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Treacle tankers

The story goes that the HLR, never slow to miss a trick, decided to increase its revenue by undertaking the onward transportation of Raby treacle on behalf of the Gaunless & Winston Railway (GWR). For more of that story, see “A sweet discovery!” in the History section.

The Raby Treacle Mining Company (RTMC) was incorporated to exploit the rich treacle-bearing seams below the Raby estate and enjoyed an international clientele with its particularly fine product. Much of this export it shipped out by rail, using the conveniently located Gaunless & Winston Railway (GWR).

But the GWR only had one fairly small tanker in use (see journal entry for 24 August 2004), so it was obviously necessary for the HLR to increase the available tanker capacity. They therefore acquired a suitable, if rather old, wooden framed vehicle, but soon found that another was required. Both came from the same source, though the second was a little newer (though still ancient!) and had a slightly larger capacity.

In reality, the two wagons started off as a couple of I.P. Engineering tanker kits. When I opened the boxes, I discovered that the pieces of plastic pipe supplied for the tank barrels were different lengths. Instead of cutting them to the same size, I decided to use them as they were, and build slightly different wagons. Not knowing much about tanker design, I looked around for information and details, and found plenty in the book, Oil on the Rails, although it's all standard gauge; narrow gauge tankers don't seem to be too common. But I did take inspiration from the ‘Empire Oils’ tank wagon on the Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway. (More pictures and drawings were published in the Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers' journal, 16mm Today (volume 109, Aug. 2004).

Now, although the kits are O.K. as far as they go (i.e, reasonable for the money!), the more I looked, the less I liked them. In particular, tankers don't normally seem to bother with a floor, but do usually have some means of keeping the tank on the wagon!



I therefore determined to leave off the floor, and model the chassis complete with internal bracing and dummy springs behind the center couplings. I also decided to replace the I.P. Engineering wheel sets with some nice six-spoked wheels from Binnie Engineering as, without a floor, they're a lot more visible.

The design of the cross-bracing was taken directly from the Bredgar & Wormshill wagon (although that has a steel underframe), rather than from various examples I had of standard gauge practice. The latter usually incorporate diagonal bracing, presumably to absorb shock from corner mounted buffers - whereas in this case, there is a single centre buffer. The double longitudinal braces at each end provide support for the buffer, and its springing (also copied from the Bredgar & Wormshill wagon) which was simulated with a piece of thick soft wire spiralled round a brass rod and affixed directly behind the buffer beam with appropriate steel platework. All the ‘steel’ on the wagon is made from the foil from my favourite tomato paste tubes. This is easy to cut, and rivet detail can be embossed from the back.



The core of the tank is made from the plastic pipe and whitemetal ends supplied in the I.P. Engineering kit. I decided that rivet detail would enhance it no end, so added thin card wrappers. These had rivets embossed with a large Meccano sprocket wheel in a custom-made jig to keep them in a straight line. Two overlays were produced to simulate a tank made with three pannels. As with the prototype, the overlaps were staggered either side of the center line.

Once everything had dried off, the turret from the kit was added and a dose of Ronseal wood hardener applied to the card overlays to povide a good hard surface for final painting. (This seems to work fine, but traditional shellac might actually be a better option.)

After spraying with the RTMC's corporate colour (“Rover Blaze” from Halfords), the tanks were mounted on decent wooden baulks instead of the flimsy supports supplied, with strapping to hold them down to the chassis.

Details of tank fixings; click for larger pictures and more information about costruction.

End stanchions, missing from the kit, were added, along with their diagonal bracing. The supposedly older wagon has additional wire hawsers but, as in reality, the newer one has progressed to a horizontal rod between the end stanchions instead.

Both tankers have bottom discharge pipework, though the only part left from the kit is the valve wheel, now mounted on top of the tank to operate an internal valve in rather more prototypical fashion. A little more detail about these various fittings is given in the captions to the pictures on the right.

Both wagons were treated to a liberal dose of weathering, including a good deal of spilt treacle (mahogany coloured varnish). However, the flies supposedly stuck in the sticky mess - as suggested by some members of the 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers E-Group with an over-fertile imagination - were omitted; just didn't look right!

This little project started as a bit of a whim, to find something useful to do with a couple of I.P. Engineering tanker kits. But I suppose I got a bit carried away and ended up virtually scratch building them. Nevertheless, it was a most interesting exercise and I think the extra time and effort was well worth while!

With thanks to Charlie Wilson, Proprietor and General Manager of the GWR, for dreaming up the RTMC and for not (apparently) getting too upset when I hijacked his idea for my own HLR.