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Author Topic: Scratch building ferry vans  (Read 936 times)

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Offline martyn

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Scratch building ferry vans
« on: November 20, 2016, 04:05:10 PM »
For those of you who have seen my mainly scratch built ferry van train on 'James St, and those who might want some pointers about scratchbuilding vans in general, here are some notes on 'how I did it'. I apologise in advance, but I didn't take any photos when building these wagons.
Having built many kits of both wagons and coaches, I thought I would make some variations to the large number of ferry vans which used to run between the UK and Europe on the train ferries-living in, or near, Harwich, all my life, I have vivid memories of watching them being shunted on and off the ships.
I started by trying to find suitable photos and diagrams  from the web; the best diagrams I found were on the Barrowmore Model railway group page;


Copies of the original BR vehicle diagram books are available on this website, and by studying them, I found that a 'family' of ferry vans were build around common dimensions, such as length overall, width, and wheelbase. Note that some vans are much smaller-eg some Transfesa, and FS (Italian) fruit and veg vans.
By study of these diagrams, and the fact that I intended to make a series of various vans I decided to make a scale drawing of sides, ends, floor, and internal subdivisions; this drawing could then be printed out and stuck on to the plastic card used to make these items.
I also used 'International train-ferry wagons in colour for the modeller and historian' by D Ratcliffe (ISBN 978 0 7110 3404 4) to find the variations in detail such as the vents and stiffeners for the various types of van.
I then had to decide how to construct the basic 'box' from these individual items; I chose to have full height sides, with ends and floors which fitted flush inside the sides. This gave me the following dimensions;
floor 86 x 17 mm;
sides (2 per van) 86 x 19mm
ends and internals ( I made 2 ends and 2 internals per van for rigidity) 13mm wide x 14mm parallel side high, with an additional 2mm curved edge to the top giving an overall height of 16mm in total.

I made the 'carcass' from 1.5mm plastic card. For each van, I glued a copy of the printout onto the plastic card with 'Pritt' type paper glue (it can be removed after cutting out the pieces by soaking in water, before gluing the parts together). The components were then cut out, and the basic 'box carcass' made up.
It was seen that some vans have plain (flush) sides or ends, and some had planking. If planking was needed, I overlaid the complete sides and/or ends with Evergreen 0.5mm thick V-grooving sheets.
likewise, the doors were made from appropriate 0.5mm plain or V-groove as required. The roofs were my biggest problem- I didn't have any in my 'Bitsa' box which were suitable, and I'm not sure if any from, eg Etched Pixels or BH Enterprises are suitable; so I made them by rolling thin plastic card around a curved wooden former (an old broom handle, I think) and immersing in boiling water for about ten minutes. Not the best result, but acceptable.

Most of the van variations from the various country administrations centre around the position and size of side ventilators, and variation in the 'strapping' or strengthening ribs on the sides and ends. By use of Evergreen micro strips of appropriate sizes,  I made up the details, usually starting by doing all the vertical strips, then cutting the diagonals to length in situ with a new, sharp, scalpel blade, and the finally adding the ventilators; these too were Evergreen micro strip of appropriate size. This more or less completed the body; I used a minute sliver of micro strip channel to represent the door handle(s), and more micro strip for the door runners. Note that according to van type, some verticals extend below the van floor, and some vans have right-angle stiffeners, again available in micro strip.

Now the underframe. I found the easiest way was to cut down a Peco 15' chassis in half, and then glue the resulting halves at the required wheel base, equidistant from the ends; the vans had an 8000mm wheelbase; I used 54mm for my models. This should give the basic rolling chassis. the buffer beams were again made from plastic micro strip; buffers, both square and round headed, as appropriate, are (or at least were) available in the Farish range via BR Lines. The gaps between the buffer beams and the wheelsets, and between the wheelsets, were filled in with micro strip channel. Underframe trussing was made from square section micro strip.

This should give you a basic running van. Couplings are to choice; I fitted Peco (can't remember the reference number-they come as a kit for retrofitting to wagons) for most of the vans, with just B&Bs fitted at the outer ends to enable shunting on 'James St'. Etched Pixels can supply rams horn securing hooks for fitting to the chassis, and also ventilators.

Painting was carried out with reference to the book already mentioned; the VIX vans have transfers which were original available from a member of the forum, Norman Tunnerone, but I think are now from County Scale Models. I placed these VIX transfers in slightly different places, according to photographic information, for authenticity, on my series of vans. I used part of the same transfers on the 'foreign' vans, but have so far no luck with sourcing 'Transfesa' or Belgian ones. I also have DB 3d printed van, which has appropriate transfers from Germany.

Thanks for sticking with me! I hope that I haven't forgotten anything If I have, please ask!.

I acknowledge the inspiration given by the Mill Lane sidings kit of the VIX to kick start my quest for a more or less authentic ferry van train.

Incidentally, I used similar methods to use up spare ends from van kits such as those by Foxhunter and the N Gauge Society; using the left over ends, and plasticard sides, Peco underframes, and microstrip stiffeners/strapping results in an easy scratchbuild, even if its not to a particular diagram for the experts-it is barely noticeable in a full length train!

Postscript; I have found that these vans will run on 18" curves easily, and 15" as well- I haven't tried them on anything smaller, as it will may lead to buffer lock. I would also recommend that before adding the roof, they are ballasted-I used lead roofing flashing or 'liquid lead'. The Belgian van was made similarly, with the sides being the same height as the longer vans, but the peaked roof was made from 1.5mm plastic card; wheelbase and overall length adjusted as per the diagrams.

« Last Edit: November 20, 2016, 04:40:21 PM by martyn, Reason: Extra info and grammar! »

Offline tunneroner61

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Re: Scratch building ferry vans
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2016, 06:09:31 PM »
The VIX transfers were originally drawn up by Paul Cheffings. He kindly allowed me to use the artwork to commission another run of the transfers. I offered the balance off the sheet (I wanted just 2 sets) to NGF members and eventually passed the remainder to Richard Dallimore at County Rolling Stock to sell. I'm not sure he is still in business.


Offline Chris in Prague

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Re: Scratch building ferry vans
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2018, 04:38:04 PM »
Many thanks, Martyn. Very useful. I have plenty of spare Peco 15' chassis including ones replaced under Peco LWB wagons and vans because they had broken or missing buffers (which I would have to cut off anyway).


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