Right you lot, pay attention. If there is a simple improvement anyone can make to a model steam locomotive, it's replacing a moulded smokebox dart. Yes, I know that a lot of modern ready to play locos now come fitted with a nice seperate item but most of the older ones didn't and nor do those from Hornby's very economic Railroad range.
I've talked to "modellers" about doing this in the past and get very frustraited when I'm told "It's too difficult" to make this change. After all, there in an Interweb to whine on and one day the manufacturer will listen...
Well, tough. This is a model making blog and so I'm going to show you just how easy this job it. You'll need a small drill bit, sharp knife, superglue and some emery paper.
Exhibit A. A moulded smokebox dart (Yes, I know that's a modellers term but we'll stick with it) on the face of my Adams Radial. Back in the 1960s, people used to put up with this sort of thing, but then they used to accept all sorts of things back then.
The moulded dart is cut away with a sharp knife and the remains sanded away with emery paper. Before the last vestiges are removed, drill the centre with a 1mm drill bit. A polish with a fibreglass pencil is an excllent finishing touch.
The replacement part comes from Eileens Emproium as 3 tiny and nicely turned brass parts - a base and two arms. Some of you are probably thinking that £2.50 is a lot of money for very little metal but it's quite a lot of lathe work to get this far. Alternatives are available but if they are whitemetal castings, cleaning them up can be fiddly so I stick with what I know. Anyway, the improvement is worth it.
You pop the base in the hole drilled earlier then thread the arms on the spike. Positions them to match a photo of the real loco. Fix everything in place with tiny amounts of superglue. Place this on some plastic and trasfer to the model with the end of a pin - you don't need much. Finally, trim the spike and arms to length (look at the photo again) with some wire cutters or a file.
All of this is even easier on the plastic loco body. Best of all, touching the paint up is really simple as smokeboxes are matt black and Humbrol's version of this colour (No 33) is an excellent brushable paint so you don't even need to spray and it will stick to the new brass bits adequatly.
So, a nice simple upgrade for an older loco. Every time you look at your model you'll know it looks better than it did and more importantly, you'll be able to say, "I did that."