LMS Express Delivery Van
By Nick Mitchell
Winner of the the P&D Marsh Cup and the Supreme Trophy at the N Gauge Society's 2008 AGM
Here it is, left unattended on Clive Road Sidings Layout. The van is constructed from the Worsley Works etched 'scratch-aid' kit which was an impulse-purchase following a conversation with Allen Doherty at Keen House autumn 2007. The kit builds into an accurate representation of an LMS bodied, Fordson chassied van, common in the 1930s. As is usual with Allen's etches, no instructions are supplied, so for anyone who is contemplating building one of these delightful kits, there follows an account of its assembly...
Construction began with the van floor. The sides fold up, as do the insides of the rear wheel arches.
The tailgate is a separate piece, with half-etched grooves into which suitable wire needs to be soldered then filed flat to represent the iron strapping and hinge. This method is little old-school when compared with some other modern etch designs with half-etched overlays that include bolt-head detail, but it is nonetheless effective.
The tilt and cab were the next sub-assembly I worked on. There are half-etched parallel lines on the inside of the roof to assist in bending the curves, thus making a very smooth and accurately shaped result easily achievable. The 3 sides of the tilt were soldered to the cab back from the inside to maintain its shape. A small top piece fits at the rear, though not visible in this photograph. The bottoms of the sides are recessed, to be a snug sliding fit into the lower trailer sides. The important thing therefore is to make sure that the sides are of equal height, otherwise a recess will be visible at the join line on one side of the van. A slight asymmetry in the etched part didn't help with this, and close comparison of the accompanying photographs will reveal that the quarter-light sits lower down the body-side on the right hand side of the vehicle than on the left. Once completed, however, this very minor defect is not at all noticeable.
There are three parts for the cab roof: firstly a flat 'ceiling' which is soldered (from above) between the the pointed 'prongs' which protrude from the tilt sides; secondly the front piece, flat along its bottom edge and curved along the top, (to which the registration plate will eventually be attached) again soldered from the inside; finally the roof proper. A gentle curve needs to be formed in this top piece to match the profile of the front piece and also the etched curved locating line at the back, usefully included on the vertical piece which forms both the back of the cab and the front of the tilt. This piece was soldered carefully in place using lots of flux, followed by judicious filing to ensure that the three exposed edges were smooth.
The cab front and sides are folded from one flat piece and soldered to the underside of the flat ceiling which protrudes above it on all 3 sides. The cab sides locate inside the quarter-light front pillars. Folding the cab cleanly was particularly difficult. There are half-etched lines on the insides of the window pillars, leaving the same incredibly thin and almost impossible to keep straight - even with the aid of a "hold & fold" during shaping.
The next picture shows the two sub-assemblies test-fitted together. There is a tab on the bottom of the cab-back, which fits into a slot in the floor. It was necessary to fold the lower portion of the cab-back forwards so that the tab and slot engaged. Before these two sub-assemblies are joined permanently together, it is necessary to solder in place any cab interior detail. I used used a hand-wheel from the N Brass fret, attached to the end of a piece of nickel-silver wire to represent a steering wheel and column. I wish I had also added a driver's seat at this stage, but didn't think of it until it was too late.
The engine cowl is again bent up with the aid of several closely spaced half-etched fold lines on the rear. This took quite a lot of manipulation of the metal to get it looking convincing: at the rear, the shape required is quite flat on top (helpfully, there is a half-etched outline on the cab front to locate the cowl against) whereas the front is quite pointed to match the profile of the radiator. The radiator itself is a two-layer affair, which is probably one of the nicest features of the kit - even if it was quite difficult to line up the two layers correctly. This lining-up was actually achieved by keeping the front, hollow, layer attached to the fret whilst soldering the two parts together. I had to be careful a) not to get too much solder on the join so as to fill in the radiator grilles, and b) not to damage the extremely thin and fragile edge of the front layer when separating it from the etched fret. The radiator filler cap was made from a longish brass pin, soldered upright on top of the radiator and then cut and filed back to the required profile. I realised far too late that a similar lump should have been added towards the rear of the cowl (to sit in front of the central windscreen pillar) to represent the petrol filler cap. Once attached to the cab-front, excess material had to be removed (by careful filing) from the bottom of the engine cowl so that the edge was both level, and in line with the bottom of the cab. The two 'halves' of the van could then be brought together permanently.
The front wheel-arches are another really nice feature of this kit, folding up ingeniously from one piece, with locating tabs to ensure accurate positioning in slots under the cab floor. The rear wheel arches are plain rectangles, which (according to photographic evidence) need shortening slightly and filing into a rounded profile at the rear to form the mudguards. Actually, the parts being too long is an advantage, as the rounded ends can be lined up at rear, and the fronts (which protrude only slightly below the van floor) then filed back to an appropriate - matching - length.
The final components included in the kit are a pair of longitudinal baulks to fit along the length of the underside of the van, which incorporate an impression of the rear suspension leaf springs. Rather than use a bit of wire for the rear axle, I made an excuse to exercise my new watchmakers' lathe and manufactured the complex axle shown at right. Although it includes hub-caps, brake disks, a correctly profiled axle and an impression of the differential, it is completely invisible on the finished model! The front axle is similar, but less complex. Plastic wheels were added from the Dornaplas fret of "lorry wheels", available from the N Gauge Society shop. A spare wheel is mounted under the rear of the van floor. Final details included a rear registration plate filed from a bit of left-over etch frame, and headlamps. The headlamps began life as top-hat bearings, and were turned with the graver on the lathe to something more akin to bowler-hats, soldered to a length of wire, which was in turn bent and trimmed to shape and then soldered between the front wheel-arches.
The final touch was to add the curtains to the rear opening. I soldered up a square frame from bits of shim, and added the central "rope" from wire. The curtains themselves were folded up from kitchen foil and super-glued to the frame, the whole then slid inside the van body and super-glued to the inside of the opening at top and bottom, using the vertical rope as a handle.
The basic two-colour paint scheme is effected with Humbrol satin enamels over a thinly applied coat of grey acrylic used as a primer. (I had to use something that would dry quickly in order to be finished in time for the NGS AGM). Transfers are home-brewed affairs, printed with a black and white laser printer onto white water-slide Crafty Computer Paper, and covered with a few coats of Johnson's Klear acrylic varnish. You may be able to make out the edges of them in some of the photographs. Various thinned acrylics were used to tone down the overall finish.
The last jobs were to glaze the front windows with Cobex, held in place with Humbrol clearfix, which was also used to glaze the quarter-lights and represent the headlamp lenses.