K Cattle Wagon

Kitbuild by EM

A cut-by-cut Build & Detailing Review of the IP Engineering 'K Wagon'

'Standard' Kit Build
'Modified' Kit Build

First up, some prototype information. The K wagons / vans were quite numerous on the Isle of Man Railway, 32 vehicles in total including replacements, of which 20 were built by the railway on redundant wooden chassis of original 4-wheel carriages when their bodies were 'paired' onto new bogied steel underframes.

This new IP Engineering kit is based on a 4-wheel carriage chassis version, so allowing models of stock numbered K.13 through to K.26, or replacement vehicles K.1, K.2 and K.5, or 'sheep-only' vehicles K.13A and K.14A. Plenty of choice then for modellers.

Periods of use for this type of vehicle on the IOMR range from 1912 through to 1965, although a number of K vans had short lives due to accident or general degradation, only some being subsequently replaced before the carriage of livestock dwindled.

With the exception of replacement wagon K.5 which used a 16' 0" chassis from original Brake Van E.3, all of the other wagons being the subject of the kit used 16' 6" chassis from original B and C class carriages (what's a scale 7.5mm between friends!), with brake components canibalised, made up in the IOMR workshops or supplied as spares by Metropolitan. Although the original C class braked carriages and E class brake vans had a double-sided / four wheel braking arrangement, as cattle wagons / vans the brake arrangement became one-sided / two-wheel or one-wheel braking on the side of the operating lever.

For more detailed prototype references, drawings and reading, I can recommend the book "The Outline History of The Isle of Man Railway - Volume 3" by J.I.C. Boyd published by Oakwood Press, amongst other good works. Please see the Bibliography page on this site.

I've had some questions about open top cattle wagons on the IOMR, some early examples of cattle wagon used by the IOMR / MNR were roof-less (poor sheep and cows), but not of the same chassis type. I have no doubt that scratchbuilders will use the kit to 'make hay while the sun shines ......'

Day 1 "Won't keep you long sir, just looking at the new kit still in its bag and wondering how to start my holiday project". Intending to go to town (Ramsey market!) with this one.......

Day 2 Instructions: Snip off the top of the bag, carefully remove contents and lay out on table to (1) see what you get for £50 these days, (2) familiarise yourself with the components and (3) start thinking about prototype variations, modification, extra detailing etc.

Out of the bag comes a good set of assembly instructions with build photos to assist, plus a scale drawing of the modelled prototype - replacement cattle wagon K.1 ?

Lots of whitemetal castings, which are again impressive following on from the previous G Van kit:

  • one-piece axlebox irons, axleboxes, keeps and leaf spring assemblies, with brass insert bearings

  • leaf spring hangers

  • IP Engineering's standard buffers

  • safety chain hooks and eye mounts

  • double-sided brake gear with four brake hangers/shoes and the operating lever / catch

  • tee, elbow and corner brackets for bodywork framing

  • hinges for doors and drop flaps

Laser cut plywood for the bodywork and chassis frame:

  • vertical planked side panels with gaps and frame overlays

  • horizontal planked end panels with frame / headstock overlays

  • floor panel

  • inner chassis joists for floor support and mounting the axlebox irons and brake brackets

  • roof support braces

To finish, some rodding to use for the top bars (to stop the little woolly blighters jumping out) and for brake gear rods, some chain for the safety hooks, and a piece of plasticard sheeting for the roof panel. Separately you should receive with the kit a pair of axles with 32mm dia wheels fitted at 45mm gauge (but adjustable).

More to follow, once I've run the engineer's ruler over it and determined how much Stanley will need to be involved with this one ..........

Day 3 Nothing is simple with measuring up wagons, whether model kits or full size prototypes. Anyway, here are the results:

On the face of it, given a certain degree of inflexibility with the laser cut plywood process and kit design in general, the IP Engineering K wagon (van) measures up quite well to the overall scale prototype dimensions.

Bear in mind their kit range is designed for 25mm coupling heights (alternative 32mm height markings are indicated for IOM modellers), requiring the headstocks to be lower and making the end panels appear too tall / thin than protoype. For those running with 33/34mm height couplings and Accucraft 33.5mm diameter wheels, trimming 6mm off the bottom of the supplied end panels and 4mm off the headstock overlay included with the kit will easily resolve these differences to scale.

An observation with the early G Van kits was that the chassis side members (solebars) were not prototypically positioned underneath the chassis, but were supplied flush with the side panel. This has been altered with the K Wagon kit by moving the 'solebar' onto the inner layer of the side panel, so that when the overlay framing is applied, a degree of 3D relief is created. The sample photograph at the top of this page shows this to good effect by painting the solebar black, giving a great illusion that the solebar is positioned correctly underneath in full shadow, yet it's only set 1.5mm back. To follow prototype, the chassis side members should be cut off and set back by 5mm.

A few more words about the kit contents. The laser cutting and engraved panel lines are generally clean and crisp. Unless you are lucky to possess a large industrial laser cutter, there is always a small chamfer on cut edges formed by the refraction of the laser beam as it cuts through materials like wood. Past experience with IP Engineering kits is that these sand out easily as the assembly process proceeds.

The plywood itself is of good quality but softwood faced (spruce or poplar I think). My personal preference would be for kit suppliers to use a hardwood faced (birch or ash) ply with much smoother surface and a finer grain for scale effect, plus less tendancy to warp, even if the kit price went up by a couple of pounds. On this one, I will recommend using a sanding sealer on the plywood supplied with the kit to harden up the surface and then pre-sanding it smooth before any assembly takes place.

Forgot to comment about the axlebox / leaf spring assemblies included with the kit. They are lovely white metal castings, the leaf springs, axlebox and W-iron cast together as one piece, with separate spring hangers to position when assembling the running gear. The leaf springs modelled are of the shorter pattern (60mm scale / 4ft prototype) which, in relation to the K livestock wagons, would represent replacement vehicle K.5 built using the chassis of an old E Van. Modeller's license is an invaluable tool to have, so take your pick from any of the stock numbers highlighted in the prototype information above. Bodywork for these IOMR constructed livestock vehicles was almost identical, some ironwork variations can be noted in old photographs, in particular the brake cross-shaft hanger brackets.

More to follow .....................

Day 4 Before I get going with the build proper, a couple more pointers for an improved 'look and feel' IOMR vehicle. I suggested above moving the chassis side members (solebars) inwards by 5mm for scale correctness. For my sins I am now going to suggest you move them in a tad further so that when the axlebox irons are correctly mounted on the inside face, the spacing for the wheelsets is perfect! This keeps the suspension and brake geometry correct as seen in the photo below. I won't specify the measurement because different axle lengths and solebar thicknesses will be used by different builders. The reason for this anomoly, by the way, is that there was a whole chunk of axlebox inside the irons on the prototypes which is not modelled on the white metal castings. Alternatively, get some longer axle wheelsets and use washers between the wheels and axlebox bearings.

The second photo above shows the small cut-out required in the floor panel and headstock to accept the Accucraft buffer coupling housing after its standard mounting flanges have been trimmed off. This modification is only for those running with 33/34mm coupling heights and want close-coupling, but don't forget to do this before commencing assembly. The additional chassis members shown either side, spaced 14mm apart, are an extra (not included in kit) but add support and keep everything neat and tidy. Actually IOMR smaller goods wagons had these centre chassis members in just this position. Some will say "you can't see underneath, so why bother?" Believe me, if you're modelling a prototype, it's not just about putting a kit together asap and getting it onto the track. As Sir Edmund Hillary said.....

Time to do some marking up before 'Stanley' gets involved.

Day 5 Remove the plywood panels and overlays from the frets carefully. There are small holding tabs and some laser cut lines which need to be finished off with a sharp knife to release the items - only press out with light finger pressure.

Measure twice, cut once! Having checked the axlebox/guard iron casting dimensions, I figure the nearest you can get to scale height without major surgery is 146mm using the Accucraft IOM coach wheelsets, but stick with the 30mm diameter IP supplied wheels and it's spot on. So if you want to modify your K wagon headstocks, move the solebars further underneath and fit Accucraft buffers 'close-coupled', here are my basic cutting plans highlighted for 'Stanley':

(a) Remove 6mm from bottom of the end panels, then remove 4mm from bottom of the outer headstock overlays (which become 12.5mm deep). Note that the safety chain holes in the overlays are now in correct scale position and can be used as a guide to re-drill holes through end panel once glued in position, You will also need to remove 6mm from the bottom of the inner headstock overlays / floor end supports (not shown in photos, these become 9mm deep).

(b) After gluing the end headstock overlays in place, cut out the Accucraft coupling housing recesses in the modified end panels if required, a hole 14mm wide by 11mm high. A recess is also required in the centre end of the floor panel for clearance, 14mm wide by 9mm deep (see ealier photo above).

(c) Trim 6mm off the bottom ends of the inner and outer side panels, this raises the bottom of the body corner posts to match the raised headstocks.

(d) If you want to move the solebar further underneath the chassis, it's the bottom 9mm of the inner side panel between the 'end posts'. Use the outer side panel overlay as a guide to mark out the required cut lines, I use a razor saw for the short vertical end cuts, then large Stanley with steel ruler for the horizontal cut. Go slowly with many light cuts across the panel, as the depth of cut increases, more cutting pressure can be applied. Patience with this difficult cut.

Sand everything carefully with fine grade paper and block and sanding sticks. To stop the wood grain standing up when paint is applied later, use a sanding sealer which hardens the surface, then re-sand. As the side / end panels are of layered construction, it is easier to sand faces smooth ready for painting before initial assembly commences (some may prefer even to prime/undercoat at this early stage).

I've contemplated a further modification, moving the floor panel higher up by 3mm which puts it into scale position, flush with the bottom floor vents / wash-outs on the side panels. It would also obviate the need for cutting the coupling housing recesses in the floor panel. On the downside, the solebars and centre chassis members would need to be 3mm deeper to support the floor, but suitable stripwood is available. The choice is yours!

Day 6 A few days off for festivities and it's back in the workshop. Having completed the panel cuts outlined above, all looks well. The outside frame overlays for the end panels will need a small trim top and bottom to fit the reduced height ends and headstocks.

For those wanting a bit more detail, take some time and scribe the planking detail on the inside of the wagon. Floor planks were about 8" wide in real life which scales nicely to 10mm. I mirrored the width of the outside planking on the end panels and the framing on the sides. Once the primer has been applied, some of the planking detail may need a light 'touch-up' with the scriber.

I decided to raise my floor by 3mm so that it is flush with the side wash-out vents. This requires replacing the supplied end floor supports, which fit at the rear of the headstocks, with material 12mm high and a width to suit where your solebars are to be fitted. I've opted to move my solebars inwards and use them to mount the axlebox irons on the inside face, so from experience with my previous IP Engineering G Vans using Accucraft IOM carriage wheels, the inside faces of the solebars should be set 70mm apart! The photos show the headstock cut-out required for the Accucraft buffer housing. Because my floor is raised by 3mm, it clears the housing but, without this modification, you will need to make a cut-out in each end of your floor panel (see measurements and a separate photo earlier).

To provide additional support for the floor, I have also added a small longitudinal strip along the bottom inside edge of each side panel.

Day 7 Turning to the solebars (longitudinal side chassis members!), the 'visible' bolt detail positions have been added by the laser which makes the positioning of axleguards, suspension hangers and brake shaft brackets very easy. Now is a good time to decide how much additional detail you will be adding in this area and the method of attaching the axleguards and brake shaft brackets. The reason being that drilling additional / alternative holes at this stage is much easier than when the model is half assembled with the solebar glued underneath.

In addition, the scale thickness of the solebars would be about 5mm, so I'm intending to thicken mine up with additional strips of 2mm ply. I referenced earlier that optional centre chassis members are not supplied with the kit, actually the ones included for mounting the axleguard irons (with a pre-cut positioning notch) will serve for this purpose if you are relocating the solebars and using them to mount the axleguards.

I shall be attaching my axleguards with proper hex bolts / nuts so that they can easily be removed if needed (although CA gel glue works perfectly well if you don't think you'll need to remove them). CA gel glue will be used for the other metal components. I like using round head pins and press-fit dummy bolt/nut/washer detail, so will be drilling out the necessary holes on the solebars (and headstocks / side panels) before assembly begins.

Day 8 Waiting for a few supplies to arrive, so I've have taken the opportunity to cut a replacement roof panel to size from 0.8mm birch ply. The kit includes a piece of plasticard for the roof which I'm sure does the job, but I prefer a thin plywood roof which seems to bend / glue easier, and looks better? The roof can be made to look thicker at a later stage by adding small trims beneath the overhang and rounding the edges, or simply by adding a second layer of ply, or by using thicker ply - but flex is important to maintain a smooth roof curve.

The new (enlarged) solebars are ready to fit, this photo shows the comparison of the kit size 9 x 3mm and scale size 12.5 x 5mm.

Attention has turned briefly to the top bars, the metal rodding supplied with the kit suits a robust well-handled outdoor model but is overscale. Some finer plastic rod from the model shop, or hard wire rod sold for flower arranging (I think), will improve the look in this area, and is easier to authentically kink!

Once my supply of stripwood and dummy nuts/washers/bolts arrive, I shall get this wagon (van?) body put together.

Day 9 Supplies on the workbench, body gluing has commenced! Still waiting for the grazing beasts to arrive, so fitting the roof will have to wait. Dry fit the pieces together to ensure everything aligns as it should. Sanding the edges and corners after assembly is fine, but any trimming or surgery is best tackled now while the panels are flat on the modelling deck.

It's worth deciding at this stage which prototype model you are considering and obtain reference photos. The brake gear varies from vehicle to vehicle depending on origin (B or C type four wheel carriages or an E brake van). I'm going for an one-sided / two wheel variant, but you can have one-sided / one wheel or two-sided / four wheel if you like.

For the side top bars, I'm using the hard iron rod from the florists / craft shop called 'Oasis Wire' - 20 gauge (0.9mm in our language), 20 pieces x 12", blackened (in fact a tad rusty for added realism) and all for 75p. Bargain of the decade. Most photos show K wagon body ironwork painted grey in later service, but black suits me for my 'restored' vehicle.

My assembly sequence is to fix the floor panel square and central to one of the side panels first (easy when you have the additional floor support strip), then to add the end panels, then the second side panel. Lastly, position the solebars and inner chassis beams as appropriate for your chosen wheelsets / axle length. I use CA gel glue on the bodywork, the type that retains some flexibility in joint when cured but grabs firm in about 10 secs.

Day 10 Nearly finished, just the final roof assembly, my chosen brake gear and a few more detail pieces to fit. Once your bodywork is complete (with or without roof), it's time to give it a final outside spray / brush of your favourite shade of grey and fit all that lovely metalwork. My vehicle is for a heritage line so I've chosen all the ironwork to be painted black, but if you are building a representative example for a particular period of operation, most of the bodywork fittings (strengthening plates, strapping, restraining bars, hinges, chassis bolt heads etc.) would have been overpainted grey with the timber. That leaves the running gear, brake gear, couplings and safety chains in black. As always with Manx modelling, use a prototype photograph for reference, or go with what you like! The metalwork was cleaned (minor filing to remove any flashing / mould lines), primed and painted separately, then attached to the body using the CA gel glue again, with a cocktail stick for applying it accurately in small amounts in the right places.

For added detail, I have made a number of extra small fittings, in particular the corner post straps which are quite prominent and run from the headstock round to the solebars / side framing. The 'perforated' solebar is to accomodate rather a lot of press in dummy bolt head/washers, plus the real ones which will hold the axleguards in situ.

The view from the end shows the modified (raised/shallower) headstock with flush fit Accucraft coupling housing and small added bolt head / plate detail, both to the panel centre trusses and where the side restraining bars would poke through. Just the safety chains to push into their holes, and the buffer / chopper assembly to fit into its housing.

Coming next, upside down and photographing the running / brake gear in situ on my modified 'chassis'. Then I can add the remaining fixtures once it's the right way up again and fit the roof, with or without the beasts inside.

PS. The cows are from the Schleich range, nicely moulded and painted, close to 1:20 scale but surprisingly heavy solid plastic. I can see my Dubs or Beyer locomotive struggling with a loaded rake of these on its way to Ramsey market. Double-header perhaps .............

Day 11 Viewed from beneath, the axleboxes / irons / spring assemblies are mounted onto the inside face of the re-positioned outer solebars. A small piece of thin plywood is used as a packing piece (if necessary) to ensure the spacing apart suits the wheelsets. The spring hangers are positoned behind the solebars at the end of the leaf springs, making a neat and prototypically correct assembly.

I'm modelling a single-sided / two wheel brake arrangement rather than using the two-sided / four wheel assembly (the components are included in the kit). The brake push rods are a tad short for the shoes and could easily be replaced if you want your shoes rubbing up against the wheel treads!

Remembering this K wagon (and the G van kit) are based on prototypes which used original 4-wheel carriage / brake van chassis, noticeable detail for these includes the long torsion bars between the axleguard keeps. A piece of 1mm dia. steel / plastic rodding simulates this well, but I recommend cutting / filing small notches in the axleguard keeps to help retain these torsion bars in place, otherwise you'll find they drop off in service!

Back the right way up, check your wagon runs smoothly along your track. Now just the small detail parts to add, transfers ........ and that roof. Happy modelling!

Day 12 The dummy boltheads inserted into the drilled out solebars finish them with great satisfaction. Small rectangular 'flange' plates made from styrene sheet with dummy nuts/washers complete the outside of the coupling housings on the headstocks. For helping the brakesman hold on while he stands on the brake handle to stop the vehicle hitting the buffers, a 'brake jockey' handrail is fitted to the side planking. These came in several types / designs, reference to a particular prototype photo enables correct fabrication from styrene strip and/or iron wire.

Load cows, a sprinkling of scale straw, fit roof and enjoy ..........