LMC six wheel van conversion and restoration.
The remains of an LMC Gresley coach that sometime in the distant past had been converted into a six-wheel van. I am minded to stay true to the intentions of the unknown modeller, keeping the two small windows either side, but adding strengthening over the glass to support the overlay sides that appear to be some sort of thin card material, albeit looking a bit dented and distressed; having carefully removed the overlays I cleaned them up, added strengthening and support where needed, sanded smooth the distressed painted surface, then primed the surface, and left to dry overnight before spraying with a BR maroon semi-gloss finish. About this time I had been looking for some prototype vehicle to follow, but following research decided that a service vehicle converted to engineering use would allow license to create a van with some interesting features. My research led me to a four-wheel Matisa support van with messing and sleeping facilities and designated to work with a Matisa tamping machine, so offering scenic opportunities for this van to be parked in a siding, and moved from location to location with its itinerant crew; I have a feeling that Matisa crews were later accommodated in lodgings, nevertheless it makes for an interesting part of BR history. The next stage was to add lighting to the van interior, see below:
The beauty of O gauge is that there is so much more room to do stuff! When I got this van only the centre axle-boxes and flangeless centre wheels remained; the outer axle-boxes had been ripped from the solebars leaving damage that had to be filled and filed smooth, there were no wheels either, and you can see where I have added L-section girders to strengthen the damaged solebars; note also the floor is bowed in the middle. I have purchased new wheels cleaned and restored see above, and also new white-metal axle-boxes of the long carriage type such as found on six-wheel brakes etc. The new wheels will run in brass bearings set into the white metal axle-boxes. Lighting is reclaimed from an old torch - I love reusing stuff and keep all manner of bibs and bobs, it's just a question of remembering where I put it - so the whole lighting circuit and fittings is home made or improvised from torch parts and works by sliding the switch toward the battery positive pole. The bulb is 2.4 volts and the battery is AAA 1.5 volts which gives a nice soft glow inside the windows at night, as a harsh light would be inappropriate and spoil the magic. The image below shows how the battery box cover fits in to place:
This shows the lever in the 'light on' position. The battery cover is an interference fit, supplementary fitted with two small rivet insertions through the adjacent L-bracket just to make sure it doesn't drop into the four-foot if the van is being run in a train, you can see one rivet pushed home and the over left proud for illustration purposes. The whole lighting arrangement is designed to be easily managed using the most simple of means. The buffer beams have been constructed by lamination, and the reclaimed period buffers are a tight screw fit through the lamination - no securing nuts are needed. The wheel base will be a scale twenty-feet when the axle-boxes and wheels are fitted. So it's coming along, just waiting for the primer to harden on the inside faces of the axle-boxes, then a coat of black left overnight to dry, and then the wheels can be fitted. A stove chimney will grace the roof amid the roof vents. Couplings will be screw-type, and I'm probably going to need an external hand-brake arrangement to maximize internal living space. More to follow.
Moving on (above) the axle boxes have now been drilled and the brass top-hat bearings fitted, each spring/axle assembly with the reclaimed wheels has been fitted to the chassis using a combination of glue and pinning through the reinforced L-section girders seen earlier; the wheels run beautifully smooth and square in their brass bearings. The screw-link couplings have been fitted, and the lower link screwed up to miss a raised centre third rail, these are lovely couplings and superbly engineered. Handbrake is being fitted to one side only due to the presence of the battery box on the other side; some early prototype vehicles did run with this arrangement, the side door being marked internally 'Handbrake this Side' for staff; the vans also carried wheel scotches for use when stabled with staff aboard. In another move I have decided to make new overlays for the van sides from plastic card, using a prototype van as a guide for marking out doors etc., and these are currently in production at the moment. The underside has been given a primary coat of fast drying black acrylic - one of the few occasions when I use acrylic paint.
The general layout (above) for the coach sides, entrance doors and windows, was first drawn out to scale on an old A5 size envelope (upper two sides) as I receive many of these envelopes through the post and find their fine tooth surface makes good drawing support, taking graphite pencil very well, and in this particular case was exactly the right size for drawing the van sides - recycling of materials. The scale drawing was then cut out with a scalpel and pasted onto the sheet of plastic card with a light tack removable glue; the edges and openings were then drawn in 8B pencil onto the plastic card as a precaution against the template moving during cutting; the next stage was a new No-10A blade in the Swann Morton brass scalpel and, using an engineers' steel rule as an edge, the van sides were carefully cut out in plastic card. Once cut out the paper templates were peeled off to leave the plastic card sides to be offered up to the van to check accuracy; fortunately everything was fine and just a little cleaning up of the edges was required. The next stage is to drill holes for door handles, grab rails and so on whilst the sides are in the flat, as later a slight tumblehome will be required as the sides are fitted to the van; the sides will also require to be primed and painted before fitting due to the existing arrangement with the window glass, so effectively I will be fitting pre-decorated sides in not too dissimilar fashion to LMC lithograph sides. I will probably have to hand letter the sides, as per original van.
The photograph (above) shows a rubbed down side prior to the application of gloss black; there are already a number of under-layers present: light grey primer; an oxide red, and two coats of semi-matte black. The final stages will be numerous layers of gloss black, rubbed down with Micromesh between painting stages, until I am satisfied the gloss finish will allow transfers and bow pen to be applied successfully. More to follow as this Matisa support coach and the LMC 2-4-2 locomotive go through similar treatment together.