Buffer Beams and Buffers

coach buffers

This article shows how you can make buffers and buffer beams for N gauge from easily-available materials.

The method

Peco Kit

The buffer beams are made from 1 mm card. It is better to mark out the card and drill the holes before cutting to size to prevent the action of drilling breaking the beam in two. In N gauge, the buffer centres should be 12 mm apart and the hole should be 1 mm diameter. The suggestion here is to use a black-coated paper clip which provides 1 mm wire already black. Ordinary paper clips or 1 mm copper wire from cable could also be used. After the holes are drilled, cut the buffer beam to size.

Cut two straight lengths of paper clip or wire to make the shanks. Although the actual shanks will be short, use a reasonable length for ease of handling and to help with alignment. Put a drop of superglue on the ends and push into the holes in the buffer beams. Make sure the two wires are aligned before the glue sets.

To cut to consistent length, I made a gauge from 1 mm card with a 1 mm hole in it - if necessary, make the hole slightly larger so it slips over the wire easily. Place over the shank and, using the flat side of the wire-cutters flush with the gauge, cut through the wire.

The buffer faces are punched out of thin card using a rotary leather punch, set to 3 mm. Although the hole size is 3 mm, the punchings are 2 mm dia. They collect in the tube of the punch and need to be pushed out with a piece of wire. Glueing the faces to the shafts is tricky; I recommend putting the card discs on a flat surface, putting a drop of superglue on the end of the shaft and then turning the buffer beam upside down to pick up one of the discs. If necessary, use a cocktail stick or tweezers to adjust the buffer face to its correct position. Repeat for the other buffer. I should explain what I mean by "drop of superglue". I put some superglue first on a scrap piece of card and then take a blob of superglue from this to the buffer shaft.

Buffers for diesel multiple units (DMUs)

The buffer faces for DMUs are larger than those used for coaches. The two blue/grey DMUs that I have from Graham Farish (class 101 and 108 - now both old) do not show this. The buffer face diameter is larger than the width of height of the buffer beam so that the top of the face overlaps the yellow end of the DMU. I refer you to the excellent railway photography website of Martin Loader, particularly this photograph. The buffer faces were painted silver for a special event, making the overlap more visible. As this photograph is taken straight on, the image allows the size of the buffer face to be calculated using either the track gauge (4 ft 8 1/2 inches) or the distance between buffer centres as a starting basis. My calculation shows that the buffer faces should be about 3.3 mm in N scale (1:148). Fortunately, the punchings from my 2-hole paper punch are almost exactly the right size. This also has the advantage over the leather punch in that the punchings can easily be collected from the clip-on plastic tray underneath.

BR Brake Van

The existing buffer face is flattened with a sanding stick and the card punching glued onto the face with superglue. The photograph shows one end modified and the other unmodified. The larger buffer face looks more realistic.

When the glue has set, the faces can be painted. I used Revell Matt Anthracite.

Modified buffer faces at both ends


Article dated: 30/07/2020.