Many of the items of London & Birmingham rolling stock are well known due to drawings in contemporary publications. However care needs to be taken not to confuse the initial plan drawings, known as specification drawings, such as those in Peter Lecount's book, more on this later. Those in Brees are also most likely copied from the specification drawings initially produced by Joseph Wright and possibly Thomas Clarke Worsdell (II). None of these drawings however are without the problem of interpretation, particularly when producing a 3D scale model. I am honoured to be partnered in this project with Chris Cox, who through his skills and talent has brought the History of the London & Birmingham and Coventry station to life.

Carriage Trucks

No drawings survive for the late 1830s carriage trucks but they frequently appear in contemporary illustrations and there are written accounts describing them together with references in company minute books. This one conforms to the dimensions given by Whishaw of a Grand Junction Railway carriage truck c.1837.

Fig.1 - ‘The carriage trucks are each 13 feet 8 inches long, 7 feet 1-1/2 inches wide, and the sides 1-1/2 inches high; the weight being about 43 cwt., and the price £130.’I should add that this is my interpretation of the scant historical information relating to these vehicles. That they existed is not in doubt, dimensions given by contemporary authors are as accurate as we’ll ever get. Such trucks were probably on their last legs by the time the LNWR was formed but some may have survived for a few more years. The London & Birmingham Railway board minutes record that the carriage committee should,‘…consider the possibility of reducing the enormous weight of those in use on the Grand Junction Railway…’ and Brees provided a drawing of a L&B’ham carriage truck of somewhat smaller and lighter dimensions, perhaps a direct result of this consideration. Fig.2 - S.C.Brees drawing of the London & Birmingham Carriage Truck. The truck and carriage, a ‘travelling chariot’ are 4mm scale, built entirely from scratch using a combination of brass fret off-cuts from the scrap box and my own whitemetal castings.

Fig.3 & Fig.4 - The truck itself is based on the ‘chassis’ of a London & Birmingham Night Second carriage (the subject of another kit and possible future post) which matches the dimensions given in Whishaw.

Fig.6 Thankfully such horse drawn carriages seem to have had a better survival rate owing to the fact that they can be stashed away in the corner of a barn unlike railway trucks…!

Fig. 5 The travelling chariot is based on photos and a few measurements of the real thing.

Fig.8 & Fig.9 A closer look at the Brees version and the patent Braby Cab. The carriage truck is built from my own castings and a slightly easier build then the open framed variety.

Fig.7 The truck on the left is the London & Birmingham version illustrated in Brees. It’s smaller but fairly sturdy and I can’t imagine it was that much lighter really.

Read my article from the LNWR Journal (Vol 10. No.11, Dec 2023) on the early Carriage trucks and the habits of some 'well-to-do' Georgian and early Victorians preferring to ride in their private carriages on carriage trucks rather than sit in the railway carriages

First Class Carriages for Coventry

The First class carriages for Coventry consist of cast solebars and headstock, buffers, buffing springs and brakes whilst the body, roof and detailing are etched brass. This mixed media approach seems to suit the carriages well, the etched sides, ends and roof providing uniformity whilst being light enough to enable several to be pulled by one Bury 2-2-0. For abit of ballast to keep them on the rails the underframes are cast, and the combination seems to be just about the right weight.

Each solebar or underframe side is cast as one piece to include upper and lower frame bars, axleguards, springs and buffer rods. This results in a useful casting which saves time in construction however, it is complicated and seldom casts well. In hindsight it would be better not to include the buffer rods but make provision for these to be added afterwards using 0.7mm brass rod. The headstocks or buffer beams are also cast, one with a brake bracket and one without for the other end although this casting is required for both ends if the carriage is unbraked as many of the Firsts were.

There is much cleaning up of the castings to do before soldering and the buffing springs must be included in the assembly as they are captive between the solebars. In fact, it became apparent after I had built a couple of underframes that the buffing springs can be used as a useful spacer to ensure the frames are the correct width apart and benefitted from being soldered in place before the headstocks were added at either end. At this point one must decide if the carriage is braked or not and the correct headstock fitted at either end together with a small casting for the brake gear if required. The brake blocks themselves are glued together as pairs on a transverse rod of brass wire but need to be painted and set aside to be fixed in place right at the end after the wheels have been fitted.

Once the underframe assembly is complete, the etched steps can be folded up and soldered in place. This is straightforward enough but very time consuming as there are fourteen to fit, two per door and two more for the guard or brakesman. Four lower end steps are also fitted at this stage as it’s easier to do it now than after the body is secured to the frames. Coupling hooks and side chains are also assembled and fitted together with four buffers which always benefit from a little cleaning up in a drill chuck with a little emery block. These carriages are so tiny that proprietary 3-link couplings are a bit too large and leave an unrealistic chasm between the buffer heads under tension, so I fit my own home-brewed screw coupling which ensures the most reasonable spacing between buffer heads. The frames still require wheels, but I prefer to do this after painting as they get in the way otherwise.

The body of the First is from an etched sheet consisting of two sides, two window backing pieces (of which more later), two ends, partitions, droplight frames, roof and myriad other details such as roof seats, steps, commode handles, door handles and so on. The two sides benefit from annealing before lying them face down on a foam mat and gently rolling the lower half with a wooden dowel. This results in a gentle curve or turn under to the lower body side to match the profile of the ends. The inner face needs to be cleaned with emery paper as the annealing process can leave a coating which the solder doesn’t seem to like. The window backing piece is then soldered in place ensuring the inner frames line up precisely with the body side apertures. The drop light frames can also be added at this point whilst access is easy and tiny hinges for the lower third of the door as well.

It is tempting to assemble the body by adding the ends now however, I found that the subsequent positioning of the large end footboard is quite difficult as the body has to be propped up end-on which doesn’t make life easy. Therefore, securing the footboards in place before assembling the body is recommended. The height of the footboard is best determined by the length of the legs of the guard/brakesman when seated less about 1mm to take into account the thickness of both roof and seat. Once the two footboards are fitted with their distinctive vertical brackets, the body can be put together soldering the ends inside the edge of the sides. These are followed by the partitions and ensuring everything is square at this stage is critical, it’s very difficult to correct if it isn’t spot on.

The whole A4 sized fret for these firsts, as it comes from the etchers, contains enough for three carriages and the surrounding frame provides enough spare material for the floors which is very handy. So, a floor is cut, soldered in place and the spare material stashed in the scraps box. The floor must be left about 1mm short at either end to allow for the upper curve of the headstock casting when the body and underframe are finally united. Four small steps are then added, one in each corner, neatly fitting into the slots provided in the bottom corners of the body side. The roof etch is annealed and rolled in the same way as the body side and once offered up to the body to check the curve matches the end profile, the luggage rails can be soldered in place. This is done by poking a piece of 0.3mm brass wire down through the hole provided in the etch, soldered underneath and trimming it a little over length on top. This process must then be repeated for every upright post leaving the corner posts a little longer. Once they’re all in place the horizontal rails can be added and at this point the upright posts can be snipped to their correct length. Unfortunately, the process is tedious and fiddly, but the end result is worth the effort. Two roof seats are then folded up and soldered in place taking care to see that they sit level which is not always obvious when the roof is still unattached. The curved corner handrails are bent up from 0.3mm wire and soldered in place from the roof corner to the front of the seat arm rest. These carriages had some very precarious looking steps between the lower steps and the footboard which seem to dangle on wrought iron legs. Although the etch provides for these I found them too delicate and bent up some 0.3mm wire as a substitute, soldering on the etched steps and fitting these to the underside of the footboard. The S curved handrails between the footboard and roof seat are similarly flimsy so these too were formed from wire and soldered to the footboard although left poking up at the top until the roof is finally fitted. Commode or grab handles are then fitted together with the door handles.

After all that, construction is essentially complete and the three sub-assemblies of underframes, body, and roof are given a good dip and brush in Carrs Acidip degreaser to remove or at least neutralise any solder flux residue. Once dry an even coat of etch primer from a Halfords rattle can transforms a sketchy looking model of tainted brass, dull metal and patches of solder into something more serious. This is followed by a similar coating of matt black. Each sub assembly is then painted to completion as handling is so much easier than after everything is stuck together, two coats of Humbrol 121 for the roof, green 76 for the lower body panels, for the window and droplight frames and for the buffer heads and brake shoes. In my modelling have always held to the rule that nothing should be finished in gloss varnish as it is simply too shiny for small models. However, I make an exception with these carriages as it is documented that they were kept in prime condition for the well-healed passenger and as such the finish on them would have matched the finestroad carriages which gleamed with several layers of varnish and pride. Two coats are applied, the first to provide a base for the tiny transfers applied using Micro-Sol to break down the carrier film, the second to protect the transfer and provide that polished finish.The carriage is glazed using clear acetate cut into appropriately sized rectangles and glued in place using 5-minute epoxy. I prefer this method as it allows for a bit of repositioning although if the glue is too close to the edge of the frame that’s not really an option. Afte glazing the roof can be glued on, again using the epoxy, the same goes for fixing the body to the underframe. At some point, usually whilst I’m waiting for a few windows to stick, I fit the bearings and wheels. First the area of axlebox that takes the bearing is cleaned up with a2mm broach and two long stainless-steel axles dropped in and the underframe placed on a Vee block. This identifies whether or not it is sitting square and level and provides an opportunity to fettle each axlebox until everything sits just right, then shoulderless pinpoint bearings are glued on one side, the wheels fitted, followed by the other bearings. The very last job is just to run round with a brush touching up areas where the glue might show and dry brushing the underframe with a little Humbrol 98.

See more on Chris' Modelling Blog

The Early 'open' carriages, 2nd and 3rd class and the Night Seconds

Fig.1 For the carriage stock to run at Coventry I started at the bottom with the intention of working my way up. In other words, the first was the open third class carriage (if you can call it a carriage at all) and the open-sided second. These have been created as fairly straightforward cast kits with one resin-cast block for the seats. This turned out to be quite a good idea as making seats in styrene is very boring indeed. Although the completely open third was only used for the opening as third class services were not a thing for the first few years of the L&B, it does seem a shame not to have just one for the purposes of representing the basic carriage upon which several variants were built.

Fig.2 The sole bars, axle guards and springs are all part of the side so the carriages go together quite quickly. The buffers were turned in brass and set in a mould to produce a quantity of castings suitable for both types of carriage. The area that slows down production of such carriages is the fitting of all the steps and details.

Some more of the history of these carriages below

Fig.3 I haven't bothered with any form of compensation with these as they really are so small it hardly seems worth the effort. In fact they are that small one of them would fit neatly inside your average 10ton coal wagon (yes, I tried it)!

Fig.4 The open-sided second required a little more work in that I made little turned pillars to support the roof which was made of brass sheet gently curved to the correct profile. These carriages also had brakes, the brakesman sitting amongst the passengers and hopefully not being too distracted from his job by the odd glimpse of a ladies ankle. The handle is operated through a hole in the end panelling which presumably gave the brakesman a view forward or back as required, although a roof-top seat like the braked First class carriages would have been much more useful in that respect.

Fig.5 The enclosed Night Second is constructed in the same way as the open second, from castings. These are considerably more time consuming as they were fitted with brakes and roof seats, luggage rack etc. These are soldered together from etches which I had made to supply all the Firsts as well.

Fig 6 The finished model.

More on the history of Enclosed 2nds

See Chris' variant on the open first, built for standing Tourists in the first year or operation!

Another Variant, although a first class, in 1839 was a one off carriage although the London & Birmingham did build more in 1842...