All posts by tony

Converting a 2rail Mainline Collet to 3 rail

Richard sent me the following details of his conversion

I thought I’d send you the results of my attempts to 3 rail a Mainline Collett 0-6-0.

I’d been told that it would be a bit difficult because it is split chassis type,  but actually proved pretty simple in the end

Here are the steps I took with friend Martin who is an HRCA member and is also quite a restorer of all sorts models not just old Dublo!

1) left side of chassis- unscrew tiny chrome bolt and rescrew in but with a couple of tiny fabric washers.

2) right hand of chassis- remove long black bolt from black left contact strip. Take care to hold contact strip in place as it retains in place spring and brush for armature. Solder wire to solder tag and rescrew in again with one or two metal washers.

3) I used a Dublo 3 rail castle chassis and soldered wire from pick up mechanism to connect with wire that runs from solder tagged contact strip.

This particular tender had a second solder tag to the metal tender wheels as they had been insulated from base. That meant soldering an second wire which connects with a tag to a drawbar bolt under tender chassis. This effectually 3 rails the loco so no brief intermittent stopping over points etc. A “normal” 3 rail tender chassis doesn’t have this extra tag I think so wheels and body would just transmit electric contact via drawbar.

4) I just just small cable connectors which will tuck into cab and which I can paint black. The drawbar I made with a bit of Meccano, and used a Meccano bolt as a ‘pin’ under loco chassis. It’s held in place by the plastic cab under frame, but touches chassis base to give electric contact from tender chassis wheels

5) I then discovered at Model Rail Glasgow that you can get these tiny “plug connectors” which might make a neater job, though one modeller from Aberdeen Model Railway Society said he thought they’d be a bit finicky so he recommended sticking with small cable connectors! The older we get, we have less nimble fingers and poorer eyesight!

6) the original Mainline tender was cut from its chassis base and secured to Dublo Castle tender chassis with bolt and bits of glued plastic card to keep bolt it in place.

Damian a member of the Train Collectors Society sent me a couple of photos of a Mainline loco that had been DCCed. That’s was a very helpful guide as to figuring out split chassis electrics. Certainly lot easier with an “open type” armature of Triang type!

Anyway, works well and looking forward to reassembling and using it on a GWR goods or local passenger. Will send photos.

Hope this might be of help, I’m sure someone with more electrical know how can make a much neater job!

Here’s some photos of my reassembled Collett 0-6-0. Pretty finicky as Mainline body very tight so needed to file a wee bit of internal sides. But amazingly it works fine apart from discovering that rear tender pick up spring is a bit weak. Will have to get another!

The coaches are scrap and rusty D14 suburbans which I repainted by hand a couple of years ago

With tiny transfers – with help of magnifying glass!

Mainline locos have plastic axles which I hadn’t foreseen and are prone to breaking so will see how long it survives.

I’ve found an old J39 0-6-0 metal kit in bits but with a Triang jinty chassis. I’m wondering how to tackle that now, can you pass my request on to your friend Ray? The tender is complete and I’d have to saw it from its base to try and get a Dublo tender pick up in, but maybe there’s a simpler way if loco chassis is possible to 3 rail.

3 Rail Conversions

Back in the day only a few years ago 3 rail conversions were frequently on sale on Ebay. and they were usually cheap, around £40-50 at the most. A chap called dublobear was prolific and his conversions were excellent runners and very varied but unfortunately he died about 3 years ago. There were others and my running collection has a lot of these conversions bringing added interest to the rather restricted HD range, But now things are changing. Are there more people running 3 rail and looking for them or are there fewer people doing the converting. Whatever. The result is that 3 rail conversions on Ebay are now attracting what is to me silly prices.

I suppose my first 3 examples are not really conversions but just a Triang body on a HD 3 rail chassis but at a price

Triang Hornby Dublo 3 rail Coronation Streamlined (Blue) £122

Triang Hornby Dublo 3 rail Coronation Streamined (Maroon) £147

Triang Hornby Dublo 3 rail Coronation Streamlined (red) £155

All three are Triang bodies on a Duchess of Montrose chassis which if compared with a true HD conversion – Hornby Dublo Barnstaple 3 rail conversion £87 seem to me to be very expensive but they do have a genuine HD chassis so should run OK. I missed that Barnstaple  listing as I think that I might have bid even though I do have a Dorchester – that’s a decent price for a very tidy loco – you can never have too many Bulleid pacifics.

To me the most surprising conversion is that to a HD R1 0-6-0 loco which was only made in 2 rail but can easily be converted to 3 rail using a Marklin sled or even the ubiquitous springy bits of copper. (these simple conversions are pictured in the conversions section of the website), Three 2 rail locos are currently available for under £30 and another couple under £35. Amazing then that 17 people bid and one paid £85.77 for a conversion to 3 rail- truly amazing. Even I can do these conversions and I have more thumbs than fingers.

I have 8 of these chassis, 4 under HD plastic bodies, 2 under Gaiety 0-6-0T saddle tanks and 2 under Graham Farish tanks. I don’t think that anyone of them cost more than £35.

There is money to be made out there doing these conversions


Ray’s Videos

Talking of most expensive purchase,this my Wrenn Royal Scot which i bought a few weeks ago & converted to 3 rail hauling a rake of refinished Trix Mk1 coaches.

Whilst on the Trix theme, I thought you may be interested in my Transpennine unit running on my HD 3 rail layout.

A Wrenn Spamcan converted to 3 rail using a Marklin skate.Clearances are very limited on these locos,you can`t fit a Hornby dublo collector unit unless you alter the chassis.I do have two of these locos.

A modern Hornby 2BIL converted with a Marklin skate under the trailer car & power fed through to the power car via a plug & socket.I do have photos of all my conversions but i can`t post them on here.

A Hornby 9F railroad loco drive since modified with a Dublo 8f 3 rail tender

And finally for now,an Airfix tender drive Royal Scot with a Marklin skate under the loco.Sorry about the radio,i forgot to turn it off!!.


Isolating Points

A question raised in the latest comment.

The point on the left is non isolating and the one on the right is isolating.


When the point is switched to the main line the turning to the right in this case is isolated and an engine can be on this line but is dead.

Non isolating

Both the main line and the turning are both live regardless which way the point is switched. Trucks can be left on this line but not an engine as it would be live to the controller.



Ebay vagaries (Part 2)

The last post mentioned a Triang Jinty with a HD R1 chassis converted to 3rail which sold at auction on ebay for what I thought was a staggering £107 plus postage.

Well the same seller has just sold a similar engine

Triang Jinty on Hornby Dublo R1 3 Rail Chassis

on ebay which went for £37.75. The vagaries of Ebay!

I am still happy with my Hornby B12 which is running well.

Ebay vagaries

I definitely don’t need any more engines but I still check out 3 rail locomotives on ebay just to see what’s about.

I came across a Jinty based on an HD 0-6-0T which had been 3 railed. Now I have a 3 railed Triang Jinty so definitely did not need another but this one was in Crimson Lake so I put it on my watch list.

I put in a bid fairly early on but was soon outbid and the final price was £107 plus postage. Which I thought was staggering.

Well at the same time Rails of Sheffield was listing a Hornby LNER B12 3 railed at a BIN price of £39.50 and postage of £2 so I went for it.

It is in very good condition with added crew and lights and runs perfectly over points and diamond crossing but like all modern stuff has poor pulling capacity although it is OK with 2 or 3 Trix coaches. Need to add some weight to the loco,

So £107 for a Jinty or £39,50 for the B12 – ebay is a funny old place but it induces you to buy engines you don’t really need.

The B12 pulling a Triang converter wagon and two Trix maroon coaches. Behind  is a Black Five also a Hornby conversion but this one is tender drive whereas the B12 is engine drive.

Lima Warship to 3 rail

William would like a Warship to run on his 3 rail layout. The easiest but not the cheapest is to buy a Trix 3 rail version although the scale is not 00 (slightly smaller) and running is just OK – see my previous posts on this.

I also have a Lima one which I acquired as a 3 rail conversion back in 2007 and he would like to have a go at his first conversion on one of these.

The Lima Warship is very simple, relatively cheap to buy and it would not be a financial disaster if it all went pear shaped. To match with HD it should be green or maroon as mine. Rail Blue came after HD was bought by Triang so my layout avoids this timeframe. Examples are available from ebay for around £40 as a BIN but bidding might get you a cheaper one. There are usually plenty available.

Lets just review what has to be done before we look at my conversion.

(1) The 2 rail pick up wire to the motor has to be disconnected

(2) A new centre pick up has to be installed and wired to the motor

(3) The insulated wheels have to be de-insulated to allow them to run over HD points without faltering

Now lets look at how my one was 3 railed.

First take off the body. Carefully as it is held on by plastic lugs which are easily broken – mine are but the body sits on the frame OK but you have to remember to pick it up by the chassis.

Power bogie, large weight, non powered bogie, One wire between the two. On the left extra lead weight to put on top of the weight, but it needs some more.

Pick up

The pick up is the ultimate bodge. Probably 2 paper clips or even drawing pins soldered onto springy copper. It works but it won’t last that long and I would recommend using a Marklin skate. Everything on this bogie is plastic so there are no insulation problems that you can get with metal framed locos.

as on this conversion of a tender drive loco. Marklin pickup here

Current from the pick up is transferred by the bolt drilled through the bogie to a connection in the body

I think that the clip that locks the nut came from the original 2 rail pick up. This conversion uses the original wire from the 2 rail pick up and therefore there is no need to solder a new wire to the motor, as this would be difficult unless your soldering is pretty good.

So apart from ensuring that you are careful to ensure that you drill the hole in the correct place, lock the bogie that it swivels but is not too loose everything should be OK.

That completes action (2)

So how were the wheels de-insulated. Well on my loco this is bodge number two. He has turned one of the non powered bogie wheels around so that non insulated wheel is on the other side resulting in 3 insulated wheels and 1 non insulated wheels on one side. Amazingly this works very well and the engine does not hesitate over points or X crossings. A more conventional method is to use conducting silver paint on the insulated wheels, as this bridges the insulation. Check after that the wheels really are de-insulated and then paint over the silver with matt black.  The silver paint is available here  and will last you for hundreds of conversions.

As this loco came already converted you can get some idea of the 2 rail set up here but unfortunately there is no detail on the wiring

It’s also good to know that if your drill slips when making your hole in the non powered bogie spares are available on ebay at a very reasonable cost.

I hope that this diatribe helps, good luck and send me some pictures. I will try and help if you have problems.

Continuing the Trix Theme

Late in the UK steam era British Railways introduced their new colour scheme of blue and grey for their carriages and there are many colour photos of these carriages behind steam trains. So I decided that was a good enough reason to add such a train to the layout.

These coaches should have BR roundels on them but Trix had the “Arrows of Indecision” as they were introduced later, however the previous owner had removed them on these coaches so they fit in well.

I think that they make a colourful and authentic addition to the rolling stock.

Then I continued my Trix theme by buying a Trix 3 rail Warship.

To the Trix scale, smaller than OO larger than HO, this looks OK and is shown pulling the Trix coaches. Despite its heavy metal body and traction tyres this is not a powerful runner and is very picky as to how well it runs. I have found that it only goes in reverse on the down track, other directions and tracks result in bogie induced derailments. Work is underway to produce a good runner on all tracks in both directions.


Railway Modelling to help prevent Dementia by David Powell

Readers of the Railway Modeller may recall an article in the April 2016 issue on hidden health benefits of railway modelling.  This discussed coping with stress, through being involved in a pastime where you have total control because you make the rules, and helping to prevent dementia.  As a result of a friend of a friend I have been invited to present some notes on the latter aspect which may be of interest to tinplate tinkerers who are also followers of Tony’s fascinating website.

To set the scene, I am a long term average railway modeller currently dabbling in 4mm 00 DCC with a 7mm project based on Col Stephens railways currently on hold in the loft.  I am a past secretary of a model railway club and part of the all-volunteer team which puts of the National Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC in the autumn.  I am also very aware that, although new blood is discovering the fascination of model railways, we are, to put it crudely, an aging hobby.  Also, I must declare that I have no medical training and my analysis arguing that railway modelling can help prevent dementia is based purely on observation and analysis, with a little bit of help from a great jazz guitarist!

In the past, talking about the viability of our pastime, often brought sad news of departed colleagues.  Although cancers, heart problems etc. featured, I became aware increasingly that dementia did not.  In 2015, I proposed that ‘they’ investigate why modellers appeared to avoid the disease.  Failing to get any useful response, I have been pressing on.  in the margins of the 2015 NEC Show, I interviewed representatives of 20 UK model railway clubs, a combined membership of some 1,100 modellers and an average age around 65.  According to the experts, my sample should have produced 40 or more cases of dementia.  However, I logged just 4 (and then only ‘possible’) cases.

As to how and why?  Key common factors I observed were that railway modelling involved a variety of handicraft skills: painting, soldering, operating etc., and concentration.  The ‘why’ came from the teaching of “Django” Reinhardt.  He demanded that his guitar students practice and practice to move the dexterity needed to play from the neocortex part of the brain (in my thinking, the brain’s front office) to the limbic system, the brain’s back office.  A bit like learning how to tie shoelaces!  Being an occasional pastime, the lack of continuity plus the variety of skills, means that when railway modelling, we must concentrate to avoid mistakes whenever we fettle or operate a point lever so that controlling our dexterity remained in the ‘front office’, the neocortex.  To my simple mind, if brain cells are unused, they risk decay or atrophy, and atrophy of the neocortex is more commonly known as Alzheimer’s disease.  Therefore, much of the dexterity and concentration involved in railway modelling and operating continues to exercise the neocortex and it was this that was preventing dementia.

Another factor in the NEC research (which I had missed initially) was that all the ‘subjects’ were active members of model railway clubs.  Being part of a group means concentrating to listen and read body language etc.  As with dexterity, much of this interaction, especially when only carried out occasionally, i.e. at weekly meetings, should continue to stimulate the neocortex brain cells as well as reinforcing involvement in the hobby.

Independently, although not based on isolating a dementia resisting social group, an American Mayo Clinic Study of a sample of 256 people ages 85 to 89 published in 2015 also concluded that those who participated in arts and crafts and who socialized in later years may delay the thinking and memory problems that often lead to the dementia.

One of the key elements of railway modelling as a dementia preventing lifestyle is dexterity requiring concentration.  So in addition to fiddly point levers and careful use of the controllers to avoid disasters, I was very pleased to note the many articles on Tony’s web site related to fettling scenarios, such as converting stock from 2 rail to 3 rail as well as all the activities needed to build a layout, e.g. base board carpentry, scenic backgrounds etc.

Now this is where I have to tread carefully with readers who are seriously into Frank Hornby’s wonderful world of 3 rail tinplate Hornby Dublo.  And, I will admit to owning a 3 rail Sir Nigel Gresley and some tinplate track sections!  The potential minefield is the issue of renovation and restoration, including touch-up painting, of vintage tinplate models!  On one hand, this could be excellent for dementia preventing concentrated dexterity.  However, for those who see this as sacrilege (which I respect) can I please ask you to enjoy operating, building the layouts etc.  Furthermore, if you are more a collector rather than a modeller, could I encourage you to explore or make more of other areas which combine dexterity and concentration, remembering that we are trying to exercise the ‘front office’, the neocortex.  So, playing a musical instrument?  Out – that’s the limbic system being exercised.  Texting grandchildren? Ditto!  Bad news for those who can touch type but good news for those who like me can only type with two fingers while staring at the key board!  Good news if using clippers and other dangerous tools while gardening or wielding knives while following new recipes using a raft of hand skills in the kitchen.  One simple test to confirm that concentration is present and essential when using your hands is that you can’t have a conversation at the same time the task you are engaged in safely and without any mistakes?

To return to those readers who are predominantly collectors, a railway related area which is crying out for volunteers is the heritage railway sector.  This occasional pastime ticks the box for requiring mainly vintage pre-computer hand skills as well as engaging in a social group or team.  Furthermore, this is the next sector/social group where I am hoping to collect some hard numbers to back up my assertion that this pastime is also good for dementia prevention. Alternatively, get more involved with a local model railway club and build stock or scenery for the club layouts.

When outlining the above, the response is often ‘makes sense – why aren’t ‘they’ taking it up?  Good question; pragmatic answer.  Currently dementia research and its funding is dominated by pharmaceutical companies and the care home sector.  Neither sector is interested in reducing potential future revenue.  Even ‘prevention’ is concentrating on finding a drug for an immunisation strategy.  The other barrier is that new research will only be considered where research is already underway!  Support, especially funding support, requires academic supervisors to sponsor the new work and related papers already published in journals which will in turn cite the new work.  My proposals based on individuals avoiding the disease did not fit with existing research which concentrates on those with the disease.

Meanwhile, I will continue to nibble away at communities, organizations, opportunities as they arise, to encourage pastimes which involve dexterity, concentration and, ideally, social groups, to try and reverse the dark dementia clouds being forecast by the main stream of dementia research.

David Powell