Renumbering Coaches

Many modellers have probably purchased a Ready to Run (RTR) coach and thought 'if only it was numbered for my region'.

In this artical, we present a quick and easy technique for renumbering coaches. In this instance, we apply the technique to Bachmann Mark 1 coaches, but the same technique can be used on other manufacturer's coaches, locos and wagons.
Note that different manufacturers have used different methods for applying numbers over the years, and the ease of removing them can vary.

Getting Started

There are essentially two steps to renumbering a coach:

1) Removing the existing number
2) Applying the new number

Before we even start removing existing numbers, we need to undertake some research to determine what number we are going to renumber to.

You really cannot do any modelling of Mark 1 coaches without the Keith Parkin book 'British Railways Mark 1 Coaches' ISBN 0-906899-49-4.

This book is generally recognised as the 'authority' on Mark 1 coaches.
I find it a particularly useful reference for finding original region allocations and the numbering ranges allocated to each region.

I also use these two 'Platform 5' books:

My modelling period is the mid 1980's, so the 1989 book is slightly later than my period (I'd prefer a copy covering in the 1980-1984 blue/grey period), but it is still useful as a reference of 'current' depot allocations - in later years, coaches were allocated to depots as opposed to regions.
I generally use these books to find out whether a vehicle was still running and choose a number which was.
By the late 1980's, there were not many Mark I coaches left running under BR ownership.

Armed with the above references, I use the following checklist of considerations when choosing new numbers for my model:

  • Look for the number on the model in the Plaform 5 books to see if the prototype is still running
  • If not, find a vehicle of the same diagram with a similar number. The purpose of this is to determine what diagram and lot the model actually represents so that a number of the same type can be found
  • Look for a number of the same diagram or similar lot number allocated to my chosen region/depot
  • Watch the original builder: when Swindon built Mark I's, they built them with GWR-style 'shell' roof vents. The Bachmann models are not of this type, so don't choose a Swindon-built vehicle!
  • If I couldn't find the number on the model in the Platform 5 books because the vehicle has been withdrawn (often happens), I resort to the Parkin book to find out what the vehicle is and then from the reference in the back of the book, I choose a number from a vehicle of the same type.
  • Bachmann have generally chosen the first or last number in a lot, so they are fairly easy to find
  • Be aware that BR did renumber some MKI coaches by adjusting the number by 7000

This method isn't exhaustive or exact, but it ensures that I am pretty close to the correct number for a given vehicle on my chosen region and in my chosen era.

A tip worth considering is that if a number is chosen which is close to the existing number on the model, it can mean that minimal numbers need to be removed from the model - the vehicle shown in the pictures below falls into this category. The only drawback of this is that Bachmann haven't used consistent number sizes on the same models over time!

Removing the Existing Numbers

The method described here is one of a number of techniques. I use it because it is clean, tidy, easy to do and gives tidy results without having to use any products that damage the paint finish on the model.

I use a match stick which has been soaked in enamel paint thinners. I then use the match stick to scrape the existing number off. The purpose of the paint thinner is that it seems to soften the printed-on numbers and make them easier to remove. You can do it without the thinners, but you might need to scrape more and this could affect the paint finish. Fortunately, by using a matchstick, this is only likely to result in a more shiney finish.

Once the numbers have been removed, wipe the area with a tissue soaked in water:

This particular coach has already been weathered, so it is possible to see where the numbers were removed. When the new transfers are applied, this won't be visible and once more weathering is applied, it will completely disappear. My general recommendation would be to renumber before weathering.
The new number on this coach will be very similar to the original RTR number, so I have only needed to remove the region indicator and the last digit of the number. Generally, this is OK, but be careful, because Bachmann have not been consistent with their number heights or thickness of the strokes in the numbers. If in doubt, take the whole number off and re-apply with transfers.

Note how this coach has had my Knucking Coupling Fitting technique applied.

Applying Transfers

There are quite a number of suppliers of transfers, but for these particular models, I chose HMRS, in this instance, their sheet 15:

I believe that Fox Transfers have supplied complete numbers with a backing sheet which is the same colour as the coach. The downside of this is that you are confined to preset numbers and weathering afterwards is a challenge.

New transfers applied - click image to view in larger form:

And finally, back into revenue-earning service:

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Graham Plowman (9/5/2015)

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