Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Pimp my Guards Van: Tranz Alpine AGs

DB says: Sorry for the long absence. It’s not modeling season here.

I never met a guards van I didn’t like, and luckily for me, after they were eliminated in the latter half of the 80s, a clutch of the funky looking Korean built FM vans retrained (what a pun!) and found jobs in the tourism industry as AG vans.

The Tranz Alpine usually runs with two of these in a consist, and from looking closely at my pictures, I’ve picked some prototypes to model. Luggage van AG 78 (above) looks fairly original except for a more robust passenger cage around one of its end platforms (an alternative van shows up sometimes that has twin cages). Mid-train observation and generator car AG 90 on the other hand, looks like it has been filleted out (below).

Yesterday, from the depths of the modeling desk an NZ120 FM plan emerged. I knew I had one somewhere. I think this originally came with a South Dock kit that might have been the last S scale project that I abandoned before being lured to the Chosen Scale.

Frozen in time at the bottom of the Van Plan are the set of winning Lotto numbers from some Saturday in the early 1990s that were presumably more successful for someone else. I built my old NZ120 FM from this plan, and its quite a nice model from a distance. Told you I was a sucker for guards vans. So armed with this plan of one side (the FM centre modules are different on each side) and pictures of both sides of the AGs, I sketched out the details of the cars and got to work. The base was made from some plasticard about ¾ of a mm thick, given that’s what I happened to have on hand, with some 2x4 HO scale plasticard (for the same reasons) stuck to the bottom of it to give more depth. The ends of the AGs that have the new passenger cages have full width platforms, so I only had to notch the sides out (for steps) at the one end of AG 78 that doesn’t have a cage (as can be seen in the pic below).

The sides and doors were all made up out of a strip of plasticard cut to appropriate tallness. This was sectioned off to form the 'outside' of the body based on the plan. For example, on a normal FM - from the end to the edge of the luggage door is one piece, from the other edge of the luggage door to the small door is another etc. Note that I've ignored the ‘FM module’ joins at this stage. These pieces were all laid out to prevent confusion, and sections that were almost square (but not actually square) were labeled with a marker pen to prevent further frustration during assembly. Windows were then cut out to rough size freehand in about the right places.

Next, the indented doors (the ‘inner’ layer of the model if you like) were built from the same strip, en-masse. The pros would have made one long strip for each side (with holes cut in the right places for the windows) and laminated on the previously made and labeled external sections.

But I don’t have time for such nonsense. I needed four small doors (one for each side of the two vans) and four large luggage doors (all for AG 78), so I made these next to each other on the strip of plasticard, and then chopped them up to be attached individually to the previously made sections as can be seen in the below pic. Why? Because this way I don’t need to measure anything. I just joined things up so the windows in the doors are centered in the door openings. And making sure that the overall length of the sides match the plan.

Don’t get me wrong, attention to detail is important in NZ120, but in my opinion, it’s more the effect of the detail that matters, not the individual details themselves. If it looks good from a few feet away; its good.

Thus, the entire project from first cut has taken less than an hour to this step.

For some reason I started assembling cut-down AG 90 first as you can see – I figured this would be the hardest of the two to make, but it wasn’t difficult at all. It’s side grilles came off one of those ever-helpful N scale organ donor shells - in this case an Alco PA (DG chassis). The sides were put in place with a spacer to keep things vertical, four ‘bulkheads’ with rounded roof profiles were made and the low sides attached. A few plasticard touches completed the illusion. "Close-enough" safety rails came off an N scale Japanese tank car that donated its nice Kato bogies to a UK wagon.

Window glass, lead weight, a handbrake wheel, a little paint for the camera, and now we’re getting somewhere.

Lookin' good from a few feet away


lalover said...

DB (energiser)
"Dont you ever give up"

That looks the part, and you can't run a real railway without a guards van....

Liked those Ag's when they first started appearing. All the variations appeared at some stage on the Overdue and Northerner, so I managed a few photos

Michael said...

I missed the guards van era, so seeing the AG's on the Overlander, Bay Express and Capital Connection was the closest I came to seeing guards vans in action.
Can't wait to see the finished product.



Anonymous said...

where do i get the kits from?