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Gresley 61'6" BG

I hesitate to open this topic because I've already covered it in Model Rail (two articles) and MRJ (one article); they are enormously detailed; and they can be found under the Articles Index. However, I've been contacted by a modeller who used my topic about the LNER-Pathe Cinema Car to convert a BG that had started life as a PC Models kit, which after construction, he converted into a Cinema Car! This was done by cutting holes in the floor and reaching through with a brush to paint the inside of the windows black and using his 'pooter to print the roof boards "PATHE - LNER CINEMA CAR". The underframe was left as-is but there's enough to convey the unmistakable image of the Cinema Car.

It got me thinking because the PC LNER BG was the very first coach kit that I ever built, a great many years ago. I was newly married and in Leeds with my wife, where there used to be a superb model shop. And there in the window were two PC kits, for the BG and a BTK. I was unable to choose between them and my dear, darling wife quipped "Why don't you buy them both"? And so my hobby, paused when I left home, did all the student stuff and got a proper job and found the girl of my dreams, was being restarted. They were built on the living room table, the BG first.

In those far off days you may be surprised to hear that not only were there no RTR Gresleys, there were hardly any kits either, and when a magazine ran an article on how to build something, it was nearly always scratch-building. If you wanted something that wasn't available from the few RTR outfits, that's what you did - it was normal. And so, armed with the experience of two PC Gresleys, I started building them from scratch and ended up with a 6-coach train, which when I started modelling the Great Central London Extension (GCLE) near whose former metals we had moved (it's good to model something local), was fine because in LNER days most London expresses were 5-6 coaches long. Hence, Brackley Central started taking shape in the loft and, eventually, I made carriages professionally. But all that's a separate story really... the point here is that the PC kit for a BG kick-started it all, and I went on to build four of them.

The model

I've always advocated "start with something simple" and PC kits still turn up in bring-and-buy sales. More modern replacement parts have arrived since, too, so it gets easier. The PC kits came with superb pre-printed sides - an idea that never really died - but because no RTR body could be utilised, you had to build a floor with thin metal L-shape pieces (the one for coach side having the curved tumblehome shape). A thin, vac-formed roof was provided. Many parts - and this applied especially for the underframe trussing - were printed in ink on sheets of Plastikard, rather like in balsa wood models of aeroplanes. It was pretty obvious what you had to do and the printed sides were so glorious - all that teak and perfectly lined. You may think that the panelling was under-scale, but this was a time when many RTR models were clumsily overscale (and some still are) but erring in the direction of understatement is a good thing.

So these models ran on my layout for years. And then came Mike Trice whose replacement fittings became the standard upgrade for Kirk Kits, and some other ranges too. It eventually occurred to me that if I was building a PC Models kit today, that's what I would use, so I took the PC parts off and replaced them with MJT - except for the carefully crafted steel angle trussing which was pretty scale and surely didn't need replacing? See the model picture below and decide for yourself.

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From MJT I fitted vac-sets, brake reservoirs, dynamo and battery box. The PC bogies were the wrong type (8'6" light) and I replaced them with 8'0" heavy bogies from Coopercraft. And finally, I fitted working gangways. I never got round to buckeyes as the train only runs on my layout at home. Actually, the BG has had a few outings for when I was involved with the Gresley Beat, I provided a short milk train, representing when they were common on all of the Big Four companies (on the LNER to King's Cross, Liverpool Street and Marylebone). Alas, it never got developed, but there we go. I'd also provided a fish train and a cattle special, all borrowed from my Brackley Central...

From little acorns?

The next three models of the same vehicle follow in chronological order and they show how knowledge increases as much as the quality of the kits and even the point of view and the lighting: it's not exactly a level playing field!

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This is the Ian Kirk kit modelled in normal, in-service condition with the teak as dark as it shows in most LNER period photographs, the underframe covered in dust, and the roof almost black. Only the primrose lining has failed to darken and though I toned it down, I could perhaps have gone a bit darker. Despite what people say, the plastic-moulded panelling does not look obtrusive, especially when the beading is toned down (in some Kirk kits the beading is so primitive that it cannot be rescued and I have had to remove and relay it using shaped microstrip). It also helps to replace the ventilator bonnets with the MJT version and fit rain deflectors fitted over the doors. These tweaks give a more rounded and realistic result. This model, by way, was built as a through van for Mike Casey's GWR c1947, 18.83 layout, and thus has a GC Section number.

The most striking aspect is the wonderful turnbuckle trussing and Fox bogies, all from MJT. It was a very numerous version, actually the most numerous version of all and modellers should be building more of it than the later type with steel angle trussing and Gresley bogies. Another quantum improvement is not just in the fabulous MJT parts but how they can be souped up. Note the shelves under the battery boxes and how they were hung from above and also supported in the middle. I can get all soppy modelling this level of detail simply because it's what the LNER did. Note the effect of adding the lower guard's step. What you are seeing is a combination of two things - an aggregation of fittings and being able to see them because of the weathered, dusty finish, unlike ex-works black which is like the proverbial black hole. For me, an entirely ex-works model just doesn't have the same realism; it also hides what's there.

However, I had yet to realise that the handrails and lever handles were not brass but ferrous. I touch on this in the "LNER teak coaches and livery" topic and that it is not clear if the LNER painted these fittings brown or black.

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Here is the other side of the coin in several regards. It's another Ian Kirk kit but the later version with Gresley bogies and steel angle trussing, actually quite rare. The battery box is on the other side so you can't see that with this trussing the shelves under the battery box rested on the transverse steel angle trussing. It's all three-dimensional rather than as some modellers think, kind of glued to the floor! And you can see more of what were ferrous fittings have been painted black. At this point I still hadn't realised about the lever handles on the van doors.

The model is in ex-works livery and brighter than 99% of them were seen in service. It is of course another common bias by modellers and I hope I have shown that a weathered model is better looking!

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The last model, although also in ex-works condition shows how much better the finer panelling of an etched brass kit can be. And the more prominent hinges. This is from the MJT stable and all the panelling is spot on, unlike the Comet approach, for example. It also has the turnbuckle trussing and Fox bogies and you can flip between the two models and compare the salient differences between the plastic and the brass kit. We've come a long way and when modelled tidily, both Kirk and MJT kits can give results very close to the real thing.

All the ferrous and brass fittings are now correct. There is also what is believed to be the lighting control switch box (some people assert that it contains the regulator). I might add that the published pictures of this last model were in black and white (in MRJ) and that without the loud ex-works BR crimson, they made the model looked really vintage.

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LNER teak coaches and livery is here.

Related NPCS links:

ECJS and GNR clerestory BG.

56'6" ECJS and GNR BG.

D.86 and D.87 general and milk vans.

Gresley steel-panelled BG.

Gresley all-steel BG prototype and model.

Gresley all-steel BG service.

Thompson 61'6" deal BG.

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