PEWTER DETAIL CASTINGS FOR BACHMANN ROLLING STOCK
Manufacturer: Phoenix Model Developments, Ltd., Earls Barton, Northampton, England--Exclusive U.S.A. Distributor: Railway Garden, Ltd., 4210 Bridge Street, Cambria, CA 93428. Price: Boxcar castings kit, $8.50 each; Caboose castings kit, $8.60 each; Gondola castings kit, $10.50 each; Coach/Combine castings kit $5.00 each.
HOW DO YOU turn a twenty dollar car into a seventy dollar car for only eight and a half bucks? Add a Phoenix detail kit to a Bachmann boxcar and apply a little paint. Yes, folks, Phoenix castings really do make a difference. And we have the eagle eye of Samuel Addison Muncy of Railway Garden, Ltd. to thank for these little treasures; he discovered them and immediately sewed up the U.S. distribution rights.
Each kit contains what the manufacturer calls "an authentic, historically accurate, hand-made, scale miniature cast in white metal." By white metal Phoenix means "best quality English Pewter". The tools they suggest you use are a sharp hobby knife, fine flat and round needle files, a 2.5 mm diameter twist drill, and either CA (superglue) or "UHU" (the glue LGB packages in some of its car kits).
The knife is for cutting the parts off their sprues. The files are to clean up molding lines; flash is virtually nonexistent. The drill is for making sure all the holes in the Bachmann cars are the correct size; it is unnecessary to drill new ones. And the glue, of course, is to secure the new parts, a step Phoenix considers optional.
"Assembly" consists only of replacing Bachmann's plastic hardware with the new Phoenix metal hardware. The manufacturer suggests doing that after you paint the parts if you want to keep the car's original finish.
What do you get? Every kit contains grabirons and endsteps, brakewheels and staffs, and other associated brake hardware for the car's superstructure such as rachet/pawl castings and retainer brackets. (Nothing is included to detail the underframe.)
The boxcar kit also contains new hardware for the door, right down to the padlocks. The gondola kit has a new end platform for the brakewheel and staff along with the other necessary replacement brake hardware; also a pair of beautiful coupler pockets. The caboose kit comes with a full array of curved and angled grabs for the body and cupola, new railings for the end platforms, and a very nice pair of lanterns (solid, unfortunately)--a vast improvement over Bachmann's stock plastic pieces. The coach/combine kit has end platform rails, brakewheels, and chain but, for some reason, nothing to replace the grabs on the body of the car. You could bend .060 brass wire for the body grabs.
Are Phoenix' castings really finescale, absolutely precise, and historically accurate? No. Nearly every piece is too thick or slightly oversize and some lack absolute prototype fidelity.
So does that mean we should dismiss them? Most emphatically no. Nein. Au contraire. Quite the opposite. (I hope I have been clear on that point.) As the first paragraph says, Phoenix' products make a very big difference to the appearance of Bachmann cars. In fact, no self-respecting, compulsive detailer's Bachmann rolling stock should be without them. And with a new paint job, appropriate lettering, a shot of Dullcote, and maybe some weathering, it would be hard to determine the heritage of the model For that matter, it might be hard to tell whether the model were mass-produced or scratchbuilt.--RR