Peter Nutbrown : End of an Era

I started my garden railway in 2000. I bought 100 yards of track including ten points from an acquaintance, an engineer, who was moving house and downsizing his Gauge 1 railway. These had been hand built by the engineer in the late 1940’s. He had made models of the various onsite processes displayed in the reception of BP Chemicals plant at Saltend.

 Initially I built a 12’ by 8’ test track on boards and it was obvious that my Gauge 1 loco would not negotiate the curves so that was traded in for an MSS kit. I made some small wagons for it to pull but it was not inspiring. So some track went down in the garden, without full planning permission, around a patio where a pond had been filled in due to grandchild minding duties. Being at ground level my meths fired MSS loco was difficult to operate and a raised circuit was out of the question, so it was confined to the test track, which is still in use today, though some worn out rails have now been replaced. 

Through my work I became aware of Roundhouse in Doncaster and a Billy with R/C was duly purchased, but what for it to pull? The little light weight wagons bobbed along behind it but were too small. Knowing nothing about the 16mm Association I hit on LGB wagons as a quick fix.  GRS were promoting narrow-gauge items using wagons in the Play Train range. These were a less detailed, cheaper range of the LGB 1 metre gauge continental style. They were aimed at children and made in bright primary colours. I purchased three open trucks, brake van, flatbed truck, two tank wagons and a plastic cattle truck body kit.

The GRS conversion method to make them appear British outline without the brake platform on each wagon involved using a hacksaw to cut into them diagonally across the centre of the LGB underframe producing one short section and the other longer with the flat walkway, brake and handrail. Two frames were cut in this fashion, the shorter halves were paired together and an LGB open truck body fitted nicely over this underframe with no modification.

The remaining longer frames when assembled had the platform and handrails at each end with a slightly longer wheelbase. These formed the underframes for the cattle wagon kit and eventually the two tank wagons.

GRS produced a centre buffer which fitted over the stem of the axle frame assembly and the initial pair of wagons were modified and operated for about a year before the remainder of the wagons. When reversing the wagons with the new centre buffers they frequently derailed due to the flexibility of the swivelling axle frames.  To combat this the axle frames have now been fitted with spacers to prevent this action.

These wagons, glued together with a centre support plate, have survived for 18 years, and in that time have withstood grandchildren filling and emptying the open wagons with stones, sand, play people etc. and of course dropping them. The two tank wagons were filled with water to transport it to the various flowers around the garden, a most important job for a five year old.

In the 2020 lockdown the bodies of the open wagons were separated from the frames and were spray-painted with grey primer followed by a matt grey mix similar in colour to a recently acquired W & L brake van. Matt black was painted on some of the iron work and over the LGB writing on the underframes The cows were removed from the cattle truck before repainting grey. As I am a poor sign writer the labelling machine was deployed to produce passable decals.


The two petrol tanks have been side-lined for now and lollipop sticks and some lengths of 5mm square wood section have been used to make two generic cattle truck bodies. The same grey paint was applied to the bodywork and the LGB writing on the frames was painted over and the labelling machine used again. Simple hinges and securing bolts have been made out of brass for the loading doors. The steel roofs were painted in antique white and are simply glued to the bodywork. The steel was formerly the front panel of a boiler, kindly donated by John a former 16mm’er. It also made roofs for two steel bodied carriages.

I am pleased with the transformation and the reconditioned wagons now blend in with the remaining rolling stock. There will be no mutterings when they run on Mount Dowd in future!

November 2021































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