Diesel Railcar

We are currently nearing the end of a long term project to build a diesel railcar to provide comfortable, heated accommodation for out of season passengers.

Railcar chassis, winter 2011 Railcar on test, winter 2013


This project is being developed in conjunction with two other 2′ gauge railways for use on the Launceston Steam Railway and a potential extension of the railway to Egloskerry. The ultimate aim is to produce a railcar and control trailer that could not only be used to provide a tourist service, but potentially also a public transport service for the residents of Egloskerry.

Initial experiments in November and December 2009 were based around ex GPO tube railway motor units, and the test rig pictured below consists of two GPO units temporarily bolted together to create a long wheelbase 4 wheeler, powered by a modern diesel alternator. The motors, by English Electric, are 400v series wound machines with wave wound armatures and commutation interpoles. These are axle hung and nose suspended on wheelsets of about 2’0″ diameter, with a gear drive ratio of 3:1. Balancing speed on 400v line voltage is (terrifyingly) 36 m.p.h.

On the test rig 440v 3 phase A.C. is rectified and fed to the two motors wired in series. Control is via a version of the Ward-Leonard system.


Initial test rig for railcar power bogie Initial test rig for railcar power bogie

The initial trials exceeded all expectations, and the test rig was dismantled in January 2010. The original motors and wheelsets were then incorporated into a new ‘archbar’ power bogie.

Finished railcar power bogie, April 2010 New railcar power bogie under construction in early 2010 New railcar power bogie under construction in early 2010

A number of seats for the railcar were purchased in April 2010 from the Blackpool Tramway. These are of the ‘reversible’ type and until recently were in use in a tram at Blackpool.

One of 40 reversible seats for the railcar, previously used in trams on the Blackpool Tramway

In May 2010 the power bogie, now affectionately christened “The Gherkin”, was taken to the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales for trial runs and to take part in the FR’s Quirks and Curiosities gala. Trials here proved more than satisfactory, with the Gherkin notably hauling a wagon containing a number of passengers non-stop from Porthmadog to Tan-y-Bwlch with ease.

The Gherkin at Porthmadog Harbour station on the Ffestiniog Railway The Gherkin at Tan-y-Bwlch station on the Ffestiniog Railway, following an evening test run with passengers At Minffordd station on the Ffestiniog Railway The Gherkin at Minffordd station on the Ffestiniog Railway, ready to run an early morning staff train


During Summer and Autumn 2010, work focused on fitting a sprung bolster and brakes to the power bogie, reusing a number of components from the original post office unit, as seen in the following photos:

Power bogie with construction underway on sprung bolster Details of sprung bolster Power bogie fitted with brakes Details of brakes on power bogie


Work on the railcar in the 2010/2011 winter was focused on reconditioning a second (unpowered) bogie for use under the railcar.

German WW1 bogie being refurbished German WW1 bogie being refurbished for the railcar


In August 2011, work started on building the steel chassis for the railcar. At 36 feet (approximately 11m) long, the railcar will be the same length as the Plynlimon carriage. Two lengths of steel channel form the side members, connected by a number of steel box section cross members. On top of each side member is a truss built from box section – having the truss on top of the side member, rather than below as is usually the case in railway vehicles, will allow the railcar’s engine and alternator to be mounted in a cradle under the floor that can easily be accessed for maintenance.

First steel for the railcar chassis First sections of truss welded to the chassis side member Welding underway on the chassis truss Top truss section in place Chassis nearing completion Front of chassis, showing cross members and bogie bolster welded into place Detail of the truss section on the chassis Chassis nearing completion Chassis nearing completion


By September the chassis was finished and lowered onto the two bogies, ready for trials during the winter period when the railway is closed.

Railcar chassis mounted on its bogies for the first time

The chassis made a number of test runs during October 2011. The tests were carried out using the Lombardini diesel generator which had previously been used to test the railcar’s power bogie and proved very successful.

Railcar chassis ready for test runs Ready for first test run Travelling on board one of the first test runs are Chris Hariades (Cornwall Council Project Manager for their failed TRAC Project), Kate Gason (Cornwall Council Project Officer for their failed TRAC Project) and Nigel Bowman (LSR Managing Director). Onboard the railcar chassis during a test run Railcar chassis in the yard

The railcar’s 2 litre Peugeot engine was mounted in its carrying cradle in December 2011. Following a short delay in the supply of an alternator for the railcar, the alternator was fitted in May 2012 and work commenced to link the engine to the alternator.

Diesel engine fitted in its cradle New alternator in place Driveshaft to connect the engine to alternator Sooty the cat inspects progress on the railcar Diesel engine is lowered into place


The new engine and alternator setup were tested in November 2012 after the end of the running season. Work then commenced on first a mock up of the bodywork, and then the bodywork itself.

Railcar bodywork mock up Railcar bodywork mock up Railcar bodywork mock up Railcar body end frame under construction


Once the engine and its cooling system were in place, work in the first half of 2013 focused on providing driving controls at each end of the railcar. The controls posed a slight engineering challenge as they required setting up such that the railcar could only be controlled from one end at a time. The system devised features a mechanical linkage between the two ends of the railcar, to ensure the reversing switch at each end is set appropriately, and a removable reversing handle; the reversing handle acts as a ‘key’ to unlock all the controls and can only be removed when the reversing switch is in neutral.

Driver's reversing switch for the railcar

Work continued over the summer of 2013 with the electrical system and the fitting of controls for the air braking system. In November the railcar was taken out for its first test runs following completion of most of the driver’s controls at one end.

Railcar on test, November 2013 Railcar on test, November 2013 Drivers controls on the railcar, November 2013

Work in early 2014 focused on completion of the driver’s controls, particularly the engine throttle mechanism and interlocking between the controls at each end.Interlocking on the driver's controls Driver's controlsThe railcar took a back seat in the summer of 2014 as other projects, such as a major programme of lineside clearance and relaying of points at Launceston station, took priority over the next year. After a break of a year, work was started again in September 2015 on the bodywork.