The British Rail Universal Trolley Equipment (BRUTE) was once a common sight at every railway station. One of those things that you saw everywhere, but never paid much attention to.
My own memories of them come from when I had a paper round as a teenager. I would go down to Haywards Heath railway station each morning to find all the newspapers freshly delivered in a BRUTE, ready for us to unload. Beyond the ticket barrier, there was always dozens of them parked on the right hand side of the passageway up to the platforms, just before the bicyle racks.
The fully story of BRUTEs can be found on Wikipedia, but suffice to say that they were constructed at Swindon works and were introduced to the Western Region in 1964. They were subsequently constructed in their 1000's and distributed across the entire UK.
Modelling BRUTEs has always been a challenge because in 4mm scale, they are very small and due to their 'wire cage' construction, it has always been difficult to represent them in model form without looking overscale.
Until the advent of the Bachmann Scenecraft versions, I am not aware that any ready-made BRUTEs have been available. There are a few 3D printed versions online, but to me, none of them capture the character of a BRUTE because they are too 'chunky', being made of plastic. 7mm scale versions do look better though.
As a modeller of the early 1980's period when BRUTEs were ubiquitous, I have been on the lookout for what I consider to be a 'decent' model of a BRUTE for years. It wasn't until I was browsing the Dart Castings website that I found the Shire Scenes range which includes a rather nice, etched brass kit of a BRUTE. I duly purchased a pack.
The ShireScenes Kit
The Shire Scenes kit comes as a single etched brass sheet, with etches for three BRUTEs (I've already taken one out in the image below):
Construction is a bit fiddly, given that the models are very small.
The key is to ensure that the brass is folded squarely so that the cage forms correctly. This is a bit tricky on the ends where there are three folds at different angles, needed to make the 'bow' ends.
Probably the trickiest part is joining the different panels together. For this purpose, I used superglue and ran it down the joins. It worked, but it would be nice if there was some form of alignment tabs to attach to.
Possibly a better method of construction might be to have the entire cage etched as one piece and 'wrap' it around the chassis instead of making it an integral fold up from the floor.
Anyway, with care, it does go together and looks pretty convincing:
One thing that isn't clear is the fitting of the 'handbrake'. The diagram on the instruction sheet shows it as protruding from the top of the coupling, but I have been unable to find a photo of a prototype trolley which looked anything remotely like this. All I could find was images showing a small lever in the recess on one end with a chain going down to the coupling - a coupling release.
If one clicks on the photo at the top of this article to enlarge it, brake shoes cannot be seen on the rear fixed wheels and the front wheels are castors so couldn't have brakes. It can be clearly seen that the so-called 'handbrake' is nothing more than a coupling release.
From my 'paper round' experience pushing these trollies around, I don't ever remember them even having brakes - that's why they were frequently seen tied with rope to platform lamp posts and on windswept stations, the station staff often laid them on their sides so that the wouldn't be blown onto the track.
On consulting with my father (Paul - co-owner of this site), his comment was that his experience of BRUTES was that he was surprised that BR never had a serious accident with them, given that they were unbraked.
I'm not sure that the model kit instructions are correct. I suspect the kit information came from the same Wikipedia article that the above image did, which incorrectly describes the coupling release lever as a hand brake, despite the fact that the picture is so clear that it can be seen that it is not a hand brake.
Either way, the 'lever' supplied in the model kit doesn't reconcile with photos, so leaving it off isn't going to make it incorrect. I chose to leave them off.
Once constructed, I applied a spray primer and then BR blue - brush painting these won't cut it!
The following shows a selection of images of the completed models:
Graham Plowman (Created 11/03/2022, Modified 2/04/2022 8:42:44 PM +11:00)