One day, back in January (2004), the weather forecast threatened snow. Knowing that in these temperate climes any snow we get usually lasts but a day or two, I was galvanised into making a snow plough; something that crosses my mind every winter - when it's too late...
Ever since the weather started getting chilly the previous autumn, I'd had it in mind to be prepared this year! Some while ago, I'd read an article about making a plough from sections of a PVC drainpipe. (The source of that article is now lost to me. But maybe I'm remembering pictures of the snow plough, shown on the 16mm E-Group site, made by Håkon Røsaker in Norway.)
Doing a bit of measuring, I decided that plastic guttering offered a better solution, being of slightly larger radius. So I filched an offcut from my father who had some spare bits; significantly, it was coloured black - so it will not show white when the paint gets scraped off.
Now, the idea is to end up with a 90° 'V' shape in plan view, with the plough's section horizontal at the bottom, curving to vertical at the top. Have a look at the pictures; it's much easier to illustrate than it is to describe!
First, cut the piece of gutter length ways to produce a section with a 90° curve. (If you look carefully, you'll probably notice that plastic gutter is not actually a perfect semi circle in section. This isn't really a problem, but it's worth marking one edge as the 'top' so that when you come to join two pieces together, the profiles match.)
Next, put one of these sections into a mitre block and cut off two pieces at 45°. But don't forget to make sure that these two pieces are mirror images! It's obviously important to make sure that you hold the section of gutter in the correct position so that the bottom is horizontal and the top is vertical. I did this by wedging it in the mitre block with a suitably sized offcut of wood (see diagram). I wanted my plough to be 12cm wide (about 5") so, applying a little school maths, this meant that each piece needed to be 8.5cm between cuts. But you'll need to adjust the width to suit your own loading gauge.
I stuck the two pieces together with SuperGlue (the thicker sort which could fill the imperfections in my cutting). This is a rather tricky operation as it's not too easy to hold these odd-shaped pieces together at just the right angle. Fortunately SuperGlue sets quite quickly and you can afford to hold the pieces in place until they're firm. I found it helpful to draw two lines at 90° on the flat workbench top and hold the pieces down on these lines until the glue set.
Then cut a 90° triangle of thin MDF and glue it in place to fill in the top of the plough and provide an anchor to attach it to the wagon. You could use anything for this really; I just happened to have some MDF to hand.
Attach the plough to the wagon by gluing a piece of aluminium angle (in this case, left over from making a girder bridge, in turn derived from the framing of the old greenhouse - but that's another story!) to the underside of the top of the plough, with another piece of MDF glued so that it presses hard up against the inside of the end of the wagon. I added a further 90° turn at the bottom with a larger piece of MDF flat on the bottom of the wagon.
No doubt you could devise a rather more sophisticated fixing that perhaps allows for some vertical adjustment. But with darkening skies outside, I needed something quick! And at least this works. When all was done, a fast-drying coat of black acrylic to cover the MDF etc., and a couple of slightly muted yellow stripes finished it off. (Yellow and black chevrons seem a bit out of place on the rather bucolic HLR, but you feel free to embellish it as you like. You could even add flashing yellow lights on top if you want, but that's definitely far too 'flashy' for the HLR!)
Fit the plough back to the wagon, cover the base plate with loose ballast, or something else suitably heavy, to keep everything nice and stable, and you're ready for anything.
The snow came that evening and I was out the next morning to try out the plough. (My excuse was that I couldn't get the car up the hill to get to work!) It worked surprisingly well and actually managed to shift snow off the line, rather than just push an ever-growing mound in front of it. By the next day, the snow was gone. But I did get some rather good photos. And when the snow visits for a day next winter, I'll be ready for it!