The Dragonby Pilot

The first of the pilot locos for West Halton, 08632 in BR blue.

One of the things which was a catalyst for the whole West Halton project was this photograph by Dr. Michael Rhodes. The location,  the run down nature of the line, the wagons, the brake van and, of course, the locomotives. Isn’t it a wonderful image? Thirty years since, the railway has changed forever.

An image taken from an article on the line from a rather old copy of RAIL Magazine – the operation in involving the local pilots is rather well illustrated here. Reproduced by kind permission of Dr Michael Rhodes.

It’s not that long since diesel shunters on trip workings were a common sight all over the country – a very traditional scene of a small loco on a short distance workings. The 8K77 trip from Knottingley was about the very last of its type. However with modern wagons, the class 08/09 takes a long time to produce sufficient air to get the brakes off. It makes it hard to justify the time for this and they are rather slow, even the class 09’s higher top speed of 27mph isn’t really able to keep up with other traffic.  However in the Scunthorpe area, especially on the old North Lindsey Light Railway, the lack of speed wasn’t really an issue!

08632 is seen at Scunthorpe Yard. Photo courtesy of John Turner.

The base for the first of a small fleet of class 08s is a Bachmann model, one of the very first releases. At the time of its release, it was quite an advance on what had gone before – its slow speed performance was far better then the Lima model and it was much more refined too. However it wasn’t without room for improvement.

The model in its unpainted form – the door overlays are easily seen, along with the new springs from Tim Horn and the replacement front step assembly.

The handrails were chunky, the bodyside doors lacked either the external hinges of the wooden doors or the ‘stepped’ nature the pressed steel doors and the front steps aren’t wide enough. None of these are difficult to rectify at all.

I modified the various cabinets to replicate those which 08632 carried – obviously with free choice of the base model this work could all be saved, but if you already have the model, it gives you complete freedom over which variants you choose to model.

Gareth Bayer wrote an excellent article on model the class 13 in 4mm in Rail Express a few years back – issue 93. I’m aware that I’m not modelling a class 13 here, however Gareth did include a useful set of template for the overlays to allow the steel bonnet doors to be convincingly modelled. Simply by adding overlays of Evergreen 5 thou polystyrene sheet to the doors, the model is hugely improved. The handrails need to be removed from the doors but they are rather chunky so replacement is worthwhile anyway. Gareth’s suggestion for actually attaching the overlays is very good too – instead of the obvious method of using plastic solvent he suggests using superglue. The advantage of this is that solvent could so easily melt such thin plastic, all you need to ensure is you get the overlay in the correct place as there’s no second chance! Once set, running a small amount of solvent around the edges of the panels ensures they will be fully secured. The method works superbly and the result is very good indeed.

Having replaced the grab irons/handles on the doors with 0,33mm wire, I also decided to replace the main horizontal handrail – it’s a bit tricky but it looks a lot better than the moulded plastic versions which Bachmann supply. It’s little things like this which really make a difference I feel.

I had originally modified the front cabinet on the right hand side as per Gareth’s article but I never got round to adding the louvres. Since I’m fundamentally lazy when RT Models added an exhauster box to their range, I elected to use this. Whilst not quite as sharp as modifying in Plastikard, the resin casting is rather nice and very straightforward to add.

The loco in primer – the RT Models exhauster box can be seen towards the front of the loco.

Replacement wheels and cranks came from GibsonUltrascale offer an excellent drop in conversion set, however there is a long weight for Ultrascale products as  they are all produced to order. The quality is very, very good though which justifies the price and the timescale. Gibson wheels are available by return post, which helps for someone impatient like me! I also prefer steel tyres for loco wheels where possible.

The replacement Alan Gibson wheels fitted with Brassmasters’ balance weights.

In addition to the new wheels I have used Brassmaster’s replacement rods – also included are etched balance weights. These have both the front and rears, whilst you could easily ‘get away’ with just adding the fronts to the wheels, I used both and then infilled between them with Milliput to bulk them out and make them appear like they’re integral with the wheels. In the gloom I doubt this will be obvious, but I know it’s there.

The front steps came from an unusual source, the remains of an early teenage Crownline conversion. It didn’t work too well, but I learnt a lot from it; I was probably a little over ambitious to be honest but I’ve always liked to push myself in this sort of thing.  However, fast forward about twenty years and the box of parts left provided the basis for the front steps. The cab steps were just a flat etch and not worth using really, so I’ll look at fabricating these from brass strip. PH Designs produce an etch for the steps, which may well be worth looking into for future model. The Crownline connection doesn’t end here as another class 08 will be based on a Kitmaster body and Crownline chassis! Purely because I can!

The beginnings of another of the pilot locos for West Halton. An ancient Kitmaster kit for a 350hp diesel shunter and a Crownline chassis.

There’ll be more on this in the future. Along with other pilot locos.

As for 08632, it’s very much on the home straight – all painting has been completed. However there are still many details to add. Since the wasp stripes are not the easiest things to reproduce I have left off all details in this area to ease the task. SO lamps and their associated electrical conduits will need to be added, along with the pipework for the radiator, lamp irons and the front grille. In this case I’m using a spare Hornby item as it’s much finer than the Bachmann original. I also have the fun task of sorting out the pipework beneath the cab – as you can see below this is quite noticeable and something which Bachmann didn’t attempt at all. Hornby did with their later 08 and did so beautifully.

Rear end detail of a typical class 08/09 locomotive.

I do like using the Bachmann version as a basis for the conversion as it can be had quite cheaply second hand. If you don’t mind putting the work in, a tired example can be had at exhibitions for about thirty quid sometimes! I got one at the Hull MRS show for just this much in November. If you model in 00 and aren’t replacing the wheels, you could have the whole project for under forty pounds. Even in P4 or EM you could keep it to around sixty which is great value!

Further Reading

Rail Model Digest Preview Issue – Old, Dirty & Slow – Going Over the Hump with the 08’s by Tim Shackleton
Model Railway Journal 124 – 08 Update by Tim Shackleton
Bachmann/Brassmasters/Shawplan Trinity 08

2 thoughts on “The Dragonby Pilot

  1. Pingback: A trip to DEFine Modellers Day | West Halton Sidings

  2. Pingback: Alan Gibson Wheels | West Halton Sidings

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