Building Your First Wagon Kit by Philip Ball

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My railway, such as it is, has buildings built from Metcalfe, Graham Farish and Peco kits. It’s a British line – based in southern England with mixed late 1940s to 1950s traffic. I have a 4ft by 2ft base on which I have a two track main line with cross over, goods yard and engine shed. There’s a mix of steam locomotives, one diesel and a DMU.

Since joining the N Gauge Society just a few years ago I have always enjoyed the Journal but felt a little daunted at making a contribution. While sorting out the payment for my LMS Stove R I decided I’d make use of the postage and packing to order a SR 12t van kit that is so often referred to as a good place to start with Society kits. I’d not ventured into a running model in N Gauge before; along with the excitement came the idea of a reflection on the experience of building the vans for the Journal. So I offer here some comments on the process I’ve been through over approximately two winter weeks. I had built OO Gauge Airfix kits and lots of planes etc., when some 40 years younger than I am now. Did the skills acquired then hold up? I hope the pictures help show what I managed to do.

The pack from the Society Shop duly arrived (we’re lucky to have the Shop) and I unpacked the pieces having been into the loft for my tools and paints.The instructions were clear enough for me; I just had to curb the urge to get it all done in a day. Working gently I put together the first body. I found opening out the buffer sockets fiddly but got there in the end. I made sure the frames fitted before getting the upper body painted to avoid inflicting damage on my brush work. 

When painting the bodies I used Blutac to fix them gently to a length of dowel; this makes them easy to turn and see what you’re doing. It also means you have to use light brush strokes and can keep the bodies hands free until the painting is finished.

Oh… the waiting between coats. During a period of days (going to work mainly) I was able to put three coats on. By then I knew I’d have to wait for a weekend and daylight to get the transfers/decals on.  This was another tense job but the sheets gave up their little secrets and we were ready to varnish.I hope this persuades you to have a go at a kit – and writing for the Journal.

Final thoughts from the Observation car:

  • Have a torch handy for the floor level search for that lost bit (a dropped buffer)
  • If you didn’t hear it touch the floor check your turn ups
  • Big sneezers shouldn’t do work with tweezers


This article was first published in Journal 1/10