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The Chronicles of Caradoc

by Dai 

Why Caradoc?

When I built my line, I was too greedy and had enough money and time to overstretch myself. I was totally ignorant of the implications of many of my choices. Accordingly, I ended up with a massive line that was entirely dysfunctional. Worst of all, I was totally in love with locos that needed experts to manage them, including coal-fired. Other more sensible souls would have started with a small experimental loop and one simple entry level loco. Before I had mastered one Millie, I was falling in love with others. I had a lot of fun in my own way but mostly on the workbench (dining room table) and almost none on the line. I got the total yips about steaming anything. Then, along would come Graham all relaxed confidence of a man and bang his Caradoc around is if it was no problem. I grew to love that big chunky  thing. I quite liked the loco too and vowed to get one.

The 2013 AGM at Peterborough was memorable for several reasons. I sold a load of unwanted bug boxes and unmade kits and, better than that, sold three locos out of the stable. Argyll went without a tear shed. Lilla was more of a wrench but, truth to tell, she never went well with my gradients and will have a happier life where she now is. Too pretty for the DLR. I also sold the CDR Railcar No 10 which had served its purpose as a project and was collecting dust. I never really liked that Cliff Barker control system.

So here I was, high as a kite having spent the day selling off the unwanted and flogging Summerlands Chuffers to the cognoscenti. I was forging a deal with Simon Whenmouth when my eye fell on a Caradoc. It was a happy part-ex. But, I ask you, just look at it! Could they have made it look more toylike? Those revolting orange buffer beams, the dome, the shiny smokebox. A bodgeller's dream!

A 'to-do' list.

The loco must be black all over.
It must have R/C regulator and reverser to cope with my gradients.
Whistle, R/C of course
Those orange, plain buffer beams have to go
That vile brass dome has to be black
The equally vile safety valve has to be amended somehow.
A blower pipe is a must.
The cab roof needs rain strips and a hatch.
A load of loco works bling might be nice
Spectacles to be glazed
A cab floor might be nice
The very noisy burner to be quietened.
Problem with turning jet down to just the right simmer but not off. R/C like Graham's?
Various bits of bling including oil boxes.
Handrail on front of smokebox
Lampholder on smokebox.

Plan of action.

Most people do the engineering before the painting. Not me. My plan was to take the bits up to our Highland retreat and i knew i wouldn't be allowed to spray up there, therefore, it had to be planned that the bits would travel up already coated and well set. The body dropped off the chassis as easily as could be hoped and I degreased thoroughly and flatted off the glossy surfaces. I masked appropriately and then used a combination of Halfords spray tins. Satin black for vertical surfaces and matt for horizontal. So far, so good.

The buffer beams were improved by being matt black on the back and the proper red (Precision Paints) on the front. Because that paint is enamel, it stayed a little tacky for quite a while and allowed me to assemble, line up and then, when I was happy, press home some Cambrian bolt heads. OK, so they're plastic but they stuck on fast with the paint and a whiff of spray once that paint had set has made them secure. I have no idea how prototypical they are but the whole effect is more pleasing than plain gloss orange any day. The paint is a bit rough but they'll look a lot rougher by the time I've introduced them to a little rust, oil and filth. 

My philosophy is from Dehors; I am, therefore I weather.

I could simply replace the Accucraft couplings but this space is being left free for testing the new Swift Sixteen couplings. As Mr Bushill said when he asked me, if they worked on my track, they'll work on anybody's. Who needs friends, eh?

It's hard.

Evolution is a funny old thing. The trouble is that you can't know what you'll think until you've travelled too far down the road to change your mind. It's the old 'Road to Dublin' thing. I wanted a radio controlled reverser but now I can't for the life of me think why. It would ave been perfectly fine to keep the manual reverser, wouldn't it? I mean to say, when do I ever want to operate the reverser from afar? It was just that I had a spare big Futaba servo knocking about and the holes already provided in the footplate inside the right tank fit perfectly, as you might expect. Fine, I thought. No problem. Oh yes, there was. Modern reversing levers are provided with a suitable hole just above the quadrant, more or less at the level of the servo horn and at a place that makes the throw of the servo suit the throw of the reverser lever. Mine had none. I'll simply drill one. Well, for some reason only known in Shanghai, the reverser lever is made of industrial diamonds. Expensive drill bits, slow revs and drilling milk and the best part of a day later and I now have a 2mm hole.

Incidentally, you can see how the servo is held in place by long bolts. The ones at the front end are sleeved in K&S tube which seemed like a good idea but is really unnecessary. The servo is well held and besides the reversing lever offers no significant resistance.

The on/off switch can be mounted either side as suitable holes are thoughtfully provided. I elected to use this right side as the relationship is identical to the lubricator drain as it is to the draincock on the left. At first, I figured that there was more steam on the left so the switch might be safer on the other side. Neither side offers easier finger access. Eventually, I was obliged to fit it on the left side to allow more space inside the hinged box under the cab in which had to live two mini servos and the receiver.

Bangham Whistle.

DJB seem to be the only people who make a decent whistle and, probably because of that, charge £90 plus postage for one. I first fitted on a few yearts back to my Lady Anne and I can see that the design has evolved. The current model is much better. In those days you mounted the resonator under the footplate and it was both unreliable and meant that the steam came from an odd place. Now, the whistle may be a fit overscale but is at least mounted on the cab front. The modern resonator is longer and fits inside the cab with a single screw that holds it to the front cab wall. What matters most is that the tiny drain hole towards the end of the resonator faces downwards. Drilling the three holes for the fixing screw, the steam pipe and the entrance to the resonator was quite tricky an it would be sensible to make up a mock cab front in card or plasticard and then use that as a template. That occurred to me far too late so all three of my holes needed to be 'eased' with a round file. They are supposed to be a loose fit but that loose?
The instructions are better matched to an Edrig which clearly has the whistle 'shelf' on the left side and the slot left when you rip it out acts as a guide for the eventual whistle position. That is no help for a man fitting one to a Caradoc.

I was always impressed by the way Graham organises his Bangham. Realising it is sprung, he figured that a loose wire would be better than a stiff rod, simply because it permits manual actuation with the r/c off. I'm so pleased this is being read by people who have some small grasp of model engineering or those last two sentences might read very strangely to those who normally take Mens'  Health Trends magazine.

Incidentally, I had wanted to turn those spectacles round to present a smaller rim before glazing with a pair of 18.7mm mineral glasses from Cousins UK. Could I get them out? Not tonight Jose.

Originally, I had organised the radio control so as to have total control of throttle on the left hand and reverser in the right. Experience with four channels on my T&D led me to shy away from complicating matters on those two joysticks any further so I made the whistle control a simple on and off using the gear switch on my Spektrum DX6i. That's all very fine but you need extra fingers to drive under fine control and whistle Dixie. I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. Because of that, I linked the whistle to the right hand reverser control though I maintained the spring to act as a dead man's handle on the reverser. It's right to go forward, left to reverse and forward in any position to whistle while you work or not. I'd be grateful for other suggestions.

Blower pipe.

Graham's Caradoc has a lovely big fat blower pipe running forward from the cab to the smokebox. It looks superbly utilitarian and does a great deal to remove the toy look to my eye. I made the pipe for mine out of mild steel rod and the plate for fixing to the smoke box out of scrap nickel silver, left over from making a DJB Robert. I knew that stuff would be useful some day! I used mild steel rivets top and bottom in the sure hope that they would rust. I love a bit of rust, me.

Cab roof.

I do think that shiny plain cab roof does Caradoc no favours whatsoever and mucking about with it was a high priority. Just flatting the paint and matting made a significant difference but I wanted more. Graham's has a false sliding hatch, a whitemetal casting from GRS. I fitted it by gluing then came to discover that the roof may look symmetrical, but it isn't. It only fits one way. Now I had a lovely sliding hatch just above the firebox and not as I had intended, over the main cab where a driver would stand. All I can say is that it was with mixed feelings that I found how easy it was to detach the casting from the roof. Not that the zapagap hadn't bound to the paint. If only that were not the case! It's just that it doesn't like binding to white metal.The locoworks  rain strips come predrilled or they wouldn't stay on long either, what with heat, water and oil around to test any glue.

Burner mesh.

The burner is held in place by a single screw once the pipe to the gas tank has been removed. The problem is that as you try to withdraw the burner, it is obstructed by the superheater, coming from the lubricator. Disconnecting from that makes no difference. It can only be removed after it is released at the front. 

To gain access to that joint, the smoke box must be removed. I found that quite a problem. The smokebox is held to the footplate by four very small, very short hex bolts. Three came off sweetly. Only one of the rear ones, only accessible through a hole would not budge one degree. I had to drill it out. Made a nasty mess of it too. Still, three out of four's not bad for me. 

The mesh was wrapped round a dowel smaller than the burner itself and then slipped over the burner where the springiness of the material held it in place. The mesh cuts easily with scissors but don't tell my wife!

Safety Valve.

The vertical lump of brass that Accucraft thinks makes for a safety valve is no thing of beauty. It can be marginally improved by sleeving it with a Roundhouse turned effort but that would, I am given to understand, make the loco look as if it originated in the West Country and I can't have that. No indeed. Graham showed me his solution and even provided the tube to achieve it. 

A 22mm diameter piece of plumber's pipe, profiled to sit on the boiler with a short length of K&S brass pipe soldered inside that fits on the offending valve. On top, a Ross Pop casting from GRS with suitable holes to allow steam egress and voila! Offends the eye of the purists, gladdens mine. I discussed the issue with Rob Bushill who hates it so much he has promised to make me  something even better.

Battery Pack.

Once I had fixed up the servos and they were all working sweetly, I attempted to re-assemble the body on the chassis, only to discover that there was no room for the battery pack. The gas tank occupies most of the space in the left dummy water tank. I should explain that I was using a flat five pack of AAA batteries with a Futaba connection. It is well known that I am Futaba crazy, Futaba mad. I wish I had properly read Graham's excellent article on developing his Caradoc. It would have spared me a lot of work. I was too anxious about completely removing the wrapper so ended up making a major production number from something Graham had achieved so simply. I learned a lot but mostly to try and avoid reinventing the wheel!

 I found it was possible to fold the pack double the opposite way to how Graham does it. It does still fit into the area of the side tank forward of the gas tank, though it is snug. 

It is easy to see that once the shrink-wrap is removed and the paper on the ends peeled back that the batteries are connected in series by a thin strap, seen below bent upwards prior to reconnection. If I had folded lengthways, the connector would have stayed intact.

I thought it would be easy to connect these two tabs by soldering a wire across them. It was not. To get a decent link, I was obliged to drill holes through the tabs to take a wire which was twisted up and fixed with solder. My guess is that the battery bodies dissipated the heat too well but it is also the case that I am the world's worst solderer.

I wrapped the entire battery pack in insulating tape and was gratified to find how easily it fitted into the forward space in the left tank with enough length of flex to pass through a helpful slot in the footplate to connect to the switch loom female. I attached the recharging Futaba male to the lubricator for easy recovery.

Cab Floor.

I'm not usually bothered by such things but found myself in a cafe in Ballater which provided very thin wooden stirrers and so I scrounged a few. I had more or less run out of tasks that I could complete away from home so was glad of something to do. I was delighted to find how easily these seemed to suit the floor with all its hex bolts and new holes for servo wires. The cafe? The Rock Salt and Snail. Yummy!

The wood needs to be stained a bit and oiled at the least but I just hope that the relatively precise holes I drilled for the servo actuation, added to this extra layer will mean that there may be less hot water entering the box beneath that holds the receiver and two servos.

A 'Must-have' Tool.

In the image above and several others, you may have noticed some garish colours and wondered about them. I'll explain. This is an invaluable item from Ikea. Sold, cheap as a meatball, as a laptop cushion with a bean bag fixed to a large flat plastic tray, It works well enough for the purpose intended but it works best upside down, allowing safe positioning of a loco on its back or indeed at almost any angle that suits the work. The large kidney shaped tray sits firmly on a table forbidding water and oil through. The multicoloured bean bag can be detached and washed. Ideal. Here it is, below, transferring oily water to my jeans. Or the other way round.