Monthly Archives: January 2013

Falling Behind: A Leader Story (Pt1)

I tried to think of a good Leader pun, but ‘falling behind’ works as an inverse analogy.

36001 - Leader


The picture above shows one of my favourite locomotives: 36001, Bulleid’s Leader; the monstrous experimental steam engine that looked like a diesel. Leader was constructed in 1948 and ran for a brief 1½ year period (from 1949 to 1950). ‘Ran’, of course, might not be the best word for Leader’s trial runs, as she was prone to failure and was often towed back to Brighton Works.

Leader was fitted with various experimental design features including: a chain drive; a fully enclosed boiler; and a cab at either end. She was also fitted with an off-centre boiler (very strange). The fire box was located near the centre of the loco and must have been a terrible environment for a fireman.

I always found something fascinating about this loco and urged my parents to buy me a book on the subject. When I left home, this book was one of the first things that I ‘acquired’ from my parents house.

The Model

There is a resin kit available of Leader, made by Golden Arrow Productions, which I got for my Birthday in 2008. After purchasing a load of Bulleid Q1 wheels (expensive), I set to work planning out the look of the model. The Golden Arrow Productions mould is good, but I thought it a shame that it missed out some of the more prominent panel lines, so I stencilled the panel lines out onto the moulding and scored these onto the resin with a modelling knife.

I was also not to keen on the shape of the windows, which I felt didn’t quite capture the look of the prototype. Following the guidance of a topic on converting the Golden Arrow Leader on RMweb, I decided to widen the windows and slightly change their shape.

Golden Arrow Productions Resin Model

The resin model as it comes (with windows a bit too narrow for my liking)

Leader with widened windows; much better.

Leader with widened windows; much better.

The white metal chassis blocks are lovely mouldings for this model, and when built they really give you an idea of how big this engine really was (an idea of scale kindly provided by driver Bob in the pictures above and below). It might not be the best engine to build if you have a layout with low tunnel mouths, as it really is a beast. The real thing towered over most water tanks, making it difficult to top it up with water.

Driver Bob poses with Leader

Driver Bob poses with Leader


Livery-wise there are a surprising number of options for an engine that ran for such a short period of time. Leader carried prime grey with a large British Railways ‘cycling lion’ emblem (only on one side) for a very short period. The British Railways emblem was quickly removed and the engine was lined out (along its panels), but remained in grey.

I have never cared much for either livery and I instead opted for the livery (well… not really a livery) present in the only colour picture that exists of Leader. At this stage it was being repainted and appears to be a very silvery grey. This was the first image of Leader that caught my eye, many years ago and this was what I wanted on my model.

More about the build next time….

Converting a Bachmann BR 03 Shunter chassis to fit inside a Craftsman BR 07 Shunter (Pt3)

The bulk of the conversion is finished.

Chassis Modifications

As predicted (see Pt2), the rear of the chassis was the more difficult section to complete. I took to cutting down the back of the Bachmann chassis by grinding away the raised profile mouldings on the sides of the chassis (where the crank-shaft use to be). I lost a few cutting disks in this operation (goggles recommended). This aspect of the work was surprisingly easy.


The next problem was that the Bachmann chassis’s bolt hole doesn’t line up with the existing body-hole at the rear of the chassis. Annoyingly, it is not quite distant enough to cut a new hole. So with a selection of drills and grinding tools in my mini-drill I widened the existing hole. You could likely get round this issue if you were still building the Craftsman 07 by moving the body hole, but this is not an option for me.

Next, I cut the remaining sections of the brass chassis to their new shapes. This was mostly trial and error; the main issues being avoidance of pick-ups and wheels. The rear sandboxes caused some issues yesterday which were resolved by sanding down the face of the rear brass section. Once this was complete I fitted the remaining details and all was looking good, and running well.



Lubricator arm mechanism

My biggest achievement here was refitting the lubricator arm to the front axle. I lost the lubricator hand wheel in the cleaning phase (see Pt2). It flew out of some spring loaded tweezers. There was enough time for me to watch it flying across the front-room at great speed, never to be seen again. Queue lots of cursing. This was one of the smallest bits on the model. I cannot think of an easy way of fabricating a new one. So let’s hold our heads high and move on…

On ye olde chassis, the lubricator crank was fitted on top of the coupling rod washer. As the Bachmann chassis has bolts that screw the coupling rods in place, I decided it made more sense to fit it beneath the bolt (no soldering or gluing required). I widened the hole on the crank and fitted the lubricator arm, but the mechanism attempted to collide with both the coupling rods and the coupling bolt. A couple of washers later (one in front of the coupling rods and one thicker one within the lubricator arm mechanism) and the lubricator arm was up and running!

To be honest, this project is nothing to do with accuracy; small additions like the lubricator arm are more to do with the hours I spent building the darn thing first time round! So I am happy to see this work finally paying off, minus the hand wheel (sniff!).

Below is a video of the loco running:

Converting a Bachmann BR 03 Shunter chassis to fit inside a Craftsman BR 07 Shunter (Pt2)

IMG_7184 (lowres)

Over the past week I have tried to answer three niggling questions regarding this conversion:

  1. How can I fix the Bachmann chassis into the brass kit body?
  2. How can I fill the open space from the cut-away chassis at the front of the loco (see the top image)?
  3. Can I refit any of the little details from the original brass chassis to the Bachmann one (sand boxes and the lubricator arm)?

As most of my time in this hobby is spent thinking about how to solve such problems (rather than actually doing anything) I decided, in the mean time, to see if I could deconstruct the old chassis.

The old brass chassis

I knew I wanted to retrieve the lubricator arm assembly and maybe the brake rigging from the old brass chassis, but I had foolishly soldered all the parts (including the axle bolts) into place. I also wanted to see if I could get the wheels off intact (for use in the future).

IMG_4961 (lowres)

After a bit of soldering-iron wrestling, I managed to get all the wheels, gears and motor away from the chassis. I could now strip the brass chassis back to bare metal.

Paint stripping

I have a range of chemicals (normally used for other household or DIY applications) that I use for paint stripping. For metals and brass, there is a chemical I use that can remove paint in a matter of minutes…Nitromors!

‘All Purpose Nitromors’ is a paint and varnish remover which I bought from Homebase or B&Q. This is one of those chemicals where you heed the warnings on the tin! This is vicious stuff! On my first trial with Nitromors (stripping white metal figures) the chemical ate through my rubber gloves and burnt my hands!

It will eat plastic, so if you have any plastic detail on a model, it is very important to remove it. It will also eat any glue joints, so unless you have soldered your model together, expect it to fall apart too (such qualities can also be quite useful).

I have a small metal pie-tin than I fill with Nitromors and then drop my models in (I think plastic containers are too risky).

As expected, after a few scrubs with a toothbrush, the brass chassis was back to bare metal. After a good rinse and scrub with soda crystals I dropped the chassis into my sonic cleaner, which removed any remaining residue.


I noticed after this step that the solder joints had become quite brittle, which makes me wonder whether the sonic cleaner was the cause (I hope not).


Bachmann Chassis

As the chassis appeared a bit more fragile after the ‘purge’, I decided to cut off the brake rigging (deciding that I wasn’t that precious about including it on the new chassis).

I then noticed that the Bachmann chassis was actually thin enough to sit inside part of the old brass chassis frame. I decided to cut the front end of the brass chassis off and change the position of the spacers, which miraculously allowed me to refit the front end of the brass chassis around the Bachmann one, thus:

  1. filling the annoying gap at the front of the engine;
  2. creating a front mounting for the chassis; and
  3. retaining the front-end chassis detail

Result! Granted, the rear section will not be quite as simple, but I will tackle this next.



The Big Freeze of January ’48

The picture above was taken on Salent Street just as the big freeze took hold on 4th January 1948 in Restington, Cambs.

British Railways J70 68217 is pictured on the tramway with a mixed goods train. Cars parked in the streets were an increasing problem for tramway traffic, with frozen doors and engines causing further delays for tramway freight through this long cold January.

Fireman Nick Shire was known for stopping to help stranded motorists with their frozen cars by piling scorching-hot cinders underneath car doors and bonnets to help them thaw.

The cow-catcher fitted steam trams were also used as stand-in snow ploughs, operating across main lines, private sidings and branches within the local area. Little photographic evidence of such operations is yet to come to light.