Mark One Suburbia


Revised underframe

Revised underframe

One of the typical coaches for the British Rail era that covered commuter and suburban train stock is the British Rail Mk1 suburban coaches. There are two manufacturers in 4mm scale that produce this as ready to run, Bachmann and Replica. Both of the ranges models are a bit long in the tooth nowadays, and starting to show their age, particularly when compared against some of the newer releases like Hornby’s Gresley and Thompson suburban stock. For one of my projects there’s a good chance that both types of stock would be seen together, so rather than go the etched kit route, I decided to see what I can make of the Bachmann suburbans.

The overall appearance of the coach is good, its shape and proportions are well captured, so its a good starting point. There are two areas that stand out on this coach that would benefit most from a makeover, the chassis, and the windows.  This isn’t a finescale representation I’ve made, it just looks better for a reasonable compromise in time/effort/cost Vs. visual improvement.

The windows are taken care of using Shawplans’ laser cut versions, which are designed specifically for the Bachmann model, see the header picture and how to fit them here http://window-dressing . The seats have been painted and internal pictures added, with no smoking stickers on appropriate windows. The sharp eyed will see the green label on one pair of windows, this indicating a ladies only compartment. The underframe pictures relate to both the brake end and composite coaches as both were assembled as a batch.

This gives an immediate improvement above the solebar, so what can be done to sort its bottom out so to speak. Well, there are three options.

1/ Discard the original chassis and replace it with an etched kit and components from Comet.
2/ Discard the original chassis and replace it with a 57′ chassis robbed from a Bachmann MK1 GUV or BG
3/ Work with the original chassis and upgrade it


Masokits who’s products are only available mail order, produce the etch used here for detailing the Mark 1 coach. The same etch can be used for the suburban underframe so that’s what I’ve done. Details are here  Item 10.08 The instructions are simple annotated sketches which work well in my opinion for the whole detail kit.

I chose the easy option which is ‘3’. Replacing the chassis with Comet components will give you arguably the best result but at the greatest expense. Using a GUV/BG underframe is also expensive, but isn’t a straight swap, still requiring modification to make a suburban chassis. What you will get with the first two options is the framework of the chassis looking better. I decided that as the coaches won’t be seen at eyelevel for significant amounts of time, I could live with some of the trusses on the suburban underframe being solid, see the header pictures. The brake gear and replacement V hangers I’ve fitted draw attention away from them, and they are partly hidden by the battery boxes too.

Scrap view, Note battery box moved

Scrap view, Note battery box moved

On the brake, one battery box requires moving as they are opposite each other, the composite coach underframes are correct in their layout. All I did was to use a scalpel and score a cut between the battery box and chassis, once the battery had been removed I glued it back on opposite its partner.

The Vacuum cylinders are removed and the V hanger cut off, as well as the actuating arm for the cylinder push rod. The cylinders look a little undernourished, however keeping this simple, I retained them. Comet list white metal cast replacements in their range if you want to change them. Once they’d been cleaned up they were glued back in place and the etched V hanger glued alongside. The design of the V hanger means you don’t need to cut away any of the floor.

Modified Vac. Cylinder, 'V' hanger and Dynamo belt

Modified Vac. Cylinder, ‘V’ hanger and Dynamo belt

I’ve used dress making pins for the cross brake rods as well as the longitudinal ones. The relevant holes in each etch were drilled for clearance prior to solder assembly. You can use Superglues for this sort of work, however I prefer solder for its strength and adjustability.

Brake Pull rod assemblies

Brake Pull rod assemblies

I make the brake pull rods over length, and then cut them back, to clear the axle, once finally fixed. This allows you to give the impression the pull rods actually go into the bogie structure to perform a function.

Drilling Dynamo for electrical cables

Drilling Dynamo for electrical cables

Dynamo Electrical cable fitted

Dynamo Electrical cable fitted

The dynamo again looks a little on the small side like the vacuum cylinders, but with some careful cleaning they look ok. I’ve fixed electrical cables to them using florists wire, and the etched dynamo belt glues easily around the pulley.

Dynamo End complete

Dynamo End complete


I’ve got three more of these coaches to do to complete my set, the couplings will be masokits screw type. I’d like ideally to use sprung buffers on these models, but that’s a good bit more work and I’ve other priorities for the layout project these are headed for. If you want to change more of the components for whitemetal versions, contact Geoff at Comet, who’ll be able to help.


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4 Responses to Mark One Suburbia

  1. Phil Ramsay says:

    Little things mean a lot…….what a difference!
    Thanks mate.

  2. Great post, really useful for me since I’ve been wondering how much work to do on mine. I’m still half tempted by the GUV option

    • bawdsey says:

      Thanks James, I think if only had a couple to do I may have taken the guv route myself, but with five of them I took the easy way out. I showed them to some friends earlier and the biggest impact was the windows which received comments from everyone. At the very least include those in your ‘makeover’
      Rgds Paul

  3. geoff52 says:

    Nice work Paul,
    Charlie Petty of DC Kits sold me some truss rods, battery boxes and dynamo mouldings from his old Mk1 suburban kits when I came to improve my own coaches. He also does a simple etch for the ‘V’ hangers and other bits and pieces, A quick check on his website under ‘detailing and spares’ shows them still listed so that is another option for anyone wanting to improve their coaches.


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