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Modelling drop-centred wagons

The drop centre wagon was required for loads over about eight feet tall.

The information is presented as a set of pictures, these will take a while to download, to save any one of these right click on the required picture and select 'save picture as'. The pictures can then easily be printed for reference.

The Peco 10 foot wheelbase chassis ends extend about three scale feet at each end, this is rather long for modelling lowmacs. The chassis ends can be shortened but doing so means you have to sacrifice the coupling as the coupling pocket will foul the wheels. The suggested method, shown right, does work but I cannot give dimensions as everything depends on where you cut. Note the loop is vertical, the bent back section at 'b' is horizontal (glued to under side of chassis). The wagon can then run as part of a 'fixed rake' but coupling and uncoupling on the layout is difficult. An L shaped hook can be used to allow uncoupling however in my personal experience this tends to be less reliable than the loop when it is to work with standard N Gauge couplings.

Photo of model

Lowmac machinery/vehicle truck
The 'low machinery wagon' or 'lowmac' was used for transporting wheeled vehicles and machines that would sit too high on a standard flat wagon. These had the central deck dropped with ramps at each end and were typically loaded and unloaded over the buffers in an end-loading dock. There are two problems with this type of wagon- firstly the flanges on N Gauge models are too large to allow the correct slope at the ends and secondly lowmacs tended to have very deep side frames often reaching down below the axle boxes. The first can be overcome by easing the slope slightly but the second would require accurately cut cosmetic side frames made from thin card. The best option is to select a prototype with a shallow well and preferably one with the more curved style of end ramps (as favoured by the GWR). As this model was for a small layout I wanted a small wagon and based the model (loosely) on the 1893 LBSC wagon (SR diagram 1686). The basic dimensions are taken from a drawing in Southern Wagons Volume Two (see bibliography), indicating a 15 foot wheelbase with the level section of the well being 12 feet long. Because of the size of Peco wheelsets, and the need for the coupling pocket, my model is not accurate, it has to be rather longer than the prototype to retain a reasonable length of well deck, however it does capture the general appearance of this type of vehicle.

Photo of model

This simple design had a relatively high floor, shallow side frames and (when built) no brakes at all. They were all given hand brakes in 1933 under SR ownership and the last of the 20 wagons built was finally scrapped in 1946. I decided to add brakes to my model and give it the livery of the light railway depicted by the layout.

The Peco ten foot wheelbase chassis was used but there were two options for making the ends, either use ends cut from a Peco Southern Railway brake van kit body or use a Peco single bolster wagon, which would give more room for lettering. I opted for the latter and made the deck more 'curved'.

sketch of model

The shape of the model also rather resembled the rather larger BR vacuum braked Lowmac WV, introduced in the early 1950s as a 12 ton vehicle, by the early 60s they had a few uprated to 15 tons. The BR wagon had a wheelbase of 22' 6'', (so the under-chassis on the model needs to be 45mm long) and it did not have the heavy rings on the sides but had chains permanently fitted, attached to the corners. When the wagon was unloaded these chains were brought together, forming a Y shape at each end, with the tails lying beside each other along the centre of the deck.

My loads come from a nice whitemetal kit of two Fowler 'ploughing engines' and a 'cultivator' supplied by W&T. These ploughing engines resenbled traction engines but they had a large steel drum under the boiler which was used to pull a rope-hauled plough across the field. They often operated in pairs but a single engine could work a field using an 'earth anchor' on the far side. In transit the chimney would be removed on the engine and stowed in the cab.

Trolley wagon
The drop centre trolley wagon was normally associated with heavy loads such as large pieces of machinery but they were also used for large plant such as tracked excavators. BR called the four wheeled type 'flatrol', the bogie version is usually referred to as a 'weltrol'. These were designed to be loaded by crane or from the side, unlike the lomacs and implement wagons they were not designed for end-loading.
Photo of model

My model represents the shortest example of the type I could find, it has a 16 foot wheelbase and a well 12 feet long. They were built by the LMS in 1928 and my model is in LMS grey livery. The LMS called them 'chemical pan' wagons, three were built presumably intended for a specific duty but they seem to have ended up in general traffic. These wagons became Flatrol MA under BR ownership and as the wagon was unfitted BR painted them grey as well. The heavy longitudinal beams are not fitted on my model, in this configuration the wagon might be used to carry a tracked excavator or similar load. I tried having removable beams, allowing it to appear loaded or unloaded but I made no provision for properly locating the beams (I should have drilled holes in the cross-beams and fitted pins to the longitudinal's) so they tended to wander off as the model trundled along. The longitudinal beams were a foot square, so you can use Bryant and May 'extra long matches' for these, or 2mm square plastic tube with the ends filled with Milliput.

sketch of model

There was a longer version with a 24 foot wheelbase and a 20 foot well but otherwise the same design, these were coded Flatrol MO by BR. If you have the room on the layout one of these makes quite an impressive vehicle, the construction is as shown above but the floor should be about 35mm long to give a fair compromise between well length and overall length. This is close to the maximum length for a rigid model on four wheels on model railway curves but should manage 12 inches radius comfortably and probably 9 inch curves as well.

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