Build your skills with older, cheaper models

Martin R Wicks explains how he used second-hand, kit-built vans, ‘seconds’ as well as damaged RTR vans and coaches to ease his return into the hobby, modelling in 7mm scale (O gauge).

In these times of austerity, with funds being a finite resource for many, railway modelling often has to take its place a long way down the list of priorities, but, to coin a phrase, neither man nor woman can live by bread alone!

Second-hand purchases of damaged and part-built wagons, vans, coaches and even locos can be a preferred choice, whether sourced online or at model railway exhibitions.

While the modeller has to be sure that such models are repairable and that the modeller’s skills are up to the task, these models can be, conversely, a rewarding challenge and a skill-builder, as well as being a cost-effective route back into the hobby.

Thankfully the war is over, it’s late spring in 1946 and an LMS 12T Van, still in its original ‘Big Four’ livery, is spied at Draycott Camp Halt Sidings – an in-service, pickled paint and all, down-at-heel austerity vehicle, in more ways than one. New solebars and brake fittings, axle boxes and buffer housings are all now present and correct! Just about visible, under the grime, the solebars have been correctly painted in LMS freight grey. This old Parkside-Dundas (now Parkside) model was destined for the scrap-heap, now it only looks like it is, but prototypically!

Finds, such as those from under a trader’s table at model railway exhibitions, can be a boon to the returnee to the hobby, or even to someone wanting some cheap projects to get their teeth into and thus build upon their model-making skills as well as their fleet.

This applies, equally, to all three main gauges in the UK, whether that be damaged RTR, part-built or damaged kits.

Models in the RTR category may only require a couple of new wheel sets, detailing, fettling, repaint or general weathering, common-sense easy fixes. Kit-built or RTR chassis can be swapped about so as to achieve different Diagram numbers (sub types) of van/wagon, thus adding variation to your goods trains.

For the purposes of this article I am going to focus upon models based, mainly, on kits. Wagon kits are a great way to develop skills, whether they are new, part-built or built/damaged kits etc, and are especially useful for one-off, less-common vehicles for the fleet, those not currently available as RTR.

I’m primarily speaking of the injection-moulded plastic kits as a good starting point. Buyer beware though, if buying, ‘sight-unseen’ (even with ‘listings photos’) from the internet – I would advise that I much prefer to see first-hand what I am buying, when buying second-hand.

In perfect or imperfect condition?

Depending on the exhibition trader (or the online auction trader), and their experience with second-hand kit-built models, one can find a real mixed bag in terms of quality and thus pricing, under a trader’s table/in a listing, with the quality – and pricing – of such being down to perception of both the seller and the buyer.

If at an exhibition, ask to view the models close up, handle them, take your time, have a good look, don’t rush, if in doubt walk away and have a ponder or leave well alone, there will be other models available.

If you do decide to buy, assess the models. How well do you know the prototype (many vans and wagons were built to a common, era-specific, standardised theme, so one can get to ‘know’ them quite well, quite quickly).

Can the parts be repaired or replaced? Are spares available or can you adapt others’ products to suit or fabricate your own? Check that everything is four square and true, especially on a kit-built model, the chassis and body sides as a basic starting point – after all, your project model is supposed to be an achievable goal.

For the full article, see January’s edition of Modelling – available now!

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