Saturday, 29 February 2020

Brass Models - the foam monster


Brass models - The foam problem

A bit of a departure from my NSW modelling today, although there is a link.
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Over the years, I have been fortunate to have acquired a number of brass models.  I started with the Bergs 73 class in 1982, and continued as availability, and finances permitted.  I didn’t have a specific plan to model Wagga at that stage, but that didn’t seem to matter.  The models were fantastic



The NSW 46 class HO model was sold in the early 1980s for $450 by Bergs Hobbies.  It was made in Japan by Kumata.  At the time, $450 was a lot more expensive than other new brass Australian outline models, including steam.  This was understandable, as the other brass locos were exclusively made in Korea, with lower standard of living than Japan.  A rerun of the 46 class happened around 20 years ago – and these were all factory painted.  My understanding is that a number of 46 class locos were “discovered” in the Kumata factory, and made available for sale through Bergs Hobbies.


Many of my brass locomotives got to run on the various exhibition layouts I was involved with, but as time went on, the rigors of exhibition running, and the “clumsy oath” operators took their toll.  The brass locos were retired back into their protective boxes, where many still hibernate.

I was reminded last week that I should service a few of the locos that I have, so that got me opening boxes. 


A HO model of the Swiss Am6/6 shunting loco by Fulgurex.  This model was made by Kumata in 1982, one of 400 made at the time.  Note the foam has started to deform - and the plastic freezer bag I have wrapped the model in.
The prototype class consisted of 6 locos, numbered 18521 to 18526.
All six were built specially for heavy shunting in the Limmattal yard in Z├╝rich, although I did not see any at Zurich during my 2018 trip
Entered service in 1976 and still operating, now reclassified as series Am 861.
Weight 111 tonnes.Length over buffers 17.4 m.Power 1435 kW. Max speed 85 kph.
Builder (mechanical) Thyssen Henschel. (Thanks John B for the information)
The poor standard of the foam can be seen from this picture.  Yes, I had pressed in a finger (or two) into the foam, and it didn't bounce back.  And it tore easily


Whilst this model is NOT NSW, the loco was made by Kumata in 1982, the same factory as a number of the Bergs NSW models.  The foam is in the process of turning into a sticky powder.  On any model, this foam will cause damage, and painted model finishes can be ruined.  And if you plan to sell the model on ebay with this foam in the box, then there is a high chance that the foam will simply squash down.  Depending how vigorously the postal service shakes the box, a broken model may appear at the far end.

This foam problem is a timebomb.  All of my 73 class locos had the foam fail within 6 months of each other a few years back, and I expect that the Bergs 30T, 46, 53, and 55 locos (all 1980s Kumata made) will all soon be afflicted.    Other makers are not immune either.    To confirm this, I found my hibernating 46 class.


The foam out of the box.  Whilst not as bad as the Swiss loco, it would soon catch up.  The red mark at the bottom is where I traced the outline of the foam onto another fresh piece of foam



As there is no method to reverse the foam failure, one needs to take precautions.   I wrap all my models in plastic freezer bags, which will at least prevent the sticky foam from touching the model.  And inspect your models from time to time.  If the foam is rotten, throw it away as quickly as you can. 

What to replace the foam with? 

In the USA, REBOXX used to make replacement foam inserts for specific USA prototype models to fit specific brass boxes.  I understand that REBOXX is sadly no longer in business.   There were no similar product offerings for Australian models, although one could adapt the foam inserts from the NU-BOX (WAO Models) to go inside your brass box.  If you were able to take measurements of the bad foam before it failed, I  suspect that you could approach “Clark Rubber” who could cut a replacement from their foam supplies.  If you are cheap, or time poor, you could buy a supply of foam rubber, and cut it out yourself.  Alternately, when in doubt, wrap the model in bubblewrap.

The freshly cut foam inside the Bergs 46 class box.  The red is from the earlier marking out.  I used a very sharp ceramic knife to cut the new foam, trying to minimise any distortions.  The cutout on the LHS is for the spare screws, and hardware that came with the model  

The 46 class returned to the box in the replacement foam.  Having the plastic this way enables the model to be extracted from the foam without tugging on the loco
Now to find my 30T, 53, and 55 class boxes.

Model trains are a multifaceted hobby.  Whatever is your passion, enjoy the journey.
Until next time. 

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