16mm Projects

Adding Brakes : Steve Smith

Adding Brakes to existing wagons

19 years ago, when I first equipped Aireside Railway with a couple of wagons, I turned to Brandbright for their simple kits. I acquired 2 of GS14, 3 plank opens. Over the years I have rebuilt and modified them and they now run as a 2 plank paired set coupled together with link and pin couplings. The latest mod has been to add brake gear and you may be interested in my approach. The following assumes you might like to try reproduce my design.

It may sound pretty obvious but the wagon needs to be up-side-down and well supported until the work is complete. I soldered but you may find epoxy glue has a chance. Study the photos to understand how the brakes work, both manually and via the vacuum system. The outside handle and the vacuum cylinder need to be at the same end of the wagon and the brake shoes are pushed onto the wheels through the turning of the cross wagon bar.

In the original Brandbright design, the axle guards were attached to the wagon frame with small round headed wood screws from inside the frames. This brake installation starts with replacing these wood screws with bolts through from outside on which the braking equipment can be attached. I used 1 inch 8ba round headed bolts, later cut to length, with nuts inside.

The brake foundation is a piece of brass flat of ¼” x 1/16”, cut to a length, approx 60mm, one for each side of the wagon. When drilled at either end, they will hang on the two axle guard 8ba bolts. The no43 drill (8ba clearance drill) was offset from lengthwise centre to ensure this foundation did not protrude below the frame but centre alignment would probably be ok. I found that on my wagons, the axle guards (and therefore wheels) were not truly square across the wagon so both foundations needed to be made to suit each side and marked appropriately. The centre of the foundation is marked and squared at 30mm.


Photo 1 Wagon 27 prior to painting. Note the foundation piece bolted to the inner fixing of the axel guards, the “V” hangers, cross bar, the brake shoes and linkage to the swivel (immediately behind the nearside “V” hanger) the linkage keeps and the vacuum cylinder.

A “V” shaped hanger for each side is required. This will support the cross bar on which all the gear will hang. I used 1/16th brass rod bent to approx 40 degrees. These were centred and soldered to the foundation. A bearing/keep is required for the cross bar in the form of a small brass flat. This was soldered to the “point” of the hanger and filed to shape. The cross bar is 1/16th brass rod and both keeps were drilled to take the rod. The cross bar is the fulcrum for the operation of the brakes and I therefore used the wheel centres as the alignment for the position of the bar. This clearly has a knock back impact on the length of the “V” hanger. So my hangers were 19mm from the floor of the wagon and the cross bar is 16mm from the floor. Ensure the cross bar is square across the wagon.

Now the foundation can be fasten onto the axle guard bolts for the further work.

The cross bar was cut to a length of 65mm and threaded 10ba at one end perhaps 5mm length. A nut was tightened into the none-thread bar and with a washer passed through the hangers. My “V” hangers are approx 40mm apart and the opposite end is then threaded for 20mm so that the bar can be tightened between hangers leaving 15mm plus to mount the manual brake handle.

Now here comes the first tricky bit. Saw a piece of ¼” x 1/16” brass down the centre for 80mm to provide 2 pieces 1/8” x 1/16” (less saw cut) unless you can source commercially provided bar/rod of that dimension – and if you can please let me know where! I used a Junior Hack saw very luckily without too much wandering so I could file out the discrepancies. You would be providing the manual braked handle (approx 75mm), link to the vacuum cylinder (approx 32mm) a swivel lever (approx 15mm) and a brake handle keep (approx 25mm).

So while you are manufacturing parts, Brake shoes are next. Starting with more ¼” x 1/16” brass flat, each shoe should be no more than 12mm long. Half way, perhaps 2mm from the edge I drilled 1/16th hole for the bar connection. Mark out the concave shape of the braking surface to match your wheel and using a Dremel and/or file cut to shape. Across the rear, mark and shape with needle files the matching curve, leaving the hole with strengthening “meat” of metal. Needless to say that as much as possible of this work should be done on the bar and only cutting the small piece when no more work can be done. Two shoes are required and they should be held together in the vice to be a pair finished with fine files. “Bluing” would help in the marking out.

For the Vacuum cylinder I used 15mm dia wood dowelling cut 15mm mm in length. Drill the centre 1/16” for the vacuum piston. Bend a small length of 1/16” rod 90 degrees and press into the cylinder leaving approx 5mm showing. The link bar (32mm) should be drilled at both ends, to link the vacuum cylinder and piston to the cross bar. Round both ends of the link with a fine file. Leave fixing until later.

Next the brake activator swivel (15mm) was drilled 3 x 1/16” at the centre and at both ends. The activator can be filed round at both ends. Slot the activator on the cross bar.

Here comes the next tricky bit. I formed two lengths of 1/16” rod approx 22mm long after bending both ends 90 degrees. One brake shoe was placed onto one end of the rod and the second end was mounted into the swivel activator. The arrangement was repeated for the second shoe. Nothing was fixed so after the third or fourth attempt I got the shoes to sit against both wheels. One rod is high one is low. Only after I was satisfied that this arrangement would work, I soldered the parts together – but not the swivel on the cross bar at this time. The swivel actuator was relaxed a little to ensure the shoes did not touch the wheels and they ran free. Make sure the brake shoes will PUSH onto the wheels when notionally applied.

There are two hangers that stop the brake links and shoes from rotating. I used two 30mm lengths of 1/16” rod soldered onto the foundation piece, some 4mm distant from the end fixing holes. This can be done earlier but they get in the way when fiddling with the shoes and links. Remove the foundation to solder – hence the swivel and links need to be free. Once these new hangers are in position, two brass plates 10mm x 3mm are drilled to sit on the hanger and soldered thereby equalising the shoes against the wheel heights. Once satisfied the swivel and cylinder link can be soldered to the cross bar.

Getting there! Next the manual brake handle is drilled to fit on the extended and threaded cross bar. Fix with nut and washer inside and the same outside. I filed a handle to the end of the bar.

Full size manual brake handles can be applied when stationary but need holding in position. This is done with an open frame over the handle which is held down with a pin preventing its return to the off position. On my model the handles are held off by soldering to a hanger purporting to be such a frame. This has the built on another short length of ¼” x 1/16” soldered to that last remaining piece of brass 1/8” x 1/16” – the Brake Handle Keep of 25mm length. The base plate is drilled for an 8ba bolt to fasten to the wagon underframe and cut to 11mm length to snug against the frame. Once in position, it can be marked and drilled for a rivet to be soldered to both handle and keep.

Now the vacuum cylinder can be glued to the underside of the floor to complete the assembly.

A final check round will ensure nothing fouls the track when turned the right way round.

And there you have a crude non working brake system. All that is left is to paint the new work. When soldering try to clean flux as you work and so final clean before painting is manageable. Use liquid flux and cut solder lengths and place about the joint to be made before applying heat – and primarily heat the metal, not the solder.

The pairs wagons numbered 23 and 24 have been so fitted and a third wagon number 27 has now received the treatment.

If you try this, once you have done one wagon the next one will be easier – good luck


Photo 2 Pairs wagons 23 and 24 giving additional underframe detail.


Photo 3 close up of wagon 23 showing the finished detail of the brake gear. Consider the use of the manual brake handle and the links to the brake shoes. When used the handle will notionally apply the brakes.

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