Making a railway themed Weather Vane

March 20th, 2011

I usually have one or two projects on the go. Some take me a while to complete but that’s because I tend to work on things as I feel like it. Lets see, I need to finish my model railway dining table, my small steam locamotive, my talking John Steed Thunderbird puppet, designing my signal box house, my Casio PB 100 web server, my weather satellite receiver, my sand-fire garden, rebuilding my MG gearboxes and adding a low oil pressure light to Vicky.

So in light of all that I decided to start a new project – a railway themed weather vane to put up on my spare garage. Currently my house and spare garage (I have two – doesn’t everyone?) are being painted and they are looking really good. The peak of the spare garage roof is the perfect place to put a nice weather vane which should be a fun little project to build.

IMG_9737_2 Spare garage soon to be painted.

I seem to be going through a railway phase just at the moment. Reading everything I can about old British railways, locomotives, stations, etc, etc. I’ve always been a bit of a trainspotter I guess. I decided to make this weather vane with a railway flavour. I knew I needed some suitable steel and looking through my junk cupboard I found an ancient PC whose case I could cut up. It is a 486SX-25 so slightly past it’s best. The top cover of the case is nice thick steel – 1.2mm thick to be exact.

IMG_9725_2 Nice steel case.

I decided to reuse this steel to make the bulk of the weather vane. I hunted online for a suitably representative locomotive that would look good as a sillouette. In the end I decided on a LNER J83 tank loco. The Hornby model railway provided me with a nice clear side view of one so I copied the image and put it into a graphics program, turned it into a black image and printed it out. I used that image to take measurements from which I then scaled up 3x to transfer onto the steel cover.

IMG_9727_2 Outline drawn onto the cover.

I did tweak the design a little to make it clearer and easier to cut out. I just drew the design onto the steel with a Sharpie, some of it freehand, some with a ruler. The wheels I made slightly oversized. A screw jar lid made a useful template to trace around for those!

Once drawn out I drilled holes in strategic places then, using a metal cutting blade in my jig saw, I started cutting it out.

IMG_9728_1_1 Holes drilled to allow the pattern to be cut out.

It took a lot of careful cutting but eventually I removed most of the bits that aren’t locomotive.

IMG_9731_2 Shape roughly cut out.

I then started filing, grinding and cutting the edges to clean up the shape. I found that was well as using the bench grinder and hand files I was also able to use my joggler, a panelbeaters tool used for bending and punncing holes in steel for plug welding through. I used it a lot when restoring my MGB. With it I was able to nibble close to the line in some tricky spots which then minimised the amount of hand filing needed.

IMG_9732_2 Joggler tool.

After about an hour and a half of mainly hand filing the main cutout was done. I gave each side a quick once over with the random orbit sander to smooth off the rough edges.

IMG_9738_1 Finished cutout.

About now I was felling pretty pleased with myself when I suddenly realised ‘Bugger, the damn thing looks a lot like Thomas the Tank engine‘. Bah!

<trainspottervoice> Oh well, everyone is sure to realise my locomotive is based on the LNER J83 where of course Thomas was based on an LB&SCR E2. Obviously completely different locomotives! </trainspottervoice>

There is just no way I am going to paint the thing blue and red now though!

Next I need to make a direction arrow in the style of the old station Way Out signs and make the letetrs for the direction pointer. In preperation for that I used an online font sampler to print out the cardinal directions. The font is Gill Sans which is the font used by the LNER railway back in the day for all their signage. Since I am using their loco it seems fair I should also use their lettering! I will glue the letter onto the steel then cut those out.

NSEWGill Sans font for the cardinal point markers.

More updates soon.

Part two is now available here.

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3 Responses to “Making a railway themed Weather Vane”

  1. Asciimation » Blog Archives » Finishing the weather vane. Says:

    […] Part one is available here: Making a railway themed weather vane. […]

  2. Bluesea Says:

    Very clever! Great finish. Very professional.

  3. Preperations. » Austin 7 Special Says:

    […] and recently had the house and garage painted. So the outside of it is fine. I even added the nifty railway themed weathervane you see […]