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Updating the Triang Maunsell L1

9165 Views 20 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  34C
This is a project which I have been wanting to undertake for quite a while. The L1 4-4-0 was a beautiful, uncluttered and well-balanced Maunsell design and the Triang model caught the outline reasonably well. First issued [as BR] in 1960, it was the first Southern model to be made by Triang and their first loco with 'see-through' wheels, too. Only available between '60 and '72, no-one has done one in r-t-r since. The one I have used, the Southern gloss green L1 version, was Triang's last throw of the dice for this engine and was available in '71-'72 only.

My initial problem lay in acquiring my donor model however. The three usual eBay profiteering cowboys weren't worth considering: one could sell me one for £189, and another for £159 and the third, a tender for £45. There were a few between £50 and £80, but as invasive surgery was going to be a necessary option, I was neither keen to cut up a good example nor spend a lot on something which might not succeed anyway.

In the end, I bought a ‘spares or repair’ L1 for £24.99 post free as a buy-it-now. It doesn't run and has a broken step and some damage to the footplate: none are problems as I have a couple of low-mileage XO4s which I can drop in and the broken step comes with it.

I also acquired a Bachmann N Class tender to accompany the loco [the Triang tender being incorrect and rather more LMS in outline - possibly originally manufactured for their 2P?].

This is where I started:

As you can see, a near mint loco with easily rectified damage to the step. The planned livery will be all-over black with 'Sunshine' lettering.

Work on the body has commenced. The damage to the rear of the footplate has been remedied, all of the handrails - and what maybe the long ejector pipe on the right hand side - have been removed, the broken step replaced and the buffer beam sawn off and replaced by a more-detailed white metal one.

Removing the long runs of railing and pipe work was time-consuming but not difficult [the photos earlier show the amount of plastic to be removed]. A sharp scalpel and some wet-and-dry saw to that (with no body damage to speak of). The Triang buffer beam was removed because it was hopelessly undernourished and far too shallow. Fitting a replacement (not 100% accurate, but good enough) will also result in the new buffers sitting at the correct height, so eliminating the traditional Triang problem.

It is likely now that I will use the original Triang chassis but fitting a new five-pole motor and, if possible, Romford wheels. Had the club been open and I had access to the workshop, I could have adapted the massive Triang chassis block to take a different motor and gearbox, but I have no vice at home and I have also run out of beefy hack-saw blades.


Two of the really prominent features of the LI's body are the external plumbings. I fitted those this afternoon: the short pipe entering the smoke box is made from solder, a really useful material for pipe-runs, being so malleable. I had no idea what that pipe was for but RMWeb advises that it is the feed to the exhaust steam injector. The long pipe run along the other side is the ejector pipe and I made that out of an adapted white metal GWR ejector pipe. Like the buffer beam, it is not 100% accurate as the bore is a little large [and it is also a fraction short] but it looks like what one would expect to be there. It is fitted to the boiler half-way along with a split-pin [which actually looks quite realistic].

The small hole in the running plate below the smoke box door is there to take a screw to attach the front of the chassis to the body. You can see from the photos at the beginning of this topic that the screw is unattractively prominent. I had hoped to eliminate this but the chassis adaptations referred to below mean that it has to stay - there being no other easy method of securing the chassis at that location. I have found a much smaller and less visible screw however and when painted black and hidden by a route disk, it shouldn't be too visible.

A few more bodywork jobs will follow, including drilling out holes for all of the handrails, reinstating some rivet runs with resin rivet decals, cutting out perspex side windows and fabrication some of the under-footplate pipe work.

The chassis also had some attention. In spite of what I said earlier above, swapping the wheels was a game-changer in every sense. Once the original Triang wheels had been removed, there was no going back: refitting them was simply not possible and one had to hope that the Romfords would fit. Happily, they did, although the axle holes required a little reaming to accept the bushes [which themselves required a little reaming out as well]. The wheels spin very freely. At this point I realised that I could not fit the replacement XO4 motor that I had lined up because I had no suitable replacement for the Triang plastic gear cog. I wasn't able to pull the worm off the XO4 either, to fit a larger one, and so a complete re-motoring/re-gearing was the only option. This took a long time but everything fits at last. A great deal of metal work was cut away from the Triang chassis so that I could install an Anchoridge five-pole DS10 motor with its integral gearbox. Luckily, I had just one gear cog that would engage with the worm and it spins nicely. I'll put some electricity through it soon, but I'm not antiicipating any problems.

I have also decided that the remaining boiler-side detail was too two-dimensional and have ordered some turned and lost-wax brass snifter valves and clack valves from Markits. They should make a lot of difference.

I have also ordered a lettering sheet for the build. It’s Methfix though and so this will be new for me [I'm used to Pressfix].


A couple of little jobs done to progress the project: Clack and Snifting valves removed from each side, together with associated pipework [arduous], injector pipes and overflow installed under footplate and the long run of pipework for the vacuum pipe attached under the length of the right-hand running plate [made of 1mm solder]. The last item will barely be visible when the body has been painted black, so I might pick it out very lightly in a sort of blackish rusty silver.

Incidentally, 1mm solder is absolutely ideal for pipe-runs which wander here and there. Being so malleable, it can be formed to match just about any profile - just gently press it into place and add glue.

One of the other highly visible features of the L1 are the large sandboxes. These are not modelled on the Triang model although, oddly, their covers do appear on the running plate - you can see them in the photo, above. The forward cover is not quite in the right place however and so will not match up with its sandbox, which has to be placed closer to the rear of the step. I filed these up out of pieces of white metal and plastic card this morning.

They look a little irregular, but better for primer. When painted black and placed under the running plate they should look alright.

They are, actually, just a little undersize, but they'll have to do!


I have removed the long white-metal ejector pipe I fitted the other day as it really was too over-scale and was beginning to annoy me. I have replaced it with a finer steel rod and am more comfortable with it now. The sand boxes have been fitted but fitting their discharge pipes will be the very last part of the build. All of the separate handrails have been fitted, as has a small smoke-box door handle. The clack valve is a push fit at this stage, for photographic purposes only. I did not use the brass snifting valves either as they were not of the correct profile. I have filed up some white metal ones to use in their place [filed up from a white metal LNER safety valve!].

Work has commenced on the tender also and the imitation coal load has been cut out. I'll make a box from plastic card in due course for real coal to be inserted.

That's it for the time being!

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Neat work that will improve it significantly. Were you not tempted to cut out the boiler 'skirt' ahead of the splasher? The reduced
profile of the replacement motor and gear set will not intrude nearly as much as the XO4, and the model will jump up another
notch. Dare I ask if you have seen any suitable brake hangers and shoes? That was a difficult improvement to the old chassis
blocks in Mazak, I used to prefer the screw assembled steel frame chassis as easier to drill mounting holes!

(The thought of someone asking much the same money for the L1 as for the announced Rails/Dapol Wainwright D 4-4-0! I should
hope that model will 'reduce expectations'. Only the prettiest 4-4-0 to run in the UK)
Yes, I did consider cutting away the webbing from in front of the splashers several times. I was looking for a quick and easy project though, before embarking on my next loco kit build, having spent the best part of five months making this damn thing:

It was a constant battle and I probably used no more than 65-70% of the original kit in constructing it. I like white-metal though. Even so, I nearly binned the Hall several times and had to take a month off to gather my thoughts! For any who are interested, here is a link to the Hall build:

You'll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page [not far, though].

So the LI as a pleasant, not finescale but completely worthwhile stop-gap. And a lot of fun. I do intend fitting brake hangers but have not worked out where they'll come from yet: probably scavenged from the bits box.

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SR pattern lamp irons / route indicator holders fitted. These are brass etches from Mainly Trains. I normally make my own from brass strip but I thought some 'proper' ones would be nice here. I'm a little disappointed by their size however, definitely over scale and a little coarse. The smoke box side irons required a lot of filing to fit in the correct position, too.

After a flash of primer and then the top coat, they do not now look too bad. I have also reinstated the cab-side rivets and added vertical handrails to the cab.

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A lot of small jobs have been undertaken: the cab windows have been glazed, the clack valves fitted on both sides, the buffer beam painted and buffers, coupling hook and the small hook which holds the coupling up from the track fitted, buffer beam pipes fitted, the backhead painted and installed and the whistle painted and safety valves fitted.

I also spent quite a while dealing with the 'sit' of the body on the chassis: any drastic surgery is bound to affect this but, at last, the body sits horizontally.

Crew have also been ordered from Modelu. Body photos will follow in due course.

The tender has also received a lot of attention. The chassis required some repair as the lower parts of the brake hangers were missing and, consequently, it was not possible to fit the rigging. The missing parts were fabricated from 1mm square strip, laminated for strength and then drilled. The dummy coal load was removed a while back but a plastic card box has been fitted to hold real coal in due course. A brake stanchion was also missing and a white metal replacement has been fitted.

The tender body and chassis have since been sprayed black and one side has been lettered.

Quite a bit still to do!

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Looking great, Tony. Yours has well and truly overtaken mine. I like the extra details you have added - I have done some, but others like lamp irons are still to come.
Thanks SRMan - appreciated.

Little time to do anything today although I did finish lettering and numbering the tender, painting the buffer-beam and attaching some sprung buffers. Coal, couplings and a vacuum pipe await fitting.

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I haven't actually had a great deal of time for this project recently although number of small jobs have been finished off: there's not a lot more to do now.

The tender has been coaled and is now complete and I have found some white-metal brake assemblies for the chassis - luckily they fit nicely against the drivers [more-or-less]. The front buffer beam has been numbered [at last] and came out acceptably. I was concerned that the small hook for holding up the coupling and the over-scale rivets might get in the way , but not so. You'll see that buffers, dummy coupling, buffer-beam piping and route indicators have been fitted, also.

I think that the number should be a little more to the right, but that wasn't possible. Now, what definitely hasn't worked has been the fitting of the crew. The two that I bought did not fit as their postures were wrong [my fault]. They have since been put into Talgarth Hall and are an improvement. The the two from the Hall were then placed onto the L1 fall plate but look absolutely awful there They are just too stiff but the real problem lies in the cab floor rather than the figures. Because the chassis extends far back into the cab, standing crew can only be placed on the extremity of the fall plate that I made. The cab floor is also a good scale 2ft too high at least [again, a chassis issue], which means that the crew have to stand unrealistically together in the middle and far too close to the roof. It just doesn't work. I have since removed them and the loco will run sans crew.

Awful, eh? Anyway, they've gone and I'll find another use for them.

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Tony, you could reduce the crew's heights by using HO figures. They would still look the part but would disguise the overheight floor a bit.
I did consider those SRMan, but have none to hand. I think however that they may still be a little high for the over-scale footplate. Their heads would tower above the cab windows when placed inside. Legs could be shortened, of course, but the open nature of the cab [even when close-coupled to the tender] would make them look a bit ridiculous.

This [poor] photo shows when they should sit, the photo above [my earlier post] shows where they did.....

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This enjoyable build is very nearly finished now, with just some cosmetic issues to address and pipes to be formed and added to the sandboxes.

Nothing ever runs to plan however and, at the 11th. hour, a number of gremlins crept into play. First, an electrical fault preventing the loco from running. Power to the terminals and the motor ran: power to the wheels and it didn't. So an hour or two fiddling around with the pickups and the fall plate got that sorted. Then I found that my patiently constructed sandboxes fouled the con rods and the chassis could not be fitted to the body. Having never fitted the con rods in 'dry run' mode, that came as a surprise. New sandboxes were constructed out of laminates of plastic card and glued in place. All good now.

The front bogie has had late attention with 3mm cut off the front to remove the hideous Triang guard rails and the obtrusive mountings for the Triang coupling. White-metal guard rails have been fitted in place and finer profile wheels substituted for the original cheese-cutters. The drivers have been painted and fitted and are driven by the original Triang rods, but those are secured with much neater, and smaller, bolts. Brake hangers have also been glued to the sides of the chassis. Overall, I'm really happy with this conversion.

I'm still in two minds about crew however. I have found some smaller white-metal [or maybe pewter] chaps and may well paint them up for service. The tender has also received the final details it required, together with coal. I have tried to model the coal showing it with a dip at the front where it's beginning to drop forward from use.

Some photos to update:

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Woohoo! That's a very major improvement all around, shows want can be done when the 'bones' of the model are good.

Just one question, is the front end a tad high, or is that optical distortion?
No, happily an illusion! I did actually have problems with the 'sit' of the body earlier during the build but it's all pretty level now. It is, perhaps, exaggerated by the fact that the smoke box is a little overscale, too.

Also exaggerated by the amount of daylight between the footplate and the front bogie. Easily fixed if Anthony's track allows for finer clearances.
And now completed. A pleasant and worthwhile project.

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Beautiful, Tony. I hope mine turns out even half as nicely as yours has.
Thanks for that comment.

Just for completeness, since the above photos were taken, the model has been dismantled to allow the chassis to be further modified to accept a Portescap motor and gearbox. It now runs more quietly and as originally intended. Fitting the Portescap was not easy as it was one of the older versions with the larger gearbox: a lot of metal needed removing!

Deserves the more refined drive you have now installed. The general use of at least two stage spur gear reduction drive trains in current RTR is I feel not as much appreciated as it might be. This was one of the 'secret' elements in better kit built models, that enabled smoother starts and stops and quieter operation: and now it is just 'thrown in' as part of the RTR package. The small incremental risk of a split spur gear, simply by reason of more of them in the mechanism is to my mind a worthwhile trade off for the gain in running refinement. (My advice. Run the RTR model for about 12hrs as early as possible after purchase to reveal any infant mortality, from this and other causes. If something fails and you are back to the retailer within a week, there's no argument over 'replace please', because it broke 'out of the box'.)

Back to the buffed up L1. The coal is very good, the shaping to show that the fireman has begun to draw down the front of the bunker, and the dangerous overspill of it on the rear deck for one of the crew to loose footing while attempting to drag the bag around. I have heard some interesting views from footplate crew about which was the better place when watering, on the stopcock wheel (trad. driver's role) where the glands might well be leaking badly, and water could shower down on you unpredicatably from leaks various; but then again in winter there might be a fire devil and a bit more shelter, and if you slipped and fell the ground was under your feet.

If we ever have shows again... Have this significantly updated L1 running on an exhibition layout, and use a clicker counter to record how many people ask versions of 'I really want one of those/where did you buy that/what make is that?'. You'll probably get a sore finger.
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Thank you for the kind comments. Regarding the coal load, I have never seen it modelled like that before but it seemed to me that that's what would have happened to the load after a score of busy miles. You are the only one who has noticed it! But that's not a worry!

I have done something similar with a couple of locomotives in my collection, but I still have far too many steam locos with moulded plastic coal loads. One observation I made from checking photos and videos was that M7 0-4-4T locos often started off with a full coal load in the bunker, with several more lumps of coal on the cab roof.
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