Monday, January 18, 2021

Ask Phil: A beginners Gauge 1 loco kit

Gauge 1 Diesel Electric Ruston

 Lionel asks: Is the Mercian Models G1 Ruston kit suitable for a beginner? 

This is a difficult question to answer. Everything depends on what you mean by "beginner". 

If your construction skills are hardly up to a simple Lego model, then no, it's not. 

However, if you've done a bit of modelling, then "probably". 

Looking back at my notes on the two models I have built, they seemed to go together pretty well. No significant fettling was required, and thanks to using 7mm scale technology in the chassis, it's modelling rather than engineering. 

It helps if you have some skills forming metal. Sharp corners are easy thanks to half-etched lines inside to put the bend in the right place. Curves are a lot tougher - where do they start and finish? How bent are they?

The biggest challenge is the bonnet top. The gentle curved is easy enough, but the sharper shoulders need to be in the right place, or the piece ends up off-centre and you'll be taking it off and re-bending it to sort that out. Then the brass work-hardens and won't bend as easily, no matter how much you swear at it.
It seems I bent the metal over the supporting framework, presumably annealing it first to make that job easier. Extra bracing for the supports would be wise too, although I suspect I didn't bother. It doesn't help that you have to punch the rivets first, then try to push the metal around without flattening them. 

Aside from this, the shear mass of brass is the other problem. Metal sucks the heat out of solder so you need to get that in fast. I tack the bits together with a 45W iron and then seam the joint with a small gas torch and lashings of flux. Lionel tells me he's a happy solderer, so this shouldn't be an issue. 

Bear in mind that the £300 price of the kit is without motor, wheels and gears. That will drive the final bill up by at least £100. Pop a lovely quality ABC gearbox in and you'll double it.
Having said, that, the photos remind me that this is a good looking model. I'd quite like one myself!
For real beginners, I'd suggest cutting your teeth on some Severn Models kits. They go together well and are a lot cheaper than a loco. If you don't want to keep them, I'm sure eBay would offer a return on your investment. Just ignore the glue and use them as a way to practise both your metal-forming and soldering. If you can assemble something like the garden shed, you're a lot closer to a loco 

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