16mm Projects

Alan Poxon : Building a Shed

The main line Class 66 locomotives appear to have acquired the nickname sheds, no doubt due to their corrugated sides and pitch roof. However, at over 70 feet long but only 104 inches wide, these Co-Co diesels look like they are built to contain a two-lane bowling alley rather than looking like anything found at the bottom of a British garden. Much more in keeping to the proportions of a typical garden shed are tramway locomotives.

Tram locomotives, as you know, were designed to run on track laid in, or alongside, roads. One of their defining features was a skirt surrounding the locomotive, almost down to rail level, that was designed to hide the motion from any horses that could be offended. Many 16mm narrow gauge tram locomotives bear more than a passing resemblance to Toby the Tram Engine which was itself based on the standard gauge GER Class C53 (LNER Class J70) locomotive. What could look more like a shed than these rectangular, wood- planked boxes on wheels?

C53s were a class of twelve 0-6-0 tram locomotives, built between 1903 and 1921, for use on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway in East Anglia. Reverend W. Awdry wrote about Toby shortly before he moved to a parish on the route of the tramway. Interestingly, on Awdry’s own model railway Toby was represented by a GER Class G15 (LNER Class Y6) for the same reason I eventually chose to model this engine, an 0-4-0 prototype was better suited to a 4-wheel motorised chassis.

The G15s were a class of ten locomotives, built between 1883 and 1897, that had also worked the Wisbeck and Upwell Tramway before being replaced by the more powerful C53s. Both locomotives were similar in design with a rectangular, wood-plank body and all round skirt. Additionally, both engines had cow-catchers and driving positions at each end of the locomotive. The 0-6-0 locomotive was only 8 inches longer than the older      0-4-0s but weighed over 5 tons more.

Narrow gauge 0-4-0 tram locomotives do exist and the idea of building a 16mm tram engine first came after a visit to see the Telford Town Tram in steam. This was only built in 1979, so it didn’t quite fit the bill. I was impressed by the Henschel locomotive Rur built in 1899 and restored in the UK by Alan Keef but this had a steel body and I was fixed on the idea of building a British wooden shed. By elimination, I landed back on a GER Class G15 of 1883, re-imagined on narrow gauge.

I started the construction by building each side of the locomotive before assembly. The frame was made using candy floss sticks. Not your cheap round candy floss sticks that the floss doesn’t stick to, but square section sticks that hold a heap of floss. Always check before you buy candy floss. The panels were then infilled after scribing the wood to represent planks. The centre section of the locomotive was reinforced by an internal wooden frame so that the model could be picked up without damaging the body.

The body was then assembled and attached to a wooden chassis that I had salvaged from a fixer-upper. A plastic drain pipe of suitable dimensions was cut in half to represent the top part of the boiler that is visible through the windows and doors. The ends of the boiler were cut off the bottom of plastic bottles. The space below the boiler had more than enough room for the motor electrics and radio control electronics. A frame was made for the detachable roof and a brass sheet rolled to fit. Finally a skirt was fabricated and buffers attached.

The motorised wooden chassis was false economy. The 3V motor could move the locomotive but couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding. A little bit of surgery with a Dremel and I was able to slot in a Swift 16 power bogie, as used on my WDLR Tin Turtles. An MFA 5 pole motor running at 12 V, turning both axles using a Delrin chain, had more than enough pulling power. I had the last original Acme steam engine soundcard waiting for another project that never really got started, so I squeezed that in as well, along with the necessary speaker.

After painting, the tram locomotive was beautified with a little brass detail plus drivers and lamps at each end. A name plate was ordered from Narrow Planet as all steam locomotives, even battery powered tram locomotives, need a name. I opted for the pretentious Adopertus just so that people could ask what it meant. What does it mean? My school Latin dictionary tells me that it means clothed, covered, veiled or skirted.






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