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RMC 7/8ths Brake Van

by Chris Bird

The Kit

This model is of a small, freelance brakevan and was designed by Raif Copley. It is unusual in that the door is at a different end on each side - the only access to its snug interior! Although Raif designed the kit as a finished product he did not really have any plans to market it (he prefers models based on prototypes), and indeed this one was left over after the design project so he very kindly gave it to me. Thank's Raif!!  So - if you fancy one you will have to twist his arm by contacting him on raifmcopley@aol.com.......

Just so that you know what I am talking about, here is the finished van which has been lightly weathered.

The Build - Day 1

It was a Saturday and a storm was raging outside, so it was the perfect day to start a kit. I had half the kitchen table and not too many distractions, which was good as I was determined not to make any serious mistakes with this kit.....

It came in a neat cardboard box with comprehensive instructions:

And there are a lot of pieces!

It is worth reading the instructions thoroughly for any kit and I did indeed read them - though I didn't memorise every detail.....

The first part was very easy - test fitting the main box and then gluing it together. It fitted perfectly and I found it easiest to fit it together on its side (with a couple of the roof beams raising it off the board so the projections on the ends are clear of the board. It takes a moment to think which surfaces the glue should go on too!

As usual I used white, waterproof PVA glue in a syringe. I held it together with elastic bands and quickly realised that the positioning oif these is important to get the best effect. You can see this below.

This was then set aside to set. The underframes build up to make the axleboxes and these were very simple.

As usual they were glues with the PVA and clamped. I used a cocktail stick to remove any excess glue that squeezed out.

With those put aside to set, I jumped in the instructions to make the roof frame as the glue needed to be well and truly set before shaping these. Raif recommends overnight, but that is a concept I don't find easy to follow!

I glued it on a small modelling board (covered in a plastic sheet to prevent sticking.

So that was set aside in a warm place to accelerate the bonding.

Then it was back to the main carcass to glue on the 'planked ' ends, followed by the sides.

When they were bonded, I selected the end bracing and cleaned up the edges with fine emery. And it was here that I found a slight anomaly. The etched lines show the end braces overlaping the sides, but the instructions specifically say they should be flush with the side edge. I followed the instructions and it was only after the glue was firmly set that I discovered that the side braces were not long enough to overlap and I ended up with a slight gap down each corner.

All was not lost though as there are plenty of fine pieces of ply on the sprues. I cut some of these and glued them in.

Here they are in place:

And with a little filler and sanding, they disappeared.

So now it was back to the roof which was pretty firm. I reckoned that if I could sand it to fit, then I could get the first layer of ply on before we went out for the evening, and the second layer on before bed. That way the roof would be finished in the morning and even have the magic 'overnight' drying.

The frame was rather too large for the opening, but a linisher (bench sander) is a wonderful thing and it quickly removed enough to make the frame a nice fit.

Then it was on with the first layer, out for a few hours, and on with the second. Lots of clamps made the edges glue nicely and in the morning 'Bob' would be my uncle! Only he wasn't........

The Build Day 2

I was rather pleased with all the clamped, so I took a photo:

But when I came to fit the roof to the van, I found my error. In my haste, I had forgotten to shape the frame to the roof contour (which is absolutely clear in the instructions!). Oh joy!!

I had no choice but to attack it with a scalpel and prize the roof off the frame. It was easier than I thought - even after overnight setting!!

Now with the frame in the body I could mark the shape it should have been.

The linisher came to the rescue again and it was quickly shaped to the correct contour. The problem was that the ply was now bonded to the wrong curve. I lined up a couple of battens on a piece of wood and decided that about 15Kg should bend the roof to the frame. I used a gel superglue and, after dampening the ply, I put a good bead on. With the ply suspended between the battens, I popped the fame into position and added a huge slab of steel. It bent and an hour later (a safety margin on the 10 seconds suggested) it was fine.

The trouble was that this method is a bit crude, so the countour, though smooth, was not perfect. I quickly realised that I had plenty more thin ply strips and so I was able to add a bead all the way round to hide the join. In fact I think the three thickness roof looks better - at least it does after sanding and filling the edge!

Here it is from the underside:

So now it was on to painting. I primed and sprayed the running gear black and then masked the main body for a coat of grey primer.

Followed by Brooklands Green car spray (company colours) after rubbing down. I found a triangular section cut from one of my wife's foam backed emery boards was ideal for getting into those angles.

The Build Day 3

No disasters overnight! I just needed to make a trip to Halfords (Auto accessory store) for more primer.

The roof was primed and painted ivory inside and just grey primer on the outside.

I then painted the door window frames dark brown using Revell acrylic paint. I also painted the inside frames (not yet fitted) with the same.

I wanted chunky handles and grab rails so I made the former from turned brass, silver soldered into a handrail knob, and the rails from 2.3mm brass rod. I 'blackened' them all in "Blancken-it" purchased from ebay. With the brass bright and clean it gave a superb, almost bronze effect.

I had planned to make dumb centre buffers (as Raif knows this so there were none with this particular kit) but I had a pair which were just right - so I used them.

All was assembled temporarily using blutac to hold the windows and brake rod as I wanted to take a picture and check for clearance before adding the steps. Here is the underneath:

And here is the progress so far:

The Build Day 4

The sturdy grab rails meant that the rod Raif provided for the steps was a bit thin, so I used the same brass rod. This is bent at right angles to fit in slots under the steps. These needed a bit of opening out , as did the holes in the van sides. I glued the rods to the steps with rapid epoxy, but they are just a firm push fit into the holes (in case they catch anywhere and need to be removed).

Next I needed some lamp brackets - so I found an old offcut of brass angle and shaped them from this. The first bend I made, though, fractured the brass, so I had to silver solder it back together and, once annealed, it bent easily.

I opted for the 'Blacken-it' bronze finish and I also blackened the 10 BA bolt heads. Then it was outside between storms to get a photo before any weathering.

I removed the windows and running gear and then airbrushed all with a dilute mixture of Revell Leather Brown and matt varnish. The wheels were brush painted with the leather brown, which gives a good impression of weathered iron.

I use lots and lots of coats - and it probably still needs some more!

The running gear clicks into place so I haven't glued it in case I ever want to run on 45mm (longer axles needed. I did glue to brake gear to the cross shaft, but that is all. I also fitted a pair of bespoke maker's plates that Raif kindly made for me.