The Tralee & Dingle Coach Saga, Part 2: Interiors and Roofs

I'm glad you're still with me!

Because I'd built planked roofs before (for my WCR vans and bogie brake), I was comfortable with the process and so had at it.

 I cut planks of 1/8" ply sized to be a tight fit in the roof openings.  I then cut rectangles of ply that were a tight fit between the sides and of a height that would put the top of the roof base level with the top of the coach sides.  I hope that makes sense once you look at the photo below.  Curved roof formers were next.  I arbitrarity decided that eight formers per roof should be sufficient and cut 16 oversized rectangles from 3/16" sheet I had to hand.  I labelled the ends of each coach I and II and because I didn't trust myself to have formed both ends with the identical roof line, I traced the curve of end I onto four formers and II onto another four, labelled them, and cut the curve with the bandsaw and finished with the disc sander.  To make double certain I'd gotten it right, I checked the formers against the ends and touched up the shape as needed.  Then I glued them onto the subroof beginning with the outermost pair, making sure they lined up as perfectly as possible with the ends.  Once those were dry (and I'd separated the roof from the coach--a bit of oozing glue had tacked the roof to the ends!) I added the rest of the formers, eyeballing the spacing, using a square to keep them at right angles and a long straight edge from end to end to keep them all aligned.  Once again I was surprised at how tidy they looked when everything was dry.

For the roofs I'd hoped to bend a sheet of 1/16" ply and glue it to the formers.  It became immediately obvious that the edges were going to be hopeless wavy so I wisely bailed on this approach and went back to what I should have done in the first place.  I ripped the sheets into planks roughly 3/8" wide and glued them down individually with PVA.  I needed to cut a few additional strips to allow for the loss of width due to the sawblade's kerf.  I marked out the centerline on each end and glued a pair of planks on either side of the marks and proceeded outward, putting a bead of glue along the inside edge of each plank as well as on the formers so that the planks would be glued to each other as well as to the roof.  I lined up the planks on one end to have about 1.5mm of overhang.  After all the planks were down and dried, I trimmed the excess overhang on the sides and other end with the band saw. 

I next turned my attention to the interior of the coaches.  For a moment I considered planking the floors and ends, but being still gunshy following the matchboarding, I opted against it.  However I thought the bare plywood needed some sort of treatment and decided to stain the wood a slightly darker color.  A trip to the local hardware store yielded several potential shades and after looking at test swatches I selected a dark oak stain and walnut for the benches.  Applying the stain was a fairly simple matter of brushing it on and wiping off the excess.  Remember to leave oily rags hanging or lying flat and allow them to air dry before discarding!  Spontaneous combustion can and does happen..  Below is the before and after...

Benches are needed unless you expect your passengers to stand, in this case simple slatted benches running the length of the coach on each side.  A basic bench was built from 1/8" bass wood; the back was measured to come up to the widows, the seat to be roughly two feet off the floor and just under two feet deep.  I put another strip of bass wood behind the bench back to serve as spacer and support for the glazing (.100" acrylic sheet sold as greenhouse glazing).  I found some cocktail picks in my grocery store that had nice turned ends and used these for the bench legs.  I drilled holes through the seat, clamped the bench to a couple of squares to hold them vertical, and glued the legs into place and allowed them to dry.  When the basic structure was assembled I glued on strips of 1/32" deep bass wood (again ripped on my table saw because I didn't have stock strip of the right width on the shelves) to simulate the slats and sanded the top and front edges round-ish. 

When this had dried, I applied the walnut stain.  The glue had oozed in places and kept the stain from soaking in between the slats.  I applied several coats of spray varnish then ran a dilute coat of black acrylic paint between the slats to cover the light spots and accentuate the slatting.  It was then just a matter of gluing them into place.  Below is the final result, photo taken outdoors because I wanted to see how it all looked in natural light.

Back to the roofs.  Next step was to cover the planks with simulated canvas,.  I coated the roof with dilute PVA and then stuck down strips of toilet tissue to cover the top and edges.  When that dries hard, it's a crinkly mess.  Not to worry.   I saturated it with sanding sealer--look for the alcohol based variety which is much more friendly to your lungs and central nervous system than the toluene based variety!  When that dried, I sanded it smooth-ish with 400 grit wet and dry, then applied another coat of sealer and sanded again.  I then painted it with Polly Scale Engine Black--actually a very dark grey.

You can go as crazy as you want with the sanding.  I preferred to leave some of the texture, and photos I've seen of the roofs of coaching stock support this.  If you want your roofs nice and smooth, go right ahead!  Notice that at some point along the way the vertical supports fell off the roofs.  I found that the roofs fit very snugly without them, so I left them off.

Next step was to prep the bodies for painting.  I pulled out the sanding sealer again and gave the bodies the coat/sand/repeat treatment, with special attention to the balsa vent panels, which soaked up a stunning amount of sealer.  *ADDENDUM 12/22: I then applied a thin coat of Krylon grey primer from the can.  If you're doing this as I did--in November in an unheated garage with the doors open for ventilation--make sure the paint and coaches are warm.  I put the spray can in a container of warm water for about five minutes and shook it thoroughly several times to make sure it was evenly warmed.  The primer coat will highlight any blemishes in the finish and give you the chance to do a bit more sanding as needed.*  Finding the right shade of CIE green was a struggle.  I found something labelled "Hunt Club" green at the hardware store which I thought was a bit too blue.  I found a jar of Floquil "Dark Green" at the local hobby shop which I liked, so I applied it with my air brush.  Results below.

I happily e-mailed photos to several friends who unanimously tried to persuade me to go with the other color.  So I did, and guess what, they were right.

Oh, well.  After that I sprayed the ends a flat black.  Back to the basement for roof details.  Lamp top castings are Brandbright L&B lamp tops glued down with five minute epoxy.  The rain strips are 1/32" x 1/16" strip.  They were glued on with a dab of crazy glue in the middle.  When that had set, both corners were crazy glued down.  When that set, a bead of llightly-diluted PVA was run along the top of the strip and allowed to soak into the gap, any excess being wiped off.  It was at this point I realized I should have done this before painting the roofs because I had to paint the roofs again.  Oh well.  Twenty minutes with a brush and all was made good.

This is where they stand as of 12/16/06.  My only regret to this point is using balsa for the vents.  Despite my best efforts the grain still shows through, but not so badly that I'm tempted to do anything about it; I'll just live and learn and do it differently if there is a next time.  In retrospect, this may have been one of those jobs where it would have been worthwhile to do the vents out of four overlapping layers of very thin styrene or 1/32" ply.   What's next: end steps and grabs, roof top grabs and electrical conduit for the roof lamps.  I've also decided that I want to plank the floor and interior ends given how visible the interior turns out to be.  Then it's on to the underrcarriage and bogies.  Watch these pages for further developments!

12/23:  Several friends have collaborated to do up some beautiful artwork for GSR era waterslide transfers (decals to us in the USA).  After all of that, I'm now considering whether  I should paint the coaches in maroon GSR livery!