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Heather Kay

HO/OO Scammell Scarab

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For much of their first century of existence, Britain's railways employed horses. They were used for shunting wagons, for hauling omnibuses, and for moving goods about from stations to customers and vice versa. Horses were everywhere, after all. In the 1930s, however, a couple of the mainline railway companies began to consider whether dear old Dobbin might be replaced by something using an internal combustion engine. The savings might be made, it was felt, in not needing fodder, cleaning up behind the poor animal, tack and accommodation. Of course, ideally, some of the existing horse-drawn vehicle fleet might be re-used with the new mode of transport.

 

So, the London, Midland & Scottish Railway got together with Karrier Motors, and came up with a small and mobile tractor unit. It was called the Karrier Cob (still with the horse theme, obviously). The carriage and wagon works at Wolverton, Buckinghamshire, just north of what is now Milton Keynes, and where a lot of the LMS road motor vehicles were built, was given the job of coming up with a form of automatic coupling that would let the tractor driver pick up and drop trailers without needing to get his hands dirty. The Karrier Cob was fitted with what became known as the "Wolverton Coupling", and everyone seemed very pleased with themselves.

 

4667565504_707c1d6a35_b.jpgKarrier Cob (1930) by Robert Knight, on Flickr

 

The first Cob, LMS 1-G, is preserved in the National Railway Museum collection. It was capable of about 11mph, and must have been a bit uncomfortable over cobbled surfaces.

 

At almost exactly the same time, the London & North Eastern Railway were in discussions with Napier & Son to create what was termed a "mechanical horse". It, too, consisted of a small and manoeuvrable tractor unit fitted with an automatic coupling system. In 1933, Scammell Lorries bought the design from Napier, and the three-wheeled Mechanical Horse was born. It came in 3- and 6-ton forms, and used what became known as the Scammell auto-coupling.

 

The chief difference between the Wolverton Coupling and the Scammell Coupling was found in the trailer part. The Karrier/LMS design trailers had supporting jockey wheels at the front, as part of the coupling mechanism, but they were outside the tractor's rear wheels. Scammell used a smaller jockey wheel setup on a turntable, the beauty of which was the wheels automatically tucked themselves away when the tractor unit coupled to the trailer, and lowered themselves back down again when uncoupling. Electrical connections for trailer lights, and a simple cable braking setup were also automatically connected. The driver sometimes had to release a handbrake on the trailer, but later models were fitted with a remote release system that worked from the tractor unit cab. 

 

The Scammell coupling system was also fitted to other tractor units, notably the Bedford O Series and Karrier Bantam, both four-wheeled units. The couplings became pretty much the standard for both railway and private road hauliers. The flexibility of being able to pick up and drop trailers without getting out of the cab and messy was seen as an enormous positive.

 

After the Second World War, Scammell developed a new version of their mechanical horse concept - the Scarab. Various improvements over the old Mechanical Horse were made, such as a lower centre of gravity and making it easier to maintain and service the machines. Again, 3- and 6-ton versions were available, and Scammell also introduced Perkins diesel engines into the range. The Scarab, the name derived from SCAmmell, the lorry firm, and ARAB, the thoroughbred horse, continued in production until 1967, when it began to be replaced by a newer model called the Townsman. A four-wheeled model, called the Scarab Four was introduced in the late 1960s, based on the Standard Atlas van. It wasn't a great success, and the whole mechanical horse concept eventually died out in the 1970s as legislation was brought in to ensure better braking standards for articulated trailers. Around 30,000 Mechanical Horses, Scarabs, Townsmans and Scarab Fours were produced in total, not counting the various licensed tractor units that used the Scammell Coupling system.

 

Here's a fun Scammell promotional film, aimed at selling the Scarab to the world.

 

 

The subject of this build is the, unsurprisingly, Scammell Scarab. The kit by Airfix first appeared in 1962 at 1/76th scale to suit the OO model railway scale. It contained one Scarab tractor unit - a 6-ton model - and two trailers: one British Railways flat bed, and one Watneys Brewery promotional trailer with three large barrels on it. The kit I'm building is the Dapol release from the 1980s, although it is fundamentally exactly the same as the Airfix one. Unlike the railway wagon kits, no modifications were made that I can see.

 

44504183482_89ca49ec9a_b.jpg

 

This is what you get in the bag. I have to say the example I have is fairly ropey. A fair amount of flash is present, and the plastic is beginning to yellow in places. 

 

44504106692_78f37583cf_b.jpg

 

This, I hope, is what it will end up like. This is one I built many years ago, and which I modified to correct various things. The worst issues with the basic kit are: 

 

  • The windscreen lacks a central pillar, due to the cab being moulded in two halves
  • The single headlamp is part of a transfer
  • Apart from seats, there is no cab detail at all
  • The steel spring bumper is too thick
  • The trailer and autocoupling is designed for play value, and leaves the trailer sitting too close to the back of the cab.

 

The usual issues with sink holes and ejector pins also occur, but those are sort of expected.

 

One more thing: I've got two of them. That means I will have four trailers, and two Scarabs, so I plan to build one as British Railways and one as Watneys. I also plan to do some work to the coupling area, like this:

 

44504106512_1ea22afa4f_b.jpg

 

Lots of little bits and pieces, which lose the play value but look a whole lot more like the real thing. If you look carefully, you will note the confection includes the trailer jockey wheels. The model trailer is designed to sit on the tractor unit with the aid of a brass wire pin to keep it aligned. 

 

I think I've rambled enough, so let's get on with some building. I'll work through one of the tractor units, and won't bore you with repeating it all for the other one.

 

43839316744_e6fc21e5de_b.jpg

 

BANG! :drunk:

 

All the parts for a Scarab laid out. 

 

44557700591_f6445aaf20_b.jpg

 

A short while later, here's everything about ready for some basic painting and work to commence on detailing the coupling area. Mods I've done so far have been to tidy the front and rear windows, and to sand off the number plate bump. That's another little detail I'll update.

 

Now, I have loads of lovely photos of the real thing. I'll stick them in a fresh post tomorrow, as I begin to work out how to make a facsimile of the autocoupling system at 1/76th scale. The prototype photos will, hopefully, explain how the coupling actually worked, too. It took me quite a while to figure it out the first time, I have to admit.

 

More soon!

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I used to have 14 of these kits at one time, mostly Airfix, awaiting to be built, I built some of them, BUT I realised, eventually that Oxford diecast (and others)make the same vehicle, ready made; painted; glazed; wheels turn and a far higher realistic finish than I could ever achieve and minus all the bad points mentioned Heather at the same price, if not cheaper and in any livery you can possibly think of, so, I took the easy way out, sold the kits and bought various diecast Scarabs, in different liveries and they supply packs of spare trailers, so, loading bays always occupied, even have Jensons and Karrier Bantams available for duty...…….as much as I like modelling, in this case quality wins.  The Dapol kit IS the Airfix mold, but it now tired and has been manufactured to such an extent now that the mold is wore out and if you buy Dapol scarabs now, you spend time removing the flash and also trying to align the 2 body halves together, trailer when coupled rides to the height of the cab window, plus having build a number of these over the past 30 years I can tell you the little flat trailer will eventually bend in the middle and look like a banana...………….It was good in its day, but now an easier solution has turned up for Scarabs...………Good luck with your build and painting them

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9 hours ago, rayprit said:

BUT I realised, eventually that Oxford diecast (and others)make the same vehicle, ready made; painted; glazed; wheels turn and a far higher realistic finish than I could ever achieve and minus all the bad points mentioned 

All good points. However, the Oxford models weren’t around at the time I wanted some Scarabs, and the Airfix/Dapol kit was the only game in town. 

 

This group build is about building kits from Airfix's golden years. I have chosen to show what I do to make a finescale model of a Scarab, using a 1960s kit, warts and all. As a modeller, I enjoy the challenge. It’s what the hobby is all about for me. I accept, these days, it’s not the quickest way to get an accurate Scarab, but I find little enjoyment in buying a shiny model in a box and doing nothing more than dulling the gloss paint down a bit. I am actually harbouring thoughts of building a box body on one of the trailer chassis, if I can find some scale information or a drawing. All part of the enjoyment of our hobby.

 

Incidentally, my flatbed trailer is nearly 30 years old and showing no signs of bananism. ;) 

Edited by Heather Kay
Grammatical gripes

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Peco also made a (different) kit of the Scarab; theirs had (has?) a one piece cab shell and rubber tyres.  It was a nice kit for a model railway, I didn't know back then that Airfix had done it previously - I think this is one of the kits Airfix had deliberately given up on till Dapol found the moulds mouldering (sorry) away.

Cheers Will 

Edited by malpaso
Autocorrect errors!

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To be honest Heather, I was lucky enough to be around to drive these vehicles with British Road Services as they were going out of service and being used as yard shunters, my first introduction to a 55 year career in transport.  True these kits were the "B"s Knees when they came out, hence the reason I bought so many  of these kits.  Relations would buy them for me as Christmas/Birthday presents, besides those I personally purchased myself.  Once Oxford, Corgi, Lledo, bought out their far superior diecast model, I sold every plastic Scammell Scarab that I had and replaced them all with high quality diecast and never regretted it.  I think in my collection I must have just about every Scammell Scarab and Townsman ever produced in Diecast, all scales.  Its a shame they were scrapped as they were a very efficient vehicle.  It was scrapped due to inefficient brakes in the modern age(1960s).   One fault I found with them was mating the 2 x cab halves up, engine vent grills don't line up, you have to file some grills right down to get any alignment, same with the cab roof and front bonnet and I was forever knocking sidelights off...….I drilled the headlight out and replaced it with a rhinestone(smallpiece of costume jewellery).................Good Luck with the build

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1 hour ago, rayprit said:

One fault I found with them was mating the 2 x cab halves up, engine vent grills don't line up

That is something that needs attention, I will admit. I think I was lucky with this one. I managed to get both halves to more or less match, sorted with a few passes of the sanding sticks. The differences in front and rear window apertures were dealt with by careful filing once the glue had dried.

 

I need to get a good close up look at the Oxford models, I think, though I do have sufficient Dapol Scarabs now for my purposes.

 

This morning was about making a passing facsimile of the coupling system. For simplicity, I generally opt to build the trailer jockey wheels into the cab unit, plugging the trailer in once the model is placed. For reference, this is how the real thing looks:

 

44504107292_daa96ca982_b.jpg

 

The key features I want to reproduce are how the jockey wheels are tucked up within the chassis frame ramp extensions, and how the flanged runner wheels are held by a hook system. More details required, I think.

 

44553466501_88c8e9f02c_b.jpg

 

Here's a closer view of the same preserved unit. How this contraption works is something like this:

  • With the trailer uncoupled, the jockey wheels are held by the weight of the trailer and the springs. 
  • As the tractor reverses on to the trailer, the flanged runner wheels at the top engage with the tractor's ramp.
  • As the tractor continues to reverse, the jockey wheels lift off the ground, and are pivoted to the rear by the coupling setup.
  • Once over the centre, the springs help to pull the wheels up out of the way, the rest done by the coupling gear on the tractor.
  • Once the runners engage at the end of the ramp, the centre part of the coupling is "grabbed" by a set of hooks.
  • The final act is the hook is locked by the driver, trailer handbrake released, and the whole lot can be driven away.

Uncoupling is pretty much the reverse of that sequence. I stand to be corrected in the details, of course. 

 

44553467021_2cc0c673f2_b.jpg

 

Here's the coupling from the front and driver's side. Note the large jaws above the flanged runners, which stop them jumping up once they reach the end of the ramp.

 

44553466821_f6eb32651c_b.jpg

 

This is a slightly better view, which I've numbered to try and identify the various parts. 1 - trailer turntable; 2 - flanged runners; 3 - sprung bump stops which catch the idlers at the end of the ramp; 4 - I think this is the coupling release mechanism; 5 - seems to have disappeared :shrug:; 6 - I think is the rudimentary electrical connector for the trailer tail light.

 

44504106932_4cc30470e6_b.jpg

 

The final image shows the trailer's jockey wheels with notes. This particular trailer was an old fuel tanker which was in a scrap yard behind where I used to work. The proprietors were rather bemused that a lady wielding a camera wanted to take photos of their pile of old scrap!

 

So, how to translate that lot into a 4mm scale model.

 

43660989115_275349b64c_b.jpg

 

First of all, I considered the kit jockey wheels. Airfix designed the unit with play value. By patiently pushing the tractor against the trailer, while holding the latter still, it was possible to couple things up almost like the real thing. Sadly, the end result was the trailer ended up too close to the cab, and pivoting forward of the rear axle. The real thing pivots over the rear axle, and has quite a deal of air between the trailer and cab. In this photo you can see the trailer stand on the left is as it comes, with large peg to couple to the tractor, and on the right as I've adapted it. I decided the runner wheel centres needed to be longer, so they were drilled out and microrod glue in. I also spent a while scraping and filing things to refine them a bit. The kit coupling peg was cut off, and I drilled out four holes in each jockey wheel. I didn't need to do the last thing, but I like to think it makes a bit of a difference. I added a styrene plate at the top, which was a refinement of my previous effort. This represents the pivot area of the trailer turntable.

 

43660989725_85b1ef2553_b.jpg

 

I didn't take progress shots as I made up the coupling. To be honest, it would be difficult to explain, as I tend to fiddle about with various bits of styrene strip, rod and sheet until I get something that sort of looks the part. Having access to some photos of this area of the real thing is always useful, so I supplemented my photos from earlier with ones found on t'interweb, including a greasing and oiling diagram! I think it looks about right. What do you think?

 

30700243298_dede9362ca_b.jpg

 

Here's the Scarab from the front. The modifications here are the bumper has been thinned by careful sanding, a thin microrod on the roof centreline to represent the raised crown strip on the real thing (needs more sanding, once the glue has dried properly), windscreen centre pillar, headlamp drilled out, side lamps drilled for effect, and tiny holes made for PE windscreen wiper and door mirrors.

 

44521224712_39bf175a30_b.jpg

 

The trailer went together quite well. Inevitably, the axle and suspension is quite chunky compared to the real thing, but there's not much to be done about it. I made a headboard for this trailer, for variety. The coupling is a 0.7mm diameter brass wire peg that drops into the tractor coupling.

 

The ensemble looks quite good, I think. Now, the question is whether to paint this one and get the glazing sorted out, or to get stuck into another one while I have the wind in my styrene bodging sails. 

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Hello Heather, even more great work.

 

Not only do you inspire us with the quality of your work, but you give us a great education too!

 

All the best,

 

Ray

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Your doing a grand job their Heather, I did notice the Scammell coupling permanently attached to the Scammell runners, so, your no able to drop any of your trailers...……..although the coupling by Airfix is authentic, I think they took some liberties to make it fit and make it workable, its way above scale making the trailers ride very, very high on the coupling unit, -  put a load on that trailer and it would fall straight off ………….next time your at a collectors fair, or model rail exhibition, check out the dealers selling diecast Scarabs.

 

Oxford diecast trailers ride the correct height, plus the coupling wheels work, they drop and raise, also you have the option of box trailers, and they also have the central ridge running across the roof, they really are worth looking at Heather.  Nice work on the headboard, many where detachable and could be swopped from trailer to trailer

 

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=oxford+diecast+scammell+scarab&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjJ2LHVjq7dAhWCDcAKHe_VClEQ_AUICygC&biw=1920&bih=963#imgrc=_

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Another modelling masterpiece underway Heather. Sterling work on the details and they look close enough to the pictures posted to me, especially in 4mm scale. 

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Well I’m learning something new! Fascinating glimpse of transport history.

 

Looking forward to the build. The Watney’s trailer is a Must Build - I wonder if the barrels opened up to dispense Party Sevens?

 

Regards,

Adrian

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7 hours ago, nimrod54 said:

Another modelling masterpiece underway Heather. Sterling work on the details and they look close enough to pictures posted to me, especially in 4mm scale. 

Thanks John. I admit to being an artful bodger in some circumstances. This model is a case in point. Near enough is good enough, especially when it’s mostly hidden in shadow. 

6 hours ago, AdrianMF said:

Looking forward to the build. The Watney’s trailer is a Must Build - I wonder if the barrels opened up to dispense Party Sevens?

I think they were just big containers for dispensing beer to pubs. In fact, I did a search to see if I could find photos of the real thing for reference - and found nothing. Reviewing the video I linked to, and there they were. They really existed! 

Edited by Heather Kay

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Wow - outstanding attention to detail! 👍

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Lovely stuff.

Until I started getting serious about collecting Airfix, I had no idea they even did this model. It was out of the catalogue when my modelling got underway in the mid sixties and the railway side of things never really took a hold on me. Things are a bit different now though. I doubt I will ever have a layout but I have a fair few of the Airfix Tracckside models in various states of completion. A turntable very nearly got entered here but I found it was more than half done when I opened the box, ditto the Truro loco I wanted to sit on it!

 

Seeing your take on this model has possibly lit the fuse on a bit of railway modelling here. I'm looking forward to seeing it progress.

 

Apologies if I'm hijacking your thread here but after seeing your goods train builds I had to dig around my photo files a bit, as memories were brought back. About ten years ago I had a crack at copying the scene on the box top of an early Airfix Gift Set. In one of the pictures of it I've used the same models you built to fill the frame a bit! 

 

Trackside_1.jpg

trackside_2.jpg

 

The model suffered a fair bit of damage during a house move and needs a whole lot of repair doing. 

 

 

 

 

Tony.

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Scarab work has been a bit thin on the ground, mainly due to five O gauge Mark 1 coaches nearing completion for a client.

 

43914139504_1c46318d35_b.jpg

 

It's a bit of a chore as these things near the end. I have finished the interiors, glazing, lettering, painted and fitted some passengers, and about to fit the roofs for the final detailing. On top of that, we’re away later this week for a long weekend.

 

Anyway...

 

44633095801_c5686ac9f3_b.jpg

 

I have assembled most of the second Scarab, most of another BR trailer, and made a start on the barrels. Before I got stuck into the coaches again I got some undercoat paint on things. I might get as far as proper top coat tonight.

Edited by Heather Kay

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I absolutely love anything associated with 1960 lorry transport.

When my father had a transport business in Trafford park there was a BRS parcel depot just up the road.

As a young lad I used to ride in the cab of such vehicles as primarily, Box parcel trailers, were shunted around waiting to be loaded and collected.

Small 4 wheel tractor units also had the Scammell coupling.

44633960161_f25a7d23d0_z.jpg

 

Thanks for the memories Heather.

I look forward to seeing more  . . .

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I had a nice short break in Great Yarmouth. Hannants not far away you say? Why, it would be rude not to!

 

Recovering a bit today, I pottered about with some Scarabs.

 

44025732954_8521a638a1_b.jpg

 

Some paint going on. I’ve selected the tractor I built first to be the Watneys one, so the barrel trailer is getting the pin treatment instead of the jockey wheels being stuck on. The second tractor will, I hope, have a fairly detailed representation of the coupling mechanism, so that means I need to work out what to do with the BR trailers. At least one ought to have the jockey wheels down.

 

I still have to work out the windscreen glazing. My original 20-odd year ago build was heading in the right direction, but I made the rubber frames a bit thick. Still working on that.

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42971683530_ce25fa4bd9_b.jpg

 

Most of the basic painting is done, but I need to work up the uncoupled tractor unit details. I’ve got one parked BR trailer, and I’ll add a little extra detail to the jockey wheels later. The Watneys combo is getting there. I’ve still got glazing to sort out. I’d like to get them finished soon, but I seem to lacking in enthusiasm - which is unusual for me.

 

Perhaps getting the uncoupled tractor pushed on a bit further will help.

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Shame your enthusiasm is waning, I love your work and these are really tickling me. I see 'boring' working vehicles every day that I think would make for interesting models, so to see someone doing a grand job on such unsung heroes is a real treat.

 

Andy

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I think it’s waning because sometimes you have to be in just the right mood to fabricate parts. 

 

As as it happens, I posted earlier, then had a think. I realised what I was trying to make - the automatic coupling mechanism on the tractor - could be broken down into basic elements. I dived in to the styrene scrap box, and with the help of some I-beam and various sections, plus an offcut of brass etch, made this:

 

29847193417_639405df56_b.jpg

 

I reckon it’ll do, considering the scale and once painted black. Once the cement has set, I’ll do some gentle filing to shape the roller catch bars a little better.

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There's some very tidy modelling going on here.

 

The cream and crimson colours on one of the builds jog long dormant memories of things like the colour plates in fifties Annuals, Eagle comic, Meccano Magazine and others of that nature. Nice memories to have on a rainy day in the Fenns.

 

Tony.

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18 hours ago, Heather Kay said:

I think it’s waning because sometimes you have to be in just the right mood to fabricate parts. 

 

Looks like the enthusiasm is back again! I know what you mean though, when a build slows down (or stops) at the point where you have to make something from scratch, or even goes backwards for repairs, you can hit a real low. I think that must be why some modellers immediately reach for another kit for a quick 'fix' of tangible progress. Anyway, these Scarabs, trailers and beer barrels are looking fantastic and the education on the working bits is fascinating. I remember there is one in a bit of a sorry state at the local rail museum at the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway so I am minded to pop along and have a look again - when younger, my son used to jump inside (forbidden of course and I had to go in too to 'supervise'!) and it would rock worryingly on the front single wheel. All the best, Mike.

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I'm finding excuses to work on these critters. It's usually when we've been out doing domestic stuff, and the morning is broken up accordingly. A half-hour here, twenty minutes there, and things soon get done.

Quote

 

1 hour ago, TonyW said:

The cream and crimson colours on one of the builds jog long dormant memories of things like the colour plates in fifties Annuals, Eagle comic, Meccano Magazine and others of that nature. Nice memories to have on a rainy day in the Fenns.

 

I think the "blood and custard" livery was the best one of the early BR period. The standard coaches, designed from 1951, really look their best in those colours, I think.

Quote

 

1 hour ago, Ventora3300 said:

I know what you mean though, when a build slows down (or stops) at the point where you have to make something from scratch, or even goes backwards for repairs, you can hit a real low.

 

It's paint that gets me. I'm still an enamel painter by preference for these small subjects, and for whatever reason some of the paints I'm using take for-bleeding-ever to dry! I'm always tempted to get some varnish on, only to find it's taking the paint off as I go. Patience, sadly, is sometimes in short supply here! :waiting:

 

44750712612_22cf3d9077_b.jpg

 

Progress as of this morning. I've reached the "why won't the darned paint dry properly" stage!

 

44750712062_b392dc1c7c_b.jpg

 

Here's the uncoupled Scarab with all the fabricated coupling bits painted. I think I'm happy with that.

 

44080623094_48f6e3da72_b.jpg

 

Here's the uncoupled trailer, inverted so you can sort of see how much (or little) detailing I've done! The jockey wheels from the kit have been fitted 180 degrees from their "proper" position. This is so the toy coupling peg acts as the spring mount under the turntable. With a few odds of thin styrene strip it looks okay. I resisted the urge to have the coupling at a jaunty angle, as it would restrict placement in a scene on a layout.

 

44750711072_acae9bbc0b_b.jpg

 

The Watneys combo is nearing completion. I'd forgotten about the barrel bands, and merrily stuck the barrels in place before I remembered. Some tricksy painting required, and it's never going to look neat now. I chose Humbrol Steel Metalcote for the pipework on the trailer. Still some detail work with the hairy stick, and the trailer brake cables to do. Waiting for paint to dry. :whistle:

 

44080621614_4858d3ddbf_b.jpg

 

I think I ought to find a driver for this one. There must be some willing volunteer in my bits box that will be happy to be hacked about to fit. Whether I'll do the "arm out the window" thing I did with the older Scarab remains to be seen. :frantic:

 

There's still a lot to do. Both trailers need glazing, and I'm still wondering how I can create sensible rubber beads for the windscreens. The classic Scammell cast badge round the headlights needs to be sorted out, too, and not forgetting the front number plates. Then there's the lettering to sort out. They'll be done by the end of the GB though, that's for certain.

 

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Very nice work going on there! 👍

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These two are really eye catching Heather, they are both coming up wonderfully well. The boy in me with eyes larger than his belly is attracted to the 'Custard' one, however the bigger boy in me seems to be more magnetised to those Beer barrels!! There is something quite British about these two very useful but quite ugly vehicles, something I associate with many aircraft operated by your Fleet Air Arm. 

 

Anyway - as always, I'm happily watching on and leaning something new with each and every post.

Cheers.. Dave.  

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