Trolley Modeling in N Scale

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On the Workbench: Two Tiny Trolleys, Bodywork ~ Monday, July 31, 2006

These days we tend to think of streetcars as a pretty urban phenomenon, but this wasn't always so.

After a long pause I've recently resumed work on a pair of cars that are intended to represent the fleet of a small-town trolley system. The idea is that, like a lot of these systems, the Winifred Transit Company picked up a few used cars from big cities that had outgrown them. Despite their diverse origins, they took on more and more of a family resemblences as years passed and modificaitons were made in the company's shops.

Here's the highly kitbashed, but as-of-yet unpowered and unfinished bodies of my models; the car on the left is a modified Model Power "Brill" (actually based on a locally-built Toronto Transit prototype; see plans in June '72 MR, also uploaded to the NScaleTraction Yahoogroups files area); the car on the right is made from from a Bachmann Brill.

Two Tiny Trolleys

When I compared the dimensions of the Model Power car to the drawings in MR, I found that it was a bit overscale--too tall, and too wide. I decided to live with the extra width, but shortened it vertically, by putting some sandpaper on a flat surface and sanding off a scale foot or so from the bottoms of all sides. This also got rid of the cast-on girder that the model has only on one side (odd, but correct to the prototype).

The Bachmann car is also somewhat larger than scale, and to my eye, the ends looked way too tall and skinny. After I shortened the car by three windows, I cut off the angled buffer from the bottoms of the ends, and built up flat platforms that jutt out a bit. This changed the overall look quite a bit, making it more too my liking (I didn't have any specific prototype to go on, but I have an old HO Tyco trolley and used this as a rough guide). I built similar end platforms for the MP car.

Since I'm imagining that these cars have been converted for one-man operation, I rebuilt them into a Birney-style configuration, with doors in two corners (the ones that would be front-right/back-left depending on which way the car is going), and the doorways in the opposite corners closed off with boards up to the belt rail. The doors were scratchbuilt--a NWSL chopper helped a lot with this.

Other detail changes were the addition of roofwalk/trolley-boards to the MP car, to make it match the Bachmann, and replacing the cast on headlight housings with brass tube on both of them. Still to be added are roof-mounted bells, poles, and pole hooks.

I haven't found an easy way to power these cars; my plans are to build up a mechanism with parts from an Atlas RS-1. Here's some "builder's photo" style side views of the cars resting on one of the RS-1 trucks:

The Model Power/TTC Car

The Bachmann/Brill Car

There are lots of prototypes for little single-truck trolleys like this; here's a picture of a Kansas City Public Service car, at a museum in Ohio (Jerry Appleman Collection), and here's one of a surviving TTC car, No. 1706, at the Shore Line Trolley Museum (Daves Railpix/Bill Volkmer Collection).

And here's a few pictures of NOPSI/RTA car No. 29 that I snapped at New Orleans' Carollton barn (which I'm happy to report narrowly avoided flooding during Hurricane Katrina) a few years ago:

Note the cut-away side, due to the car's use as a rail-grinder

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