Cooper-Craft 4mm loco coal wagon

by Graeme Pettit

photos by Graeme Pettit, Mikkel Kjartan and Pietro Bello

The prototype

GWR coal wagon diagram N13

The basic N13 built up and painted but less transfers, by Graeme Pettit. No modifications have been carried out to this kit other than replacing the buffers with turned brass items.

The kit represents one of 280 N13 wagons used for loco coal purposes, although note that it can also serve as a basis for conversion to the N19 and N20 types (see below).

Built from 1906 onward, the N13 diagram was a development of the earlier, 8-ton N6 design, which was later uprated to 10 tons with the addition of side and end plates.

Typically, these wagons would have been seen running from areas with loco sheds to sources of Welsh Steam Coal in South Wales. They lasted in use well into the BR period.

The kit

GWR coal wagon diagram N13

Another N13, this one with transfers from HMRS. Built by Mikkel Kjartan straight from the box. The corners have been rounded off with wet-and-dry paper.

The kit is moulded in a plastic which is easy to work with, and cuts and glues very well.

Instructions are unique to the kit, rather than a combined sheet for all Cooper-Craft kits. They comprise one sheet of A4 in landscape format with relevant assembly and historical information, and a few diagrams.

You are supplied with a decal sheet, but these do tend to yellow badly over time, and I would recommend using a different type.

The wagon was an all steel affair, so the representation of a planked floor, as supplied in the kit, is wrong. I recommend overlaying it with a thin sheet of plain plastic card, and trimming it to shape before assembly of the kit to correct this error. Buffers will be found to be very weak and flimsy, and should be replaced if the kit is to see service on a layout.

To further enhance the kit, it will need the addition of corner pieces of capping, and the creation of the swan- neck shaped operating arm, which fits between the wheels and solebars on wagons using the DCI type brake as described in the instructions. The N13s had rounded corners, while those in the kit are square. So following assembly, lightly round off the corners of the wagon.

Note that the brakes were modified in service – not easily represented without hacking the supplied units about, as all supplied are of one type, rather than the two required. But all in all, this it is a nice kit, with a few long standing faults which can be relatively easily corrected.

Conversion to diagram N19

GWR coal wagon diagram N19

A conversion of the N13 kit to a diagram N19, by Pietro Bello (less tare and running number). You can see more of this wagon and Pietro's other work in the Showcase section.

The N19 had essentially the same body as the N13, but was fitted with a DCIII underframe and GW self-contained buffers. A total of 250 of the N19s were built from 1912–1913.

You will need to fit DCIII brakes with 4 shoes, and diagonal levers. The self contained buffers are available as a pack from ABS in whitemetal. You will also need to change the door springs for rounded types for the N19.

Having done these modifications, you may find the doors too narrow (they were 5' 4" on the N19s, while the N13s were 5'). I can live with this minor inaccuracy – you may not be able to, but how you rectify it is entirely up to you – I did not consider the reward worth the extra effort.

Conversion to diagram N20

The N20 had square corners to the body as in the kit so there's one advantage of what is otherwise an error in the N13 kit! Like the N19, the N20s also had the DCIII underframe and self-contained buffers. They were built from earlier condemned vehicles during the period 1915-1916, amounting to a total of 300.

You will need to build the N19, as above, and add corner strapping (square) from plastic card, brass or similar, end re-create the rivet detail on the strapping. I do this by either purchasing pre-embossed plastic, or pressing through the back of the card with a blunted compass tip on a piece of ply. This is passable to my eyes.


Brian Huxley produced an article on GW Coal wagons in the Railway Modeller, way back in September 1980. This was very informative, and is worth finding and reading if GW Loco Coal wagon models interest you.

Otherwise, detailed info on the brake gear etc can be found in Atkins, Beard & Tourret: 'GWR Goods Wagons', Tourret Publishing 1999.

Editor's note: If you are a finescale modeller, you should be aware that there are certain issues concerning rivets etc in the Cooper-Craft N13 kit. Some time ago there was a discussion about this in the GWR Finescale Modelling forum. If you type "N13" in the search box under messages, you should be able to dig up this correspondence.