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Old 02-10-2016, 04:29 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Thumbs up Aster Chapelon Nord Pacific Revisited

Some time ago, I commented upon how I admire the Chapelon Nord Pacific locomotive for its livery and overall good looks, while being mindful that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To some, this Chocolat compound locomotive may seem quite ugly - but not to me. ;-)

In addition to visual appeal, there are the innovative aspects of the prototype design, the compounding, the alternate steam path 'simple' starting circuit, Lenz-Dabeg poppet valves, Kylchap exhaust among other things. Chapelon's designs occasionally achieved a 12 % efficiency!

I recognize that there are steam locomotive enthusiasts who may swoon over an air-smoothed boiler casing and the stream-lined appearance; I generally favor the opportunity to admire piping, conduits, valves, pumps, oilers, injectors and anything that is cast, forged or machined and bolted on.

I asked a few people to be on the look-out for me and not long after putting the word out, Andrew Pullen found a very lightly steamed . . . or perhaps even unsteamed model for me, factory built and in overall near-mint condition.

I hadn't been around the hobby for very long when I first saw this model as a highly detailed model . . . and so what to me seemed like a finely detailed model, is by today's standards only moderately detailed.

Let's start by looking at the tender. . .

I have taken quite a lot of photographs of the projects I work on, but for some reason, I neglected to take a "before" picture of my tender and so I borrowed the above photo from The Swiss Rail Collector.

The area of focus for me are these things:

The front of the tender has no detailing and research shows that it would not have been brown even when the sides and rear were brown.

The coal hopper cowling likewise would not have been brown.

Does anyone suppose that the stanchions on the tender deck were made of machined brass and that the handrails were made of polished stainless steel?

Context always matters.

This model was designed and built in 1988 and the approach back them must not have had rivet counters in mind the way we have since seen, not only from Aster, but from Accucraft, Bowande and others in the 21st century. So, I am in no way meaning to disparage a model that was produced in 1988 . . . and a beautiful model in its own right at that. If the Chapelon Pacific were produced today by Aster, it would be detailed more like a 241P and the price would be "up there" as well.

Like many of you, I have fun tinkering and adding detail.

Here we go!

What you see above is, among other things, an indication of a level of detail increase from 1988 to 1991. I am assuming the sponsor of the 1991 model may have said :"spare no expense to increase the authenticity," or some such.

After taking the model apart, I decided not to paint the stanchions or the railings as I wanted a better look than I believed paint would provide.

What I ended up doing is blackening the brass stanchions with Birchwood Casey Brass Black. That took care of half the problem, but how does one blacken stainless steel?

After some research which uncovered costly, messy and dangerous methods, methods that may be akin to a chemotherapy treatment, I found a couple of posts by a fellow in Croatia who recommended a simple approach that works very well when you can remove or otherwise isolate the piece.

Coat the stainless steel in an organic oil. I used Tuscan olive oil! I believe the brand was Lucini.

Then heat the metal until it glows bright orange and let it cool naturally. I repeated the process several times until I got just the patina I wanted. Done.

The coal cowling looks like it may belong on a tin-type model, so that came next:

What about the front of the tender?

At the beginning of the process, the front was all brown. What you see above is a work in progress. I am currently thinking that the front should be entirely black.

I am also thinking that all or or half of the tender deck may be black as well?

Simon and perhaps others may be able to add some input.

Here are some photos which have influenced what I am doing:

This one from the museum in Mulhouse . . .

It is obvious that the coal cowling is black and there are rear doors and support rods with ball-ends on the outer hatch covers, but not much else is obvious.

And these two from a site called La Caverne du Rail of a model by Magrou (2012.)

I won't admit to how much time I spent researching this stuff.

More to follow, of course . . .



Last edited by StackTalk; 02-10-2016 at 06:49 PM.
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Old 02-11-2016, 08:54 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I applaud all your research and, of course, Chapelon was a true great in locomotive engineering. Keep putting that lipstick on.....That shade of brown, however, doesn't help your effort....too bad your research doesn't allow for you to completely recover the engine in black...might be an improvement...but perhaps Simon can find a picture somewhere that shows that....Naturally, it's your engine and if you painted it black who would criticize you here in the U.S...Now, if you go to France with her.....)

I'm glad you finally found one and good luck with your effort!

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Old 02-11-2016, 09:39 AM   #3 (permalink)
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What's wrong with a little chocolate, Sam?

Sometime after nationalization in 1938 when Chemins de fer du Nord became part of SNCF, Chapelon Pacifics may have been painted black and then they were painted green.

Here is 231 E22 in green as modeled by Fulgurex (Gauge 1 electric.)

Green SNCF Pacific ex Chapelon Nord

Some were painted gray for the Orient Express.

MTH - RailKing had them available in all colors at one time.

I dare not say more because I am sure to be making misstatements despite my good intentions . . . and I will stand to be corrected by someone who actually knows something.

Thanks for stopping by,

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Old 02-11-2016, 12:11 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Hi fellows: Here is more info on this. Be quite sure that my good friend JVR who vetted the design of this model for the Count was not a rivet counter, as a matter of fact he was convinced that, out in the garden, shelfqueen level of detailing is absurd. And as I said in another post somewhere here he took pride in the fact that his design of the Big Boy contained only 500 parts; where that of the Allegheny which he had no part in contained 700, now see the price difference...
So this model seems quite crude, it actually is quite accurate. As detailed photos found in books would reveal. Who is going to see the front end of the tender while running? With the roof extension it is practically impossible to see.
Now for answering some of the questions on the prototype. Although there were rules about painting lining and lettering on French railways, much like on PRR for that matter, there were actual differences and variations according to sheds where the locos were stationned.
First there is the Paris Orléans 3500 pacifics of 1908 which were painted in artilery gray (a rather light gray with black frame cab roof and smokebox front) then there is the Chapelon modification of same in 1929 the engine he modified , by the way was called "Chollera" by its crews owing to its extremly bad steaming before mods. these were painted in a rather darker shade of grey it seems. A very good model of this was made from an Aster by my good friend Chris Ludlow who was chairman of G1MRA, it can still be seen on the G1MRA site photo section. Making a PO version of the Aster model requires a lot more work than just painting though as the tender although of basic Nord design was different and it had the earlier eliptic coal bin which is so esthetic (see the Rivarossi model) there are domes to add, front of engine to modify, etc, etc. Then in 1934 the Nord ran some tests pitting the Chapelon against the Nord super pacific (Oh when is Aster going to turn this one out???), the Est Mountain and the PLM 2-4-1 C (the 2-4-1 P prototype of 1933) the Chapelon did better than the super, the Est mountain did about as much but broke down and the PLM did a bit better but with a much greater appetite. So the Nord ordered from the P.O 20 Chapelons, which the PO modified for them in their shops, which was a good deal for them since they were in the midst of a Pennsy type electrification of their main line. The Nord loved them so much they had private industry build a batch of them new. This is the model Aster copied, it has the rectangular coal bin and doesn't have the eliptic one. (the Nord ended up having both types). These were all painted Chocolat with yellow striping and red buffer beam (the official Nord livery for compound engines). Then the PO had another 20 made that were gray and that they kept into the SNCF era for their lines still steam hauled, they also streamlined one. This is when the Est had a few made also, these were painted black with red lining. The Est didn't like them too much except for the Troy shed, and they didn't last too longon that region. One got an incredible streamline shroud reminiscent of a killer whale. During the war most Nord engines kept their Chocolat livery as time wasn't exactly right for general overhaul. Engines that did get repainted would have been in black. After the war (officially as of 1938 but few where overhauled before 1940, they were new then!) the Nord engines were painted SNCF Green with yellow striping and red buffer beams, smokebox, frame and cab roof were painted black. Officially tender tops were painted black on the SNCF, but I wouldn't be sure that the Chapelons De Caso tender were. But Thierry Magrou being one of Frances top modelers, I would say that it is a pretty good bet he got it right. The thing that spoils the Aster Chapelon is the gaudy striping its much too thick and oftern in places were it wasn't common to see it, you can take it right of on the steps for instance, boiler striping is fine, keep it carefully, but take it of the running boards.Paint the wheel rims black. Don't do your treatment on the stailess steel wheel rims they are rim insulated! Redo finer striping if you know how to use a bow pen. If the Nord crews had a reputation of keeping their engines polished and spotless, tenders on the NORD were usually not their concearn and they were often changed from one engine to the other... Usually all grimy. However up front it was something else, often polishing the buffer heads with polish for pots and pans! Look up LM Vilains book on NORD engines and if you want 1 and a half foot by two close up photos of chapelons get: "Vapeur sur la région NORD" photo book by J H Renaud at La vie du Rail, its of the early SNCF era but it is full of stunning photos. And of course for SNCF post war times they should be green.
By the way talking about paint jobs do note that the Chapelons appeared on the NORD after 1935 at the earliest (except for the tests) so they never knew the brown golden arrow pullmans which were painted blue in 1932! A very common mistake.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Oh while I think about it, I forgot to say that the NORD tenders didn't have the levers for opening the water hatches from trackside of the 2-4-1 Ps, as you can see they insted provided a comfortable stairway to get to the top of the tender. It seems this arrangement survived right into electrification times although the NORD was electrified in 25 000 Volts AC... So that is not a detail which is missing. the end photo of Thierry Magrou's loco is a good source of superdetailing the coal boards can be added easely and the gate on the right tank side is to keep brickets piled up neatly. The fall plate could be added although I don't miss one myself. Actually out in the garden our gauge one looks like N gauge seen at table top height! But we have movement, sounds (or music in the case of compounds), natural light, good friends and a glass of rosé which the N boys don't. But keep up the good work.
By the way American steam buffs might be interested to know the Chapelons which weighed 101 tons and a grate of 4.33 square meters were as powerful as the Pennsylvania K4 weighing 140 tons and with a grate erea of 6.42 square meters. But what they saved in coal (and water ) they most likely used up in the shops although they were known as a reliable design. I like both philosophies, on the Pennsy coal was abundant and cheap but labor was not, on the NORD it was the opposit. Also the tractive effort must have been better with the K4 which had an adhesive weight of 61 tons to the PO s 57.3.

Last edited by du-bousquetaire; 02-11-2016 at 12:35 PM.
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Old 02-11-2016, 02:55 PM   #6 (permalink)
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As always, your input is an education and much appreciated. I will refer back to your comments in future.

As far as the Nord tender goes, I am leaning toward painting the upper deck black, but leaving the rounded edges of the rear portion brown as you see in the Thierry Magrou model and as also seen on the U1 tender.

MTH also modeled the deck black:

I will also paint the front all black after adding more detail. Suggestions always welcome.

If you look at the Fulgurex electric SNCF green painted version (link above) it appears as if the SNCF later added the remote operating levers as shown on the U1 tender, but not during the time of the Nord. I may take the time to make the weighted ball-end levers that were meant to hold the hatch covers open but without damaging the deck.

When it comes to adding detail to the locomotive itself, I will have more to say and to show in time.

Your comments about the lining are duly noted. I have used a bow pen back in my mechanical drafting days (on vellum,) but I am not sure my hand is steady enough to do a good job even with the crutch of a steel rule with pad under. We'll see.

Have a look here:


I remember reading, Simon, that JVR argued for reducing detail and complexity in favor of a more reasonable price and overall good performance in the garden. I also remember reading that the rivet counters often won the argument especially in later years.

It will be easy to add some of the details that are missing from the Aster model while not interfering with the overall performance.

In recent years, Aster seems to have made some very nice castings for the injector assemblies, but the injector assembly is entirely missing from the Nord model. if I can figure out how to do it, I'd like to draw a 3D model and get Shapeways to produce it just for the shear fun of doing so.

Currently, my SX-2 mill has a DRO system which I built from a Shumatech kit and with Chinese scales. But eventually, if time, health and money hold out, I would like to go CNC. One way or the other, I will have to learn which CAD program will be best for me to adopt for output to go to Shapeways or perhaps later into a CAM program for CNC.

More to follow . . .


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Old 02-11-2016, 04:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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SNCF Chapelon tender as painted green and modeled by Fulgurex:


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Old 02-12-2016, 08:15 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Hi Joe: I forgot to precise that of course the round top of the tender sides should stay brown, like on Magrou's model. I also like super detailing but have found that with all the handling and maintenance required by live steam it is better to leave some details out. But of course I have no claim to holding the truth in the matter. Now about the mechanism to open the water tank filling lids I am formal: These engines never got them! Don't be fooled by the many similiarities between a 37 cubic meter tender and a 34, 36 or 38 cubic meter tender these were all diferent and were alocated to different locos on the SNCF. Although they were all based on the De Caso design. Which, it may interest American fans to know, was just an adaptation of the Vanderbilt tender principles to the French loading gauge, meaning less height and width so a rectangular form, with rounded corners to save from rusting, permited to haul as much water as needed within the French loading gauge (somewhat between the British and the German or USA eastern RR. loading gauge). It was adopted thanks to Chapelons insistance on nearly all tenders built after the mid 1930s.
Now for the Injector. My good friend John Butler made a very accurate reproduction of that, including a mod to make the screw for the water tube into the loco much more discreet. Let me ask him if he would have a drawing of that, you are right in that this is a very important detail which is missing. I unfortunatly at the present do not know how to use autocad or other computer drawing programs so I am limited in that respect, at the present. As I can't post photos here, do read my message I sent you and send me a mail I will be able to illustrate things a bit better.
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Old 02-12-2016, 09:29 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Simon, Thank you.

I have ordered "Vapeur sur la region nord" last evening and it has already shipped so it will be something to see in a couple of days. I found copies of "Dix decennies de locomotives sur le reseau du nord: 1845-1948" but have not ordered yet. Pretty steep price! Was this work ever translated into English I wonder? Well drawings and photographs do not need translation anyway.

One thing always to be concerned about is that finding multiple and similar examples of something does not necessarily imply accuracy. There could be one accurate model to see, but then ten different and identical inaccurate examples that trace back to one poor source. So quantity does not imply quality.

The Magrou model shows the ladder on the rear of the tender to be painted brown. I doubt this can be accurate from seeing quite a number of B&W photographs of the tender in service. The preserved 3.1192 has the ladder black, but even preserved locomotives may not be painted as the locomotive was most often seen in service.

Note that the Magrou model shows a drop in the tender deck height forward on the left side or driver's side and the Aster model shows this drop on the opposite side. *shrug* In the end one must accept that a model can be authentic in appearance without achieving perfect accuracy.

Here is to me an ugly locomotive:

During their visit to France in 1938, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth proceeded from Calais to Paris in Pullman car hauled by a streamline locomotive

You may click on the link above for more photos of 231C78. Some will see only beauty.

I will be pleased to receive information on the injector assembly.


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Old 02-12-2016, 10:58 AM   #10 (permalink)
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The Vilain book is old, but he was THE reference in steam circles when steam was still around, I met him quite often and he had known Chapelon quite well and was a disciple of sorts. It is extremly usefull in that there are a lot of works drawings reproduced, and most of what he says can be verified; which isn't the case any more with most French steam authors of today. Also there are really great photos of the whole evolution of NORD steam from the early Stephenson imported engines right up to the 2-3-2 U 1, with very good photos of old NORD types long gone in the last days of steam. He also explains all the importance of the research that Du Bousquet (now you know where my code name comes from) had done by Barbier on steam passages that led to the Nord having the most efficient steam locos in the world for their size for quite some time. This research by the way had been done by most American builders at the time (just after the turn of the century) explained in detail by Frederik West for instance; but had not been done by most European designers with internal pipework and through the valves actually throtling the engine. It also explains the importance of the deep and long narrow firebox which the Nord favoured and which inspired Chapelon with his conversion of 4500 series PO pacifics into the famed 4-8-0 both PO 4700 and SNCF 2-4-1 P. In sorts the Nord pacifics were enlarged 4-6-0 with the narrow firebox so long and so heavy that they had to place a bissel truck to carry it. Notably the 2-3-1 C which you illustrate in its streamlined form.

Last edited by du-bousquetaire; 02-12-2016 at 11:04 AM. Reason: improving
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