N gauge van conversions

by Les Stone


The Great Western Railway had a vast wagon fleet; the majority were to standardised designs from the drawing office at Swindon. The exceptions, of course, were the numerous examples from the absorbed companies after the Grouping in 1923. I am concentrating on the covered vans, also known as Minks, Mogos and Fruit- and Fish Vans in Great Western speak, for this article.

Peco RTR Mink

In 'N' Gauge we are quite lucky in having the ready to run Mink from Peco (refs NR43W, NR43M, NR43E, NR43B, NRP130 and KNR43). The N Gauge Society has also produced a kit of a Mink 'C', and it is with these kits that other variants of Minks can be made.

I am also using parts from the Peco Cattle van (refs NR45W, NR45S, NR45M and KNR45) to increase the range of vans available. There is also the GWR Fruit 'D' from P&D Marsh, but that is a very expensive way to change your model fleet so I haven't included any conversions using parts from that kit.

Mink C. Image Copyright N Gauge Society.

Mink C from the N Gauge Society

By using a permutation of the ends and the sides available from these wagons, it is possible to produce a much larger range of Minks, Fruit Vans, Fish Vans and if you are modelling the right period, a meat van. I hope that you appreciate that the models resulting from this Mix'N'Match exercise aren't 100% accurate, but if we accept the coupling we use then a slight discrepancy should be tolerated.

Peco RTR Cattle Van

By the end of these pages, if you've done each example, you will have several different vans not available anywhere but our own modelling studios. Some of the conversions are quite easy and straightforward but some are more difficult. To do all of the conversions shown in this article require many donor vans, but some may be built using the parts removed and left over to do another conversion.

The following pages include tables showing the details for each diagram of van and will also serve as a ready reckoner for a shopping list for parts. The main features to keep in mind are the end- and door- styles, and the van length.


There are two ends available to us for possible conversion use and they are: The Peco Mink end with twin bonnets and low type diagonal bracing, and the Peco Cattle van, which has no vents or shutters and has the high type diagonal bracing. The end from the Peco Mink is suitable for the following diagrams: V14, V16, V18, V21, V23, V24, V26, V27, V28, V33, V34, and V36. The end from the Peco Cattle van is suitable for the diagrams S2 (ex V13 Fish van), S6 and S12 (Larger Fish vans).


The Peco Mink has the later type of vertically planked doors. These were mostly fitted to the vans with 17' 6" bodies (the Shock absorbing vans are the exception) and some of the larger Minks, Fruit and Fish vans. The N Gauge Society Mink 'C' has the earlier and narrower outside framed doors, suitable for use on the majority of the 16' bodied vans and also some Fruit and Fish vans.


To start with I used the standard Peco 10' wheel-base chassis, but as my experience grew I also used the Peco 9' wheel-base chassis where it was appropriate. There isn't actually that much of a difference in N, and certainly I haven't come across anyone who has said that X wagon should have a 9' chassis when I have put a 10' one under it. [The Peco 9' and 10' wheelbase chassis are available as kits, or ready-made under the RTR wagons. Both can be fairly easily shortened or lenghtened, Ed]. For the larger mink conversions I used the Parkside Dundas 12' wheelbase chassis that comes with the N Gauge Society's Mink 'C' kit.

Shortening the Peco RTR Mink

The Peco RTR Mink portrays the later 17'6" vans. To build any of the older (16' body) vans with the outside framed doors, the Peco body will have to be reduced in length by 3mm in our scale. This can be done when the doors, which come with the Peco van, are carefully removed and replaced with a pair of doors from the Society's Mink 'C' kit [which are narrower, Ed].

This operation sounds quite simple but is a bit more detailed than first thought. The Peco van must be cut into a kit of parts similar to the way that the Society's Mink 'C' is laid out, and should consist of two end panels and two side panels. I found that the easiest way was to completely remove the inside floor of the Peco van and cut through the corner posts at 45° with a narrow razor saw. The only snag is that a junior hacksaw blade is too thick, so if a razor saw isn't available then several light passes carefully with a scalpel is the only way to separate the van into the required parts.



The following Minks can be made from the conversions described below:

Diagram number Body length Chassis wheelbase Type of brake Door type
(and source)
End panel type
(and source)
V14 16'0" 9'0" Fitted O/S framed (Mink C) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V16 16'0" 9'0" Unfitted O/S framed (Mink C) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V18 16'0" 9'0" Fitted O/S framed (Mink C) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V21 17'6" 9'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V23 17'6" 10'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V24 17'6" 10'0" Unfitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V26 17'6" 10'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V27 16'0" 10'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V28 16'0" 10'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V33 17'6" 9'0" Unfitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V34 17'6" 10'0" Unfitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
V36 17'6" 10'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)


V14, V16 and V18

The V14, V16 and V18 diagrams had the older and shorter 16' body and were fitted with a 9' chassis. They were basically identical, bar the vacuum brakes fitted to the V16s. The method of building a model of one of these diagrams is the same as described previously in the N Gauge Journal, in that the parts required for a side are cemented to a strip of plasticard for strength and then the model is assembled as any other kit. As the doors for the Society's Mink 'C' are narrower than the later type doors on the Peco Mink, just by fitting the narrower ones will shorten the body nearer to a scale 16ft.

Basic assembly of sides (applies to several of the conversions described here)

So, we will need for a Diagram V14 Mink the following:

  • Outer side panels and Ends (better if not separate from each other in this model) from a Peco Mink
  • Doors from a Society Mink 'C'
  • Peco 9' steel chassis

The hardest thing to do is getting the body the same length as the chassis, so don't stick the panels to the backing strip until the total length of all parts together is satisfactory. You will have to do this by removing small amounts from the doorposts and doors until a satisfactory fit is obtained.

V21 and V33

The V21 and V33 diagrams were built in 1927 and 1929 respectively and had had the longer 17' 6" body but still mounted on a 9' chassis. The earlier V21 was vacuum fitted and was the first diagram of Minks to receive the vertically planked doors as modelled in the Peco van.

There is not much to do with this variant, as the body is OK straight from the box. All you have to do is increase the length of the shorter chassis to fit the longer body. By inserting a strip of plasticard across the ends where the Buffer beam should be and profiling the ends of the strips to match the solebar channel section, you should solve that little problem quickly. The Buffer beams are then cemented straight onto the plasticard strips to complete our longer 9' chassis.

V23, V24, V26 and V34

The Peco Van straight from the box is suitable for diagrams V24 and V34, and when you add the proper vacuum brake gear, i.e. Cylinders, hoses and axlebox tie rods, will become diagrams V23 and V26.

V27 and V28

The V27 (there was only one built, as a prototype) and V28 diagrams were Shock Absorbing vans and were fitted with the 16' body on the 10' chassis. The ends were slightly short of the buffer beam at each end, this allowed the body to move on impact during shunting or transit. Also there was a large spring either side of the van which were set in the channel of the solebar and reduced the crashes and bumps experienced during daily life of the van by allowing the body to slide on the chassis when stopping or starting, ideal for fragile loads.

The springs were covered by a sheet metal cover (to protect the delicate pinkies of the shunters), and are simply made by cutting a short length of single core household electrical cable and stripping the insulation from the ends. A small dab of superglue is enough to fix them in place.

Shock-absorbing spring and cover, made from cable

The most difficult part of this diagram of van is that the doors were the newer planked type so must be filed slightly at the doorposts and cornerposts to shorten the body to the required 16ft. Once the body is shorter than the chassis and shows a lip at each end, there shouldn't be any need (unless you are a rivet counter) to remove more than is necessary.


The V36 diagram was built with Plywood sides and ends during the Second World War in 1944, and is a lot more difficult to build than might seem. Basically they were the same as the Peco Mink but the sides were smooth, no planks at all. To model a van of this diagram, the plank marks in a Peco Mink must be filled with Milliput or something similar and sanded until smooth. It sounds quite straight forward but it is in fact very intricate work, and I wish any of you who are going to try one of these the best of luck.


Fish, Fruit and Mogo Vans

The following Mogos and short wheelbase Fish- and Fruit vans can be made from the conversions described below.

Diagram number Body length Chassis Type of brake Door type
(and source)
End Panel Type
S2 (Fish) 16'0" 9'0" Fitted O/S framed (Mink C) Cattle Van End (Peco)
Y4 (Fruit) 16'0" 9'0" Fitted O/S framed (Mink C) Twin Bonnet + Central Louvre (Peco Mink)
Y12 (Fruit) 16'0" 9'0" Fitted O/S framed (Mink C) Twin Bonnet + Central Louvre (Peco Mink)
G31 (Mogo) 17'6" 10'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) No Vents or bracing,
Dbl. doors + Flap
(Peco Mink)
G43 (Mogo) 17'6" 10'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) No Vents or bracing,
Dbl. doors + Flap
(Peco Mink)

S2 Fish Van

An article appeared in the N Gauge Journal (issued as a Souvenir for the 30th Anniversary Exhibition at Bletchley) by Stuart Brasier and featured a method of building an S2 Fish Van. The method used by Stuart uses fewer parts from other kits, but I will describe my way by using the parts acquired during the course of building the Minks previously described.

For this conversion you need the ends from a Peco Cattle van, the outer side panels from a Peco Mink, the doors from a Society Mink 'C', a 9' steel chassis and 4 shell vents for the roof. [See above for an illustration on how to assemble the sides.]. On the ends, the top three planks in between the uprights must be scored deeper to represent the extra ventilation fitted.

End detail of S2 (Fish Van)

Y4 Fruit Van

These vans were originally built to diagram V16 and were converted to X6 Meat Vans in 1918 by adding an insulating layer inside the vans. They only lasted a couple of years like this as by 1922 they were being converted back to ordinary V16s. Eventually somebody twigged that insulated vans could also keep things hot as well as cold, and a program of converting them to Fruit vans was begun. A central louvre and a shutter were fitted each end along with vacuum brakes and steam heating apparatus to keep Bananas in prime condition.

This conversion uses the end and outer side panels from a Peco Mink, Society Mink 'C' doors and a 9' chassis. A central louvred panel must be added to the ends but to simplify things, a hollow square of 5 or 10thou plasticard, fitted between the uprights, will portray the panel extremely well, in the shut position. The planks of the van end seen inside the hollow square will now be the planks of the shutter.

End detail of Y4 Fruit Van

Y12 Fruit Van

This diagram of Fruit Van is harder to do than the previous Y4 variant, but is only slightly different in it's construction. The only difference is that the twin bonnet type ventilators of the Peco Mink end- panel are removed carefully, and the planks scribed in their place. Once again there is the central louvred panel fitted, easily done, with the hollow square of 5 or 10 thou plasticard.

G31 Mogo Car Van

Long before the advent of bulk motor vehicle transport wagons like Cartics, Autics and the old coach underframes, there were other wagons designed specifically for the carriage of Automobiles. These were, in the names given by the Great Western Railway, the Damo, Asmo and in this particular instance, the Mogo.

The Mogos are a simple conversion of the Peco Mink from the box, as the sides are correct before we start. The end panels were fitted with two vertically planked doors, a small 2-plank fold down flap and a small ventilator in the centre, high up.

End detail of G31 and G43 (Mogo)

To do this, it is necessary to completely clean the end panel, of all details, with a file and some wet & dry paper. You next make the end-doors from 10thou-scribed plasticard and cement them on carefully. There should be a double plank drop down flap underneath the large doors and a small triangular fillet of plastic for the vent above. The drawing shows what is needed for the ends and how the scribing of the planks should look.

These vans were identical to the G31s except that the sides were constructed from Plywood; the ends were the same as the G31s in that they were planked, so the same method applies here as with the V36 diagram Minks.


Large vans

The following Large Mink, Fish and Fruit Vans can be made from the conversions described below:

Diagram number Chassis Type of brake Door type End panel type
V7 (Modernised) 12'0" Fitted O/S framed (Mink C) Twin Bonnet (Peco Mink)
S6 (Fish) 12'0" Fitted O/S framed (Mink C) Cattle Van End (Peco), doors set back (sliding)
S12 (Fish) 12'0" Fitted O/S framed (Mink C) Cattle Van End (Peco)
Y9 (Fruit C) 12'0" Fitted Planked (Peco Mink) Cattle Van End (Peco)

Modernised V7

The N Gauge Society Mink 'C' is a diagram V7. A slight alteration by using the ends from a Peco Mink (with the twin bonnet type vents) will make one of the later types of V7 after a visit to works. I don't think it is necessary for me to detail the blow by blow accounts for this van. One point to note: This and other Vacuum fitted vans had a tie-bar between the bottom of the W-irons (the W shaped plate-work that the axleboxes are mounted in) to help stiffen the chassis during braking.

S6 Fish Van

The S6 Fish Van was described in the N Gauge Journal (No. 3 1995) in an excellent article by David Tomkiss. Apart from the society's Mink C kit, all that is required are two Peco Cattle van ends and sandwich construction of the side panels, with the doors set in by approx. 20thou to represent the sliding doors of this variant [i.e. the Mink C sides need to be cut into parts and re-assembled as illustrated below, Ed]. To complete the job you will require six shell type roof vents.

Sandwich construction method for S6 and S12 Fish Vans

S12 Fish Van

The S12 type Fish van, again, needs Peco Cattle van ends but the Society Mink 'C' sides are perfect as they are, and this is probably the simplest Fish Van conversion to do. The roof also requires six shell type ventilators to top it off.

Y9 Fruit Van

The Y9 Fruit Van was also known as a Fruit 'C'. It requires vertically planked doors from the Peco Mink to be fitted to the sides of a Mink C kit. The sides must remain the same length as an ordinary Mink C. The doors, doorposts and the mitred ends must be filed gently to make them fit the standard 12' chassis as used with the Mink 'C'.

The end panels are from a Peco cattle van, and for this model a total of eight shell vents are needed. Also, to finish the model off, there were two oil lamps fitted in the centre of the roof in line with the doors and short stubs of sprue (the plastic rodding that all of the kit's parts are joined to) will portray these quite well.