Scratch Building - D.I.Y. Locomotives and Rolling stock Wagons

Remember with all Scratch building to consider your safety when using tools and materials. We are not responsible for your mistakes / injuries howsoever they should occur, as we have no control of your actions, so please be careful.

D.I.Y. Locomotives

by Wolf Schulze

Many of us in these times of inflation struggle to make ends meet. It is therefore most satisfying when we can use our skills to make something for our railway without having to dig too deep into our pockets. If you think that you are not clever enough to do that, join the gang. I felt exactly the same until I had a go and found talents which I never thought were in me.


To start off with we need a few tools. Nothing fancy. A board to do our work on. For this I would recommend one of those plastic chopping boards (not the one she uses in the kitchen but one like it), as they have nice square edges. A good set square, a sharp craft knife and a small drill, such as a Dremel (but there are cheaper ones around). Other items are screws, glue and paint.

First things first

In order to start off with it is a good idea to make a drawing, preferably full scale, which in our scale easily fits on a A4 sheet of paper. As we are starting out let's start with some motive power. I found the easiest way is to start with an Aristocraft Bogey. I obtain mine from that nice chap at Kent Garden Railways, who attends our shows, and who let's me have them usually at a discount. Here you have a power unit which is in working order and which is ready to run. There are of course other units available and I would not like to give you the impression that mine is the only solution.

Onto this I screw a piece of 6mm MDF 24.5 x 10 mm. This is the base for my constructions. I like MDF because it is widely available, does not need a lot of sanding and takes glue and paint easily. The most basic thing I add to this is a switch to isolate the motor or to switch to battery operation.

Add to this two pieces of wood front and back to take the buffer and draw gear and built on top anything you fancy. After all it's your railway and you are entitled to please yourself. Here are a few examples of this sort of construction:

The Yellow Peril can be used as a Diesel Loco, a Snowplough or a Camera Base.

So you see with a bit of ingenuity you don,t have to restrict the use. Even the top of the railcar could be fitted on the base. Both the two Locos have their superstructure built from brass and are fitted with sound units. The railcar has been built entirely from MDF. For Glue I usually use Evostick Exterior Grade PVA and my paint normally comes from Halfords. A spray can of car lacquer seems to go a long way. Although the Yellow Peril and the railcar are of my own design, the KÖFIII has been scaled up from a HO model.

In conclusion all I can say is that : IF I CAN DO IT SO CAN YOU!

Rolling stock - Wagons

The base of my rolling stock is a piece of MDF about 165x80mm. Please remember that I am not trying to tell you what wood to use, there is many a nice piece of wood in old wardrobes, chest of drawers etc. Just make sure that it is no longer required by the boss.

Any dimensions given here must then be adjusted to what is on hand. One thing I find handy is a small sawbench. If you look around shops like B&Q, Aldi's, Liddle or similar you may be able to pick one up for as little as £25 - or there abouts. You may think that this is a lot of money, but consider that we are talking of ££££££s worth of saving. If you give up smoking at the same time you can save this amount up in no time at all.

Now the following can be either cut from the MDF or can be bought as strip wood from your favourite retailer. You need a length of 10x0.5 or 0.6 mm stripwood. From this cut 2 length of 145 mm long and 2 length of 80 mm long.

Glue this up on your bottom piece of the wagon as shown:

The distance between the two long pieces depends on your gauge. You will also require two wheel bearings, two sets of wheels and two couplings. Fix the centre of the wheel bearings about 33 mm from the end of the frame.  Now cut two pieces of wood 145 mm long and 20 mm wide from a flat sheet of wood.

You also need two pieces of 80 mm x 20 mm. Divide these pieces into three equal planks and score heavily using a craft knife or a nail along a straight edge. If you should be so lucky to possess a small router, use a fine point.

Glue the four pieces together and mount tham on your chassis. If you intend to load the wagon up with some coal, sand or ballast there is no need to score the inside of the top. If however you intend to load it in such a way that the inside can be seen, you should score both sides.

If you should desire to build a closed van, just increase the width of all pieces to about 110mm and round the end pieces slightly. All that is now needed is to paint and decorate the wagons and vans to your preference. You can of course add refinements such as straps and hinges, brake pipes, depending on how much your budget can stand. Here are a few examples from my stock: