Bringing a Dead 4F Back to Life

Fitting a tender fall-plate and crew can be easily done to an ‘out-of-the-box ‘ model without resorting to complete repainting. However, if you do want to personalise your prized possession it may be necessary to do a repaint, depending on the condition in which you want the locomotive to appear.

Perth (63A) MR ‘4F’ No. 44258 looking all forlorn – never to steam again – at the back of Aviemore (60B) Engine Shed in 1962

The ubiquitous Fowler originated 4F was almost as common throughout the former LMS system as the Stanier ‘Black 5’. In pre World War II days some of the class found themselves on the ‘Highland’ line between Perth and Inverness, including the former main line through Dava to Forres.

It is unlikely that any of them ventured so far North in BR days though one – 44255 – did find itself allocated to the former LNER depot at Fort William on the ‘West Highland Line’ north of the Clyde. A 4F was a necessary model for The DAVA Project, and the most appropriate prototype was 44258 as it got as far as Aviemore; a few miles further up the line towards its home shed at Perth.

I was given the opportunity to ‘test-run’ Hornby’s R 2396 No. 43924 on the DAVA layout. It performed perfectly so was purchased to complement the layout’s stud of locomotives. A further opportunity to test its reliability came with DAVA’s display at the Festival of British Railway Modelling in Harrogate when it continually carried out every sequence required. Indeed, it ended up as the layout’s ‘test’ engine for all locomotive duties. Renumbering to prototype was obviously called for.

This is the first time that I have ever taken a new model and completely repainted it! Apart from the cost of purchase, it seemed sacrilege to deface such a superbly decorated model as that produced by Hornby. Normally I would only carry out such work on second-hand items obtained at ‘swapmeets’ or model railway shows.

However, for the purpose of this article – and the authenticity of the prototype – I chose the available Hornby model now designated as R 2545 ‘BR 0-6-0 4F (Weathered)’

Without getting into a debate about whether the model should be ‘pristine’ as against ‘weathered’, I wanted to bring the locomotive ‘back to life’ so decided that it would be seen in ‘ex-works’ condition after its probable last overhaul.

Like any model there are always improvements to be made. In this instance the three major ones were real coal, footplate and crew. There is no doubt that the tender – as bought – does look rather ‘plastiky’ as far as coal is concerned, but the difference when the REAL stuff is added is quite remarkable.

If you don’t have access to a coal depot or grind the stuff yourself, your local model shop can perhaps help. I obtained my bag some time ago from a model shop no longer in existence. There are many ways to secure the coal, but for me my universal glue is the ever reliable UHU. I simply flow a thin film of the adhesive over the plastic surface inside the tender, and sprinkle the fine coal quite thickly to ensure the whole are is covered.

After pressing down to be certain of good adhesion, leave aside for awhile and then turn upside down onto a sheet of paper, shaking off any excess coal which can then be stored in the bag for the next model.

Now with real coal in the tender you need to make arrangements for its assumed transfer to the firebox if there’s going to be any life in this engine. Unless the fireman is a really fit person and prepared to shovel across the gaping gap between cab and tender, then a footplate must be added. Modelling one is quite straightforward.

Firstly – as per the Hornby Instructions sheet – “From underneath, remove screw which attaches the drawbar to the tender chassis. IMPORTANT – locomotive and tender are permanently wired together. Do not try to pull them apart and take care not to strain the wires. Turn the locomotive and tender onto their wheels and carefully lift off the tender body, from the front, to release the rear body clip.”

Using scrap paper make a template of the surface area of the cab floor and add 1cm to cover the eventual link to the tender. Accurately cut the paper to give a snug fit inside the cab including the contours beneath the fire-box. When satisfied that a good fit has been created, cut back the extension to about 8mm from the end of the cab floor. Re-move the template and draw a curve at the tender end to avoid the eventual footplate catching the edge of the tender when on curves. On my model (see photo) I came in by 3mm at the outer edges.

When satisfied that your template is correct use it to create from thin card or plastic an actual footplate. Try it for size and if happy glue to the cab floor. When dry, paint the footplate matt-black. At this stage I also took the opportunity to paint the hand-rails (not forgetting the tender ones) as this gives another touch of realism to the models. For that purpose I used Precision paints tinlet No M 411 “Steel”.

Now all that is needed to grab these handrails is an enthusiastic driver and fireman. In no time at all they are on the footplate; and while the latter stokes up the fire with large shovelfuls of coal, the former checks out the various gauges, especially ensuring enough steam in the boiler.

My crew are made up from an ‘ordinary’ person in my “people” scrap box (the driver) and the fireman is from the Hornby loco crew pack which I had purchased many years ago. Whether or not they are still available I don’t know, but mail order companies like ‘East Kent Models’, ‘Dart Castings’ and ‘Mainly Trains’ supply various items, some painted others unpainted.

The two shown here required to be painted. You may argue that being already in black plastic they would simply fit in with their ‘coal dust’ environment. For me, the dark blue overalls were essential; and in any case their sweaty hands and faces were regularly cleaned so why not show them in proper colour?

Now everything is ready to be connected up. Once more, refer to the Hornby Instruction sheet that comes with the model. “Position the locomotive drawbar over its location hole. Clip on the tender body, turn the locomotive and tender over and replace screw. Make sure that the drawbar is quite secure but free to pivot.”

By Iain Lamb

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