7 1/4″ Gauge Tram or Brake van

This project developed from a desire to have instantly available motive power for my garden railway and it was conceived as a quick build to take place whilst my partner was away on holiday for two weeks.

An outline of this project was subsequently published in Model Engineer

The wheelchair components cost £50, the wheels were £20. I also bought gears and chain, bearings, wood around chassis, chequer plate and varnish. The rest I had already hoarded. Total cost about £120 and nearly as much again for the authentic pieces of railwayana that I used to give it some ornamentation. Note the Southern Railway ashtray on the rear left pillar.

I know the GWR lamps aren’t genuine!


The completed vehicle

The design criteria were that it should be large enough for adults to sit in, have a short wheel base to negotiate tight curves and be heavy towards the rear so that when an adult stepped on the footplate it didn’t lift off the track.

Factors contributing to the final design, were:-

1. The 2″ square tubing I had in stock from an abandoned kit car project.

2.  A load of very nice Parana Pine board recovered from the local swimming pool ceiling

3. The acquisition of the electrical parts from a motorised wheelchair from my favourite auction site. A bonus was that the motors had electric braking and manual clutches, so that they could be disengaged and the tram could be pushed or pulled.

As the resulting chassis could be pulled along easily, I based the final design on a brake van designed by Arthur Heywood, intending that it could be used as rolling stock behind a steam locomotive.



The completed chassis. Joystick controller plugs into the 8 way connector

The Chassis is welded from 2″ square and 2″ angle iron. The axles are mounted in take up bearings that have springs from from an old MG cylinder head.

A piece of tube extends the manual clutches on the motors so that they can be operated easily. This is the disc shown behind the LH wheel.

The motors are mounted vertically and have chain drives to the axles. All these components and batteries fit beneath the central seat.

Body being built around the chassis
The uprights and the horizontal rails were routed to support the parana pine boards
Cut down hinges seemed the easiest way to fit the roof
Early test run. The roof has been covered with canvas and a piece of thin plywoodwould be used as a veneer on the roof ends.