Saturday 6 April 2024

My Little "Welsh Pony" (Garden Railway Saturday)

One of my favourite prototype locomotives is "Welsh Pony", the Large-England tank loco on the Ffestiniog Railway.

When I was little, this loco was somewhat neglected, and plinthed in the sea air outside Harbour Station in Porthmadog.  Like the majority of youngsters on holiday to the town, I happily 'drove' the loco as a small child.  I was really happy to hear it was being restored, though typically it was done during Lockdown and I didn't get to see the loco in steam for quite a while.

Up in the woods at Tanybwlch last year, the loco looking magnificent.

I made a large-scale model of "Welsh Pony" a few years ago, a very coarse-scale creation from card, wire, and biro parts on a toy train chassis, as the subject matter for some experimental long-exposure pictures.  That model didn't survive a house move, but I really wanted one for the garden railway.  And with the Lockdown in full effect, and the real thing about to return to the rails, I thought I'd have another go.

Of course, being Lockdown, and with no shops open to buy stuff, it was going to be another thrown-together model..

Raiding the spares boxes, there wasn't much to choose from.  Some broken toy G-scale trains would donate parts for the chassis and details, such as this Echo Toys American mogul...

...with this Newray tank loco.  The Newway would provide the chassis (as it had battery compartments built in, rather than needing a separate tender for batteries), but the Echo Toys loco had the better wheels.

I got Amy to do a photocopy of the similar Small-England "Prince" (the nearest I could get to a plan) to work from.  Already then this would not be a true to scale model of "Welsh Pony" as the Large England had a different wheelbase, but I thought working like this would help with the build anyway.

Frames from scrap ply.

One of the few shops open was B&Q, so I was at least able to get hold of some plumbing (and similar) components for detailing.

Ah yes, this... because I'm a sucker for needlessly complicating projects, I wanted to do some atmospheric photography with the model, and designed in a working steam generator (a mini humidifier), as well as provision for a glowing firebox.

Frames were from Plasticard, from my small stock I had left.  This was a bit stressful, if I cocked-up the cutting at this stage, I wouldn't be able to get hold of any more.

Similarly for the plasticard used to clad the model.

Ideally I'd have done this on the laser cutter, but being housebound that wasn't an option.  A slight mistake with the drill resulted in this horror show which I'd have to work around.

The boiler back-head would be a real cobble-together job.  The main wrapper was this lid from a pot of curry spice, which I neglected to properly wash (it did make the model smell nice mindyou).

Working outdoors; at least the weather was nice.

Trying to bodge together a removable cab roof.

After a few attempts, I ended up re-using the Echo Toys cab roof.

Boiler fittings were also improvised from various sources.

The tender was also going to be bodged from the Echo Toys loco.

The chimney was going to be a hell of a bodge, using whatever I could get hold on.

And here is the weak link (very literally) with the loco, the motion gear... and this is what would eventually (spoiler alert) kill the model...

A problem which would soon rear its head; the super flexible Newray plastic.

The nightmarish amalgamation of Echo, Newray, my dwindling plasticard parts, and even wood.

Triang wheels for the smokebox.

The mind-bogglingly time consuming process of making strips of rivets.

Handrails were going to be tricky, but I had some thick wire and the Echo Toys components.

More rivets, this time from sticky-backed plastic jewels designed for blinging up phones and things.

The loco nearly done, waiting for a coat of primer.  I wasn't happy with the profile of the saddle tank, which went a bit wrong at the stage where I couldn't rectify it, being short on materials.

Gloss-black... not the best primer, but I struggled to get hold of any paint.

And here is one of the many cock-ups from the project.  I'd wanted to do the experimental sky-blue livery (and this was one of the few shades of paint I could buy), but it reacted badly to both the gloss black and the stupidly hot spring sunshine.  

I ended up having to sand and strip the model back to plastic and start again.  Amused I was not...

After attempt two.

Detail painting.

Trying to replicate the wheels of the original.

Light weathering.

And there we have it (complete with barely-noticeable steam).

Whilst being a bit of a bodge, it worked (and gave me something to focus on in the dark days of the first lockdown).  And then it broke.  Whilst the battery-powered toy chassis was always going to be a weakness, that cludged-together motion on the wheels killed the loco in pretty short order.  Whilst running around a simple loop of track, the motion locked, then pinged itself apart, whilst causing the motor to strip teeth off the main drive gear.

As of this point (early 2024) the loco is in a box in the loft.  The adhesives are failing (cheap superglue, another lockdown shopping legacy), and it needs a new chassis.  I might get around to restoring it, but it always was a bodge.  The idea I'm gravitating towards though is a new version using a Playmobil remote-controlled chassis and laser-cut bodywork...


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