The kit arrives as a flat pack taped to a piece of stout card together with a bag of castings, a generous supply of wire and a pre-formed roof. The instructions are an excellent, well presented, easy to read set of Jim's usual comprehensive notes on how to put the van together. The standard of etching is very high, which I think reflects the standard of draughtsmanship put into the etch tool.
The first job is to clean off the sticky residue that Sellotape leaves behind, a cloth and some Butanone does the job easily. I then spent a couple of hours filing off cusps and tabs, I find they are more consistent if all done at the same time. The buffers, like all the castings exquisitely cast, are provided as a fixed item. Probably the narrowest buffer body I have seen and it will be very difficult to find a working set to replace them; the client wants working buffers. Eventually Graham at NMRS and I decided on a compromise and used a set that are reasonably close match. Since these vehicles were very long lived, it is entirely possible that buffers were changed over time. The alternative would have been to remove the cast head, drill out the body and fit a set of heads. A tricky job that would have involved the lathe as I have a suspicion that the shafts of the buffer heads would have required a larger a hole in the body than it would have been capable supporting; thus it would have been necessary to reduce the diameter of the shanks. A good deal of modelling is about compromise at times.
I began construction by punching out bolt heads and folding up the parts that needed it so that I had then a pile of parts ready to start making components for assembly. Not a difficult job but care is needed when folding up the door jambs in the sides.
The next job was to fit as much detail as possible to these parts before starting assembly. It is far easier to fit things like end steps, lamp brackets and at least some of the handrails before the body is made up. There may be some difficulty fitting compensation to this vehicle due to the beams that traverse the length of vehicle under the floor, which join the upright stanchions that are part of on the ends. The next job is to cut up some glazing to fit the various windows while I can still measure them up properly.
The body goes together easily and accurately, the solebars were then fitted and the end steps soldered in place. I thought it necessary to fit all the steps before fitting the axle guards/W irons because they would be difficult to do after. I did a dry run with the wheels sets and discovered that compensation will not fit as the beams that traverse from end to end under the floor would not allow it. In fact these parts need very careful preparation and fitting or the wheels will not clear them. Removal of any raised edges on the beams and rubbing back the rear face of the wheels to remove protrusions there should ensure enough clearance for the wheels to turn. So it became necessary to fit the wheels in the manner that Jim intended, a rare occurrence for me.
For the buffer bodies to fit, some material needs to be cut from the base of the axle guard thus, and the bearings reduced much in length. The bearings will not fit into the axle boxes full length as the boxes are not deep enough. However, once cut down to about a third their length and soldered in they worked well with very little side play but it is necessary to drill out the axle boxes more deeply. Jim's method is to file off the pinpoints on the axles so there are two ways to do the job. Clearances on this vehicle are tight in many places especially as the solebars are unusually close together on the prototype.
As suggested in the instructions, the lower strapping is more easily fitted if a buffer body is inserted in the beam, the strapping soldered in place and then bent to fit round the sides before completing the soldering. The upper strapping can be measured for the centre and bent to shape before fitting.
The buffer bodies (a replacement, integrally sprung, set from NMRS) needed a flat filing on the round spigot that goes into the beam to clear the solebar.
All the steps are now fitted, the backs of the outer supports will need a little filing of the backs to give enough clearance for the W irons/axle boxes.
The roof needs some care to get the birdcage right. I taped the roof in place and then held the birdcage unit in place while spot soldering the straight sides. After checking to ensure it was square and in exactly the right place, it was soldered securely in place. The next picture gives a view of the roof parts and glazing.
Now is the time check that the glazing properly fits the spaces. Once the birdcage roof is soldered in place, check the glazing again for true fit. I had to clean a little solder away from the joins to ensure that the glazing butted properly against the glazing bars. The roof is intended to be glued in place and this is how I shall be fixing it once it is painted.