Thursday, 7 April 2011

A new horsebox for Lambing Flat, KKG 1531

For the first time in nearly 30 years, Lambing Flat can once more transport horses in more salubrious surroundings than a cattle wagon. Lambing Flat's first horsebox was an old MRC offering that was cast in the translucent plastic material that was used for kits in those far off days. I did manage to capture it (accidentally) in a photo of something else, back in 1980 when both I and Lambing Flat were very much younger!
Thirty one years ago, Lambing Flat had code 100 track, not much scenery and very few buildings, but it was already showing signs of being a secondary line. My original MRC KKG horsebox stands in the dock as 3041, a Bergs brass 30T, stands in the loop, waiting for an opposing train in the lounge room of my rented flat in Bexley North. This was the already the third version of Lambing Flat, the current version is the sixth!

A year or so later, in 1981, there was a bit more scenery and some buildings had started to appear as green 3324 headed a passenger train that included the MRC horsebox. The 32 class was scratchbui​lt in styrene on a Tyco chassis, the HFL was an MRC kit, as was the EHO at the rear of the train. The FS and BS were kits by Australian Transport Models. When I moved from Bexley North to Burwood in 1983 the layout, after a short time 'on loan' at the old AMRA clubrooms at Rockdale, was dismantled and most of the rollingstock, including the KKG, sold off. It was to be nearly 28 years before another horsebox appeared on the line to Lambing Flat.

 The process of acquiring another horsebox for Lambing Flat actually started in the mid-1990s when LMR released a 'milky bar' kit of the KKG. There were two versions, in original condition with a clerestory roof and in rebuilt condition with an arc roof and roof ventilators. I purchased both versions, and as I was becoming interested in the 1920s/'30s period at the time, construction was commenced on the clerestory version around 1997/8. For various reasons (I acquired a computer, got connected to the net and then moved house and started work on a garden railway, then got recruited by AMRM!), work ceased on the model in late 1998 and the model sat in my showcase till early this year (2011!)

First some prototype background...
This is the only photograph I know of showing one of the NSWGR's 'small' (KKG) bogie horseboxes in original condition. It has been published in Paul Roger’s article on the BKG and KKG horseboxes that started on p20 of the March/April 1980 issue of AMRM and later, in a better quality version, on p249 of volume 1 of ‘Coaching Stock of the NSW Railways’, published by Eveleigh Press (the book publishing arm of my employer!) in 1999. The photo shows wooden underframed KKG1529, introduced into service in July 1911, posed for the official photograph​er (probably around the time it was introduced). The horseboxes were all originally fitted with clerestory roofs. From 1922 they had the clerestory removed and ventilators fitted to the now arc roof and looked like my original model above.

In the instructions to the kit it is asserted that the original versions were either varnished or Tuscan red, however, there is no evidence to support that and plenty to indicate that they were, in fact, painted in the standard passenger colour scheme of the time, either purple brown or Venetian red (the documentation is vague on what colour was being used on passenger cars from around 1905 till 1920). It is very unlikely that they were varnished, unpainted timber for a number of reasons. First, the 'modern' varnished timber colour scheme was introduced with Lucy's 1913 suburban cars (the ones with steel underframes that were rebuilt into suburban electric trailer cars in the 1920s) and the 72ft passenger cars, the first of which also entered service in 1913. The other piece of evidence (aside from the fact that there is no mention of them having varnished, unpainted timber in any official correspondence) is that they had a lot of metal strapping on the exterior and one can't varnish metal! If they were varnished, they metalwork would have been painted black and there would be a contrast between the timber and metal parts of the car in contemporary photos. As can be seen in the photo above, (allowing for the known idiosycrasies of the film in use at the time) there appears to be no difference in 'tone' between the timber and metal parts of the vehicle. Interestingly, however, the larger timber underframed versions of the BKG horseboxes, introduced between 1894 and 1911, definitely show a difference in 'tone' between the timber and metal parts of the vehicles! Perhaps they were varnished! There is no doubt though, that once the KKG horseboxes were rebuilt from 1922 on, they would have been painted overall, unlined, Venetian red (referred to as Tuscan red in NSWGR documentation, but it was a different shade to that used by the NSWGR after 1954 and called 'Tuscan red' by enthusiasts). It was more likely the brighter, oranger red used up to 1954 in the 'Tuscan and russet' scheme.

Anyway, back to the model, which had sat, forgotten and unloved, in my showcase from 1998 till early this year...
In 1998 I had proceeded as far as modifying the body to backdate it (I am constitutionally incapable of building a model to the manufacturer's instructions... ;o) to the appearance of the prototype by changing the timber planking of the groom's compartments from vertical to horizontal by filling the vertical grooves, sanding smooth and scribing new horizontal planking (the masters for the model appear to have been adapted from the more modern version of the vehicle, on which the planking is vertical). I had also filled and scribed the edges of the ends to represent the corner posts, which are missing completely from the ends of the kit. Then it was abandoned...
Earlier this year I got the yen to do some more HO modelling, so I decided it was about time to clear out the deeper recesses of the showcase... Along with the RU and SV detailled in previous posts, the KKG suddenly found itself blinking confusedly in the light of day...
The kit whitemetal buffers were discarded and replaced with more accurate Turton buffers made from the shanks of the Turton buffers included in the Silvermaz GSV kit, fitted with brass buffer heads. The AR Kits 2AA bogies were replaced with detailled Protype 2AA bogies (the AR kits 2AA bogies from the kit found themselves under my rebuilt Trainorama OHG - more on the OHG/GHG project in a future post!) The handrails, doorhandles and centre lamp irons were scratchbuilt from brass wire or flat strip, as appropriate, while the upper lamp irons came from an AM Models etch. The canvas roof was represented by gluing tissue paper to the roof. My method of doing this is to fill up the sink with water, put some PVA glue on the roof, carefully spread a piece of tissue on the water surface and then bring the model up under the tissue. If done correctly, when it has all dried one has a perfectly 'stretched' canvas roof on the model. I also made the partitions between the compartments and the seats from styrene.

The model now looked like this...
Next step was to paint it. As this is a clerestory roofed vehicle, I decided to paint it purple brown, as my conclusion was that this was the most likely colour scheme carried by the prototype. But what does purple brown actually look like? The colour scheme disappeared long before colour photography, but luckily, some colour samples, plus other information, has survived. Two shades of purple brown were released as a standard colour in a range of paints available briefly in the late 1990s (was it Bakers SRM? I can't read the brand on my bottle anymore, it is covered with paint!) I purchased a bottle of the Light Purple Brown over ten years ago and it had sat on the shelf, unused, since then. When I first opened the bottle my heart sank, as the thinner had sublimed away and there was just a sticky mess at the bottom of the bottle. However, as this paint is no longer available (as far as I know) and I had nothing to lose, I filled the bottle with universal paint thinner, stirred it thoroughly and left it for a day or two, stirring it every now and then. Imagine my sigh of relief when, a couple of days later, I had a bottle of viable paint!

As mentioned above, the purple brown colour scheme disappeared so long ago that there are no colour photos of cars in that scheme... or is there? This photo has always intrigued me...This photograph, from Ron Selems' 'Steam in the Fifties' (NSWRTM 1991), shows a Newcastle train descending Cowan Bank behind 3528, sometime after 1954. The first 'dogbox' is particular​ly interestin​g, as it is possible that the car is still painted purple brown. The roof is relatively clean, but the 'Navy Dressing' does not appear particular​ly fresh, indicating that the car may not have been in service for some time (Navy Dressing was 'sticky', so it got dirty very quickly in service). The colour of the car does not match either the two Tuscan and russet cars immediatel​y behind or the post-1954 Indian red end-platform car set. Could this be the elusive purple brown... Here is an enlargement of the car.
It certainly is an intriguing photograph...

Anyway, back to painting the model...
The model was undercoated with SEM self-etch grey and then painted with the Light Purple Brown. Once the purple brown was dry I masked off and painted the interior cream and the underframe and bogies SEM self-etch black. The black details were handpainted with Badger Engine Black and then when that was all dry, ILM KKG decals were applied and the model sealed with Badger Flat Clear. Weathering was done using my dilute acrylic paint method. First various details, such as the springs and brake blocks were picked out with a very dilute mix of Tamiya XF-64 Red Brown and Isocol alcohol, then the airbrush came out and my ‘roof muck’ mix of Tamiya XF-10 Flat Brown and XF-1 Flat Black and lots of Isocol alcohol sprayed over the roof, and then the underframe and lower edges of the body sprayed with a very dilute ‘mist’ of Tamiya XF-52 Flat Earth. When that had dried I went over the body and solebars/bufferbeams with a very dilute ‘wash’ of Aqueous Hobby Color H343 Soot applied with a large brush. Then I hand painted ‘oil’ (semi-gloss black) around the axleboxes and flat black on the Kadee ‘tangs’ and the clear plastic windows were glued in with Aquadhere and now KKG 1831 is ready to do some useful work! I aimed for a worn, but reasonably well kept, vehicle which is only a year or two away from overhaul. Here it is from the other side...
While it is a bit out of period for the normal 1950s operating period on Lambing Flat it does look nice and serves the purpose of transporting valuable horses. During operations, it appears form time to time attached to a passenger train, in transit through the modelled section of the line. It does open up some intriguing operational prospects though, the most obvious of which would be a country race meeting, which would involve the operation of a special train of dogboxes (or even end-platform cars) with horsebox(es) attached to convey the locals citizens to the racecourse, which in the steam era, were often a couple of miles outside town. The railways department would often provide a special train for the conveyance of racegoers and racecourse staff in country areas.

Here is the KKG in service, attached to the Mail, circa 1930.


  1. G'day James

    as always it looks amazing just one question about the soot colour I was wondering where you get it from as I haven't been able to find it and have heard it has been discontinued.

    cheers Jon

  2. G'day Jonathan :)

    Yes, it look svery much like 'Soot' is no longer available, which is a pain in the proverbial. When I finish the last few ml in my last remaining bottle, I will be looking for a substitute.I have a few ideas already and I expect you will read about my experiments on here in due course!

  3. G'day James

    I had been keen to try using but have not found any so will keep an eye out to see what you come up with.

    Cheers Jon

  4. Any sort of very thinned black would probably do the job for a 'grime' wash. The soot was perfect for the job because it was already very thin and had a nice grimy black tone.

  5. Hi James,
    As usual, superb models from you. I really like the early versions of Lambing Flat as it shows that even very skilled modellers like yourself, start from somewhere. I'm too, intrigued by the Ron Selems shot of the purple brown dogbox. According to Coaching Stock Vol 2, purple brown was the colour scheme from 1874 - 1906 and seeing the doggie lacks the ornate panelling, maybe it's just very, very dirty and has had some recent roof repairs? I was recently sent a colour photo of Central Station taken frome the clock tower in approximatley 1956 and there's a CUB set in one of the platforms. It would be in Tuscan and Russet but you wouldn't know it due to the layers of filth. And it looks quite dark as well. I'd like to hope we're looking at a colour shot of a purple brown vehicle but I get the impresssion it's just a very dirty regular car. The other photo I'd like to see is a good colour shot of a varnished M or T car. BTW, here's a link to a site that converts manufactures paints that might be useful


  6. G'day Rob :)

    The assertion in the Coaching Stock book that the purple brown scheme was replaced by a Venetian red scheme from around 1906 is somewhat controversial, as that is the only source that says that! All other reliable sources indicate that purple brown lasted till it was replaced by the first Venetian red (Tuscan) and russet scheme in the 1920s. If the purple brown scheme lasted till the '20s, it is theoretically possible that a dogbox could have been repanelled in the early '20s and repainted purple brown, just before the Venetian red and russet scheme was introduced. The '15 year' repainting cycle would then put it due for repainting in the late '30s, which given the downturn in traffic caused by the Depression and then the deferred maintenance caused by the war, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a car or two could have 'slipped through the net'. My problem with the 'it’s just a very dirty one' theory is that the 'tone' of the colour is completely different to both the Tuscan and russet and Indian red cars in the train. I know the Noel Reed Central shot to which you refer, it has to be pre-1954, not 1956, as there is not an Indian red car to be seen anywhere. The 72ft cars next to 'Bondi' (East Shed) look like varnished cars to me (I have asked for a higher res shot to check it out more closely!). The CUB set is definitely Tuscan and russet (look closely at the HFL at the far end of the train) but, you are correct, it is very dirty! But compare the 'tone' to the possible purple brown car above, it is quite different.
    You aren't the only one looking for a good, clear shot of a varnished car! (I know of only two shots, both in 1990s RTM Roundhouses, of varnished cars, but they are both distant and oblique).

  7. Hi James,
    I have a photo of a Bradfield suburban car taken at Punchbowl Car Sheds in the early 1980's when I was a Signalman there. I appears to be "Purple Brown". Don't know how to attach the photo to this comment.
    Jim H.

  8. G'day Jim :)

    I know the preserved Bradfield car you mean. Unfortunately for our purposes, it was (lined) deep Indian red.

  9. The easiest way to share it would be to post it on your blog!