16mm Projects

Alan Poxon's Electric Power

Pickering Steam Railcar "Tenterden"

I have always had a soft spot for model railcars. The Edwardian elegance of a wood paneled coach body gliding around a garden makes a nice contrast with the steam locomotives chuffing along with their long trains.

Rail operators have always been quick to see the advantage of railcars when they needed lower running costs and a quick, cheap build. Early railcars were essentially steam locomotives rigidly fixed to a short passenger compartment. Coach bodies with integral steam, petrol and later diesel power units followed.Colonel Stephens, who many see as the last word in running branch lines economically, acquired the small, old locomotive Gazelle in 1910 that ran with only four passenger seats in an enclosure behind the cab. This worked intermittently on the Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway and now resides in the Colonel Stephens Railway Museum at Tenterden station in Kent.

I had already built a narrow gauge version for 45mm track of the 1927 Shefflex petrol railcar set that was made by Sheffield Simplex for Colonel Stephen to run on his West Sussex Railway. As there was only one driving position in each railcar, and a turntable an extravagance, two units ran back-to-back. In 1905, Colonel Stephens had commissioned the carriage builders Pickering & Co. to construct a steam railcar with a driving position in the rear luggage compartment that allowed the vehicle to run in reverse. This was for his Kent & East Sussex Railway with a station in Tenterden.

It was a narrow gauge version of this one I chose to build next. There are a number of features that make this an attractive project. Not least, the passenger steps that allowed pick-up from points away from platforms in an effort to combat competition from buses. There are the un-aerodynamic, flat ends with the driver peering out through the windscreen and the relatively panoramic windows for the passengers.

Being essentially rectangular, this was a simple build. The frame of the body was first constructed from wood and the recessed wooden paneling infilled. A PDF Models motor and gearbox unit was slotted in place to drive the front wheels set to 32mm gauge. A removable passenger deck was constructed inside that hides the battery pack.

A PWM speed controller was housed where the vertical boiler should be and is operated by turning the chimney. Finally, what to call the railcar? All steam engines need a name, even one with a vertical boiler in the cab. It just had to be Tenterden.


The model uses a PDF Models motor & gearbox unit driving wheels set to 32mm. The 12V battery pack is housed under the passenger deck and is linked to a PWM controller that is operated by turning the chimney. The wiring harness, that includes switch, recharging socket and fuse, is by RC Trains.


The Woodhead Line meets 16mm.

From my front window, I can see the Woodhead route across the valley. When I first moved in, I was struck by the EM1 Class 76 electric locomotives hauling goods trains up and down Longdendale. I remember the coal for Fiddlers Ferry power station and scrap metal for the South Yorkshire steel works. Alas, they were within a year or so of being withdrawn and the line closed soon afterwards.

Fast forward thirty six years and a visit to the National Railway Museum in York had me up close and personal with 26020 in early BR black livery. It struck me that it would be a nice project to recreate the essence of these locomotives in narrow gauge.

Clearly a whimsy but a big black Bo-Bo locomotive would be a nice addition to my modest fleet.Finding plans of the prototype proved difficult. I scaled the basic dimensions to suit 45mm track from some of the many photographs available. This was more than adequate as I had to adjust the dimensions anyway so that the model would fit a 16mm scale loading gauge.

An Essel power bogie was acquired at the Llanfair Show that kick-started the construction. The frame of the locomotive was built from wood and then laminated with plasticard. Even from a distance, the riveting of the body panels to the frame on the original EM1 Class 76 locomotives is very prominent and needed to be reproduced. For rivet counters out there, 784 nail art rivets were duly applied - much less than on the prototype but enough to give a distinctive feel.The bodywork detailing was completed with a set of custom 3d printed louvres from SLR Models and, of course, the distinctive handrails by the doors. The power bogie was fitted and an unpowered rear bogie fabricated. This arrangement was more than enough to pull all of my 45mm stock thus happily avoiding the need to purchase a second powered bogie.

Some external detail (end handrails, twin airhorns, sandboxes & roof ventilators) still to be added.Timpdon RC and ACME soundcards.

Alan Poxon 2019 [ updated 2020 ]

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