Tuesday, July 21, 2020

How I constructed the Car Railcar

This project has been languishing on a shelf in my workshop for a couple of years, while I tried to figure out what to do with it. I had bought the railcar on eBay but wasn't really happy with the way it had been adapted and motorised. The whole thing sat very high above the track and had a large bogie at the front. While tidying up the workshop, I took it off the shelf and started tinkering. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos at the beginning as I had no idea whether it would work out, and so we pick up the story after I had solved the problem of how to install the motor and replace the bogie so the body was now much more realistically closer to the rails.

The front wheels were supplied from an old pony truck which I picked-up in a bits-box at the Llanfair Show. At the time, I had no plan for its use but thought that one day it might come in handy.

The rear motorised wheels were mounted on the axle of a cheap gearbox motor, which can be bought from Rapid Electronics among other places.

The motor was replaced with a smaller 6v motor and attached to a bracket made from aluminium sheet ...

..... with a couple of M4 screws and nuts.

This was then attached to the rear of the car body with a couple of M2 bolts

In the meantime, you may have noticed that the car body had been given a couple of coats of Satin Black from a Halfords aerosol rattle can.

The rear wheel arches had also been shaped by drilling holes in an arc ....

.... and filing the arch smooth.

A miniature single pole two way slide switch was attached beneath the footwell .....

.... with a couple of M2 screws and nuts.

A DC power socket was wired-up and attached to a piece of 1.5mm black plasticard .....

.... which was then glued beneath the car body.

Two 14500 (AA sized) li-ion batteries with solder tags were acquired from Ecolux ......

.... and a 2S li-ion battery protection board was bought on eBay, .....

...... together with a 3 pole JST connector.

These were wired-up and strung beneath the car body using some cable ties to secure them.

A Deltang Rx60 receiver/controller was also wired into the system and connected to the motor ....

.... together with a couple of surface-mount pre-wired warm white LEDs (also from eBay), which were glued into the headlamp casings.

I followed my usual wiring set-up, though I decided to wire the LEDs directly to the on/off switch rather than through the Rx60 as I didn't feel there was any need to have the headlamps switchable. They also provide an indicator as to whether the power is on.

A brake wheel and column from Cambrian Models was used as a steering wheel, with a piece of bent copper wire in its centre to represent a hand throttle. The gearstick was a piece of plastic from my bits-box.

I checked my box of seated figures to see if I had something suitable, but none seemed to be appropriate, so I raided my box of cheap Chinese figures and found a couple which I thought could be adapted to give poses which could suit their intended location.

The female figure had her right arm excised and glued back in a position which I hoped would make her appear to be holding on to her hat.

The male figure had both arms removed......

.... and replaced with a wire armature.

Both figures then had Milliput applied to fill the gaps, give the male figure a new pair of arms and the female figure a skirt and hat.

They were then painted and glued to the front seat, ......

..... and the seat slotted back into the car to hide the Rx60.

Some luggage was printed out on the 3D printer and painted .......

The travel stickers were downloaded from the web, printed out and stuck to the cases.

The trunk was hollowed-out ........

...... so that it could be placed on the back seat and hide with motor, with the other cases wedged in to hide the fact there is no floor at the rear of the car.

The car was then finished and ready for action.

I had already given it a few test-runs on my new test track in the workshop (see How I made a test track), so I knew it would work.

I did need to weight down the front of the car with a small amount of lead under the bonnet (hood) as the front wheels had a tendency to lift off the rails when going through pointwork.

But she seems to canter along at a reasonable pace. I just need to decide whether to add some sort of sound system .... if I can find space!

I have decided that the female figure will be one of the daughters of Lord Tollemache (from Peckforton Castle) and so the car depicts the Hon Frances Tollemache using the car to return in style from one of her foreign holidays with her new beau.

This vehicle is just a little whimsy which I felt might add a bit of interest to running sessions. In my hypothetical history of the Peckforton Light Railway, Lord Tollemache is a great supporter of and benefactor to the railway and so I can argue that he and his offspring would earn the right to run their own forms of transport on the line in between timetabled services.

The car runs remarkably smoothly given it has only a cheap mechanism. It doesn't have much pulling power, but then it doesn't need to.


I have since discovered that the donor vehicle is a Sylvanian Figures Vintage Wedding car. Although no longer manufactured, it is possible to find them on eBay.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Progress Report 82


For most of the time since my last progress report, the weather has been fairly bad - cold, wet and stormy. However, there were three days when it was warm and dry and so I managed to organise a good running session which I filmed, using Bulkeley Station as the focal point.

There have been a few other developments but, because of the weather, most of these have been inside the workshop.

Lineside and Permanent Way

On those few occasions when the weather improved, I have been able to finish off a few outside jobs.

Cable operated points at Beeston Market

The points on the far side of Beeston Market Station are just about in reach, if I stretch across the tracks. However, if the siding to the cattle dock is full and/or there are wagons or coaches on the main station loop, then it can be tricky to change the points. The pointwork leading to the 'exchange siding' is used frequently during an operating session and so improving access to the point lever became an increasing priority.

As the points were just over a metre from the edge of the baseboard, I decided to use bowden cable (ie bike brake cable) which I ran beneath the baseboard from each of the two points.

The points are now a lot easier to operate at a distance.

Sound modules

After shooting and editing a couple of videos recently where I added some ambient sounds - the sound of the sawmill in operation (see Lineside business on the PLR) and the sound of cattle in a cattle wagon (see Trainspotting at Bulkeley Station) - I felt it would be more interesting for visitors to the railway to have these sounds played live. So I invested in two small, self-contained MP3 cube players for the modest sum of slightly over £5 (GBP) each.

I downloaded the sounds of a sawmill and cattle lowing from various sources on the internet, edited them in Audacity to focus on the sounds I wanted to use and then saved them as WAV files on a couple of very cheap, low capacity micro SD cards. These were inserted into the MP3 players so the amplified sounds can be played as loops.

As the rechargeable batteries in the players last only a couple of hours, I am now investigating the use of Arduino circuitry to energise them either only when the wagon is in motion (for the cattle sounds) or only when a sensor detects the nearby presence of an observer (for the sawmill sounds).


Plans are now in hand to construct a building for the Boneworks siding at Bulkeley. This will be a half-relief model based on the old Bone and Flint Mill in Stoke on Trent which is now used as a museum.

Photograph taken 15 August 2000 © Mr Brian Peach LRPS. Source Historic England Archive ref: 384358

I am considering moulding the building in concrete so it can be left outside all year round and am currently experimenting with ways of representing the brickwork. Failing that, I'll revert to my now favoured method using PVC foamboard.

Workshop Test Track

A major development in terms of tracklaying has been the creating of a test track around the inside of the workshop. This was partly prompted by the wet weather and partly by the discovery of some Playmobil plastic track which has lain unused in the loft for the past ten years.

The test track is now available whenever I want to test-run a loco or some rolling stock - and also, I can run trains even when the weather outside is not conducive.

Rolling stock

There have been a few developments with rolling stock on the line - a new pair of locomotives have joined the roster, the new railcar has received a more appropriate soundcard, some of the stock has been weathered and I have replaced the last remaining plastic hook and loop couplings on my stock with my own version made from wire.

3D diesel(s)

Having recently bought a budget 3D printer ostensibly to create 14 identical seats for my County Donegal railcar (See How I constructed a railcar from an etched brass kit - pending), I wondered whether it would be capable of printing out something more complicated and so downloaded a freebie kit for a narrow gauge diesel locomotive from the Thingiverse.com website. I also discovered that another modeller had added some enhancements to the basic kit and so I downloaded those as well. In the end, I decided to print out and construct two versions and then couple them together back-to-back in a similar manner to Australian sugar cane locomotives. For more information see How I constructed a double diesel from 3D printed parts - pending

I was very pleased with how the larger pieces turned out, though I needed to make some adjustments to the printer to improve its consistency (see How I improved my budget Anet A8 3D printer - pending)

Railcar soundcard

After constructing a CDR Railcar from a John Campbell bare bones etched brass kit (see How I constructed a railcar from an etched brass kit - pending), I installed a Dallee soundard designed for an American Galloping Goose railcar which I had bought secondhand on eBay. Although the sound quality was quite good, the sounds didn't seem quite right for a Perkins diesel powered former Irish railcar.

After watching the promo video of their latest diesel soundcard on the MyLocoSound website which indicated that one of the digitised sounds was of a Perkins diesel, which made it ideal.

I duly purchased one and installed it. The setup still needs to be tweaked a little but the sounds now seem far more appropriate.


Weathering rolling stock is one of those jobs which I often put off. I can't think why as it's not difficult and quite an enjoyable task, but there always seem to be more important things to do! A couple of wagons which I constructed a few months ago were still in need of weathering and so, with the bad weather deterring me from running trains, they made their way into the workshop to be attacked.

One of the former Newqida van modifications (see How I bashed a Newqida closed van) was tackled first, following my usual approach (see How I weather my rolling stock)

This was followed by the open wagon which I had converted from a cheap Echo Toys gondola wagon (see How bashed a couple of cheap gondola wagons into opens)


The final four items of stock have now been equipped with my versions of hook and loop couplings (see How I make my own LGB style hook and loop couplings)

I don't often run my Maddison coaches (see How I constructed coaches from Maddison kits) but they do occasionally appear on special trains. For this reason they have been languishing on a shelf in the workshop for far longer they they should. The couplings and buffers are attached to arms so they can swing round tight curves without compromising the couplings.

The R1 curves on the test track (see above) was therefore extremely useful in ensuring I had got the geometry right for the linkages and the coupling lengths - previously, the couplings were a bit too close to the coaches which meant the corners of the coaches touched when taking the curves.

The last loco to be converted to my own style of couplings was my HGLW diesel loco which potters about in the timber yard at Peckforton. I hope you will agree that its appearance has been enhanced by replacing the rather chunky LGB plastic hook and loop couplings .....

.... with my somewhat less obtrusive alternatives.

I appreciate that they are not prototypical but, because I need to do a lot of shunting on my railway, I wanted something which was reliable and also, as I have around 70 items of rolling stock, it needed to be cheap!


Running sessions

As indicated, the weather has been quite bad over recent weeks. When it hasn't been pouring with continuous rain, it has been very showery - which is bad news for trying to set up and run a garden railway. Very frustrating taking an hour to set up and then have to cover everything up again or return the stock to the storage sidings when the heavens open!

However, there was a three-day spell of very fine weather when I was able to have a full and somewhat leisurely full operating session. I decided to record the session by focusing on Bulkeley Station which has recently been revamped (see How I modified the track layout at Bulkeley). Following suggestions from fellow modellers and YouTube viewers, I replaced my usual on-screen captions with a spoken commentary. I've not quite got the relative sound levels correct, but it seems to have gone down well.

Psion-based freight management system

I am constantly tinkering with the freight management program on my old Psion computer (see How I created a portable freight management system) to improve the goods movements it creates. I was finding, for example, that the Mill Siding was receiving far more items of stock and they seemed to be remaining there longer than would be expected. I've therefore changed the weighting for these movements.

In addition, the computer occasionally ran out of system memory, which caused the program to abort. I've hopefully now cured this by moving the freight management program and its associated database on to an SSD RAM card. I need another spell of decent weather to test how successful these changes have been.

I quite enjoy the challenge of getting old tech to do a job. These days, with seemingly unlimited memory and superfast processors, it can sometimes be too easy to create apps or programs. The challenge of creating a program which uses a limited amount of memory to do a complex job adds an extra layer of complexity to a task which I relish!

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