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Tralee and Dingle Railcar

by Doc

Foolishly, I had come to think of myself as quite a competent modeller with the patience of a saint. Building this little railcar has shaken me to the core. I am a shadow of my former cocky self. 'I have had no end of a lesson; it has done me no end of good' (Apologies to R Kipling's Jingo)

I hope this does not sound too sour or neurotic. As time elapses and as friends apply their boots to my posterior, I am mellowing about it all. Soon I shall laugh. Ha! That's half a laugh.

"Waddaya mean, it's not scrap yet?"

What are the Problems?

The most important problem is the instruction sheets. I suppose I have become spoiled by the slightly obsessive but wonderful instructions supplied by Atrpos and Brandbright. These expect you to have more nous and imagination than I usually possess.You are advised not to proceed in the wrong order but, since the sheets are not numbered, take the trouble to number them before you shuffle them and hope they were correctly assembled to begin with.

My kit was incomplete and I became scuppered within hours because one ply sheet including a back and one side was absent but a sheet with front and the other side was duplicated. I applaud IP for the speed with which the parts arrived when I emailed them. Later I was to discover other anomalies. Numbers of door handles were duplicated whilst certain screws, designed to fix the switches to the step units were missing. I'm sure this is an ingenuity test by IP and I passed it, I think.

I had become used to Brandbright laser cut kits which are assembled in a laminar form, creating both stability and guts to the structure and ensuring carriage sides stay flat for ever. I am a big fan of solid lime-build Atropos kits. The flimsy single skin of this kit was new to me and I decided that I would glue extra stiffeners into the corners to keep the integrity of the cab.

The seats add to the stiffness of the cab and are essential to ensure the cab sides are reasonably straight. My cab sides were bowed like a banana and laser cut lines, quite deep on very thin ply made straightening them up a bit risky, to say the least.

I suggest the following alternative assembly method. perhpas it would be useful to read both and decide your own system. I think that Neil R does it a third way altogether

1. Lightly sand all wooden parts and seal with some sort of sanding sealer, inside and out. I use red primer to undercoat dark colours and grey for lighter ones
2.Paint wooden parts with spray acrylic from Halfords, flashing off in front of a hot fan blower, sanding with wet and dry and building up at least 3 coats but leaving a flattened surface at this stage IE do NOT try to get a perfect finish now..
3 Assemble the finished box on a pane of glass to ensure squareness and use slips of waste wood in the corners. Fit the seats after painting them
4. Remove the papery on-lays from their sheets and deburr with wet and dry ( DRY)
5 Glue on-lays onto the cab with PVA. The white will look very odd but all will be well.
6 Use masking tape to cover the window spaces inside the cab to protect your interior unless you want the colour the same.
7 When all is set, spray two thin topcoats on the outside, flashing off each coat with hot air as you go.
8. Glaze using CA very sparingly on the window surround.
9 Assemble the finished, glazed box on a pane of glass to ensure squareness and use slips of waste wood in the corners.
10 before building the roof, ask yourself if you want a driver. A Rob Bennett Busybody without legs will fit well


Since the glazing comes protected on both sides with film, you could spray over and remove the films at the end. I have never done it this way but I see no reason why it would not work well. In addition, there is the possibility that the paint would act as a glue and hold the 'glass' in place.

 The front windscreen has a rectangular surround of sorts but because it is of a papery material, it is very hard to make this fit square and true. I gave up in despair after a while.

While on the subject of the windows, do notice that the front windscreen is divided and etched. The etched line is not equidistant from top and bottom so as well as ensuring the etched line are both inside or out so that the two sides match across.

Gauge 32 or 45mm?

My line is 32mm and it is possible to set the railcar up for this gauge. I don't recommend it.There is far too much slop in the axle boxes which allows the worm not to engage with the drive.It could be better for 32mm for the axle-boxes to be set inwards on packing but that would detract from the appearance.

 It's a very simple motor anyway, and a bit noisy for my taste with switches placed only conveniently for thin fingers. One switch is designed to be an on/off switch and the other acts as a reverser. There are no instructions about this but there is a circuit diagram provided. The switches are mounted within the side steps arrangement which is quite elegant though a bit fiddly to mount. I think this model may be destined to be static!


I quite like the way the roof is formed but although there are four roof supports, they are never mentioned in the text and I could only guess where three would go. It's not rocket science but it would be comforting to be told. 
'Covering the roof in tissue paper soaked in PVA is harder than you might imagine. I think the sort of tissue used in clothes shops is what is meant, not Kleenex. Be warned.


A white metal brake handle is provided, never referred to nor illustrated. Since it would be impossible to see if mounted internally, I didn't bother with it.

The white metal bonnet and radiator castings are solid and good quality but merit careful assembly to get 'square' and the final mounting on the footplate needs some sanding and fettling to get it looking as if it belongs and is integral to the beast, not just stuck on.

There is no clear indication of where the holes should be drilled to mount the headlamps. None of the illustrations show the vehicle in full profile or directly from the front to make the alignment obvious.  I elected to drill behind the radiator surround not through it.

Glazing is provided for the headlamps but an improvement is to glue circles of kitchen foil in the cups before glazing

Two extra front bar drop hangers and four extra front roof overhang brackets were provided with no reference in the text to any reason why. Still, too many is better than not enough.

The bottom line

I found this kit a bit frustrating to build, which surprised me. I suppose I have become comfortable with cruder models that are beefier.  Some instructions would potentially give you a problem to solve. For example, If you glue the overlays onto unprepared wood, how can you deal with the grain and get a decent coach-built finish? The overlays are so easily damaged. I quite like the finished railcar but I think it is one of those things that looks more appealing to the first glance. 


Additional comments on the railcar from Paul Milner

I read with interest David’s article regarding this kit, fortunately after I’d started building it. I did not find it simple to construct. I agree with his comments regarding incomplete instructions, strength of structure and order of build.

Disaster strikes early

I warped the frets because I sealed and sanded them before construction and left them propped to dry. Humidity and sunshine did the damage and turned construction into a nightmare, nothing would stay square and flat, nothing.

"Warp factor-4, Mr Sulu"

This was the beginning of major change. Because the floor was twisted I cut and glued a 1/16” thick steel internal floor in place just to enable me to reach the first datum. Also I increased the challenge by wanting to be able to remove the cabin body, which meant that I could not rely on the floor and seats for rigid support of the cabin walls when removed.


Perhaps because of the sanding sealer, or maybe I used a low grade superglue but although suggested in the instructions it would not stick any of the parts together. Balsa cement works fine and seems to have enhanced the strength of the finished model.


As David states, building for 32mm gauge poses additional challenges. Mine is a customised build for our railway so I didn’t mind closing in the axle-guards, mine are removable to aid fine tuning packing washers on the axles to eliminate side-play, keeping the gears engaged. The supplied motor is noisy.

The step frets are delicate, I knocked one off and couldn’t repair it so cut the other off and made new steps using the blanks from the windows.

Battery and RC under front seat. The steel internal floor is also visible and proved useful for tapping fixing screws from beneath.

From the outset I planned to fit Deltang RC under the front bench seat with a fused 6v rechargeable pack. A charger socket and on/off switch are underneath.

I soldered up a frame assembly for the front axle to enable side-rocking pivoted compensation.

The drive is changed to the rear axle so the gears aren’t visible from the front.

Underguts, showing the 'suspension' frame and other do-dahs. 
(Shame the steps aren't quite true)


A new motor/gearbox system has been fitted. The previous arrangement was noisy and hard to align and didn't perform reliably with the RC. The new motor is tiny, 6v in and 300rpm out. It's so quiet and quite powerful.

The motor is quite small ... 
Time will tell if it is successful but for a small 'locomotive' it should be fine. Inexpensive too.


David’s comments on covering the roof are valid, however I use an easier technique. Cut strips of thin paper, I used some of my desk pad but normally use ‘greaseproof’ baking paper. Place a strip of masking tape along the rain strip so that the ends of the glued paper strips can be neatly pressed home after fitting and smoothing. The strips are a scale 3ft wide, smeared with neat PVA and laid across with slight overlaps. It all adds texture to the roof, something I like to see.

Once dry, run a sharp blade along the edge of the rain strips and simply peel the waste off with the masking tape. The ends can just be neatly trimmed on the curves although I chose to fold them under and press them in with the handle of the scalpel or whatever. Trim once dry if necessary.

Peel off surplus after trimming

Motor cover

I was disappointed with the bonnet castings, they needed considerable fettling and are glued to the floor with Araldite after bedding in.

Bug-eye Headlights

I found only one photo of the original vehicle on-line and the headlights appeared to be fastened to the floor beside the motor box rather than drilled into the side of the casting as shown. (I am happy to be corrected by those more knowledgeable.) On the full sized version, the motor covers would need to be lifted vertically, probably on articulated hinges and the lamps would make this awkward. I fitted them in the floor, easier and just as effective. Bumper couplers front and back caused abandonment of the vulnerable starter handle.

A full compliment of driver and three passengers adds useful weight.

In conclusion

A big plus is that this kit comes complete, wheels, axle-guards, motor, wire, switching etc. (David was unlucky initially.) The price is good value for a complete kit.

When trialing the chassis on 3v it seemed weak though the speed was acceptable. It hated the SM32 sprung points and frequently derailed when trailing through unless the point was changed ahead of it. The change to 6v allowed extra weight to be added, four resin figures being a great contribution but the resulting speed needs the control that the RC provides.

An attractive and useful contribution to our fleet.

I enjoy the finished product and with a suitable sized trailer in tow it fulfils the needs of our line with the added enjoyment of the inertia RC.

Most of the build was done at my desk and my wife, at her desk alongside, became gradually immune to my ever expanding expletive vocabulary as time progressed. Start to finish, construction and modifications took one month of sporadic work sessions!

Tralee and Dingle Railcar in Action