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7/8ths Pen Pot Wagons

by Chris Bird

I am always on the lookout for products that might be relevant for my 7/8th" scale railway and the discount shop "Wilkinsons" here in the UK has provided many packs of bamboo plant labels for building stock. On a recent visit, my wife picked up a bamboo pen pot/box - and I quickly picked up another to experiment with.

The Pen Box

This is 87mm x 87mm x 103mm high and cost £2.50

The question was whether to make one tall wagon or two short, two plank ones. I decided on two and so marked up the box and cut it carefully with a fine tenon saw. I supported the box bu slipping it over a piece of timber (75mm x 50mm) held in the bench vice. I now had one open end on each, so I cut bamboo plant labels to fit. Wilkinsons also sell bamboo magazine holders so one could buy one of those to cut up for ends - one would make a lot!

With the planks glued in (I used thick superglue), I had some plank lines in the wrong place, so I filled with car body filler and sanded it smooth

I wanted a two plank wagon with the base boards showing and so I used the digital caliper as a scriber to mark the planks.

It is perhaps not the best use of the tool, but is very effective!

The Chassis

I used the bamboo plant labels for this, but you could use any suitable strip wood. If anything, the labels are a bit deep, but I wanted to keep it simple. After cutting the long frames to the length of about 90mm, I cut the spacers to 57.5mm to suit the axle boxes/axles. This could be narrower for 32mm only or a different set up. As usual, I used a nail punch to emboss the 'coach bolt heads.

Then I glued the frame on a modelling board. It is best to use some cling film to stop the whole thing sticking together!

This was then carefully positioned and marked before supergluing. I got it right the second time......

Strapping and buffers

There must be an easier way of making the strapping than using 1.5mm steel strip, but I have about a mile of it and have used it before, so at least it will match some of my other rolling stock. I sheared it to length and then squared the ends on the belt sander. Then, using a jig (a similar stip with holes in the right places) I marked and embossed the coach bolt heads on the drill press. The straps were then glued on and filled with car body filler.

The simple buffers were made from wood strip, marked with a paint tin to make the curve and then shaped on the bench belt sander. Then glued on.

Painting and Running Gear

The wagons were now given an all over coat of grey acrylic spray primer.

The running gear is from Binnie Engineering here in the UK, but any suitable wheels and axle boxes will do. I used 29mm curly spoked wheels with 63mm axles and GVT II Iron axle boxes. Enough for four wagons cost £18 with postage.

The axle boxes, with wheels and axles in place are epoxied into position so the the embossed bolt heads appear to be holding them.

Then the strapping is brush painted with matt black acrylic paint and the bolt heads were touched in with the same. On this wagon you can see where the scriber slipped, but I think it adds character...  You can also see the coupling hook made from a 40mm panel pin, I hold the end in the vice and heat the end to red heat with a blowtorch. Three quick bends with long nosed pliers produce the hook which, when cool, can be trimmed with wire cutters and pushed through a pre-drilled hole.

The wheels and axle boxes were brush painted with a dull brown acrylic and then the whole thing was weathered (not very well!) using dilute brown/matte varnish washes from brush and airbrush.

A number stenciled on using white ink pen. And a bit more weathering - still not great.....

And here it is with the Hunslet JACK:

And now the pair with the Accucraft Quarry Hunslet:

More Wagons

I have now made a total of seven wagons - the odd one being made from a Bamboo Memo Box (for post it notes). This is a bit more expensive, and to be honest, not much easier.

The partition can easily be removed by placing a block of wood on it and giving it a sharp tap with a hammer.

The end can now be glued in place, but you will wuicly see that the top of the box is not square. It needs to be marked up and trimmed. I used a sharp chisel and coarse sandpaper to finish.

The squared up box is shorter than the pen box wagons so I asses the bottom plank using plant labels.

This brings it up to pretty much the same height.

The Full Rake

I made another four wagons using the original pen boxes. Here they are waiting for the steel strapping and buffer wood:

And now ready for paint:

OK it's confession time! I decided to make a jig to mark out where the dummy bolt heads should be embossed, but only discovered that I had made it incorrectly after I had marked out all the frames....... Luckily all I needed to do was turn them over and start again.....

Here they are ready for priming:

I used the Binnie 29mm wheels again with GVT II axle boxes. Then I numbered the wagons using a white paint pen and brass stensil (given free by the 16mm Association many years ago).

Then with a bit of weathering from the air brush, I had a full rake:


And here is a video of them in action:

An Overseer's Wagon

After completing the rake, I had a couple of pen boxes left over and I began thinking about a brake wagon or perhaps an overseer's wagon. I also had a Summerlands GP Wagon base that I had built during a demonstration at our local Moodel Engineering Club. This was longer than the pen box so I needed to fill the space.....

Well the overseer might well deliver the pay, so perhaps a strong box on the back ....and maybe some weights and brake gear on the front......  The joy of 7/8ths modelling 9and 16mm come to that) is that I can do whatever I like and make it up as I go along.

I didn't take lots of stage photos, but cut the compartment using a tenon saw and jig saw. This latter was a bit brutal but with some belt sanding and hand sanding it produced the shape below. The box lid is rather too thick - but then it is a "strong box"! The hinges and lock gear are made from brass, but castings would be easier.

The weights on the front ore out of an old plastic toy and the brake stanchion is soldered up from an old cartridge case. The colour of the wood was achieved with some varnish stain and french polish, rubbing down with coarse sandpaper between coats. At this stage the chassis is just grey primer.

I added some dummy brake blocks and pieces of steel to represent cross shaft bearings - then the chassis, weights and stanchion were sprayed green.

Finally it was given some fairly heavy weathering using the airbrush. The mixture was matte varnish, brown, black and a little white - all very dilute in bio-ethanol.

Here it is with Jack (AKA LIZZIE)

And here with Pip from Modelearth and one of my first simple 7/8ths wagons:

Update (Late October 2017)

Following a suggestion from Mike Brown that the overseer's wagon might make a nice Inspection Car if powered, I built a Mk 2 version which is also written up on this site. After I had completed it, Mike asked to see the two together, so I took this photo:

Somehow this just didn't look right to me, so I decided to reduce the height of the seat back, chamfer the lid of the strong box, strip the varnish with paint stripper and spray it green! After a little weathering here is the result:

But not that way round! Better like this:

And with a train:

I'm happy with that!