This build will prove interesting, on a couple of counts. First, it's my first ScaleSeven loco commission. Second, it's a "Small Prairie", but not quite as we know it. Back in the early 1900s, George Jackson Churchward, chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway, was looking to modernise the company's locomotive fleet. He had designed and had built prototypes of a 4-6-0 express passenger type, a 2-8-0 heavy goods type, and a 2-6-2 tank type as a "maid of all work". All three were a somewhat radical departure from the fussy Victorian period designs, and were to set the pattern for the Great Western "look" for the next half century or so. While these locos were under test - it was usual to build one new design and test it extensively over a couple of years - Churchward decided there was a need for a smaller 2-6-2T to replace the venerable and various species of 0-4-2 and 0-6-0 tank engines that were plying their trade in the further reaches of the West of England. Number 115 appeared from Swindon Works at the end of 1904. Within a year a further ten examples were built - among the last locomotives to be built by the GWR Wolverhampton works. Initially numbered in the 3100 series, the locos had a new standard coned boiler, outside cylinders and 4ft 1-1/2in coupled wheels. Although the tank and bunker capacities were somewhat limited, these little branch engines proved their worth. Eventually, they would be modified with larger bunkers and extended smokeboxes and assumed the more familiar GWR family outline. They ended their days renumbered as the 4400 class. So successful was this class, a slightly larger variant, the 4500 class, was developed from it, but that's another story. This commission build is to create the earliest form of the 3100 class, using the Malcolm Mitchell kit as a starting point. The kit does actually provide the parts for the early type, so it ought not be that difficult. Where there is a difficulty is the small class of eleven spent their entire lives in the darkest corners of the West of England, and consequently didn't find themselves in front of photographers very often. I've managed, with some assistance for which I am very grateful, to gather some photos and drawings of these machines, sufficient I hope to be able to build a fairly accurate representation. I've been helped by the client, who had acquired the kit some years ago, before the Mitchell range was acquired by Just Like The Real Thing. Over the years, detail parts, replacement parts, sets of wheels (reprofiled to S7), were all acquired and squirrelled away in the box. I am having a bit of a job deciding on the best parts, where there are multiple versions available to me! Research material. Most of the 4400 class were rebuilt to their final form by the mid-1920s, so finding good clear photos of them in their original form is quite the challenge. Across various publications, and not counting duplicates, I think I have six fair images that show enough detail to be useful. Happily, Les Golledge (@Les Golledge) was kind enough to let me copy various useful drawings he has in his possession. Most of these are of the slightly bigger 4500 class, but there are enough similarities to help build the smaller loco. I will spend a happy hour or so later with coloured pencils identifying various components and shading them in to make it easier for me to follow the drawing. I also find it a helpful way to familiarise myself with the shape and relative size of various components. Lots of bits that have been added to the box over the years. I had a custom numberplate for 3107, the chosen loco, by Narrow Planet. Others have said it, but I will say here anyway, what a helpful bunch of people they are. I'm sourcing plates for another build already on the bench, and Stephen at NP has been immensely helpful. I appear to have alternative sets of tank fillers, castings for boiler fittings that are really for later versions, and generally plenty to choose from. Premier Components milled rods - and a baggy with what looks like more - cast hornguides, detail packs from the original kit, plus extra detail parts from the JLTRT range. The latter includes cast parts for the pony trucks, cylinder details and frames. The nickel silver etches cover the frames and motion parts. I can identify some cosmetic parts for the inside valve motion. Although most of it is hidden behind the tanks, the front end can be seen. There's some nice complicated jiggery-pokery that gets the valve operation from inside to outside the frames. That'll be fun, as will the possibility of making a working vacuum pump… The brass etches cover the bodywork. You will note the upper etch has the more familiar bunker outline, with the bustle. The lower etch has alternative parts covering the earlier variants. I shall be aiming to build the earliest one, with only a flared top. When I first took delivery of the box, and peeped inside, it looked scary. So many parts, so many tubs and boxes! Looking at the parts laid out like this in broad daylight, it doesn't seem such a daunting prospect. I might actually enjoy this build - for a time, at least! My first job will be to go over the etches and the instructions, and mark on the former part numbers if they're not already clear. Then a spot of colouring in! Kettle's on, time for a strong coffee!