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Improving the Bachmann 04

02 August 2010

  Tony Wright takes a couple of evenings to make the already-excellent Bachmann O4/1 locomotive even ‘stronger’.  

Tony Wright takes a couple of evenings to make the already-excellent Bachmann O4/1 locomotive even ‘stronger’.

Time was when, no more than a couple of months after the release of a new loco in OO, the model press would be publishing articles on how to improve the newcomer. The best make-overs were in the late-lamented Model Railway Constructor, and some required considerable amounts of surgery - carving off moulded-on boiler handrails on new Tri-ang models for instance.
From memory, the most interesting to me was where someone turned a B12/3 into - a B12/3!

In case anybody believes that such potential blood-spurting activities are needed to improve Bachmann’s brilliant new O4, then let me put the record straight right now. It’s really only a matter of degree how far you take any improvements. My work required a little bit of scratch-building and, most important, some actual railway modelling ‘skills’.

Though I’ve said many times before, that, because of the vast improvements recently in mainstream RTR, there’s far less needed to be done to get ‘correct’ locos, let’s not forget that we’re supposed to be railway modellers and that model is as much a verb as it is a noun. If we’re not careful, we’re in danger of becoming just purchasers.

So what really needs to be done? As I said in my review last month, what Bachmann has given us is an O4/1. That’s an original GC-built 8K, complete with vacuum (and steam) braking and water pick-up apparatus on its tender.

We can discount the O4/2s (boiler mountings, etc, cut down), for eventually all the O4 subdivisions were cut down to the composite loading gauge (remember, the GC was built to Continental height and width) but the more numerous O4/3s need consideration. These were the ex-ROD locos, and as such had steam braking only and no water pick-up gear on the tender. Thus, they also had three-link shackles as opposed to screw couplings and there was no vacuum ejector pipe on the driver’s side of the smokebox/boiler/firebox, nor vacuum standpipes front and rear.

Further O4 sub-divisions don’t concern us here, for major surgery would be required to produce these. So, we’re presented with a potential hybrid - an O4/1 loco with (what looks like) an O4/3 tender. However, (and my apologies for getting this wrong last month) 63635 should not have tender pick-up gear in the period modelled by Bachmann, so is right - it shows how little I know! Thanks Merl.

It’s also probable that the preserved O4/1 doesn’t have water pick-up gear on its tender today (no need, anyway). It’s mainly true that the pick-up apparatus was removed from O4/1 tenders as they were converted to (say) O4/7s, O4/8s and O1s, though the gubbins to the rear of the tender top remained, even if the scoop itself was removed. 

Did this happen with most of the locos which remained as O4/1s throughout their lives? The established works of reference are unclear on this. Yeadon suggests that the water pick-up apparatus was removed from the O4/1 tenders by the LNER (which implies all). The RCTS suggests that the directive to remove the pick-up stuff was issued in 1946 (less than two years before the LNER ceased to exist) but isn’t sure whether all locos’ tenders were altered, but look in any 1950s Ian Allan abc Combined Volume and you’ll find ‘O4/1 Introduced 1911. Robinson G.C. design with small Belpaire boiler, steam and vacuum brakes and water scoop’, the suggestion being, to me, that the scoops were still in place.

Whatever, to make the most (probable?) locomotive/tender combination from this model, one can either change the loco into an O4/3 (by removing/replacing said items on the locomotive) or alter the tender accordingly. I chose the latter, considering it the easier option. However, if all O4/1s had their pick-up gear removed by BR days, then my modifications are wrong, at least with regard to the scoop itself and the ‘ship’s’ wheel gadget on the tender front, though they might help those who model earlier periods.

As an aside, does Bachmann’s LNER-guise O4/1 have a scoop-fitted tender? If not, it should have. Anyway, taking off that pipe from the right-hand side of the loco looked a bit tricky, especially as the handrail is attached to it. A pity, really, especially as the ex-ROD locos were more numerous. But which loco to choose? Quite simple really - it had to be one I saw in the flesh and had a prototype picture of, hence Langwith Junction’s 63585.

As mentioned in last month’s issue, the usual prototype  ‘bibles’ were consulted (even if there were some contradictory evidence) and, also as usual, I took pictures as I went along. The job was started one Friday evening and completed by mid-afternoon on the Saturday, and no - I didn’t work all night. Anyway, the pictures tell the story.

Though DCC has certain merits, its wire arrangement on this loco is a damn nuisance if you’re an analogue-only user. I just cut all the ‘spaghetti’ between the loco and tender, identified which wires were still needed and discarded the plug and socket.
I’m told ‘yellow and grey go the other way’ for DCC, and they certainly did in this case after I’d finished - neatly behind the motor. You can just make out the snipped-off end of the red wire (now superfluous) beneath the motor.

The yellow and grey wires then need connecting to the pick-ups - just by soldering to the little rivets holding the wipers to the baseplate, one each side. Naturally, the motor’s polarity dictated that they had to cross over. Though initial separating of loco body and chassis proved easy, the next time the interference was excessive. Perhaps these are designed as ‘fit and forget’, but to make the job easier I eased the aperture in the boiler with a fairly coarse file.

The next step - how to rid myself of the vast gap between the loco and tender. Obviously, the nasty wires and huge drawbar had been discarded, so I put a 12 BA brass bolt into the soleplate and soldered on a length of 26 SWG nickel silver wire.
I snipped a bit out of the tender’s dragbeam to give clearance, bent the wire down into a sort of looped hook, drilled two holes in the loco’s mazak dragbeam and fitted a wire ‘goalpost’. Fixed with superglue, it was then left to set.

Whilst the superglue was setting, I added some tender brake gear. Though present on the instructional drawing, no gear was provided in the box, so I made it up from brass. I also made a ‘goalpost’-style  coupling for train haulage.
The horrid NEM coupling pocket was then snipped off the pony truck. However, beware - the plastic framing is so weak, it just gave way after this treatment. Bad language, and little brass gussets and superglue put this right.

After the superglue had ‘gripped’ properly, I coupled the loco to its tender. And, what a difference, so no need of the fireman to be a longjumper. There’s a lovely hinged fallplate, too - something I hadn’t noticed when I wrote the review last month.
The original vacuum brake standpipe on front platform looked too short to me for BR days, so I substituted it for a wire-wound replacement. Bachmann’s ‘dummy’ screw coupling was too stiff to work, so a Smith’s replacement was fitted.

The tender problem. It looks to me that Bachmann has modelled a ROD tender - no water pick-up apparatus and greater coal capacity (coal division plate moved back). Has 63601 now got one of these? The ancient tender alongside is from K’s, showing the pick-up ‘dome’.

Whilst I puzzled on what to do about the tender, I began the process of renumbering. Only two digits needed altering, so these were carefully scraped off with the end of a Swann Morton craft knife - very carefully, so as not to scratch the surface!

Replacement numerals came from the HMRS ‘Pressfix’ range and these are the same size and almost the same colour as the originals. Space with care, though you’ll surely find a prototype picture where there are unequal gaps between.

Why were the buffer stocks left black for a BR period representation of an O4? Has 63601 got this wrong in current preservation? Whatever, five minutes’ work with Humbrol bright red and a small sable soon did the trick.

Even if a locomotive were recently ex-works, the frames and running gear would very rapidly become grubby. Though the rods are ‘blackened’, they’re still too shiny, so the whole lot was brush-painted in matt black, grey and ‘leather’ enamels.
How to make the pick-up ‘dome’? The real thing is an extension of the filler, so I built one up from scrap brass, ‘guestimating’ the size, then lopping off the plastic water filler with my pair of Zurons. Now, that rear coal division plate should really be further forward, but I bottled out on this!

Because my bit of scratch-building is hollow, it neatly covered the lopped-off remains of the filler. The hinges and handle were made from scrap brass fret, carefully soldered on.  It was then fixed in place with runny superglue. Because I didn’t move the coal plate forward, the filler is a bit too far back.

Though the scoop itself is hard to see from normal viewing angles, I thought - why not make it? It’s fettled-up from scrap brass, mounted on a white metal pad, or you could use the superfluous scoop from Bachmann’s model of Tornado... 

The gadget for operating the water scoop was present on the driver’s side of the tender front, a sort of ‘ship’s’ wheel and housing of some sort. You need a large scrapbox - that way it’s amazing what you can find.

After airbrush weathering (see later), it needed a new front numberplate. Ian Wilson of Pacific Models has hit on the brilliant idea of doing a sheet for every loco front number in a class, printed on stiff paper. You just carefully cut out the one you need with a sharp blade, put a black felt-tip pen around the white edge and stick it on with a dab of PVA. What a step forward - no more fiddling about with cutting transfers (a sheet NEVER has the whole number you want!) and watching the segments float all over the place when you try to fix them in place.  I’ll be conducting a full review in next month’s issue, but for current details, please send an SAE to Pacific Models, ‘Mallard’s Peak’, 66 Stamford Road, Careby, Lincs PE9 4EB.

Even if you do nothing else, put real coal in the tender. This is the real stuff, pounded up in a polythene bag using a small hammer, then held in place with PVA glue. And the little shovel just adds that finishing touch.

Another must-have is a crew. I admit, under scrutiny like this, this pair looks a bit skinny (they came from my ‘bits’ box, though when the tender’s in place their anorexia is disguised). They’re held in place with superglue.

Though I passed by Gorton Works’ yard on many occasions as a trainspotter, I never saw a clean O4, and never one in operation. So, let’s bring it to life. The first stage was to dry-brush dribbles and stains, then off to be airbrushed.

I don’t own an airbrush, so it was off to John Houlden for him to dust over his usual mix of thinners, varnish, matt black, grey and brown. It’s no more than a delicate mist, but doesn’t it bring a model to life? As intimated, the retention of water pick-up apparatus on this loco’s tender is probably incorrect, but I’ve left it, and the description of how I made it might help those who model the LNER period.

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