Building the production railcar (304 -305)

The last two railcars to be built for the railway were delivered in 1935. They were four car sets, and this time were not articulated. All railcars were built in aluminium in order to reduce weight. Apart from car 302, they were left in bare aluminium with a green waistline down the side.

The four coach set reverted to side cooling.

The four coach set numbered 304 was presented at the 1934 Paris Salon where much to the pride of Eastleigh, it won the first prize for transport innovation.

The County Gate railcars are a logical progression of development that one would expect with such an innovative design.

The prototype No 200 was steel built and while successful in the main, showed several design flaws.


The second prototype railcar (201) I built was my first attempt to really capture the art deco style of the era. It was built when I was rather unwell and I used materials at hand, which were frankly not always ideal. In the end, I finished it with some fancy paint which was supposed to burnish into metal. It did not. The paint did not dry properly and eventually when I finally did try to burnish, all I got was a lot of small balls!

Eventually, in disgust, I scrapped it and used the chassis under railcar 302. Even the seats and passengers were recycled. My actions resulted in a few rather cross emails. Clearly, the unit had gained some fans!

The first series of 'production railcars included unit 302 and this is still employed on the line.

302 prior to application of decals

the final evolution

I wrote a thread in the NGRM forum about my dislike for so called brass paint slapped on locomotive domes. This led to some very interesting posts concerning other techniques for replicating metal finishes. Out of this, I began to research what was actually available these days and settle on a company called Chromed Up. What I was looking for was polished stainless steel. I discovered that this could be achieved by using a lacquer over the chrome. The photo from Chromed Up is an example. A bit different from the wretched paint on poor 201!

Following my past failure, I was not too keen to try this myself and eventually I managed to persuade Steve Merton to do the application himself. More of this later.

Now, most of my rolling stock is green and rather weathered. In a very green landscape, I thought a shiny new polished railcar would be a real piece of eye candy for those watching in exhibitions. This was the start of the new project that has taken over a month of full time work. This meant that I was really trying this time! Previous railcars had taken only a few days to complete.

Inspiration came from France and the USA.

a French car of the period

1931 Bugatti PLM railcar

and from the USA

Gradually a new drawing took form. Below is the first design that began to look right.

Small details began to be developed such as these lights.


The curved ends were formed using three layers of very thin Plasticard. These were formed over a bottle of the correct radius and glued together using high penetration superglue. The end result was very still and stable.

The corrugations are made from a sheet of Slaters corrugated iron. This is an excellent clean moulding. A strip was warmed and attached with superglue. The headlamp casings were also added. These are drilled to take 2mm lighthouse LEDs. The roof profile is formed using soft sand car body filler.

Below are the completed ends, sprayed with Humbrol grey plastic primer. This is an excellent paint, by the way.

To transfer shapes onto plastic sheet, I print the designs onto photo quality paper. These are stuck onto the plastic sheet using 3M spray mount. It makes life so easy! The windows are stamped out using chisel blades ground to the correct widths. This gives a very clean cut. Below are some sides including the 'Odeon' style motor car.

The oval door windows were cut out using a brass punch made from tube section.


The sides are of sandwich construction so they will be extremely rigid once complete.  I then began to assemble the coaches.

The chassis come from some N scale Grafar coaches I bought at a sale for 1 each. They are cut in half and attached to thick plastic sheet which forms the floor.

the railcar well under way - click on image to enlarge

I bought a brand new Bachmann bo bo chassis and what a fine running unit it is too, fitted as it is with two hefty flywheels. It is completely silent. These are NOT DCC ready. This means that they have to be taken apart and the metal chassis ground away around the motor brushes. The system runs on the split chassis system.

click on image to enlarge

Below is the set including the traction unit.

The rocker panels were then fabricated and attached. I am using half round beading for the finishing.

click on image to enlarge

The interiors were also designed as art deco. New fabrics and floor surfaces were designed and drawn and again printed out on photo quality paper. The coach interior sides were also built at this time. The fabrics were attached using superglue and the surface was also treated with this glue so that the printing became integral with the plastic sheets. Below, is the first class interior with the interior panels just located loosely.

The second class seating

The time then came to build the roofs. First, half round beading was carefully attached to the coach side tops. One can be seen in the photo above. The ceiling was then glued it between the half round sections. The coach now begins to become very rigid. Care is needed at this time to ensure that there is no twist in the carriage bodies.

A larger half round section is glued down along the centreline and the roof is formed using bodyfiller. I use a former to scrape off excess filler.

After about three coats of filler and careful sanding, the roof shape is completed. The carriage is now primed again and very carefully sanded with 400 paper, down to 600 and then Micromesh. In awkward corners. I finish using a fibreglass pencil brush. The corrugations were then added to the roof using half round Plastistrut sections.

The first class car nears completion

I then took a trip to see Roger Keen (Keen Systems) who lives in Market Drayton. He is a retired radar expert with the RAF but just cannot quit working. He has made the close coupling of rolling stock in 4mm scale a crusade and has developed all kinds of clever gizmos.

After we had discussed the requirements, he trotted out couplers which also included electric transmission. Some were for four wires but were a tad bulky and as I shall run this railcar in one direction only, we settled on two wire transmission. These are neat units supplied by Fleischmann. The first job therefore was to remove the original couplers and replace them with these. They were attached by 10BA screws and are allowed to rotate. I had to cut away a bit more of the coach ends to accommodate them.

Roger gets stuck in

A Farish bogie with the new coupling system

The next job was to fit the corridor connectors. These are in temporarily as they must be removed prior to the chroming. These are very simple to fit BTW.

The faceplates have to just touch. These are sprung, BTW. This meant that the bogie position had to be changed on two coaches. This is critical for the thing to work properly.

It took most of the day and Mrs Keen kindly supplied teas and excellent bacon butties to help keep our spirits up. I am delighted with the result and thanks indeed go to the Keens. I am sure that FR/RhE folks would find a system which would work from Roger.

The set was tested on County Gate and I was pleased to see that it all worked in both directions without binding. Final detailing was then completed, including attaching archer transfer rivets where appropriate and grab rails. The bodies were then promptly sent over to Chromed Up.

I then set about wiring up the chassis including temporary lights and the 'fully air conditioned' railcar was tested again on County Gate, It was properly programmed and I am glad to say that it worked perfectly in our automation programme.

the strange site of the 'fully air conditioned' railcar running on the layout

The bodies were sent, with some trepidation to Chromed Up. I need not have worried. They came back in a few days looking absolutely wonderful. Final assembly took about one day for each car and I have to say, the result exceeds my expectations.