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HGLW Wittenberg-Schafer Kit

by Chris Bird

When the HGLW Wittenberk-Shafer kit was announced, I knew that I had to have one - I do like quirky locos!

It turned out that David Hippey of Houston Gate Loco Works had been browsing the internet when he came across a promotional 'etching' for this little loco. He tells me that he has not found any evidence that any were actually built to this elaborate design, so he decided to put that right - in 16mm scale!

After a massive amount of work, the laser cut kit was launched at the 2018 National Garden Railway show and proved very popular indeed (you can find the details at http://www.hglw.co.uk/Locos.html at the bottom of the page). My kit arrived a couple of weeks later, ahead of the draft instructions, but having built one of David's chassis before, I felt confident enough to 'fly blind' and get on with it.....

This is what the kit looks like (click on the images to enlarge):

and out of the bag:

My first task was to try to identify all the parts. I was about 95% successful at this so I made a quick call to David who explained that the 'lollipop stick' and 'tuning fork' made up into the brake wheel stanchion that would allow the front light to be wired up with an LED.
He also explained the need to prime/seal the model before using any water based filler as the porous MDF absorbs the water before the filler cures properly.

Decisions, decisions...

Before I started I needed to make some decisions:

Instructions: Should I wait? No. (In fact they appeared in draft form half way through)

Sealing the MDF: I had this idea that I might seal and sand the sheets before removing the parts to begin the build. David was not aware if this had been tried, but my idea was that it would remove much of the need for difficult sanding in tight spaces when the model was finished. I decided to try, using B.I.N shellac primer, but first I had to check that the adhesive would stick to this adequately. I did some tests on scrap wood with both Super Glue and waterproof PVA. Both seemed fine - though perhaps not quite as strong as on bare wood. Good enough though....

Adhesive: Well I had used Super Glue on my previous HGLW kit and it was fine - and quick. After assembling the basic chassis I changed my mind and switched to PVA (see below).

Paint: I decided to use acrylic car spray in rattle cans.  The chassis will be satin black with maroon axle boxes and red buffer beams. The lower part of the cab will be maroon and the top ivory. The inside will cream and the roof grey.

Build sequence: For my build, this needed to take account of the painting so this was the plan:
1. Chassis (excluding axle boxes, buffer beams and couplings)
2. Axle boxes
3. Cab
4. Cab battery cover
5. Buffer beams and couplings.
6. Roof

Each of these stages will be primed and painted before final assembly of the loco.

Sealing the sheets

The decision was made to seal the sheets with B.I.N shellac - but how would I apply it? It needed to be a very thin coat but the paint is quite gloopy. In the end I rubbed it on with a clean rag wrapped round a kitchen roll pad. This was messy and looked pretty horrible.

The jury is out on whether this was a good idea or not. The advantage is that I got a nice, smooth surface after drying and rubbing down. The disadvantages are that the helpful guide lines are partly obscured, some joints need a little fettling due to paint build up - though these did not really cause me a problem.

Building the Chassis

This really is very simple - the main part follows the same basic format as the previous chassis kit so I had no problems.........well perhaps one or two...... I had a case of brain fade when trying to work out which way up the end beams went as the slot for the coupling is off centre. If I had just looked at the rivets on the overlays it would have been obvious, but instead I studied the photo on the HGLW Facebook page and eventually came to the right conclusion. I had decided to use a superglue gel for the construction to avoid clamping and waiting, but this really wasn't necessary as the kits are made with such amazing precision that they easily go together square. Anyway, my choice was made and I had just seconds to secure each joint. Phew, I thought, as it all went together and stuck firmly. Bother, I thought as I spotted that I had put one end beam the wrong way up.....!

I found that I needed to fill over the tabs and uses a cellulose car body putty. This was allowed to set for a good couple of hours and then sanded back before I collected the overlay parts and the axle box parts.

I sanded the edges of all the parts before fitting them using PVA adhesive:

I also assembled the axle boxes:

Then, after all was dry (overnight) I gave it a final light sanding and sprayed it with Halford's acrylic grey primer:

The axle boxes are very light and can be blown about by the spray, so I fixed them to a block of waste timber with double sided tape:

Then I placed the parts in the oven at 80 degrees C with the door slightly ajar before spraying the chassis with Halford's acrylic satin black. As the axle boxes are so nicely detailed, I decided to paint them in Ford Burgundy Red - the same as is planned for the lower part of the body.

When the chassis had fully dried, I fitted the axles and bearings into position....

....and then tried to push the axle boxes into place. No chance - the layers of sealer and paint had made them a fraction larger on the outside, and some glue had got into the inside where the bearing is a snug fit. It was a simple job to lift the axles out, clean up the holes and then fit them onto the bearings before pressing the axle evenly back into place. They were a tight push fit so  have not used adhesive at this stage.

Building the Body

Again this is a very precise piece of laser cutting and fits together beautifully. I deduced the process from the parts and this was pretty much confirmed when the instructions appeared the following day.

First I test fitted it all and then fitted one side to the base, followed by the two internal support bulkheads (note - it is worth checking that the switch is an easy fit through the hole before fitting that panel):

Then the other side and end panels slotted easily into place. I used PVA adhesive so had time to check that the bulkhead with the switch hole was vertical. The an elastic band and a couple of weights held all in place while the glue set.

When dry, I gave it a gentle rubbing down before preparing the beading overlays. I used an emery board very gently - though not gently enough as you can see from the break in the bottom bead! I used PVA again, but with hindsight, I should have been careful to wipe away any excess glue with a damp cloth. I put weights on it until secure. At this stage I only put the side beading on as I wanted to fill the corner joints and rub them down without the beading getting in the way. I used the cellulose putty and rubbed it down when hard. Good light - preferably daylight - is really important for this as my eyesight just couldn't see some imperfections in artificial light.

With the filling done I added the beading to front and rear and carefully sanded the corners.

The window beading was slightly more difficult as it must be square. (Also, as I write this I have just realised why I found one of the beads barely large enough to fit over the opening.......the front and rear beads are different from the sides - and I got two mixed up! I should have waited for the instructions!!!!)

Please also note that in the HGLW instructions the window glazing is intended to be fitted from the outside and the frames glued over the top to secure the glazing.  I did not know this, butit would not have made a difference as my painting sequence meant that the frames needed to be fitted first and filled, sanded and painted before glazing. Potential builders should make their own choice on this.

(Oh well - out to the workshop with a sharp scalpel to put that right!)

Meanwhile I had rubbed down the beading and given all a coat of primer. Most of the interior was easy, but I had to spray through the opposite window to get to the inside top of the opening.

Here is the body just placed on the chassis. The camera clearly shows the imperfections that need sorting before top coating (just click on the photo to enlarge and you will see what I mean).

I swapped over the window frames without much bother. I sanded the backs of the frames and the sides where they fitted, but clearly not enough (see below).

I had some gaps and visible laser guide lines that needed filling (had I followed the instruction to put PVA ton with a sponge, the gaps would have been smaller, or invisible, but I didn't have them when I stuck the beading on). I then made the fundamental mistake of believing that paint would soon fill them. It doesn't! I gave it four more coats of primer and rubbed down between. I was still not happy, but decided to press on with the top coats.

I had chosen Peugeot beige for the interior, but after spraying the inside I thought it looked remarkably like the Ford Ivory I had planned for the outside. In fact it was almost identical, so I decided to save myself a lot of hassle and use the same paint inside and outside (top).

The camera sees what I had not - the paint had not filled the gaps!

The replaced frames were particularly bad, but some of the lasered lines were partly showing and needed filling. I made up a filler by mixing cellulose putty with paint and painted it into the gaps and lines with a fine brush. It mostly dod the trick and looked better after yet another rubbing down.

After treatment in the oven (80C with the door ajar) for about 45 mins, I let it cool and masked it up for the Ford Burgundy red. For the all important interface between the colours, i used the superb (but expensive) Tamiya tapeand then for the rest I just used ordinary masking tape from my shelf. i must remember in future that masking tape has a shelf life and after a few years it becomes very difficult to use and will not unroll cleanly.

I gave it three coats of Ford Burgundy Red - flashing off in front of a fan heater between coats (and yes I wore a proper mask).

I left it in the warm for about ten minutes and then carefully removed the masking. It was mostly successful:

I removed the over-spray with a little thinners and then touched it up with the Beige. 

Some bits caused more of a problem due to my not checking that the tape was fully pressed home.

Again, I removed as much as I could with thinners and then touched it up. I must be more careful with my masking!

The body went into the oven and I moved on to the buffer beams etc

Buffer Beams, Couplings and motor cover

The buffer beams have laser marked rivets, but I wanted a little more substance to the rivet heads. I put some PVA adhesive in a plastic lid and then used a wooden kebab stick (the pointed end) to put drops of glue on to each rivet.

While these were drying, I made up the motor cover and test fitted it to see that it fitted correctly. It needed some sanding along the edges and along the front and back edge of the underframe to fit neatly. I then sealed all the raw edges. After a time in the oven, the 'rivets' were solid so I could prime them.

I glued and clamped the buffer/couplings together. When they were dry, I sanded them smooth using my bench belt sander before sealing the edged. As I had one chassis end the wrong way up, I modified that buffer slightly so that it would be at the correct height.

I then primed these and glued them to the buffer beams before spraying them with Ford Radient Red.

When dry, I glued these to the chassis using rapid epoxy (which was a bit messy!). You can also see that I had made up the motor holder and this is just resting in position.

Now I was able to test fit the painted body on the chassis and think about the floor of the driver's cab. It was currently beige, but rather than paint it black or grey, I cut a piece of mahogany veneer to fit and put some biro lines on to represent planks. I glued it in position with PVA and touched up the edges at the doorwys with Burgundy paint. Then outside to get a breather and take a snap!

The Roof

I had thought of various ways to clamp the roof frame and cover, but I now had the instructions, so I followed them, using small paper clips instead of pegs.

I left this a couple of hours and then gave it the oven treatment to be sure. Then came the essential job of sanding it down to fit nicely into the top of the cab. The sides just needed tidying, but I needed to take about 1.5mm of the ends (in total). I confess that I used the bench belt sander, very carefully, but coarse sandpaper stuck to a flat block of wood would do the job. When it was a fit that would allow room for the paint, I moved on to fit the cover.

I marked the centre line on the underside of the ply and carefully positioned the cover after applying PVA to the frame. I took great care but still managed to get it slightly wrong!

It was necessary to slightly trim the edges to square it up by about 0.5mm, but then it looked fine. I sealed the raw edges and then, when dry, I primed it and painted the underside the beige. When that was dry, I masked the underside edges and gave the to a couple more coats of primer.

Brake Wheel, windows etc.

I thought that the nicely cut brake wheel was just too thick, so I reduced it to half the thickness by rubbing on sandpaper. I then sealed it and sprayed it red. I cut two pieces of the brass wire supplied to mount it.

The windows glazing pieces are different, as it says in the instructions. I got the right ones for the sides and they just clicked beautifully into position. The end ones turned out to be about 0.5mm too wide and about 1mm too toall for the opening so I needed to shape these to fit. I used the bench sander but would not recommend it unless you have a very steady hand. A couple of minutes work and they clicked into position. I have not used any clue at this stage.

I decided against fitting the little control panel (need to ponder on that), the roof 'gizmo' and the exhaust at this stage. My plan is that the loco runs on batteries........

Rather than gluing the lights on, I used small stainless screws to screw them on before snapping the 'glass' into place. Not sure this is a great idea as the 'glass' now prevents me from unscrewing them!

Wiring and Switch

This did not present any problems so all was quickly soldered up. I used some extra wire that I had in stock to give me a good long battery box lead.

I did hit a problem, though, when I came to push the until I came to push the switch through the little hole - not a chance! The sealer and paint had shrunk the hole and I was faced with trying to open it out in the confined space, while the paint on the loco was still pretty delicate! In the end I used a 6.3mm end mill that was small enough to fit in and turn with pliers. Much better to make sure the hole is a generous size before that panel is fitted! It finally all went together and a quick test showed that all was working.

The Loco

Well it is not quite finished, but here it is out on the Summerlands Light Railway

And with a Modelearth driver:

And here is the inside - all very pristine!

Name Plates

Many years ago I owned one of the Accucraft Countesses and had suitably small nameplates made, naming it after my second granddaughter Sofie Grace. The loco was sold but the plates stayed to wait for a suitable loco - and here it was! A little double sided tape and job done.


I bought this kit because it is quirky and based on a most unusual prototype. It has certainly lived up to my expectations and there is still scope for detailing and finishing. It is also, incidentally, excellent value for such a detailed kit.

So was I right to seal the sheets first? Well on balance I think so, though it did leave the edges a bit patchy where it had seeped down. It was essential to seal these edges as the MDF will soak up paint as if it was never there if they are not sealed.

With hindsight I would take MUCH more care fitting the window frames and beading - using David's sponge glue method to leave no gaps. I would also fill rather than try to fill with paint (as there lies the road to madness :-)

And here is a little film: