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Balcony Supports Dilemma

by Doc

Wherein our hero agonises about whether to accept the Atropos kit solution offered on a plate, or takes a small flyer and attempts to more accurately depict the prototype.

The issue

First of all, I want to make it clear that the title of this article has not been lifted from the front page of some local newspaper, edited by a dyslexic punster. Oh no. As soon as I read it, I realised that you have two ways of reading the word 'supports'. Is it a noun or a verb?

It's a noun.

I like making Atropos carriage kits; in fact I'm notorious for gushing about them to anyone who will listen for two minutes. The are superb for many reasons, the most important being that the instructions are so good, any half-wit can make them into an outcome to be proud of. The secret is Martin, the guy who designs them and makes up the kits. To say that he is a perfectionist is to be guilty of vicious understatement. Pernickety, is what he is. I feel sure that he thinks about the kit to such depth, his brain might boil.

One thing Martin likes is to enable you to gain access to the interior after the build so that you can fix lights and deal with passengers. To that end, he has devised a truly natty and simple system of split flooring. The floor is in three parts. Two slim outer panels are built permanently into the carriage 'box'. The central section is held to the subframe by a system of perforated lugs and small screws and can stay solidly and permanently attached or removed should you wish it.

Mid-compartment screws. The inner ones fix the central floor portion and the outer
fix the narrower, side sections and thus the compartment 'box' itself. Of course, from
below, the fixing plate obscures the junction between the three elements of the floor.

The lower screws fix the compartment floor plate and the upper ones secure the
 balcony floor which is glued to the outside of the compartment and lifts off together.
 I, for example, have recently taken to cutting a slot from the central floor section to enable easy access to the switch on a battery box, glued above the floor. Had I glued the floor to the subframe, I'd have been up a gum tree.

My access to the battery box for internal lights. Note that the screws to hold the 
central floor section have yet to be fitted.

It really is a good thing to be able to strip a carriage down in this way and it beats organising some cock-a-mamie method of removable roofing. To be able to solidly glue down a roof but still gain access to the interior makes me a much happier coach-builder

Schull & Skibbereen No 4

The dilemma of which I speak relates to the different configuration of the Schull & Skibbereen Coach No 4. Built by Dick, Kerr in 1888 and subsequently modified in the workshop at Skibbereen in 1906, this 4 wheeler had a 12 foot single compartment but, until the S&S thought better of it, had balconies at both ends. I imagine the original idea was that passengers could stand to travel on those balconies or maybe milk churns were intended to ride. In any case, after one Denis O'Regan fell off one, the following carriage ran over his leg, and was killed, they did seem a natty idea. So where's the problem?

The outer roof supports ought to extend further down and be fixed directly into
the buffer beams, not end at the same height as the inner ones.

The roof at the end is held up by 4 iron balcony stanchions with cross rails. In order to continue offering a way of dismantling the body from the sub frame, the Atropos kit has a ready drilled beam that runs the entire width of the buffer beam and corresponds to a similarly pre-drilled beam that sits under the roof and is glued to it. Rather nice brass rods are provided, already drilled through to accept the horizontal wires which are sleeved to the same thickness as the uprights. Superb! It looks a treat and it works. The trouble is this. The prototype is not like that. In the prototype, the vertical roof supports attach more or less directly into the roof, without the thick beam Atropos provide. 

Neil's superb model of the same carriage showing how the balcony end should look.
His is to 15mm scale and runs on 45mm gauge track representing 3 ft narrow gauge.
Mine is 16mm SM32, of course. The other difference is that the upper panel inlays
are represented by Atropos as onlays. It fools the eye, more or less

I think I'm prepared to accept that as poetic licence. What I am not happy to go along with this the full width beam, having seen a very detailed close-up black and white snapshot of the original. You see, there, the outer two uprights fix directly into the buffer beam. The inner two are pretty much as Atopos supply. This really does make the vehicle look different. Indeed, the difference is glaringly obvious.

So what to do?

My Proposed Solution

I think I want to retain the ability to dismantle the body from the subframe by removing the screws. All I need to do, therefore, is to find a way to secure the outside two uprights without actually fixing them into the buffer beam top surface which would make separation impossible. I shall have to make four longer 1.6mm uprights from brass rod which I will have to drill through and that's tricky, to say the least of it. I think I shall cut a piece of brass strap to run between the upper surface of the buffer beam and the cross beam which I shall shorten appropriately to the same width as the balcony flooring. I now ned to decide whether to solder the brass ferrules to this strap or glue them. At the moment, I favour soldering, though I am not the neatest solderer on the planet.

Brass strip cut to length and just resting on top of the cross beam. Eventually, this
will lie under the cross beam and on top of the buffer beam and the outer part of 
the cross beam will be removed to the line of the balcony floor.

I was obliged to create new outside upright supports from 1.6mm brass rod and drill through new 1mm holes to accommodate the cross wire system. I must say that this was not as hard as I imagined it would be and I got very practised at it having incorrectly measure the new brass rods so had to do double the number. The brass rods supplied for the uprights are in two lengths since the ones nearest to the centre of the vehicle are longer to suit the curve of the roof. Had Atropos supplied all the rods at the longer length, I could have used those.

New balcony support arrangement from below. Note that the ends of the brass strip 
have been blackened before assembly. The outer upright rods were left long and cut
 off after fixing with CA.

 Just to be clear, the horizontal bars that link the uprights are formed in a very elegant way. A thin wire with a loop at one end passes through holes in the uprights which, of course, must be set at the same height. To make these wires  resemble the cross bars, they are sleeved with 1.6mm brass tube. I decided to pre-blacken before assembly and use CA to fix it all once I had the levels right and this proved a successful way to do quite a tricky job. Had I used solder, I would have ended up with a backening problem. After all, this ironwork was not shiny brass. This was Ireland, not Disneyworld!

Now the fully dismountable cabin has the outer uprights secured at the level of the
top of the buffer beam. The brass ferrules are not prototypical but are a very neat 
way of ensuring the metalwork is secure.

The finished carriage which now needs numbering and lettering