Stopping Power

It’s always nice to be able to put your own mark on something, and say ‘I did that’ no matter whether it’s a simple repaint or something a bit more involved. It’s particularly rewarding when it saves you a few pounds! 

A couple of years ago, I built an Airfix BR brake van kit, it appeared on here at some point. I built it as it came out of the box, and at the time I was satisfied with it. However, in the intervening 2 and a bit years, I have found out quite a few facts about the standard BR brake van, many of which have come from Ian Flemming. With each fact I found out I became increasingly uncomfortable with the van as it was….. It also didn’t stand up that well next to the Bachmann versions I also have. However, with Airfix vans now able to be picked up for a tenth of the cost of a new Bachmann example (!) I thought it was worth sticking with….

Last year I acquired another 4 Airfix brakes, but pre built, as part of a job lot off eBay. These were built pretty badly and I knew I had to do something with them if I wanted to get any use out of them…. This forced me into an upgrade of the previously built one too, in order to ensure a uniform standard through all 5.

To bring any readers up to speed, the Airfix BR brake van, which dates back to the 1960’s is actually a remarkably accurate model, and with a little work can be brought up to today’s standards. The main issues with the mouldings as they come are:

-The roof is much too thick, and has the details on it inverted, so the chimney and roof vents are on the wrong side of the van.

-The concrete weights on the end platforms run up to finish flush with the bufferbeam. Although a number of prototype wagons were built with weights like this, they were very much in the minority when compared to the standard design, which finished short of the bufferbeam, and had a pronounced step.

– the window frames are too thick, there’s no glazing, it has moulded handrails and the running boards are a bit thick, all characteristics of a 60’s moulding and most definitely not Airfix’s fault….

Looking at this list, I decided to leave the running boards and windows as they are, but replace the handrails, roofs and sort out the ballast weight. First job was to strip all 5 wagons down, which involved levering the roofs off. The original builder had glued these down VERY securely and a little damage was done to the body side mouldings removing them, but this was easily fixed. Next I made a start proper by attacking the end platforms with a small Razor Saw, removing around 1-2mm of material from the weights. 

This was followed by removing the moulded handrails with a sharp scalpel, following on behind by re-scoring the plank lines on the body side, before drilling 0.35mm holes at the appropriate places for new handrails. These were duly added using 0.33mm wire and I had a van looking like this:


A quick whizz round the handrails with some white paint and the brake van is looking considerably better than it did before:


The entire fleet waiting to follow suit, new roofs will be made up from some 20thou plasticard, and some nice OLEO buffers will be added to those without any, providing a bit of variety in the fleet. Additionally, I’m looking at fitting roller axle boxes to a couple and then plenty of livery variation so fingers crossed, when done there will be 5 uniform but different brake vans!


This does mean I now have 5 of these spare – comparison to a prototype photo will show the inaccuracies though, not just the air vents and chimneys, but a straight beam of wood seemed a much more common weatherstrip than the curve moulded here.


Still, onwards and upwards, I’ve only fitted 9 handrails to one side of one van, still another 81 to go!

Oly also has a couple of these on the go and is carrying out a similar upgrade program I think, so there should be brake vans galore at some point.



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