Fish Wagon No.3

Kitbuild by EM

Prototype Model of IMR Fish Wagon(with raised bolthead and nut / washer detail)

It's been a long time in research, design and prototyping: an easy-build accurate 15mm scale plywood body and chassis frame kit for the IMR Fish Wagon.

Anyone remember seeing one of these in the flesh (should that be scales)? They were few in number, totalling only 5 examples, three different lengths, built in house by the IMR between 1909 and 1914 on redundant chassis from original 4-wheel carriages and one brake van. As the name would imply, the Fish Wagons were used predominantly to transport fish and fish products around the island, typically in barrels and baskets originating from Peel, the low sides and lift-out wide centre planks assisting loading / unloading by hand. Their introduction was no doubt a ‘breath of fresh air’ for the G vans!

The model is based on Fish Wagon 3, built in 1910 on the redundant chassis of Brake Van E.4, the shortest example at 16’ 0” length, but retaining brakes. Fish Wagons 1 & 4 were built using first class carriage chassis, 17’ 6” in length, remaining unbraked. Fish Wagons 2 & 5 were built on brake/third class carriage chassis, 16’ 6” in body length, also retaining their brakes. Perhaps in time these longer variants will emerge.

Fish Wagon ‘1’ lasted through to the Ballasalla Bonfire in 1974, ‘3’ was scrapped in 1951, the others made it to the early / mid 1960’s.

Model Design

  1. Three different thicknesses of birch plywood components, all pre-cut. Some thin styrene strip is used for the side / end plank capping.

  2. Lamination (gluing back-to-back) is required for a number of components to vary their thickness, to assist assembly and to help with alignment of engraved surface detail on both sides.

  3. The positions of prototype metal plates and brackets, numerous boltheads and nuts/washers (approaching 200) are marked by surface engraving, but without a multitude of pre-cut holes.

  4. Headstocks do however have pre-cut mounting holes for side safety chains, a standard Accucraft coupling and a scale buffer-coupling housing.

  5. Assembly guidance lines are marked on components where necessary to assist alignment.

The builder will require these additional components to complete the wagon:

  • Underframe (i.e. w-irons, axleboxes, leaf springs)

  • Wheelsets (30 - 34mm diameter tread)

  • Buffer Couplings

and may wish to include more detail by adding the following:

  • Brake gear (v-hangers, cross shaft and arms, brake rods and shoes, brake handle, stirrup)

  • Side safety chains

  • Raised boltheads and nuts / washers

  • Raised bolt straps, plates and corner brackets

  • Transfers / decals

A number of commercial sources are available at present (or in near future) for a mix of these underframe and detail items, including Accucraft UK, IP Model Engineering, DJB Model Engineering, The Train Department, TrackShack, Brandbright, Cambrian Models, Masterclub UK.

Build Notes


The kit comprises the following:

  1. 1.5mm plywood - body panels, floor, headstocks and chassis beams

  2. 4.0mm plywood – support posts and underframe mounting blocks

  3. 1.0mm plywood – valance boards

  4. Styrene strip - for side / end panel capping

The plywood components are all pre-cut by laser, some light sanding will be required to remove minor edge imperfections and wood burn residue. In addition, the twelve posts which support the side / end panels require a small top chamfer as shown in the photo. A horizontal line is surface engraved to indicate the amount of chamfer required, achieved by light sanding at an angle with fine grade sand paper and a sanding block.


Laminate the pre-cut components together to produce six basic sub-assemblies which together form the body and chassis frame of the wagon. Chamfer the tops of the support posts before fixing into position.

Ensure a full covering of glue on mating surfaces and adequate clamping / weight application during lamination, being careful to avoid any sideways slip or warping of components until glue has cured.

The valance boards cover the joint between the chassis / headstock beams and the body planking above. In later IMR days some of these boards were missing. The joint line is engraved fully if the builder wishes to omit some or all of the valance boards on the model.

The inner side chassis beam and inner headstock laminations serve to add scale thickness and support the floor on all edges. A further (shorter) inner headstock lamination serves as a spacer and locator for the side panels on final assembly.

1 x floor
2 x side panels with side chassis beam
2 x end panels with headstock
1 x centre chassis cross beam (underframe mounting blocks are also shown in picture)

Raised Bolthead and Nut / Washer Detailing

If the builder wishes to add raised bolthead and nut / washer detail of the type that requires insertion of spigots into small pre-drilled holes, now is the time to drill the necessary holes before final assembly of the body. Drill size will vary dependent on the fittings selected.

The IMR Fish Wagons used Whitworth hexagon bolts and nuts, 3/4 inch dia. for attachment of W-irons and transverse tie bars, 7/8 inch dia. for longitudinal tie bars, and 5/8 inch dia. for all other brackets and post fittings. For reference, these scale to 1.625mm, 1.85mm and 1.375mm across hexagon flats respectively.

5/8 inch dia. coach bolts may also have been used to secure the body planking to the support posts with nuts / washers placed on the outside. The round heads of these coach bolts would be 1 inch dia. and scale to 1.25mm.

Final Assembly

Dry fit the body sub-assemblies together on a level surface to ensure their accuracy and stability of the wagon body. Light sanding may be necessary to correct small lamination misalignments and to clean edges for bonding.

Glue and assemble together one side panel and one end panel on a level surface, ensuing joints align and mate properly and both panels remain vertical and square to one another. Repeat step for the other side panel and end panel, ensuring correct orientation! Allow to cure fully on the level surface.

Next glue the floor panel into position on one of the side / end assemblies. Allow to cure fully on the level surface. The second side / end assembly can then be glued into position, again ensuring proper alignment and mating of all joints. Position a moderate weight centrally on the floor panel to assist. Elastic bands, mini clamps or masking tape may also assist as preferred. Allow to cure fully on the level surface.

Then glue the chassis centre cross beam into position, ensuring no bowing in the floor panel.

For those using DJB or similar type underframes which fix to the floor panel (see picture below), four spacer blocks are included with the kit, to be fixed in the marked positions on the underside of the floor panel. The prototype model uses small slot-head machine screws with captive nuts held in the spacer blocks, allowing easy attachment / removal of the complete underframe assembly.

Painting & Detailing

Once the glue is fully cured, lightly sand all faces and edges of the wagon ready for painting. Use a tack cloth to remove dust and wipe over with methylated spirit, allow to dry. Fine wood filler or modeller’s putty can be used to remedy minor imperfections as required.

If the builder wishes to keep the floor boards (and the ends of floor boards which are detailed on the side panels) in a natural or stained wood finish, suitable low tack masking tape / paper should be applied to these areas before painting proceeds.

With preference, use a fine spray acrylic grey primer (e.g. Halfords / Hycote car paint primer) to lightly prime the wagon all over. [Tip: avoid the heavier spray paints like Plasticote and Rustoleum brands which suit large diy projects]. Allow to dry and then use a super fine sand paper or sanding sponge to smooth the faces and edges again as necessary. Any remaining imperfections which the builder wishes to remedy should be attended to at this stage before raised detail is added. Repeat the process of using a tack cloth and spirit wipe-over to remove residual dust.

Glue into place any raised detail which is intended to match the body colour (e.g. typically boltheads and nuts / washers positioned directly on the wood without a support plate or strap underneath). Then lightly re-prime the wagon body and the raised detail as required.

Acrylic grey primer spray is normally a darker shade of grey than typically used on the IMR, but leaves an excellent quality matt finish on wood, ferrous metal and most plastics. A lighter shade grey top coat can be applied, but avoid heavy or multiple coats of paint which tend to obscure engraved planking lines and other surface detail. A sharp point scriber may be used to recover engraved lines which become over-filled with paint.

The surface engraved plates and brackets on the wagon body can be highlighted by hand painting them matt black as preferred. Remove any paint masking tape / paper remaining on the model. The side / end panel capping strips cut to size and any additional raised detail, pre-painted matt black, can now be glued into place.

Add selected stock reference transfers / decals and allow to dry thoroughly. A final light overspray with a clear matt or semi-matt acrylic varnish will help maintain the overall finish. Time to source your underframe, wheels, couplings ............