Building the harbour branch railcar no. 100

the railcar descends to the harbour

The plans to re-instate the summer passenger service on the Harbour Branch for the 1928 season, presented the Harbour Authority with a number of problems. The removal of the run round passenger facilities both at County Gate and the harbour meant that another solution had to be found. The six original coaches belonging to the Authority had been in storage since 1914. Two were modified to include a driving cab which was added to the coach by extending the frames.

As progress began to replace much of the main line service with diesel railcars, the Harbour Authority decided to replace steam operation with a power car. The power car was again built locally and employed two Gardner engines with mechanical drive to the wheels. A complicated air control system was installed between the cabs and the power car. Unlike its main line equivalents, articulated bogies were not employed. This turned out to be fortuitous as the power car remained troublesome throughout its life and a steam replacement had to stand in on many occasions.

The railcar became very popular during the summer as the branch had now become famous for its spectacular views.


A few of our coach etches had become slightly damaged when sent to customers and had been returned for replacement. This was actually the start of this project as it seemed such a shame to do nothing with them. I was also keen to provide trains which were more visually different for exhibition use. What better than this for the harbour shuttle service? As the trains enter the tunnel more or less at right angles to the public viewing angle, this time the lighting will be working, as our chips allow for this facility. We are using dual colour 3mm LEDs from DCC supplies.

The coaches were built from two damaged frets for L&B coaches SR2473/2474 and one fret of SR2469/2472

the driving cab

The power car, also made from 'bits'. The vents are made by soldering brass rod on the inside. - click on image to enlarge

the Lifelike chassis ready for installation. The plastic bogie sides have been removed to allow for sufficient movement within the body. - click on image to enlarge

completed railcar set - click on image to enlarge

Well, the build was fast enough but we did have problems getting the lights to work. The lights are switched on using function 0 on DCC. The instructions suggested that the resistor be fitted to the common blue anode wire from the chip. However, when the white light at one end was connected to the red at the other, only the red lights worked. By trial and error, I discovered that by adding additional resistors to the red light balanced things out and we were able to get a red and while light working at the same time.

The lights are brighter than 'scale' but I am quite happy with this at exhibition. The resistors do get hot, so we make sure that the lights are turned off when the vehicle is stationary.

Note that we discovered two wheel sets on the Lifelike chassis that were not to gauge. While easy to adjust, all drive wheels should be checked for back to back measurements.

painting and weathering

The Glenthorne branch has several long tunnels and there is a considerable distance which is cut into the sea cliff face which exposes stock to salt air. The railcar was built out of coaches built in 1910 that had been in storage for some time and some timber soft spots had inevitably appeared. Following the construction of the railcar, the paintwork quite quickly became a bit dilapidated. Due to the unreliability of the 'home-grown' power unit, steam was sometimes used while repair was underway.

The painting hopefully reflects this.

The railcar was first spray painted with automotive acid etch. The coach was then hand painted using acrylic 'Crimson Lake' and early BR cream. If we had wished that the coach looked pristine, I would have waited 48 hours for the paint to harden and then rub out brush marks and any nibs with a 2mm glass fibre pencil.

As we wished some weathering and soot, the whole coach had dark grey weathering powder brushed over it while the paint was till 'green'. The powder combines a little with the surface of the paint. After waiting 48 hours, we then used the glass fibre pencil and cleaned up the brush marks and some of the weathering powder until we had obtained the required effect.

a trailer car following weathering and 'cleaning' -click on image to enlarge

the power car following weathering and 'cleaning'. some of the cream areas can be seen to have peeled away completely. -click on image to enlarge

trailer fitted with crests and destination board, chrome rim around light and windshield wiper -click on image to enlarge

the railcar arrives at its bay platform

The chrome ring around the headlight was made by wrapping round 3 turns of 3amp wire on the round plastic tube used for building the light body and soldering the wire into one piece.