I started work on a Ratio GWR 'Toad' brake van kit this weekend. Not being content to simply build the kit as per the instructions, I turned to Geoff Kent's "The 4mm Wagon - Part 2" and his detailed description of how to use the Ratio kit as the basis for an AA23 diagram van. As he points out, the kit doesn't actually provide an accurate representation of any of the various prototype diagrams but with some work can form the basis for a good conversion. Obviously it would be simpler to opt for one of the earlier diagrams which require less modifications, but I preferred the idea of simply following in someone else's footsteps, albeit with the additional work required - plus, I like a challenge!
So far I've filed off the moulded handrails (why on earth can't someone do a plastic model - kit or RTR - that has seperate wire handrails?!) with moderate success (I'm sure a coat of paint and some general weathering will disguise any imperfections in the finish), removed the turned-under lower end of the side stanchions and replaced them with straight-down ones made from T-section styrene filed to the correct profile (well, as close as possible!), and removed the moulded chimney on the roof.
I'm debating whether or not to bother adjusting the height of the steel cladding on the lower body sides given that its only a scale 4 inches and the handrails will obscure the inaccuracy to some extent anyway. At the end of the day, I'm willing to compromise if I can live with it!
The handrails are something I'm not looking forward to making. I've started work producing the new handrail fastenings from 1mm L-section brass, filed down at one end to create a locating pin. This in itself is extremely fiddly work given that the resulting items are barely larger than a pin head!! I've made 4 - I need 16. Then I need to solder the handrail wire to the fastenings... I had a go with a couple of spare bits of brass earlier today and it wasn't too promising - mind you, perhaps I shouldn't get too depressed too soon - it was the first time I've picked up a soldering iron in about 15 years! Actually, with Carrs solder paint it shouldn't be too difficult - the main problem I need to solve is how to solder two bits of wire to each fastening without one coming undone when the second is soldered on! I think the answer is to solder both simultaneously. I also need to make some sort of jig to hold everything in place while soldering otherwise I'll never get everything square. Well, nothing like a challenge eh?!