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Ballast Wagons Arrive with Pack A available once again!

As you may have seen elsewhere, our first production item, the CIE ballast hopper wagon, has arrived from China!

Ballast Wagons Shunting, Photo Courtesy of Noel Enright

We have been working tirelessly to dispatch pre-orders to our customers over the past couple of weeks, a herculean task in itself!

It was a proud moment for the team to see a van loaded with cartons of wagon packs and it has truly made all the hard work worthwhile. This has been confirmed with the numerous positive comments, as well as pictures and videos of the wagons running on peoples’ layouts.

There are still a limited number of packs B and C left to order with us.

We also have freed up a limited amount of pack A thanks to swapping out for packs B and C with customers. You can order here:

Once again we would like to extend a sincere thank you to all our customers who supported us throughout this venture. It would not have been possible without you.

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Ballast wagon: the tooling process

The “tooling process” for the moulds associated with a ready-to-run railway model is a term many modellers are familiar with, but an explanation and accompanying photographs are not always provided by manufacturers. Here, we’re going to show you what’s involved, using the tooling for Irish Railway Models’ forthcoming ballast wagon as the basis.

The tools that make up each mould interlock much like a 3D jigsaw.


The tools are shaped from blocks of steel through a process called electrical discharge machining – also known as spark erosion. Every single cut, groove and rivet on the chassis is individually shaped by a copper electrode (examples can be seen in the upper part of the image below). The steel in the centre will become the female part of the chassis mould. The NEM pockets at either end can clearly be seen.


The steel is submerged in a dielectric fluid and then a robotic arm takes each electrode one by one, presses it against the steel and an electrical charge passes through it. This process leaves behind a perfect impression of the imprint on the electrode, which is expended as a result. The process must be repeated over and over again to form each component.


In the photo below, the die on the right has two channels cut into it. These are ‘gates’ which allow the molten plastic to runs into the mould when it is assembled.


The mould is then assembled by putting the components together and placing them in a rig as shown below. The holes on the sides and ends of the shape in the centre represent where the inside of the ballast hopper is, and the metal dies are built up from there. Plastic is then injected.


Here’s how the ballast wagon chassis looks when first removed from the mould, complete with sprues which will have to be removed by hand:


And here is some of the detail tooling:


The individual parts are then assembled by hand on a production line before paint and tampo printing is applied. The model is then ready to be packaged and shipped.

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Ballast hopper delivery update

As you may know, Irish Railway Models had hoped to have the production version of the ballast wagons ready for delivery in time for the MRSI’s October Bank Holiday Show. Unfortunately, this will not now be the case.

When we received the first pre-production sample of the wagon we identified a number of minor issues which needed to be rectified. This required alterations to the CAD design and subsequently the tooling for the moulds also has to be altered. This process can take weeks to complete as the factory’s engineering team has to find a new slot in their production schedule, during which they can fill in the faults in the moulds and apply the changes by conducting further spark erosion. At the same time, the paint samples we sent to the factory for colour-matching purposes took an inexplicable detour en route and only recently reached their intended destination.

To further compound the situation, production levels at factories right across China is minimal right now as workers are entitled to time off during the week of the country’s annual National Day celebrations.

As a result, it is only now that the revised pre-production sample is being readied and we have to receive and inspect this sample before we sign-off on the production run. This is a vital stage for us as we do not want to compromise on the fidelity of the model. We cannot provide an accurate timeframe for delivery until this sequence is completed; all we can say is that we are aiming for late 2016/early 2017.

While we understand that you are eager to receive your models and may be disappointed by this news, we hope you can appreciate why this delay has occurred and why we are not rushing the manufacturing process. We’re confident that the end result will be a highly accurate, detailed scale model of a distinctive Irish wagon.

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Ballast & Bubble: differences in coupling height and solutions

We’re sticklers for accuracy here at Irish Railway Models and as modellers ourselves we’re dedicated to manufacturing products which meet exact specifications. So we understand that some of you may be scratching your heads after viewing photos of the first ballast wagon pre-production sample and noticing that the NEM coupler pockets appear to be higher than they should be. We can confirm that they are too high – by 2.1mm to be exact.

However, this isn’t a design flaw. It’s intentional and the purpose is to avoid compromising the fidelity of the wagon design itself.

As you will see from viewing photos of the prototype in our gallery section, there is a horizontal crossbar associated with the braking system situated beneath the bufferbeam at one end of the wagon. If we lowered the NEM pocket height, it would interfere with this detail, meaning we would either have to incorporate an unsightly block of plastic into it to house the pocket or lowering the crossbar itself, which would also result in an unprototypical appearance.

To overcome this issue, the wagon will be supplied with tension lock couplers with a ‘swan neck’ or ‘cranked’ fittingly which will lower them to the correct height. This solution does not compromise the wagon’s fidelity and also ensures the couplings will work with stock produced by other manufacturers.

Cranked coupler fitting for Irish Railway Models ballast hopper


For customers who use Kadee couplings, the height difference can be overcome by mounting a No. 18 or No. 19 coupler directly to the underside of the NEM pocket (you’ll have to file off the IRM stamping, alas).

Kadee coupling on an Irish Railway Models ballast hopper


As the ballast hopper and cement bubble wagons share a common chassis design, this solution will also apply to our forthcoming cement bubble model.

We’re happy to report that all three ballast wagon packs are selling well. To reserve yours, head on over to our online store.


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Irish Railway Models Announce Additional Packs of CIE Ballast Wagons in 4mm Scale

Irish Railway Models (IRM), has today announced that it is to release two additional packs of CIE/Whessoe ballast wagons. This additional release will compliment the previously announced three pack of ballast wagons and will be released alongside the first run later this summer. Continue reading Irish Railway Models Announce Additional Packs of CIE Ballast Wagons in 4mm Scale

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Irish Railway Models announces first ready-to-run wagon

Irish Railway Models, a new and innovative Model Railway Company specialising in Irish outline 4mm scale products, has teamed up with David Jones of DJ Models fame to bring Irish modellers what they’ve been demanding for many years; quality freight rolling stock to compliment the excellent range of Irish outline RTR locomotives. Continue reading Irish Railway Models announces first ready-to-run wagon