How to build an LNER 32FT Brake Van

19 August 2020
Seeking variety for his fleet of rolling stock, Tony Wright turned to this modern-media kit of an LNER 'Pigeon' van, manufactured by Isinglass Models.

The description ‘pigeon van’ causes concern in some circles, but the LNER described these four-wheelers as such and so does the Isinglass drawing. The type was built in numbers between 1928 and 1930, erected at Stratford and York Works. There were detail differences which modellers should be aware of – springs inside or outside the ‘W’-irons, ventilator positions, handrail positions and so forth. Consultation of prototype pictures is essential. They could be seen anywhere on the LNER’s lines and those of its successors; indeed, by BR days, these versatile vans could be seen anywhere on BR. They lasted into the corporate blue era of British Rail, and at least one example has been preserved. 

What one gets from Isinglass are ‘sides; ends; roof; vents; drawing. One also gets a complete floor pan, headstocks and solebars. ‘Available on request are underframe; bogies’ - bogies? Not included are wheels, handrails, door handles, interior detail and underframe components. ‘Sort of’ instructions are provided, but these are generic – including bogies! It’s a pity the accurate drawing is not to 4mm scale, which would have made it much more useful in plotting positions. Everything is provided in resin, in one form or another.

Content continues after advertisements


All the components are 3D-printed and laid out prior to assembly. No need for a soldering iron, then!
How to build an LNER brake van


The fit of the parts was exceptionally good at source, with almost no cleaning up being necessary, even after removal of the ‘feeds’. Superglue was used to fix the parts together.
How to build an LNER brake van


The ‘V’-hangers are a little on the chunky side, though, given the nature of the material, this is inevitable. Central positions for the axles were sensibly marked in the floor.
How to build an LNER brake van


The ‘W’-irons and their fittings were 3D-printed, and, in my opinion, unsuitable for the task of carrying the wheels. I substituted etched-brass ‘W’-irons – I have loads of these sorts of things; available from the likes of Comet or MJT.
How to build an LNER brake van


Since Isinglass provide etched brass ‘W’-irons and pin-point brass bearings in the likes of their LNER milk van kit, I’m surprised these weren’t included in the pigeon van one.
How to build an LNER brake van


This is one of the ‘W’-iron units made-up (at last, the soldering iron!). The resin axleboxes provided were simply glued over the ends of the pin-point bearings. Standard 14mm Romford/Jackson coach disc wheels were employed. The 3D-printed springs were superglued inside the ‘W’-irons.
How to build an LNER brake van


To give the correct ride-height, the etched wheel assemblies were glued on to the resin pads that carried the original ‘W’-irons – they just snapped off! Items not supplied, such as the battery boxes, dynamo, brake cylinder and buffers came from my spares boxes. They’re all available from the likes of Comet or MJT.
How to build an LNER brake van


Temporarily fitting the roof caused the side/end joint at one point to spring, fracturing the original superglue bond. Strictly-speaking, the buffers are not dead right – they should have square bases.
How to build an LNER brake van


Despite my chamfering the roof rebates, on refitting, a piece of one end snapped off, just like chocolate from the fridge! Fortunately, the break was in one piece and easily repaired with superglue. The cast metal vacuum standpipes came from another of my spares boxes.
How to build an LNER brake van


Anything made primarily in resin/plastic will be inherently light – too light for operational service. I glued a strip of lead flashing (acquired from a builder mate, years ago) inside to aid subsequent running stability. My hook & bar couplings have been attached.
How to build an LNER brake van


The complete chassis assembled. No brake blocks were supplied, so I used spare ones from Parkside Dundas/Peco wagon kits. It pays to have plenty of spares boxes!
How to build an LNER brake van


The (almost) finished van, prior to cleaning-up and painting. As yet, the springs have nothing to hold their ends in place! The 3D-printed steps are a little on the chunky side. The ‘T’-handles came from an MJT fret and the longer handles from brass wire.
How to build an LNER brake van


After painting, the glazing was applied using ‘Glue-‘n’-Glaze for the upper lights and thin Plastiglaze for the guard’s door windows. Because of the roof’s ‘lip’ for fixing, there was insufficient room for Plastiglaze in the upper lights.
How to build an LNER brake van


The completed model, after painting. The springs’ ends were fixed to the brass section, glued in place – not dead right, but better than before. Painting was achieved by using Halfords car acrylics (rattle can); red primer and then Ford Burgundy Red, followed by brush-painting appropriate areas with Humbrol matt black No. 33. Lettering and numerals came from the HMRS Pressfix range, and the ‘York’ stick-on signage came from Hollar. The isinglass drawing suggests the prototypes were painted maroon from 1967, but it was a decade earlier than that. By 1967, any survivors would be repainted in rail blue.
How to build an LNER brake van

Running on ‘Little Bytham’, the finished model really looks the part in my view. I based it on the picture at the top of page 15 of David Larkin’s book BR General Parcels Rolling Stock, A Pictorial Survey, Bradford Barton, 1978. This shows an example without the bodyside horizontal handrails, and no grey ‘destination’ panels. My model’s in company with another example of the type, built from a Chivers plastic kit by the late Dave Shakespeare. The differences in the tumbleholme shape, footboards and body depth should be noted. 

In general, the fit of the parts is superb and it generally captures the ‘look’ of these distinctive vehicles. Where it fits in with equivalents, I’m not sure. 

I’m delighted with how this model has turned out. Any beginner could build the body (it’s a doddle), but getting it running could prove troublesome, especially with the running gear supplied. I’d definitely recommend including etched-‘W’-irons, and also including all the other parts to complete it. Surely buffers, battery boxes and dynamo could be produced in resin, though the first-mentioned might be too vulnerable. For me, an experienced modeller with a vast supply of odds and ends, it was very easy and a pleasure to build, and (I hope) the finished result speaks for itself. 

Need more advice? Some of the below articles may help. Also, take a look at the BRM Techniques page for all our latest guides and advice articles.

How to build your first shunter

Detailing the Dapol Western

How to make a Class 20/3 from an RTR model

How to paint your models

How to make an HRA from Bachmann’s HTA

How to build a battery locomotive

How to make your model trains grubby

How to make a pre-grouping coach

Take a read of our step-by-step guide to weathering a locomotive using paint washes and powders here. Or if you’d like more general tips on weathering a locomotive, see our article here.