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7/8ths Model Earth Tumbril

by Chris Bird

Now anyone who has read my articles on rolling stock here on the GRC will know that I like to scratch build from cheap materials and am not a stickler for realistic detail, but when I opened my copy of Garden Rail magazine (October 2017) and saw Steph' Hicking's article on the Model Earth Tumbril wagons, I was hooked.

Designed to be a budget wagon (they are currently only £22), they have all the exquisite detail that designer Si Harris is renowned for and with Steph's weathering, they have all the quirky character that I love in 7/8ths. So off I went to the Model Earth website .....and could I find them? No! But then I knew I would see Si at the Exeter Garden Railway show, so I put the idea on the back burner. (I now know that I should have clicked on the on-my-workbench link and scrolled down the blog....)

Anyway, I saw them on Si's stand complete with his world class paint job and had to have one....and a bit later, another one. I left happy with Si's words ringing in my ears: "Read the instructions and use a sharp scalpel to remove the flash - the pins are very delicate....."

Here is one of Si's photos of his painted tumbril

And here is the kit

I was pretty exhausted when I got home and needed the assistance of a couple of glasses of wine to get me in the mood to open a packet and see. This looks simple I thought. That flash is very thin it will come off really easily I thought. Ah........two broken pins attached to the flash........

First Attempt or "How not to build a Tumbril Wagon"

I am used to a fairly gung-ho approach to modelling, standing at my bench I use robust materials and often use the chop saw and bench sander to cut and shape. This is not the approach needed for one of these fine kits! I did use a sharp scalpel to remove the flash and a razor saw to remove bits of sprue, but my mistake was not to spend time with the trial fitting. Another broken pin came from my heavy handling, but that was no problem surely - I could glue them on. Glue? well I had run out of the good two part cyanoacrylate, so I decided on 10 min epoxy. I glued the ends to the base and held them at right angles with steel blocks, so I knew they were true. However it was only when I came to offer up the sides that I realised that these were about 2.5mm shorter than the gaps. There was no way that a re-glued resin pin would be strong enough to bridge the gap - so I cut some steel pins and epoxied them on instead (the epoxy looks like my welding - lumpy!). Ten minutes seems like a long time while one is trying to get the pins to stay in place and even longer when holding the sides in place!

The wagon looks fine in the end and the gaps could certainly be prototypical, but I decided that I must do it better with the second one.

I spoke to Si who explained that casting was not a precision process and there could be some variation - it was clear that more care and a sensible amount of fettling was necessary......

Second Attempt

Right, this time it was in the kitchen, a large cutting board, good light and a comfortable chair. Also a new Xacto blade. Have the instructions to hand as well as a dust mask. Be aware of Si's warning about the dust if sanding.

Here is what comes in the bag:

Essential tools: sharp scalpel and razor saw

First (before clearing the pins) I held the side firmly to cut off the top sprue with the razor saw. The tumbril sides vary a lot with some of the connecting flash very thin and some needing real sawing.

To clear the flash from round the pins, I laid the side with the pins down and inserted the scalpel next to the pin (just as Si had advised).

I found it essential to work slowly and carefully. The scalpel blade was also useful clean up the edges of the side. The ends were easier as the top sprue breaks off easily. The bottom needed care though and the use of the scalpel, as did the small catches on the sides. The base also needed cleaning up before starting to test assemble.

With the main castings cleaned up it was time to trial fit the ends and clamp them in position to test the sides. These were about 1mm shorter than the boarded section and when in position, this was nearer 2mm, which explained the gaps in the first model. I used coarse sandpaper glued to a small block to sand the end planks and then the scalpel to scrape resin away. I also needed to take some off the backs of the end vertical bars and some off the chassis where they fit. It was not difficult, but needed careful attention to get a nice fit. Strangely, this time, I had no problem at all with the pins!

Here you can see that a little more scraping is necessary.

And now it was time for glue. This time I used a thick cyanoacrylate with a accelerator spray.

I sprayed the end of the chassis and put the glue on the end panel. One only has 10 seconds so it was important to get it central and square.

With hindsight, I would use less glue for the sides as it is difficult to remove when it sets on the outside. Here is a comparison of the two wagons:

Then I set the 32mm gauge on the axles and sorted out the axle boxes. These needed hardly any fettling - it was really just the sharp edges.

I did use the two pack epoxy to fit these and with the wagon upside down, I put a block of aluminium on the wheels so that they would set square. Then as the adhesive started to go off, I stood it on its wheels to be doubly sure all was square.

So now it looked like this:

After giving it all a clean, I gave it a couple of coats of grey primer.

I now have to decide what detailing and weathering I will do. Probably it will be black/rusty ironwork and then overall dusting with the airbrush. We shall see......


I took a couple of days to think about this. There is no way that I could achieve the weathered wood ad rusty metal that Si Harris does (see top of the page) or Steph' Hicking does (see Garden Rail Mag). And anyway, back in 1930's Summerlands, they had a policy of slapping paint on everything. For goods stock this is normally grey with maybe some black on the iron work, but I eventually settled on the plain green to match Pip, the small Model Earth diesel.

I used Rover Brooklands green which gave a rather horrible gloss finish and masked the wheels and interior.

A couple of light coats were left to dry overnight (I assumed that an oven would not be a good idea!). Then it was my usual Revell 'leather brown' brushed on the wheels on the wheels and some dilute brown, matte varnish wash brushed on to the glossy planks. Then a bit of touching in with the brown rust and then finally I airbrushed the wash over everything, using bio-ethanol to dilute. It is essential to wear a proper solvent mask if using bio-ethanol!!

So after this quick and dirty process, this is how they look:

Maybe there is more work to do on the weathering!