By Brian Dominic

The MDLR’s 18A & B are a pair of IP Engineering Mandie railcars running back-to-back.

As I had got a pair to play with, there were some modifications from what Mr IP Engineering lays down in his instructions. Body sides were swapped between the kits, so there was an entrance in each corner of each car, rather than both at one end. The entrance doors had droplight windows with straps to open them. The motors were replaced with flat-sided ones, glued underneath the floor to give a clear flat floor. There are half-width cabs at either end – one end left-hand drive, one end right-hand drive – with a Driver’s seat. The sides are double skinned with an inner skin of 0.8mm ply with the glazing in between the two skins – the ends didn’t need it as the radiator end has the Driver’s desk which hides the bottom edge of the glazing and you can’t see the inner ends very well. All seats are covered in (allegedly self-adhesive) leatherette, and there is a leatherette blind behind the Driver’s seat to stop light from the saloon from impeding his vision. The unit is fully lit – directional lighting – headlamp and tail lamp at each end – and interior lights.

I decided on the colour scheme – the interior will be stained with wood stain, whilst the exterior will be County Donegal – style red and cream, with the inner ends of the unit all red and the outer ends cream and Warning Panel Yellow – this is, after all, a modern piece of traction!

The headlights were from Cambrian Mouldings – first job was to paint the interiors silver, ready to fit the LEDs. After a lot of very gentle drilling and opening out of holes 0.5mm at a time (to 6.5mm, if you really MUST know) I installed the bezels for the rear lamps and pushed the LEDs in from the back so these were ready for wiring up.

An End Finished………

…….. with the Cambrian Mouldings radiator in place.

Once all the body panels were varnished and were all nice and glossy and ready to assemble, I got out the two floors and drilled holes in them for the switches (6.5 mm again) – one single pole ON/OFF/ON switch for the directional lights (interior lights will work off the battery box switch) and one double-pole ditto for traction. I’m going to have to remember to switch them both in operation!

The stained floor with hole for switch and switches!

NOW we’re cooking with gas………..

Once the cars were together, a number of anomalies reared their ugly little heads. On one side, both doors were at the centre of the unit: on the other, they were at the ends. This means that on one side of the unit, the name and number plates are at the extreme ends – on the other side, they’re at the inner ends of each car, more-or-less next to each other. One end of the unit drives from the left – the other end from the right. Because I opted for a half-width cab (I’ve cut down the full-width partitions, stained them and stained a piece of 1/8” square to act as a reinforcement on the cut edge) the seating arrangements had to be altered. On the non-cab side I was able to use the full-length seat Uncle Ivan so thoughtfully supplies, but behind the cab there was be a half-length seat behind the cab and a small seat behind the door. This means that there’s enough seating material left to make a Drivers’ seat. Most of the seats have been covered in the self-adhesive brown Rexine I bought for the job, which doesn’t seem to be as sticky as the green velour I bought for the Buffet Car, which means I’ve had to overlap it more.

Fun With Self-Adhesive Rexine

I went back to the workshop and finished covering the seats. I also made up the blinds for the back of the Driver’s cabs – an idea pinched from old buses and first-generation DMU’s. After fitting these (and representations of the boxes they were supposed to roll up into) I fitted the Driver’s seats. Next job? Lining panels!

A cab partition from the saloon side……………

……………. and from the cab side!

It’s odd how ideas suddenly occur……………. I’ve been debating about the motors Uncle Ivan supplies for the railbus (and other kits). His method of “laser a hole in the floor which the motor pushes into” is simple and works well, but in the case of the railbus you end up with a whacking great motor sticking up in the interior somewhere, which is one reason why it got swapped from the driving end to the inner end of each car. Even there, there would have been little or no room between the seats for (imaginary) passengers to get round it (or around the wooden case I was going to build around it).

I was mulling all of this over in my mind just after I woke up, when I had an “Eureka!” moment. I suddenly remembered that you can get flat (well, flattish) 3 volt motors – Brian Clarke often used them in Saltford Models kits – and they’re not expensive! One of these could sit under the floor and be glued into position: perhaps not flat – there might need to be some sort of shim to tilt the motor so the gears mesh nicely, or the motor might need to be packed with some thin ply to achieve the same effect, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to end up with a motor totally out of the body, and I have the skills to be able to do it!

Having got back from Derby with LEDs for headlights and interior lighting, I dug out my Squires catalogue and found the motors, which cost me a bank-account-breaking SEVENTY-FIVE PENCE EACH! A call to them got them whizzing on their way.

The next job was to start out by making the internal lining panels for the sides of each railcar, from 1/32” ply I keep for the job. I’ve learnt from doing the Buffet Car………. Each panel is firstly cut to fit closely inside each side. Then, with a SHARP pencil I draw around each window and drill a hole inside each corner. These (in theory, at least) act as “stoppers” and stop the knife carrying on and slicing through the fragile window pillars. This doesn’t always work: certainly not at the ends, where the internal pillars would only be about 1mm thick. All the cutting out is done with a Stanley knife with a new, sharp, blade: when I did the Buffet Car I used a scalpel and apart from damn near slicing my fingers to pieces, the pressure required on a slim handle to make a cut was ENORMOUS!

Sides drawn out…………….

……………. holes drilled and cutting started………..

……………. and fitting in place with the glazing!

Once they were done, I attempted to cut out all the glazing. Unfortunately, the Wickes Acrylic Glass I bought for the job acts just like glass, and cracked and shattered where I didn’t want it to. Fortunately, it’s a big sheet…………….

I also added the bars that the glazing will sit on, to stop it sliding down and disappearing between the two layers of ply, and got the sides stained Light Oak.

I also assembled and painted the two front headlights from Cambrian Mouldings, having first drilled two small holes in the back of each one and epoxied a 3mm white LED in each one. They work a treat!

The headlamp on test – in bright sunlight, let me add!

This shows the depth of the headlight.

The next job only got done on one car: the end glazing was fitted on the Driver’s end of the car, the control desk was cut down (because now it needs to be smaller, because of the added glazing and lining) and stained and painted. The headlight was fitted and both headlight and tail lamp wired and tested (because they’re going to be boxed in by the control desk). I broke the Cambrian Mouldings brake handles out of store and assembled and painted them, and drilled out the top of the control desk 5.5 mm to take the shaft of the brake column. Finally, the control desk was fixed in place and the half-bulkhead which creates the Driver’s cab was glued in place. I was going to fit the seats, but I’m increasingly unhappy with the nonstickyness of the (alleged) self-adhesive rexine. It doesn’t appear to like to stick to wood, so it’s going to have to be secured in place with Evo-stik before the seats can be fitted.

Lights wired and glazing fitted………..

…….. control desk and half bulkhead fitted………..

………. and the view from the front end.

Finally, a view with the seats fitted (tho’ one’s not stuck down yet – access to switch).

The new motors arrived from Squires and though I’d been out all day for a non-railway function and was fairly knackered, I HAD to see how they were going to fit. Having fitted the gear to the axle and the worm to the motor, I offered everything up, roughly. To start with, the motor would have needed to be cocked up on end quite a bit to get the worm and the gear to mesh – in fact, the motor would have ended up perilously close to rail level. Then, I had an inspiration. Instead of tilting the motor to reach the gear, why not move the gear? Nothing could be simpler – a strip of wood between solebar and floor would make the cars ride a fraction higher, but will allow the motor to sit flat – in fact it may need slight packing with thin ply. “Seemples!”

The gears meshing perfectly………….

………… and the motor sitting flat.

 “The Wheels on the (Rail) Bus go Round & Round…….” In which a coupling is achieved, cherished ideas are abandoned, the perils of kit-bashing rear their ugly head and the MDLR has a Terence Cuneo Moment. An early start today, after No 2 Son’s birthday bash last night. The extra lengths of wood on which the solebars will sit were sourced and fitted – not without difficulties, as wiring and switches tended to get in the way. Whilst the glue on these was going off, the second set of solebars, bearings and axleboxes got assembled, as did the second driving axle. Once this was done, the MDLR had a Terence Cuneo Moment as “A Railbus is Wheeled” – all went together well.

The second car followed in due course, following which a coupling was fabricated. This is nothing more complicated than a pair of 8BA nuts and bolts, fitted through the floor at the rear end of each car, head end up. One of these carries a length of wood (with the nut superglued in place on the end of the bolt) – the other bolt is secured by a nut immediately below the floor. This gives a coupling which is easy to undo and reassemble, but means that the two cars will be able to travel side-by-side, taking up much less room than would otherwise be the case (except they couldn’t – there would’ve been too much cable between the cars when they were “straight”).

I’ve had to discard a couple of things that I was going to add to the set. I’d bought a set of horns (sheep and trespassers on the track for the warning of) but was disappointed by the results when they were assembled – the “trumpets” at the business end did not flare as well as I would have liked them to, and as they were to have been mounted in the ends, rather than on the roof, I didn’t consider them to be good enough, so out they went.

I’d also wanted to add destination boxes and displays and had already made up a “destination blind” with a few names on (once I’d remembered how to do white-on-black lettering on the computer) but found there wouldn’t have been room to incorporate these as I would have wanted. The fall-back position is to try Underground-style black on white destination plates in the driving end windows of each car – I’ve just printed these off and will try them when I go back to the workshop.

I’ve also just fitted the “bumpers” which pass for buffer/couplings on the EeZee range, having glued the two layers of ply together earlier in the day. Here, another Peril of Kitbashing raised its head – I can’t put a coupling hook in either end because it fouls the new radiators which are thicker than the ply ones Uncle Ivan supplies! Never mind: they were never going to haul anything, anyway!

The motors glued in place – notice the wiring (and there’s more to come!)


I’ve just been out to the workshop and put a battery across each motor. They both worked OK after a little “persuasion” to start rotating, but the wheels went round at one hell of a rate: I get the feeling that the run from Youlgrave to Alport Junction may just be a quick one!

This morning I had a thought……………….. If I run the batteries in parallel, instead of series, I should get a slower speed with a bit more OMPH – I’ll only be using dry batteries, so the dire warnings about running rechargeables in parallel won’t apply……….

Today started yesterday, when I called into Potts to pick up some heatshrink to put round all the wires which pass between the two cars. Shame I didn’t pick up a couple of battery boxes, too………….

Today started (after another trip to Derby for battery boxes – the parking cost more than the boxes) with making up and installing the traction wiring. This was DEAD easy, because the switch which is the heart of the whole installation was out on the bench, so attaching and soldering all the wiring to it was an absolute cinch. I DO wish I’d done the lighting the same way…………

In due course, the switch was thrown and one motor operated in the right direction. THEN I tested and set the second motor’s connection, so both motors and sets of wheels went round in the SAME direction – most important, this! I needed to “tune” the motors by moving them slightly – the Evostick the motors were fixed down with let me do this. Turns out the gears were a LITTLE too tight and binding – twisting the motors slightly altered things from “bound solid” and making the usual grinding noises I associate with IP Engineering gears to silky smooth and almost silent!

After this, the wiring was all secured in place and I started in on the lighting. Now both cars are permanently connected together by the wiring for lighting and traction, so life’s become a little more challenging. Also, the lighting switch has been fitted, so had to be removed to attach the rest of the wiring to it. At the same time, I had to add an unswitched supply (apart from the switch on the battery box) for the saloon lighting, which is obviously not direction dependent. The wiring and lights in the “T” car were completed, as were the positive connections for the head and tail lamps, but when a wire snapped off just after I’d re-fitted the lighting switch I decided to take a break.

………… and then when I tried to re-solder the wire, the damn switch disintegrated! At this point, I decided that a mare’s nest of wires was preferable to much more swearing and cussin’, so I lengthened all the wires, soldered the switch up OUTSIDE the body and tucked as much of the wiring as I could under the seat. The traction end looks MUCH neater………….

I then had FOUR goes at making the strip of wood the internal lighting is fixed to – the wood WOULD split when I tried to drill the holes for the LEDs, but eventually it was done, fixed in position and the wiring completed. Huge sighs of relief all round!   loco1834.jpg The absolute mare’s nest of wiring in the “L” Car………..

 ……………. contrasts with the nice neat installation in the “T” Car!

Still, at least the lights work……………..

……… very well!

They DIDN’T get taken to to a garden railway meeting today……………… I put them on the track this morning for a test run – the words “rice pudding” and “Couldn’t pull the skin off a” immediately sprang to mind! One wheelset tended to “unmesh” rather too easily and the other one wasn’t capable of moving the whole set, so it’ll be back to 3 volts PDQ! This won’t be difficult – all the relevant connections are under the car!

Got the new battery box fitted and wired in – the wheels now go round rather better! One motor needed a little more “tuning” but this was soon sorted with a dose of glue and a small wedge-shaped piece of wood under one end of it. Trouble is, this particular axle seems to have a little “end float” (in other words, it moves rather more than it should) with the result that it can drop out of mesh. I’m not too sure how to cure this, other than by removing and re-fixing the solebar……….

Painted all the underside in acrylic black tonight – an absolute SWINE of a job, given that everything else is already painted. How I WISH I could have spray painted it!

Fitted the roofs today – at least I started to…………….. they’re made up from strips of wood, stained alternately pine and mahogany as is The MDLR Way. I’d got some in stock which just happened to be twice the length of one railbus roof, so it was a simple enough matter to cut these down to size, tape ’em together and fix to the body using hot glue. At least, you’d think it would be…………. I got one on upside down (with the tape inside) so tried to remove it, using a very sharp knife. Result: one trip to A&E with a neat, deep 1½” incision in my right arm – fortunately stitches were not required, but it’s a salutary reminder of the dangerous tools we use.

Back to the workshop to finish off the roofs – fixed in place, covered in tissue and left to dry. The final three jobs were to paint the roof, cut out and fit the “YOULGRAVE” destination board – third (or was it fourth) time lucky? and drill the holes and fit the door handles. By this time, it was too dark to take pictures or give them a run – a joy for tomorrow!

There was something not right with the interior lighting, and one of the motors STILL wasn’t meshing right, so it was CAREFULLY off with the roofs, find the two soldered joints that were touching each other, insulate them with hot glue gun glue (wonderful stuff!), re-fit the motor that wasn’t meshing correctly and load up for the first test run at Butterley! The pair performed quite well, but ran out of battery – I suspect that Agnes, Perdita and endurance aren’t going to go together! Also, cheapo batteries are absolutely USELESS! Nevertheless, it’s nice to see the project come to an end, and they’ll be going out to an Open Day at the weekend!

Video link –

At Haddon station, Agnes & Perdita arrive on an evening train…………………


…………. then set off for Alport Junction

Just when you thought we were done…….. Zach Bond kindly agreed to laser some name and number plates. These arrived yesterday and here they are in their raw state.

Once they were sprayed in primer, you could see the very fine detail he’s able to achieve…………. perhaps a little TOO fine!

The next stage was to spray with Plasticote brass……….

……….. which still allows the detail to show…………

…………. then finish off with black acrylic, wiped off to reveal the raised brass detail.

They look nice and bold on the side……….

…………. and show up well outside, but of course, the left-hand car is always AGNES………

…………. and the right-hand car’s always PERDITA – whichever side you look at!

“They think it’s all over …………. It is now!!!”

Brian Dominic