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Model SMR Tank Loco Detailing

Southern Rail SMR 10 class Locomotive in HO scale

In 2016 Southern Rail Models announced production of a Ready-To-Run model of the iconic South Maitland Railways 10 class 2-8-2 mineral tank locomotive in HO scale.
Pre-production samples arrived in 2016, and following refinements and corrections, painted samples were displayed by SRM from June 2017.

The first production models arrived in October 2017 and by late November the full range was released for sale. Twelve variations and ten distinct liveries were available in this run.

First Run Production Model

unmodified Southern Rail SMR 24

Southern Rail Models, South Maitland Railways 10 class HO scale, production model pictured:
SMR 1009 - #24 - Rivet 1 - Double cab roof - Original bunker - Plain Black - Small "SMR PTY LTD" - Circa 1970-1978;
The model was delivered late November 2017. Here is a photo of the model straight out of the box, without modification, and yet to be fitted with supplied air hoses and tailrods.

Click on outlined pictures to view full size versions

Southern Rail 10 class unpacked Packaging and what's in the box

The model comes securely boxed and packed in a clear plastic cradle with foam surrounds, and includes a packet of detail components, a comprehensive illustrated instruction book, exploded parts diagram, and warranty card. The packaging is very well thought out, and the clear plastic cradle on its own provides a convenient means of storing, handling and transporting the locomotive when off a layout.

The instruction book clearly explains how to operate and maintain the locomotive, and how to open it up to access the supplied DCC decoder. Default mappings and decoder functions are listed. The booklet is nicely illustrated, and includes a brief history of prototype SMR 10 class locomotives.

Examination and initial test

After reading the instruction book I examined the model to check its specs, and look for anything that might need attention before running. The blackened wheels are NMRA standard RP-25/110, and there is sprung suspension built into both the pony trucks and driving mech. Electrical pickup appears to be fitted to the driving wheels only. Couplers are Kadee 156 long shank scale-head whisker types. A check on scales found the total weight to be 308 grams, which ought to give the loco good traction.

I gave No.24 a quick test run on a DC layout with standard Peco Code 100 track and electrofrog points, and found no problem running on curves as tight as 18 inch radius. The locomotive has ample pulling power, the mech is smooth and quiet, and it responds nicely to throttle adjustments.

Rear Coupler

I did discover an issue with the rear coupler height, which was hanging a little low, and certainly outside Kadee tolerances. After much scrutiny of the locomotive chassis and coupler box, I couldn't find the cause, as the loco was sitting level at the correct height both ends (buffer height above rail) so the problem appears to lie in the coupler draft box. I removed the Kadee 156 coupler, checked it against another coupler (OK) then bent its shank upwards slightly. This corrected both the coupler centreline height, and the trip pin clearance, and I've had no further problem with it.

Appearance, Finish and Decoration

Southern Rail have researched the prototype well, and produced a model that faithfully represents the SMR 10 class. Details applicable to particular locomotives have been reproduced, including side-tank rivet patterns and smokebox door variations. Everything looks correctly proportioned and there are no stand-out errors. The models are decorated in a satin finish with crisp numbering, lettering and linework.

No.24 rear view No.24 right side front Upon close inspection I think the shape of the coal bunker is not quite correct, with the top curving a little too sharply, giving a slightly high, pointed appearance. From most angles the error is barely noticeable and I don't think it detracts unduly from the overall look of the model. The chimney is the right shape but a join running around the base is rather noticeable, though with a little care this gap could be filled. A really nice feature of the chimney is the flared throat that presents a fine lip around the top - other Ready-To-Run steam loco manufacturers take note!

For whatever reason, Southern Rail have chosen to decorate No.24 with a silver rear marker light, which I decided to paint over in black. I reckon the signal-red buffer beams are too bright, but they could easily be repainted or dulled with a good weathering job.

The side tank tops are rather plain and lack detail - more on that, later...

Now we get down to some nit-picking. Southern Rail advertised No.24 as having "valve beside dome". This refers to the air pump governor that was positioned on the top of the right side tank. The model has been produced with the governor in the forward position, next to the smokebox, which was a late modification that is not correct for No.24 in this livery and condition. I wouldn't normally give a rat's about such a petty little error, but since I know it's there, I'm going to have to fix it!

The fireman on No.24 came with torn overalls that required patching with blue paint. The driver appears to be bare-footed, and after the next shift I will send him to a shoe shop in Maitland to get the right gear.

Overall, the model model is very nicely detailed and finished, it runs well, and I can thoroughly recommend it.

Super Detailing

tank top detail Top of the Side Tanks

Tops of the side tanks are rather bare, and apart from a row of rivets along the edge, lack detail. Having looked at some photos of 10 class in service, I noted that there were rectangular plates and lifting eyes riveted to the tank tops. While I don't see these as important omissions, anything to break up the bare surfaces should be an improvement. Also noted that the right side tank was often used to conveniently rest fire irons, and that's something I'll add later.

In the photo here, No.24's driver waits patiently while some plates are welded to the tanks. These plates would also assist drilling a hole to mount the repositioned air compressor governor.

No.24 has lost her quirky, silver rear marker lamp, and a little Matt Black paint down the throat of the chimney helps reduce unwanted reflections there.

buffer beam detail Buffer Beam and Draft Box

Southern Rail have supplied the model with Kadee scale-head couplers in a draft box that mounts flush with the face of the buffer beams. This provides a neat, reliable set-up that also allows modellers to easily change coupler arrangements to suit their individual needs. The models have an unpainted coupler box, with no attempt to blend the box into the red buffer beam.

For my 10 class, I wish to model the period from mid 1970's when the locos were fitted with buffers, knuckle couplers and transition links, which allowed their use on both auto-coupled Government wagons and Private "non-air" coal hoppers with hooks. When fitted with knuckle couplers, SMR 10 class locomotives had some heavy, angled ribbing welded to the buffer beam to support and strengthen the drawgear.

I added this ribbing and a narrow draft box extension to the model using Evergreen styrene shapes (angle and channel) as per the drawing shown here, which helps disguise the coupler box, and blend it to the buffer beam. I also added single sided (half-width) coupler lift bars as fitted to several SMR tanks in the 1970's. Note, Southern Rail supplies some of their models with the later, double-sided (full width) coupler lift bars.

front end detail - before & after Front-end detail and other add-ons

I carefully lifted the air pump governor from the smokebox side, turned it over, remounted it in its rightful position beside the dome, and added a little detail to its top. The old pipe was shortened to fit, and a new pipe to the air compressor fashioned from 0.015" wire.

Coupler draft box extensions were built as per plan, as were half-width coupler lift bars, using some leftover parts from an old kit. The buffer beam was darkened slightly with a paint wash, as was the small SMR lettering on the tank sides, then the supplied air hoses and tailrods were fitted.

Gap in the chimney base has been filled and painted, and No.24 is now looking almost ready for service. 'Before' and 'After' shots at right. See how much better the tank tops look with some detail?

Next comes the all-important weathering job... watch this space!

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