Coronel Lopez

Ted Polet

1 - A Pugbash to end all Pugbashes...

Years ago my good friend Mick Thornton posted a photo of an inspection locomotive of the Nitrate Railways in the NGRM forum, that looked an ideal candidate for a Pugbash. The prototype, a standard gauge R&W Hawthorne 0-4-0ST of 1873, was converted into an inspection loco around the turn of (last) century. As I like Pugbashes as a popular form of modelling, I immediately saw its appeal.

A year passed, in which I got an Airfix Pug kit from the 009 Society sales stand, then came across a cheap toy-like Manua 'Western' style carriage which I snapped up for a few euros. All I did was glue together a few Pug parts, solder two pieces of brass pipe to a nickel silver strip for the loco chassis, and then it stalled. At the start of November I shook myself out of my modelling lethargy and looked at the parts waiting to be turned into a likeness of the Chilean inspection locomotive.

Why 'Coronel Lopez'? Long ago I promised myself to make a Latin American locomotive, just for fun. I had been thinking of a Kitson Meyer, but the inspection loco idea intervened. Coronel (Colonel in English) Lopez, always addressed as El Supremo, is the military dictator of a little-known South American country called Panaguay. I found the name is sufficiently villainous to be appropriate, and the good Colonel of course needs a private steam carriage to travel over his Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Panaguay.

2 - making a start

For a moment I wondered whether to keep the carriage body intact and narrow it to create an American type saloon coach, building the saloon body from scratch. But in the end sanity prevailed and I put the coach body to the saw. I used a Roco razor saw to cut through the Mantua body shell. It had to be cut in half and narrowed. The narrowing of the roof was done by taking out a strip from the centre, but the end had to be cut and narrowed to one side of the door.

The narrowed shell was reassembled, using the equally narrowed Pug cab front at the front end and a sheet of styrene in the roof, to ensure integrity. Then the cab doorways were cut out and the arches at the top filed out. Meanwhile I narrowed the footplate right up to the sandboxes, using a coarse file. This of course should have been done before assembly, but at the time I forgot to do so.

After pre-painting the interior of the loco cab black, I cemented the coach portion on to the loco, using the cab front and the footplate to make a stable connection.

The prototype: a standard gauge steam railmotor based on an old shunting engine:

The main components on the workbench:

Fitting the locomotive and the coach together:

3 - the chassis

At the start, the loco chassis had been made up by soldering two brass tubes on to a nickel silver strip. The distance between the two was dictated by the coupling rods which were spares off a 1960s Minitrains Baldwin. The wheels are from an old style Farish 08. The connecting rods and piston rods came from a Minitrix dock tank, and the cylinder block from my long-defunct 1960s Jouef Decauville tank. The rods were fitted on the plastic pins of the Farish wheels. These were then touched with a soldering iron to create a 'shoulder' so the rods would stay on.

Somehow all came together to make a free-running dummy chassis. I drilled a hole and fitted the chassis under the loco footplate with a single screw, using two Lima wheels as a support. This resulted in a front bogie. Note the prototype has a rigid frame.

The rear bogie is powered. In the spares box I found a cut-down Fleischmann 0-4-0 chassis minus rods and cylinders. Fitting a brass bracket extending over the worm was no problem. I bent it to shape after drilling two holes, then bolted it to the chassis, with a packing of a few pieces of sheet lead under the front end so it would sit square. A drop of superglue fixed it in place. I added a few pieces of lead against the bracket to improve the balance, as the assembly would be pivoted at about 25mm above the track and would be liable to tilt. A piece of styrene was made into a baseplate which was a close fit in the coach body. Styrene lugs were made so the baseplate would be supported below window level, and thin pieces of styrene sheet were added in the sides so it wouldn't fall out. More sheet lead was added to the top of the baseplate.

The model was placed on the track after checking for enough swinging space on my 22.5cm radius curves. Then it was tested thoroughly. The carbon brushes needed a lot of attention, and even then the running on my feedback controllers didn't improve until I fitted the capacitor and a choke from a defunct Minitrix dock tank motor. After more testing the model proved to run quite well.

Before I forget: the roof was made up from laminated card. I wanted to recreate the curly roof of the prototype, but the card straightened out and it was only partly succesful. Perhaps I should replace it in future.

The basic model with the chassis parts:

A bracket fitted to the power unit, and the baseplate to fit inside the coach:

The bogie sideframes being fitted:

4 - further detail

After painting the coach portion with Humbrol matt grey as a primer coat, I continued with detail work. I built up a rear platform and steps using the steps of the Mantua coach and some scrap styrene. Roof ventilators and a water tank were made using Pug parts. Styrene sheet made up a cab roof hatch. The whistle is a gold plated PCB connector. The safety valve, head and tail lights and the injectors are whitemetal parts. I baulked at the prototype's crosshead feedwater pump which is prominent in the photo.

I did have a set of lost wax link & pin coupler castings, which would suffice as the model wouldn't have to haul anything. The cab steps were made from those of the Pug kit. I added styrene filling pieces to the loco chassis, built up an ashpan and the contour of sloping loco frames under the cab. The rear platform carries the rail and the brake wheel from one end of the Mantua coach.

Finally, the rear bogie. In the standard gauge prototype this is an inside frame bogie which I suspect is a loco bogie pressed into service, with some side play added. For a narrow gauge interpretation, an outside frame bogie would be more appropriate, so I made up two dummy outside frames based on the equalising beam principle which was popular on American passenger stock in the 19th Century.

I used the remains of a Fleischmann tipper truck chassis out of a toy train set for the purpose, shortened the chassis and glued the halves together with brass strip and superglue on the outside. The brass strips were cut to size and the ends bent at 90 degrees for subsequent fitting to the 0-4-0 chassis.

Then I cut the bogie side frames off the tipper chassis and started detailing them. The equalising beam is best made up of a narrow strip cut from 1mm sheet lead. The lead is easily bent without breaking, and can be cut with a knife. The strips were bent into the swan-neck shape of the equalising beam and glued on to the sideframes. Coil springs were represented by short pieces of aluminium tube into which I cut a spiral pattern, hoping this would be enough to represent a spring. The transverse leaf spring was made up using strip styrene. The resulting frames were glued to the chassis using styrene extension pieces front and back, keeping them clear of the wheels.

The model in primer paint, on the track at Rae Bridge:

The ashpan has a hollow front – the pivoted loco frame is free to move in the space left out. No light is left between the loco frame and the ashpan.

The rivet heads were made of white PVA glue drops applied with a needle:

The coach body painted green makes quite a difference:

5 - painting and finishing

The model was degreased with turpentine and the loco portion painted in matt grey as a key for the acrylic black that would be put on later. The loco, cab front and footplate were painted flat black. The coach part was painted eggshell bronze green - the same shade I used for CMR 'Atlantic' about 10 years ago. All under footplate parts to be camouflaged were painted black, and the parts that need to be seen were painted NATO black, which holds the middle between anthracite and very dark green.

The legend ‘Ferrocarriles Nacionales’ was added over the windows by making this up on the computer on a brown backing, and printing it out to the correct size. Similarly, the ornate shield on the saloon side was made up from a print carrying the name of its infamous owner. The print was done on a high quality laser printer in the office (when no one was looking…). Some of the lettering was shaded, some wasn't. The scroll below the elliptical shield was put over the rear door.

Fixing such a print to the coach side is done using eggshell varnish. I find this method of lettering especially useful when there is a natural edge to some part of the model. Planked goods stock and coaches with waist panelling on my layout are treated the same way, by inserting a piece of printed lettering and camouflaging the paper edge.

Finally, the handrails were picked out in light grey. I find this looks remarkably like worn steel at a distance. The lamps were painted copper. The saloon sides, the cab front, tank and sandboxes were varnished eggshell. Black paint treated this way looks like having been polished with an oily rag. What remained to be done now was light weathering, adding window panes (although they won't be inset) and final detailing. I'm afraid the close-ups show some painful blemishes.

6 - Meet el Coronel!

I completed the railmotor, adding windows to the saloon, balance weights to the wheels, weathering some of the model, and converting and painting figures. This then concludes the story of Coronel Lopez, a not-too-serious modelling project! It was great fun to build this model. Apart from one or two technical complexities (bogie supports) it was really very simple to do. As soon as the Coronel is deposed in turn, I may acquire the vehicle from Panaguay and put it to work on the C&DR. Dictators won't last, you know. History always catches up with them.

The lettering and ornate name shield were applied after making up on a computer. I used a quality print from a laser printer:

The Coronel's saloon making its way through the Cordillera. A side view on one of the numerous viaducts:

El Asesor Gringo, the foreign adviser, sitting precariously on the edge of the footplate. What the fireman is doing behind him with the shovel isn't clear, but El Asesor must have outlived his usefulness:

El Coronel in his dramatic uniform. It holds the middle between that of Hermann Goering and the one used by another unsavoury character, recently deposed. To the left is his equally unsavoury bodyguard, Antonio el Mestizo, carrying his long rifle and cartridge belt. Both the Colonel and Antonio were converted from ordinary 4mm figures by adding paper belts and various details. The rifle was made up from a piece of wire and a bit of plastic. The Colonel has paper shoulder pads and a lead pistol holster.

More photos