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Coaches for Sir Toby

Rather belatedly the management became aware that the Giant's Causeway, Portrush and Bush Valley Railway and Tramway Co Ltd operated on the same three foot gauge as Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway. A copy of John McGuigan's history of the line, published in 1983, was obtained. The main claim to fame of this operation at the northern tip of Ulster was being one of the first electric tramways. So novel at the time that it constructed a pioneering water turbine to generate the electricity (although this was soon superceded by coal-fired generating plants).

The services were usually run by electric trams, which towed additional coaches as necessary in the tourist season. However two steam-powered tram locomotives (akin to 'Toby the Tram Engine' of Rev Awdry's Railway Stories) were also on the books to operate services if the electricty supply was having a bad day. The supplier of the tram locos was William Wilkinson & Co Ltd of Wigan and both locomotives were delivered early January 1883, ahead of the Board of Trade inspection on 12th January and public services commening at the end of that month. Later two more tram locos were supplied by Wilkinsons.

The line was closed in September 1949. However two miles of track, linking the Giant's Causway with Bushmills whiskey distillery, were recreated and opened to the public in 2002, although using steam or (since 2010) diesel locomotives, not electric trams – see Giant's Causeway & Bushmills Railway.

The coaches and tramcars have a certain charm. And something similar would look rather splendid towed behind Sir Toby. Truth to tell, Sir Toby is smaller than a tram loco as he was designed solely as a track maintenance vehicle. But, until such time as the management acquiesce to constructing something which looks like a 'proper' tram loco then Sir Toby will fill the role.

One of the two steam tram locomotives operated by the Giant's Causeway, Portrush and Bush Valley Railway and Tramway Co Ltd together with two of the coaches. In the background is Dunluce Castle, now ruined but once the seat of Clan McDonnell.

Saloon coach

There is another strand to wanting to build at least one of these coaches as the construction technique adopted for the saloon coach is something of a 'wet run' for a more ambitious model which lurks on the job list.

As with many other items of rolling stock, the chassis is an LGB stake wagon. The panelled construction is 3 x 5 mm section balsa wood and 400 gsm 'Bristol board'.

    Bristol board is a generic name for good quality card of variable thickness with one or both sides faced with white paper. It was once produced in vast quantities in and around Bristol for use in packaging the 'product' once made there in prodigous quantities – cigarettes. So 'Bristol board' is the technical name for the card used for cigarette packets.

Elevation drawing of the Giant's Causeway, Portrush and Bush Valley Railway and Tramway Co Ltd's coach shown in the photographs above and below left.
However this is not the coach modelled.

Left: The same coach in preservation at the Ulster Transport Museum, Cultra.
Right: The open 'toast rack' coach also preserved at Cultra.

The wheelbase of the Giant's Causeway tramway's coaches seems exceptionally short compared to the length over the buffers. To emulate this the buffer beams on the LGB stake wagon were 'masked' by new wooden buffer beams and extensions to the floor (made using Bristol board and lollipop sticks). The ends of the balconies are balsa wood and Bristol board.

The transverse parts of the roof are from foam-core board. Just for a change the roof itself is not from Bristol board but instead from a similar-weight card used for stiffening shirt packaging. This was smooth white only on one side while the other side had the 'natural' grey and slightly fluffy look and feel of cheaper card. The 'natural' side was sprayed matt black and became the upper surface of the roof. The underside, forming the ceiling of the coach, was left creamy white.

The doors and seats are from LGB coaches, as are the ornamental brackets supporting the ends of the roof. The 'folding' gates on the balconies are cut down from LGB mouldings. The brass brake stanchions were picked up from Barrett Steam Models' stall at the excellent Midlands Garden Rail Show.

Before the roof went on.

After the roof went on. And after the side panels were 'gamboged' and coachlined.

The rose madder and gamboge paint job matches Sir Toby. Which is slightly confusing as Sir Toby was intended to suggest the English, Welsh & Scottish Railway (better known as just EWS) cargo loco colours. But it looks kinda snazzy on a passenger coach as well as a cargo train.

(Note: It seems Rose Madder has an offspring called Rose Murder.)

The Giant's Causeway, Portrush and Bush Valley Railway and Tramway Co Ltd colour scheme was maroon and cream (see photo above).

    Gamboge was traditionally made from the resin of various species of evergreen trees of the family Clusiaceae, also known as Guttiferae. Naturally-produced gamboge is used to dye Buddhist monks' robes because the color is a deep tone of saffron, the traditional color used for the robes of Theravada Buddhist monks. However this composition fades in sunlight so modern shades of gamboge are formulated from either cobalt yellow or Hansa yellow (also known as arylide yellow or monoazo yellow).

The coachlined (or pinstriped) gamboge panels were made by painting thin card then stenciling the lines using a 'Pilot HiTecpoint V5 Extra Fine' red pen. Then each panel was cut to size and glued to the already-painted balsa and Bristol board coach.

There are any number of minor constuction whoopsies with this coach. But as a 'wet run' for future coaches this project has served its purpose and provides an adequately acceptable vehicle for Sir Toby to haul.

Toast rack car

An LGB bolster wagon was repainted then some bench-type seats made by depleting the stock of coffee stirrers, balsa strip and sheet. The backs of the two middle rows 'flip' according to the direction of travel.

The roof is supported by welding rod. The roof itself is 400 gsm card (a.k.a. Bristol board).


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Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021