Friday 20 October 2023

Ladies Cosmetic Surgery

As you will know already if you follow the Bron Hebog social media posts, we have (expensively) succeeded in backdating one of the new Bachmann Blanche models to condition which is appropriate to the era we are depicting on our new Minffordd layout.

(Yes, I know that's a picture of Linda.  Read on for the full story.)

I was forewarned that Bachmann would only be producing a model of the loco as an FR machine in post-1971 condition with the pony wheel and the elegant piston valve cylinders.

But in the early days of its new life as a passenger loco, Blanche retained its original, chunky, square-topped slide valve cylinders, which sister engine Linda sports to this day.

The plan I hatched was to purchase an additional Linda - in early FR 0-4-0STT condition - with the intention of performing a cheeky chassis swap, and lend Blanche an authentic front end.

It turned out that the cosmetic surgery was not as simple as I thought it would be.

What I had imagined was that we (or to be more accurate, Himself) would be able to just undo a few screws to release the cab / saddle tank / smokebox units and mate them to the opposite chassis.

What I had forgotten about were the tenders!

Or, more to the point, I hadn't appreciated how on the Bachmann models the tenders are hard wired to the locomotive chassis.

Even if we released Blanche's upper front half and put it onto Linda's chassis, it would still be attached to Linda's tender....

The only way around this was to completely dismantle the chassis - wheels out, motion disconnected, cylinders unscrewed,  the lot! - which allowed Himself to exchange the chassis frames and the cylinders between the locos, before completely rebuilding both.

I'm told it was a full day's work.

All this highlighted the lengths that Bachmann's designer went to make these models authentic.

Just like the real locos the frames on the contemporary 2-4-0 are teeny bit longer at the front where they were extended to accommodate the pony wheel.

The frames on the modern Blanche also include some very intricate red lining.

This process has left us with an intriguing bonus loco - a Linda sporting piston valve cylinders (which I think suits her very well indeed).

It's well known that at the start of the 1970s this was the plan for both the Penrhyn Ladies, but legend had it that one pair of the cylinders which were produced at BREL Crewe were faulty, and thus only Blanche had them fitted.

I found out this summer, in conversation over a pint with a respected Boston Lodge figure, that this story is false in at least two aspects.

Firstly, the piston valve cylinders were fabrications, not castings as has so often been reported.

I was also told that both sets have the same imperfection - but it's quite clearly nothing that's prevented Blanche ricketing up and down the Vale for the past half-century.

Perhaps there's more to the story about why Linda was left untouched?

1 comment:

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