is close to scale, but a little variable. Giving you a choice makes sense as the scale irons are very fragile and liable to damage on a working loco. I considered using the hefty ones but they really don't project far enough to allow a lamp to be fitted and would need a lot of filing to look anything like the real thing. So, the delicate ones it had to be. I managed to hold the three lower ones in alignment by slotting the irons into a piece of balsa so that I could hold them in position without using my asbestos fingers. I then cleaned them up with a scraper and glassfibre brush. They looked fine despite the lack of rivet detail. However, I decided later to replace them with cast items from Laurie Griffin which are more robust (more later).

Some further thought led to the conclusion that the assembly sequence suggested will pose problems. You are advised to build the cab, including the side tanks, around the floor and add the boiler/firebox/smokebox unit later. I could see lots of problems here, apart from the obvious need to 'sculpt' the tanks around the boiler, so I decided to build up and install the boiler unit with the cab front and proceed from there.

Shortly after starting assembly, I had a slice of luck. I was emailed by Eric Ramsay, who gave me a lead to an article in 'Railway Bylines' (Volume 11 issue 9 August 2006, I ordered a copy from their website) which had a number of photos of these engines. These confirmed the 12 spoke wheels (another mark against Mega Kits) and the twin brake pull-rods. One photo shows the brake standard at the rear of the cab and angled forwards, while another just shows the reversing lever quadrant on the right of the cab.

The most surprising piece of information (to me) was that all six locos were in unlined black for their entire lives. I already had a picture of one with 'Great Western' on the side and had GWR green in mind. A black loco with 'Great Western' on it is even more unusual. My thanks, Eric.

To continue my intended assembly sequence, I needed the boiler. This was supplied ready-rolled but had a very noticable fold line near one edge. I never did manage to completely remove this, but at least its at the bottom of the boiler. There are too discs included in the etch to go inside the boiler and help with alignment. These are an exact fit, after you have filed off the cusp around the edge. I held the boiler edges together by wrapping copper wire around the boiler and winding it up to pinch the edges together. Then I added a piece of scrap etch along the inside to reinforce.

The firebox is built up from several pieces. This is the one area where those meager instructions actually help and some sort of assembly drawing would be priceless. Five layers of etch are built up to form the front of the box so that you can file a curve into the front edges. Then there is a half-etched wrapper to form the remainder of the box and a final former to be added at the rear. At this point, I had visions of the thin wrapper distorting from the heat needed to solder it to all those laminations. So, i built up the box using the wrapper and two formers and laminated/filed the front separately.

Its worth pointing out here that only about 10% of the firebox is visible on the finished loco, so it would be possible to just cut off the top section and use that. The problem is that it would then be quite difficult to line things up and hold them in position while soldering. Holes are provided so that you can bolt the parts together, but they really only aid in alignment since you have to solder things together eventually. I asked myself why I was doing a lot of soldering and filing when 90% of it would be hidden? A simple casting on top of the tanks would be much simpler.

Front of firebox Front of firebox/boiler Front of shaped firebox/boiler

A dummy run before soldering showed up a problem. The front firebox lamination has a half-etched recess for the boiler which fits beautifully but places the boiler too high. Actually, it places the top of the boiler flush with the top of the firebox wrapper which leaves a gap to be filled due to the curve on the front of the firebox. Filling the gap is straightforward, the problem is how to shape the filling afterwards.

Just how this is done on the real loco is not clear. I would assume that the boiler extends into the firebox or the firebox is built over the boiler. The Skinley drawing shows them flush. Photos don't really help, as they are all from different angles, but the firebox does appear to be slightly higher. One possibility is to hide things under a layer of coal!

The smokebox is made up of two wrappers. The first builds up the diameter and the second has half-etched rivet detail. What is not obvious until you look at pictures of the real thing is that the ends of the outer wrapper have to be bent down to form the sides of the smokebox.

Smokebox

Having cut a hole in the bottom of the boiler to accept the motor, I started to assemble all this lot into something resembling a tankless loco and discovered that this hole was wider than all the other holes. In other words, the motor would fit into the boiler and nowhere else - the motor wouldn't fit. There is a hole in the running plste to accomodate the motor/gearbox. This hole is narrower next to the cab. There are other holes/slots in the cab front and firebox components for the same purpose. As the standard motor for 'O' gauge locos is a Mashima 1833 I had assumed that this would fit and maybe the hole for the gearbox - the narrower bit - might need widening. The front lamination of the firebox doesn't have a hole in it. I had already cut this away to match the others and now had to widen it. I also had to widen the holes in the running plate, the assembled firebox and the cab front. Having a flywheel made things even worse and I ended up with a rather bulbous hole in the bottom of the boiler to get that in.

Modifying these wasn't easy at this stage and the only way I could see was to laboriously file everything as needed. Try filing four laminations of a fairly small firebox front. If you are following this you will know that it should have been five! There will now be a short intermission.

Another go at offering the motor/gearbox up to the drawing revealed that I didn't need to open up the hole in the cab front (front spectacle plate) or firebox rear and that the hole in the firebox front only needed widening at the bottom. After cleaning everything up, I soldered the firebox to the cab front and then the assembly to the running plate, making sure the front was vertical. At this point I decided to cheat a little...

Having checked that the boiler assembly was parallel with the running plate, I epoxied the top of the firebox front (those four laminations) to the firebox and left the assembly to set. I then soldered the smokebox to the running plate and added a fillet of solder to the bottom of the firebox front. This solved a whole lot of alignment problems, since using one hour epoxy gave lots of time to check. Ultimately, the whole lot is still soldered.

boiler assembly

I keep harping on about most of this being hidden...

A dummy run on the tank assembly revealed a mystery. The tank tops are far too long at the rear. There is a fold line towards the rear end. My first thought was that this was to space the tops away from the running plate, but ihey are too long for that. Then the penny dropped. There is a line of rivets down the tank side sloping towards the cab. Clearly this is the rear end of the tanks and there is a sloping end leading down towards the cab to produce a coal bunker on each side. This explains the tines on the front windows.

These bunkers are not at all obvious from photos of the GWR or Cadbury locos and it appears from these that coal was stored on top of the tanks and firebox. Whoever designed this kit knew a lot about these locos (the last one was cut up in 1959). A pity that they decided to keep it to themselves.

The tank side/front etching has a half-etched portion where the sides bend round to become the front. A nice touch, but its too far forward. That all important dummy run on the tank assembly revealed that the tank sides were too long and the front didn't extend in far enough to meet the boiler. Remember that you are supposed to do this before you fit the boiler. Some work with a half-round needle file extended the thin part and helped to move the bend nearer to the cab, but it's far from a smooth transition. So far, this is the only bit that didn't fit though, when the bend was corrected, the length was spot on. I filled the inside of the bend with solder anf filed the outside to give a smoother curve.

boiler assembly

...but the truth is - most of this will be hidden.

From examination of the jigsaw puzzle - Er kit, it appears that the tank fillers are to be made up of etched laminations. I took the easy way out and ordered a pair of castings from Laurie Griffin. These were exquisit but larger than I expected. Examination of the photos I had showed that they were correct according to most pictures. One photo showed a rather smaller one as depicted on the Skinley drawing. I have to assume here that the locos were built with Avonside fillers which were changed to GWR type. I'm approaching a dilema here because it is becoming increasingly clear that the rounded cab roof was an earlier modification than the GWR mods. I don't like the rounded roof and I think it would be difficult to make it removeable. Looks like it will take some modellers licence to produce a square roofed GWR engine.

I'm glad that I didn't follow the suggested assembly order. Quite a lot of work was needed to get the tanks to fit the boiler assembly and I still think that fitting the boiler to the assembled tanks would have been close to impossible. Having fiddled the bend at the front of the tanks as already described, it was necessary to fit the tanks as far back as possible to avoid a gap between the smokebox and the smokebox front.

So, here we have another question: Just how well did the tanks fit the boiler? Clearly, the tanks are not a part of the boiler so there would have been a gap between the two. The bit of the tank that fits against the curve of the boiler must have been largely cosmetic. How closely was it profiled to fit the boiler bands and how wide was the gap? We'll never know, so stop worrying about it and don't waste time making it too close.

There is also a question of whether there was a lip around the edge of the tanks. The fact that coal could be piled there suggests that there was. After soldering the tank tops in flush with the sides I realised that the Skinley drawing showed the boiler bands and tank fillers extending down to the bottom of the beading around the tank tops. Examination of available pictures showed the fillers projecting well above the tank beading, so the lip must have been small. As a side note, 1104 had the fillers opening away from the cab while the others had the fillers opening towards the cab.

Tanks

Having decided to add all the other tank details before attaching the tanks to the body, it became clear that the etched holes for the steps on the smokebox and tank fronts would need stretching. The lower steps need moving in so that they don't overhang the smokebox front. The upper steps need moving out so that the smokebox front will fit between them. In fact, there should be a gap between the steps and the front plate. The hole for the handrail knob on the tank front needs to be roughly midway between the upper and lower steps and in line with the outside of the upper steps.

I have suspected for some time that the designer(s) of this kit had a sense of humour. There are very few etched holes. In most cases, you have to make your own holes. In many cases, there is a half-etched hole which you have to complete. On the front of the loco we have no less than six fully etched holes - and they are ALL in the wrong place. Ha ha.

In common with many locos the top of the cab door openings have a reinforcement around them. In this case this continues beyond the lower edges to form an anchorage for the door handrails. It seemed clear that there must be a strip of metal supplied to form this. The most likely candidate was a strip with a half-etched line along the centre. The problem is that it is much too long for one door and far too short for two. I set aside each remaining part of the etches to see what might be left over. Well, there were no less than four narroow strips of about the right length. Two of these were carefully bent to shape and soldered around the door openings, leaving the ends overlength. I had planned to drill the holes for the handrails beforehand but realised that it would be difficult to get them in the right position. The only tricky part of the operation was keeping the strips centred on the cab sides. That half-etched line would have been very useful.

I marked the handrail positions on the overlength ends and drilled them to suit. This meant drilling them at a difficult angle but I got them in the right place. I then cleaned up the ends. Finally, I soldered a length of brass wire along the inside top edge of the sides. The purpose of this was to give some means of securing a removable roof.

Cab door opening

This now left me with the one thing that I had been putting off - the reversing linkage. On most locos the linkage consists of a rod disappearing under the tanks somewhere. With Walschaerts valve gear its a little more complicated since the reversing gear also changes the valve timing and has an obvious, and visible, connection to the moving parts.

The bits supplied to go above the running plate consist of a box to be folded up and the operating arm. The box appears to be one of those items that changes from loco to loco - on some its a bracket. Its fairly obvious how the box is to be folded except that there is a half-etched line at the bottom of each side which has no obvious purpose (not to me, anyway).

Box and lever

One box is soldered on each side of the running plate under the tanks with a rod running from one side to the other with a lever on the ends of it. There needs to be a hole under each lever to allow it to be linked to the reversing quadrant. Its clear from photos that the hole needs to be big enough to allow the lever to drop below the running plate. I've no idea whether it should be round or rectangular. My first thought was to make it round for convenience. Further thought showed that it needed to be elongated so that the lever could pass through it as visible in pictures. So, I started with a round hole and elongated it till the lever would pass throgh, ending with an eliptical shape which seems logical.

Box in place Finished box and lever

Before I could finally get around to soldering the tanks in position I decided to add the remaining bits to the running plate. These included the front lamp irons and a curious device at the front corners. This appears on the Skinley drawing and is visible in the photos. It appears to be a short vertical handrail to assist in mounting the front steps.

Short front handrail

I had been repeatedly looking at the lamp irons I had previously attached to the cab rear. They looked great but were very fragile and easily bent. They were also in a very exposed position. The obvious solution was to replace all of the lamp irons with the cast ones available from Laurie Griffin. These are much more robust and have the advantage that they have a spigot (actually the moulding spru) which can be used to 'plant' them in a hole if you wish. This would be very useful on a whitemetal kit.

Front lamp irons Rear lamp iron

I decided that I might as well add the steps too, as there was much less metal to heat up at this stage. These are one of the few things that seem to have been identical on all of the real locos. There are some nicely etched bits in the kit to produce these but, surprisingly, they are not quite right. I venture to suggest that without several photos of the full-size locos, there is no way that you could get them right. All of the steps have a half-etched line across the ends to allow the ends to be folded up at an angle. In fact, this should be an upward curve which is almost impossible to reproduce due to the etched line. I filled the inside of the bend with solder and dressed the outside with a file to produce some semblance of a curve. The top (middle) steps at front and rear butt up against the buffer beam so the curve/bend at one end isn't required anyway. Likewise, the bottom steps at the rear (cab) end butt up against a support which extends down from the buffer beam. When you cut the ends off, be careful to produce matching pairs!

The rear step support, with holes between the steps, actually bends out towards the running plate valence above the top (middle) step. Its not difficult to arrange this but you have to cut away part of the plate which now butts up against the bottom of the buffer beam and cut away the piece at the top which joins the two verticals. You then have an interesting balancing act while you solder things in position. With that done, you have an even more delicate balancing act to solder the steps in position. The principal is simple: tin the back of the steps, apply flux to the step support and prop the step in position. Press the step towards the support (with a jewellers screwdriver or similar) and apply the soldering iron to the back of the support (there should be solder on the iron to transfer heat better) and wait for the flux to bubble out from under the step. Simple if you get it right first time! If you have to reheat and reposition you will probably add more and more unwanted solder. Eventually, you have to remove the step, clean up and start again.

Front steps Rear steps

At last I could add the tanks. I'm becoming increasingly thankful of the fact that I didn't follow the suggested assembly sequence, since I can see no way that it would work.

I started by tacking the bottom of the cab sides to the cab front. This allowed me to check the alignment of the tanks relative to the running plate and each other. When this was correct, I tacked the fronts of the tanks to the smokebox. It was then possible to solder the rear end of the tank bottoms to the running plate, working from inside the opening in the plate. I could then solder the bottom edges of the tank sides to the running plate. The trick here is to use lots of flux (Fluxite) so that the solder 'wicks' into the joint and leaves a minimum to be cleaned off the outside. Finally, the cab sides were soldered to the running plate and everything cleaned up to check the final alignment.

The cab rear was then soldered in place by again tacking at the bottom and then using a piece of scrap etch against the rear of the sides so that the back of the cab could be pushed back into the correct position. The bottom of the rear was then soldered to the running plate and a check made that the floor could be inserted and removed.

Final assembly

There are six vertical handrails in all (ignoring those tiny things at the front). It would have been nice to have a very long, super strong, drill, but I had to guess the position of the holes needed for the front handrails and fudge things by stretching the holes as needed. The cab door handrails were a little easier as it was possible to drill the holes from below, just outside the valences. It has become clear that the instruction to use the plain valences (see above) on the half-etched guide line was to allow the valences with the rivet detail to be added later, outside them.

Front Back

That just leaves us with the smokebox front and door. I had carefully positioned the horizontal handrail at the top of the front, only to find that the cast door supplied was too big to fit! Nothing for it but to remove the hinge pin casting and cut the door down to size. The pin was then replaced, leaving a small gap to be filled with putty. I long ago learned that whitemetal and solder is not a good combination in my reality, so the door and pin were glued in place. Note that the pin is rather closer to the bottom step than it should be. Not wanting to tempt fate at this point, I glued the smokebox front in place, along with the beading along the top of the tank sides (half-etched with rivet detail).

Smokebox door

There is matching beading around the back of the cab. The piece supplied isn't half-etched and, therefore, thicker (and no rivet detail). I replaced this with thinner brass sheet. As an experiment, I tried drilling through the strip and the cab and adding pieces of wire for rivets. Very fiddly and time consuming, so I restricted this to the cab sides and added rivets to the cab rear from drops of thick Cyano adhesive ('Slo-Zap'). A little ragged but the real thing is very uneven so it works well enough for me.

The cab roof remained a problem. Having decided on the square roof, I still have no photos of the real thing. The roof supplied in the kit has a generous overhang all round and two half-etched lines along the edges. I first thought that these were to align with the sides but the spacing is wrong. My second thought was that they were to take soldered-on rainstrips. The Skinley drawing shows what appears to be small angle irons along the edge of the roof and very little overhang. I've decided to follow the Skinley drawing. I thought that the angles may need to be plain strip but I managed to locate some 1/32" brass angle on the web (try www.mainlytrains.co.uk). I made up four clips from brass wire to clip around the brass wire soldered along the top edge of the cab sides. Not very elegant, but it works.

Floor Floor

Lots of bits and pieces were added from scrap pieces of plastikard - tops of the front sandboxes, tank filler bump stops and vents, etc. The kit chimney is fine, but I still have to tackle the dome and safety valve.

Cab interior

As the interior of the cab was the part of the loco that I knew least about and as it became clear that the floor was wrong (more anon), it obviously needed to be covered as a separate section.

The Skinley drawing shows the sides of the cab floor (footplate) cut away at the door openings to provide a top step on the running plate. The kit etches also incorporated this feature, but none of the photos that I had showed this (again, they were all different, but none like this). The most common arrangement seemed to have the footplate cut back ajacent to the cab door to provide a step.

Floor Floor Floor

If I had done things as described in the meagre instructions and built the cab around the floor, I would have been unable to change things, but I had not only decided to do things my way, but had also decided to leave the floor detachable so that I could add detail later. Thus I could make the floor match the photos.

I assumed that the nicely cast reversing lever supplied is correct and goes on the right of the cab. I had been told verbally that the brake standard was on the left. One photo I have shows this in line with the centre of the door opening and I have assumed that it would be roughly one third of the way across the cab which reduces the obstruction of the opening.

Painting

I'll get there eventually!

The prototype

For the sake of anyone else who may be interested in producing a model of these locos, here is a collection of facts(?) that I have established. Much of this is duplicated in the above text, but its worth collecting it in one place. It will be added to as appropriate.

There were six locos in all (1101 - 1106). They were not absorbed into the GWR but were ordered from Avonside in 1926 by the GWR for use by the Swansea Harbour Trust. They were very similar to an existing Avonside design, four of which had been supplied earlier to Cadburys Brothers for use at Bournville.

All had square cabs and an Avonside safety valve. By 1932 all had been modified to a rounded cab and a GWR safety valve bonnet, along with larger GWR tank filler lids. They had bells fitted on the fronts of the cabs for working on tracks shared with roads. The wheels were 12 spoke with 11" stroke, supplier unknown. The Skinley drawing depicts 1106 in its original form. Information suggests that the cab roofs were changed before the other mods, so a square-roofed loco with the GWR parts fitted is unlikely.

The brakes had twin pull-rods, inside the wheels and the brake standard was at the rear of the cab, left of centre. The bottom of this was angled forwards to meet an arm on the cross shaft. The Mega kit has the supports for this shaft as a part of the chassis etch and this appears to be accurate.

The Skinley drawing shows the cab door handrails as tapered (a common practice) but photos do not support this.

On the lid of the kit box there is a drawing, source unknown (reproduced at the top of this article), on which there is some sort of apparatus behind the cab steps. This is in heavy shadow on all photos and not shown on the Skinley drawing. In some pictures it is possible to make out exhaust pipes exiting this area similar to those on many pannier tanks. My conjecture is that this apparatus is an injector similar to other GWR locos.

There is a bunker each side of the firebox (hence the tines on the front windows of the GWR machines. This explains the row of rivets down the tank sides. Presumably, there were doors in the cab front to access the coal.

Loco number 1104 had the tank fillers opening away from the cab while the others had the fillers opening towards the cab.

All the locos were in unlined black. In the 30's, they had 'Great Western' on the tank sides. During the war years they had 'G W R' and later the British Railways crest. All this is subject to variation but I have yet to see a picture of a loco with a GWR totem.

Conclusion

For anyone who has been regularly checking back for the state of this project, I am aware that this heading has been sitting here for quite a while. With the loco about 75% complete I really should make a start on a conclusion.

It seems clear that the original design of the kit was halted when it wasn't quite complete. Having said that, I have been informed by several sources that none of the Mega kits have assembly drawings, which is outrageous, if true. With a decent assembly drawing and a good set of instructions this would be a very good kit - not excellent, but close. You can do as much research on the original as you like, but this doesn't help when there are many parts supplied on the etches which have no obvious purpose.

Add a large number of castings which clearly go in the cab and you wonder just how the kit parts could have been assembled into a box without a lot more information. You could almost come to the conclusion that the whole thing is some sort of joke.

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