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My Collection of Tralee & Dingle

and Other Irish Narrow Gauge Railway Models

in 1:48 Scale

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I chose 1:48 scale (1/4" or 6.35 mm = 1 foot) for these models rather than the more commonly used 7mm scale because in 1:48 scale British EM Gauge track (18.25 mm) scales out to almost exactly 3' gauge, but by happy coincidence the 32 mm gauge of standard 'O' scale track works out to very nearly 5'3".  In my opinion this makes 1:48 scale ideal for modeling Irish prototypes.  Yes, I could have used 'American' On3 where the track gauge would be exact, but firstly there are no spoked wheels to suit Irish stock available in that gauge and secondly I live in a part of the world where 'British' scratch building supplies are (marginally!) more available than 'American'.

The models below are all scratch built from styrene.  Although my intention is to ultimately run them on EM Gauge track the wheels on the models are set to 16.5mm gauge, but are capable of being moved out to the more appropriate gauge 'later'!  Whilst none of the models are freelance (except in as much as certain dimensions or features are 'guestimates') all are painted in the livery of the freelance County Kerry Light Railway.  This allows me to run virtually anything I like (even some Ravensglass & Eskdale vehicles are scheduled to make an appearance) without too much guilt about inappropriate mixes.

I put a lot of effort into getting the bodies of the models I build right.  The chassis on the other hand are at best pragmatic.  There is very little available locally in the way of wheels, axleboxes and what-not so I have opted to use mostly 'Ratio' Brand 'OO' scale plastic chassis kits fitted with metal wheels.  I have evolved a couple of more-or-less standard CKLR chassis (vacuum braked and hand brake only) which live under most of the later bodies.  I still try to capture something of the 'look' of the prototype chassis, but by no means are my models accurate below the solebar.  Some of the non-Tralee & Dingle wagons should be on larger wheels, but in the interests of consistent coupling heights and that elusive corporate 'look' the CKLR sticks mostly to a standard 12mm eight spoke wheel.  

Couplers are the venerable KD No5.  I know they are not right, but they work with absolute reliability and are at least a single unit mounted in the centre.  I knocked up some brass couplers early on, but wasn't all that happy with them either aesthetically or operationally. 

The CKLR will have a complete history concocted for it, but in essence the line is an extension of the T&D branch to Castlegregory which serves a Brandon Bay region considerably more prosperous than other histories would have you believe.  The town of Brandon itself (assuming Brandon station is ever modelled) will be a much larger place than it was in reality.  The fiction is that the Brandon line managed to hang on to a tenuous independent existence well into the 1950's, eventually absorbing its nearest neighbour and collecting an eclectic mix of vehicles from other defunct lines along the way.  Red Oxide??  Most if not all Irish three foot lines painted their freight stock grey, but I like red on railway wagons.  It is a nice warm colour to use and it takes various weathering and ageing finishes very well.  On reflection though I do wish that I had gone with grey, but it is a bit late to change now.  EDIT: As of late 2005 newly built wagons are being turned out in grey and the best of the earlier wagons are being progressively repainted.)

Locomotives and a layout?  Yes, there are plans, but I am a self-confessed wagon nut.  Especially outside framed wooden vans.  I love the things!  I have a track plan fully prepared for a very small portable freelance terminal - it's all drawn out full size and fits the space I have available.  The buildings are all planned (all T&D prototypes) and I will build it - eventually.  Right after I build a couple of locos and some coaches.  Which will be right after I build just one more wagon!  A joint exhibition effort with a couple of other enthusiasts would be ideal - do you know of any Irish loco or scenery nuts living locally..?   No, I thought not!  

Here are a few photos to kick the gallery off.

As always, click the thumbs to see a larger picture...


Tralee and Dingle early Bristol Van  One of the earliest models built, I believe this van represents the T&D's Bristol goods vans as built.  It is likely that it is from a later batch (1894), the earlier wagons lacking the diagonal frame member - possibly it is the company's sole 1897 acquisition.  The prototype information was restricted to a single photo in D G Rowlands' book on the line (Bradford Barton 1977 ISBN 0 85153 267 5) and all dimensions are estimates.  The brake detail is completely wrong.

Tralee and Dingle rebuilt Bristol Van  This model represents pretty much the 'standard' T & D 4 wheel Bristol goods van as rebuilt and running in the later years.  Originally built in 1890 and/or 1894 they were (probably) rebuilt into this more familiar form sometime in the mid 1920's.  The oversize end beams on a couple of the early wagons was an attempt to get the couplers through the end beam, which for reasons I can't remember seemed important at the time.  Now I just hang the couplers underneath.  And yes, applying the brake lever releases the brake...it was a long time ago!  The variations played on these vans in the Company's shops were endless - you could probably build a dozen models and have no two the same.

Tralee and Dingle Butter Van Tralee and Dingle No17, another Bristol - this one was fitted with ventilation louvers for the conveyance of butter.  There should also be bonnet ventilators in the two outer side panels and in the ends.  This model has suffered considerably less 'wear and tear' on the paintwork than most of my models - I assume a butter van would have been kept in reasonable condition.  It still has those oversize end beams and the brake gear is best not even mentioned! 

Tralee and Dingle Cattle Wagons Cattle traffic was the mainstay of the T & D, as it was on many other Irish lines.  These cattle wagons are shown only part way through the 'paint shop' - the basic painting, lettering and final matt varnish are applied, but they are yet to be weathered.  The van on the left is modelled after No 46T, a Bristol Carriage and Wagon Co product of 1897, whilst the van on the right is No 76T, from the Midland C & W Co in 1907.  Neither model is portrayed in the wagon's original form, both represent the rebuilt versions of the prototype.  Rebuilding changed the appearance of the wagons - especially the Bristols - considerably.  It is not evident in the photos, but the Midland van has suffered considerably more distressing of the plastic body and will be finished in a fairly decrepit state, whilst the other van has barely a hint of 'wood grain' applied and will be finished in 'near-new' condition.

Tralee and Dingle Bristol Cattle Wagon   Here's another view of 46T - click on the thumb for a larger-than-life full-screen (800 x 600) view.  To see it full size in Internet Explorer hit the 'F11' key to get rid of your toolbars and other clutter.  The axle boxes on the 'Ratio' plastic chassis are a bit too fine: on the prototype they are great big chunky things and the springs need beefing up a bit.  The tissue on the roof is just a bit too textured, and the 'wood' probably wanted a bit of distressing even though I wanted to represent a near-new van.  I was pretty sure I had the Bristol brake details right at this stage, but it turns out that the vacuum cylinder should be on the other side of the brake cross-rod, almost between the wheels.  Also I just worked out that there should be a fifth shoe for the handbrake, which solves the problem I have been trying to nut out of how the linkage between the hand brake lever and the main cross-rod worked - there isn't one!

Tralee and Dingle Midland Cattle Van 76T Number 76T is finished in a condition more reminiscent of the original!  There will be a better picture soon.  Believe it or not it took exactly five years and one week to complete the two cattle vans - at that rate I'll have enough for a layout in about forty years!

Number 46T as repainted to reflect the original more accurately.  There is a heck of a lot of red I missed - it is not nearly so apparent in real life.  The quality of the photo is not all that hot either - it is one of the first pictures out of a brand new digital camera I have acquired.  Bear with me till I get the hang of this new-fangled technology :~)

76T has also been repainted, and again there is a lot of red left.

The T&D ran horribly short of rail-worthy cattle wagons late in its life as purpose-built wagons literally rotted away, and many 'standard' Bristol vans were converted.  Some like 9T simply had a couple of planks knocked out and one nailed back in the centre of the gap...

... but others were more extensively modified with the addition of drop ventilators in the outer pannels.

Tralee and Dingle Horsebox  Tralee and Dingle Number 1, the horsebox.  Again all dimensions are gleaned from photos but at least I had a couple of good clear photos to work from, a nice three-quarters view devoid of distractions and a very nice straight-on end view  - thank you DGR!  I guess an album would be visually boring if all the photos were dead square to a side - but I'd buy it!  I like horse boxes, they simply ooze character and the various Irish narrow gauge railways had lots of them - does anybody know if any of the INGR's had a carriage truck?  There are several more horseboxes to be built - goodness knows how I will justify running them all.

Tralee and Dingle Bogie Bolster 77T  This model of T&D bogie bolster No 77T was built from a single picture in the Bradford Barton album showing the wagon derelict at Tralee after closure.  A much better picture - in the Plateway book - has come to light since and shows a lot more detail.  I have absolutely no idea how the brakes were arranged on this wagon.  I assume it was fully fitted - everything else was - but whether the brakes were hung outside the wheels or between, I have no idea.  Nor have I been able to discover how the hand brake was arranged nor the location of the vacuum  cylinder.  I assume there is a hand brake lever (or wheel?) on the other side, but all that is visible on either photo is the central cross-rod, so till better info comes to light that is all that is modelled.  The original was built in the Tralee shops in 1911.  Being timber framed I assume it was built from the ground up and was not a conversion of an old coach chassis as are most Irish 3 foot gauge bogie wagons - the arch bar bogies certainly never lived under a coach.  According to Rowland's book it was 32ft 2ins long, everything else is guestimated.  Bogies are Bachmann's On30 arch bars (lovely mouldings, but not quite the right arrangement) fitted with 12mm spoked wheels; queenposts are from Grandt and the rest is styrene - including the bent truss rods.  The model is numbered 53 - there wasn't  a single '7' left on the decal sheets and the local shop was out of stock!  I probably should have waited.

Bolster Deck The deck on the Bolster is modelled using 'Evergreen' scribed styrene sheet which has been worked over with a fairly coarse abrasive paper and 'distressed' farther with the point of a modelling knife.  Unpainted wood weathers to a silvery grey, but I think models look better where the wood is 'wood' colour.  The woodgrain effect is drastically over scale, but the model is built to be viewed from a distance of at least a couple of feet and this has to be taken into account - I constantly fight an internal battle between the engineer and the artist - a model has to look right as well as be right.  Anyway the effect here is an enamel base coat with roughly half the boards worked over with various brown, grey and reddish toned colour pencils, then a dark oil wash to tone things down and pick out the grooves and 'grain', then more enamels dry brushed over the top to put back just a bit of 'life'.  It's probably a bit too clean, but the area round the bolsters is gunged up a bit more!

The bogie flat wagon has also been repainted, and also re-numbered to where it should always have been - 77T.

Broadside view of the repainted flat.

Tralee and Dingle 27' Brake The prototype for this brake van has a long and checkered history.  Originally a passenger coach, it was built as a Brake Third in 1890 by the Bristol Carriage and Wagon  Co for the T&D where it carried the number 2, later 2T.  After the demise of passenger traffic it was converted at Tralee to a goods brake in 1940, although not in this form.  At that stage it acquired the sliding door, but still retained it's outer cladding and most of its windows.  After closure of its home line it ran on the West Clare as 52C where it was rebuilt as seen here.  Later it became number 22L on the Cavan & Leitrim where it lasted until 1960.  But the story does not end there - it was sold for preservation and followed so many other natives of its homeland across the Atlantic to the USA.  The model is based on a drawing which appeared in an old "Model Railway Constructor" magazine which shows it as running on the C&L.  The model carries the number 5 - it was built before the practice of using the prototype's running number on the model was adopted.

Cavan and Leitrim Van  Speaking of the C & L, that lines ventilated goods vans cry out to be modelled!  These were 'convertible' vans, used either for cattle traffic with the roof open, or for general freight with the open roof tarp'd over.  Like the T&D vans, variations on the theme are endless.  Lettering on all my wagons is waterslide decals taken from a stock sans-serif alphabet sheet made by a local manufacturer.  The carrier film is beautifully thin and virtually vanishes with a coat or two of 'Solvaset'.  I use a dry-brush painting technique a lot and nothing is more frustrating than a 'thick' decal which catches the colour and finishes up with a neat highlighted square around each letter.  On all my vehicles I try to capture something of the character of the prototype company's lettering within the confines of a consistent overall CKLR style.

C&MLR open The County Kerry Light needed some opens, and one of the pictures in Michael Baker's "Irish Narrow Gauge Railways: A View from the Past" (Ian Allen 1999 ISBN 0 7110 2680 7) has always struck my fancy.  (Click here to see a copy of the picture)  To me the utter dis-similarity of the two wagons entirely captures the charm of the Irish narrow gauge.  Anyway this is my interpretation of an Oldbury Carriage And Wagon Company 5 plank open, the Cork & Muskerry Light Railway's  #47.  There is a T & D connection, apart from being near neighbours, at least three ex-C&M wagons found their way onto the Dingle line, including the identical No 46 which became 82T on the T&D.  I chopped a Ratio underframe about and managed to get the springs inside the 'W' irons, but the irons themselves are still mounted inside the solebar, not outside - which on reflection is a less than credible arrangement.  I want to do a couple of County Donegal tranship wagons, so I will need to work out something better for the 'spring inside' arrangement.  Unlike T&D stock they were hand brake only - does anyone know if they were 'fitted' (or just piped maybe) when they moved to Tralee?  I put 13 mm wheels under this wagon to try to capture the 'up in the air' look of the prototype - 14 mm would have been better, but there isn't enough clearance.  I wish I lived somewhere that I could wander down to the local shop and get a packet of coach-style axle box castings.

C&MLR drop-side Cork & Muskerry three plank drop-side wagon Number 10 is a tiny wagon by comparison, built in 1887 it had a capacity of only 4 tons.  Although small it covered a lot of ground, moving to the West Clare between 1941 and 1957 where it carried number 172 after which it was transferred again, this time to the C&L.  Thanks to the West Clare website for the information - but they seem to have missed it's stint on the CKLR!

CMLR Drop-side Interior A shot of the inside of the drop-side open, finished in the same manner as that set out for the bogie bolster above.  Should there be knees supporting the outside of the ends where the drop sides latch?  Just once I want a really good drawing that shows everything!  Building from a single photo is a lot of fun, but it leaves so many questions unanswered.

Passage Brake The prototype for this model of a Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway brake van also found its way on to the C & L.  The model is built from a single photo in Patrick Flannagan's book on the line (David and Charles 1966 ISBN 0 330 0294208) where it is described as '...long high and narrow...', and from that base I guessed the rest.  The doors are sheer conjecture - I suspect that the original had inside sliding doors, but they are not visible in the photo.  I found three out of a set of four doors I had built for an aborted 7mm Scale Midland Railway Kirtley Brake in the 'scrap' box - they just happened to fit the space available so they were pressed into service here.  

'Passage' brake - Side 2  I have since been sent a scale drawing of one of these vans filched from an old magazine.  The other side of the model has windows in both doors, which turns out to be exactly the arrangement on the prototype - sheer luck - although on the prototype the doors are a bit wider, extending almost to the end of the van and they are hinged to swing outwards not inwards.  The overall dimensions are pretty close though!  Click on the thumbnail for a full-screen (800 x 600) view!  All my models are painted with the same base color, Humbrol 133 Satin Brown.  The satin finish is smooth enough to take waterslide decals really well, but finishes dead flat with a very thin overspray of matt varnish.  Although there are variations in the 'ageing' process the final colour on all the wagons is essentially the same.  It is interesting to see the variations in the photos caused by different film and lighting conditions, which is food for thought when interpreting old colour photographs.

And now for something completely different... ...not the best of pictures of a tricky subject, but it does prove that some progress has been made on something other than a wagon.  The subject is the Bristol brake composite No 13T, or one side of it anyway, laminated in styrene sheet and strip and nearly complete apart from ventilators and door detail.  Not apparent in the pic is the presence of all window detail including bollection mouldings on the fixed window panes.  The other side is underway with all window openings cut, but there is a long way to go on this one...


Models of Tralee & Dingle Railway Prototypes in 9mm Scale

9mm Scale on 'O' Scale track? But surely that makes the gauge closer to 3'6"?  Well yes, it does.  The thing is that there are a fair number of kits available in 9 mm scale based on prototypes from New Zealand's narrow gauge railway system which was 3' 6" gauge.  Some of the prototypes are absolutely exquisite.  Some of the kits aren't bad either.  So if the 'garden railway' ever eventuates it will be a sort of combined Irish/Kiwi sort of a thing without too much regard for exact prototype fidelity.  Not that each individual model won't be as close to its prototype as possible, but the overall picture will be a highly unlikely mix of whatever takes my fancy.  Buffers and three link couplings?  Probably a mistake, but they were to hand and got used.  New end beams and something more appropriate are possible modifications.

As always, click on the thumbs to see a larger picture.

This 30' van is a model of one built by the T&DLR at its Tralee shops in 1904, running as modified some time in the '30s.  It was the first item built in this scale, to try out some construction ideas I had.  The body is 1.5mm model aircraft ply scribed with the back edge of a 'Stanley Knife' blade and then 'distressed' by scraping over with the blade of a fine razor saw.  This can be done with varying degrees of severity depending on the condition of the modelled wagon (click here for an extreme close-up of the effect).  The outside frame is built up from strip wood with styrene strip for ironwork and domestic pins for bolt heads.  The bodies of all these vans are built around a block of 33mm particle board cut on a table saw to exactly the inside dimensions of each vehicle.  Not only does this guarantee that the body will be absolutely square, but it also provides a considerable amount of weight.  I have used Atlas 'O' scale Arch Bar trucks despite their wheelbase being far too short.  Likewise the Grandt turnbuckles are way too small but they were all that was to hand.  The needle beams are prototypical but most if not all of the lines other bogie stock had queenposts.  The Slater 7mm drawgear and buffers worked out pretty well, although the prototype of course had a centre coupling.  By my pragmatic standards it is close enough to a 'scale' model to get the prototypes running number, # 42.

  9mm Scale models are BIG!

When passenger trains ceased running on the T&D there was still a healthy freight traffic, especially cattle, and the Railway's shops carried out some rough and ready conversions turning disused passenger brakes into goods brakes.  Eventually the demand for this traffic decreased and many items of the T&D's rolling stock - including locomotives - finished up transferred to other lines.  This 27 foot brake is modelled as running on the Cavan & Leitrim Railway in the 1950's, where it was Number 22L.  I assume that in the 1950's such transfers would have been made by rail - can anyone confirm this?  I would love to have a photo of such a transfer, a narrow gauge brake atop a broad gauge flat would make a splendid model in 1/4 inch scale.

This was the 'standard' T&D van, built in greater numbers than any other vehicle on the line.  Over the years they acquired numerous modifications - some subtle (doors, ends and side framing) but some which were converted into cattle wagons were more drastically altered, including the complete removal of some roofs.  You could build a dozen models of the basic van and have no two the same.  Number 12 is modelled pretty much as built.  It is built over a "Three H" brand 7mm Scale chassis with Slaters 7mm drawgear and buffers.  I know the prototype had centre buffer/couplers, but the Slaters bits were to hand, and cobbled up brass bits for a centre coupler looked a bit ordinary, so....   Sorry about the depth-of-field: nearly made it!  

  Van number 17 received bottom louvers for the conveyance of butter.  As modelled the louvers are far too fine, the overall height is about right, but there should only be five slats.  There should also be a bonnet ventilator on the ends - why I left that off is anybody's guess!  The 'canvas' on the roof is a single ply of cheap toilet tissue - I use facial tissue in 1/4 inch scale to good effect, but wanted something a bit less refined in the larger scale!


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Andrew Turnbull 2004-11

Irish Models in 1:48 Scale