Jump to content

'Sputnik' - another MPD railcar set

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

There seems to be something of an NIR building boom at the moment, if the forum is any indication, and for a change, the UTA's Multi-Purpose Diesel railcars are getting a decent look-in. Having nearly finished a power-twin set that I'd started back in the 1990s, I'm now building a 4-car set based on the original batch of MPDs. These were designed to handle Belfast York Road to Londonderry Waterside expresses and a good job they made of it too. They were converted in the late 1950s from LMS-style coaches built just a few years before for the 'Festival' express. While their advanced transmission gave trouble in later years - using MPDs to haul heavy overnight freight trains in between passenger turns didn't help - they were fast and ahead of their time, which is likely why they acquired the name 'Sputniks', the Soviet satellite being a synonym for all that was space age and modern, in those days.


MPD publicity pic 3s.jpg


Because of their close family likeness to LMS Stanier coaches, the initial batch of MPDs is a relatively straightforward conversion from a suitable RTR coach. Back in the early 1990s I built two 3-car sets, all from Hornby Staniers, finishing the first in NIR maroon & grey and the second, in UTA Deep Brunswick Green with frontal wasp-stripes.





This set is for member Train Model as a follow-on to his 70 Class set and while the donor coaches will be the same, power will come not from a modified Tri-ang Hornby Hymek motoe bogie, but from a more satisfactory Hornby 5-pole ringfield power bogie, taken from an HST chassis, refitted with Hornby Class 110 DMU bogie frames and fitted to a modified centre car trailer chassis from that DMU.


For the bodyshells I'm using some of the last of a set of unfinished shells, picked up 20 years ago. The Hornby Stanier is a 57' composite and while the length is fine, the window spacing will be a little out for some of the cars, tho it's hardly noticeable and not worth correcting. First task is to strip off the roof detail, both ventilators and the prominent ribs all have to go, a carefully-weilded Stanley-type knife doing the trick. Lots of sanding later and they're done.




Next, the cars need one or more windows 'plated over' - half-windows for a composite and open third power cars, plus a passenger window for the brake open power car. The Fourth car will be a corridor trailer or 'mule' as they were called, which I haven't started yet. Other windows need opened up, referring to works drawings and available photographs, including the UTA publicity photo pictured above.


Next it's time to start forming the cab fronts, from plasticard, using three sheets laminated, glued in place and then sanded and trimmed to fit. Windows can then be cut and the corridor connection built up between them. Before fitting the cab I cut away most of the bulkhead behind, leaving just the two vertical 'prongs' which secure the bodyshell to the underframe. The green MPD in the background is the recently-completed 'suburban' set, awaiting UTA crests and numbering.






Next task will be to make the cab fronts for the other two coaches, and make a start on the trailer.

Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Multi-Purpose Diesel train - progress update

To recap, using bare Hornby Stanier bodyshells as a base, I'm making a 4-car UTA MPD set. There will be a power car, two dummy power car and a trailer, so that there will be three power cars for hauling freight trains if required. The powered vehicle will have Hornby a 5-pole SWB motor bogie, from an HST set but refitted with Hornby Calder Valley DMU bogie frames in a modified centre car chassis.


All vehicles will be from the first set of MPDs built by the Authority, as the coaches from which these were converted are basically Stanier look-alikes (the next batch had non-corridor slam door configuration; then came some with bus-type seating and narrow windows, then a final batch of double-ended power cars). The powered vehicle will be one of the 39-41 open third series; the dummy power cars will be an open third of the 40-41 series and corridor composite 42 or 43; while the trailer - nearly all MPD trailers, known as 'mules', had driving cabs - will be from the 529-534 series, which were corridor thirds.


A note on references

For reference, I have the works drawings via Mark Kennedy at the UFTM, many of which I photographed and uploaded to my RMweb gallery, here:




Here are the (RMweb photos of the) drawings for the cars I'm building. As always, photos need used in conjunction with these - for example some toilet windows are absent in the plan views.


MPD 36, 37, 38, 39.jpg

MPD 42, 43.jpg

MPD 40, 41.jpg


The set is to be finished in NIR maroon and grey. By this time they had lost the bowed rainstrips and the destination board mounts from their roofs and acquired new heaters which meant some spouted bodyside grills they didn't have earlier. Although some roof vents disappeared towards the end and they had long lost the curved plexiglass corridor connection covers first fitted to the MPDs, the original UTA publicity pics at Whitehead are still great references for most details, including roof ventilator layout.


MPD official pic 1s.jpg

MPD publicity shot 2s.jpg


For photographs and data, the main sources on UTA railcars are:


- 'Diesel Dawn' by Colm Flanagan;

- 'The UTA in Colour' by Derek Young;

- 'Irish Railways in Colour' by Tom Ferris (volume 1 only - unforgiveably, volume 2 left out the MPDs);

- '35 Years of NIR' by Jonathan M Allen;

- 'Rail runabout' by Sam Somerville;

- 'Irish railways Traction & Travel' (notably 2nd & 3rd editions) by the Irish Traction Group.


There are also some decent photos of MPDs in 'Irish Railway Album' by Colin Boocock, 'Irish Traction in Colour' by Derek Huntriss; and 'Railways in Ireland' part 2 by Martin Bairstow.


The model so far

Work has continued on the three stripped-down bodyshells prepared so far. Cab fronts have been laminated from plasticard sheet, with a thin later in front and a large opening cut in the inner layers to form a recess behind the windows, so the glazing will fit pretty flush. Retracted corridor connections were made and added. So far I have completed one cover, one with a small window and three horizontal ribs, which style was common from the early 1960s until well into the NIR era; two cars will have these, and two will have the plain board cover that was also common.


Headlights were added from cuts from a plastic tube, with the end dished or reamed out with the tip of a modelling knife before cutting off. Below these, a little square of plasticard each side formed the lamp brackets. Air horns will be made and added to the upper left cab fronts after painting, I think, so as not to get in the way of masking.




For the inner ends, a plasticard outer bulkhead was added, scribed to simulate planking. Corridor connections were added, with thick darning thread wrapped a couple of times around the outside to simulate folds. Rudimentart but robust support arms were added to the top each side and an outer frame cut and added to the outer end. The pic I'd taken about 1991 of trailer 532 at RPSI Whithead was useful, here.


MPD 532 RPSI 003s.jpg


Steps were added on one side from plasticard strip offcuts, plus some of the other fittings seen.


On the 36-39 series car, I added two small grills behind the cab on the LH side, made from thin sheet plasticard scribed, then cut to size, and finally glued on and lightly sanded. These grills I think appeared when new train heating systems were fitted. One of the snippets CME WAG Macafee told me about the MPDs was that train heating was always a problem; when going downhill water tended to flow from one linked water tank to the next and fitting non-return valves created other problems.




Also added were door hinges and handles, lost when the cab ends were sanded in to shape. Plus the same, for the guard's compartment double doors in the 36-39 series car. I need to add wire handrails to the guard's doors but that will come later.


Next and finally for this session I added roof ventilators, referring to those publicity photos which are by far the best reference I've seen for this detail, at least for the ex-'Festival' MPD cars. These are a mix of rectangular vents and a sort of drum-shaped vent axia type. The former has some subtle contours and I think can be represented quite well by just a small rectangle of plasticard, rounded by sanding. The vent axia types are made from a short cut from plastic tube fitted into a flat collar cut from plasticard sheet. It's hard to be sure but I think I've got the arrangements about right; each car in the set has a different arrangement. Exhaust pipes were cut from a cotton bud shaft and fitted into a hole cut in the roof at the cab end.


Next task will likely be the 4th car's bodyshell and then the power car chassis.

Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's some pics on the latest progress on this 4-car MPD set.


The 4th car - a trailer, on the right in the group shots - has now had cab, roof and corridor detail added, as well as some filling-in of windows to replicate the differences in the prototype - in this case, a middle passenger window converted into a half window + door; and a half-window behind the cab reduced to a door-sized window. I need to sand down the door fittings around the window ahead of that and re-scribe, and fit hinges to, the newly-formed door window behind it. Headlight position on MPDs seems to have varied, with the original units having theirs quite close either side of the corridor connection, but this type of trailer had them further out, so the difference visible in these pics is deliberate.


Grills have been added to one side of both the non-brake dummy power cars and the leading passenger compartment's window on that side half covered over, where the heat exchanger was fitted. To make these grill, rather than make a mess trying some thing too clever, I scribed rows of closely-spaced lines on some very thin (10 or 15 thou?) plasticard sheet, cut it to size and glued in place, sanding lightly afterwards to reduce their prominence.


Two types of corridor connection cover have been made: two each of the plain board and the windowed version. The former seems to have been much more common by NIR days but the latter looks more attractive.


The three unpowered vehicles (two dummy poser cars and a driving trailer) will be fitted with a modified, lowered Hornby Stanier chassis - the unpowered trailer at the back in the pics has had one fitted before modification, to check fit. The power car (no.39) has been fitted to a Hornby Class 110 'Calder Valley' DMU centre car chassis, modified to take HST power and trailing bogies which have been fitted with the bogie frames from the same DMU - this involves cutting away the platform over the space where the motor bogie willl be, but leaving 'shoulders' each side to take the pegs either side of the bogie frame - here, the empty HST chassis was used as a template for the shoulders. Work is already under way to modify this chassis further, the better to resemble an MPD one, starting with removing some extraneous components and fitting underframe trussing.








The last pic is 39 side-on, sitting on the Calder Valley trailer chassis. The small brake compartment behind the driver's cab goes some way to hide the 5-pole Hornby Ringfield motor bogie. Further digging thru photos showed that by NIR days, this vehicle had lost the little hatch (with small window above) which was designed to cover the tablet exchange apparatus. So I had to fill in the window (which I had opened up, earlier!) and remove and sand smooth the hatch below it. I'll replace the front bogie frame with one without a tension lock coupling, later, tho I may fit a wire loop to permit hauling an NCC 'brown van', one or more of which were a common sight behind an MPD, even into NIR days.




Three power cars and one trailer will provide a bit of flexibility, with the former able realistically to haul quite heavy goods trains, if desired. Nearly all MPDs had driving cabs, including trailers, the main exception being diners and a pair of LMS-type coaches (526 and 527) which were fitted to run with MEDs and MPDs.


Next job will likely be priming the bodyshells with car aerosol grey primer. Cab-front horns on power cars have been left till after painting in NIR maroon & grey.

Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sputnik update!


Below are a few pics showing the current state of play.


All for bodyshells have now received their coat of ford Polar Grey. Work on the underframes is proceeding slowly but surely. for the 36-19 series power car (nearest camera) the underframe work included cutting away the platform over the leading bogie to accommodate the HST power bogie, then removing, modifying or adding various components to produce an MPD-like layout, including new underframe trussing, absent entirely on the Calder Valley DMU centre car chassis used. Because this has angular rather than straight buffer beams, these had also to be rebuilt.


Work on two of the three modified Hornby Stanier underframes for the two dummy power cars and trailer car is well under way. For the latter the old, GWR-style battery boxes needed cut away and replaced with a single LMS-style one, on one side only, centred. The other needs one of the battery boxes repositioned and another added as well as various other MPD-style components added. Both need new, round buffers and all three need the little square plates seen on MPD buffer beans, added from plasticard. Outer cars will receive etched brass screw link couplings tho likely with wire loops on the bogies to enable them to haul brown vans, conflats or other suitable wagons.








Note the two different types of corridor connection cover, loosely fitted before final painting, and the fact the two rear cars - dummy powered cars in the 40-14 and 42-43 series - have lost the front seat row, with the window half plated over and a grill for the heat exchanger fitted to many MPDs about 1960. also the wider-spaced headlights, on the trailer (second from the camera).


Next job is to finish work on the underframes and mask and paint NIR maroon. Then the interior units, air horns, wipers, flush glazing outer couplings and other final details.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Latest progress!


Three underframes - real power car, one dummy power car, and a trailer - have now been completed, apart from two needing the distinctive cable ducting between junction boxes being added to the sidesoles and in the case of the outer cars, etched brass couplings being fitted.


All four bodyshells have now had the NIR maroon (Damask Red car spray, on top of ford Polar Grey) and had the inner ends and front corridor connections brush painted in matt black. Corridor connection covers are shown push-fitted, including the two plain black ones; all of these can be removed or exchanged between cars to preference. Tho not as common as time went by, I prefer the version with the small window.


Getting the height of the cab front windows is a little tricky as, when painted, these should be just high enough to reach the upper maroon, leaving none of the lighter colour visible above.




The power car, 36-39 series with the slam-door guard's compartment, is seen fitted loosely to its underframe. With its HST bogies now having Hornby Class 110 DMU bogie frames, this one at least has (round) roller-bearing axle boxes, which is correct for MPDs; the other underframes will just retain their (square axle-boxed) Hornby LMS-style bogies. I have cut away the front coupling and replaced this with a florist's wire loop which will not interfere with the cosmetic screw-link coupling to be fitted and will also enable brown vans, freight wagons or even other MPD cars (or trailing coaches) to be hauled. You can see the side grills for the heat exchanger fitted c.1960, behind the guard's doors. Roof vent layout is based on photos, and is basically as built but less the bowed rainstrips and the train name board holders, tho by late NIR days, some roof ventilators seem to have been removed.




Air horns and some other details have yet to be fitted. Flush glazing is being prepared, and interior units need to be made (for the two cars with open seating) or adapted (for the two with compartments).


PS in the background of the first pic is a damaged Tri-ang L1 which at some point will be converted into a GNR(I) S Class! The old Tri-ang suburban coaches also visible are at present slated to become a simple MPD conversion (no tedious cut and shutting, accepting having too few compartments) with a couple of the same maker's mainline coaches, all painted in 'eau de nil', as a representation of the 'turquoise train' seen on the Bangor line in the very early 1960s. I've decided in the absence of other info that this might well have been a new MPD on test on that line, before it was cut off from the rest of the network; like this new set pictured at an unknown location, captioned as taken in October 1959.


MPD set 8 Oct 59, 539 leading.jpg

Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks David!


Yes the vacuum-formed windows are the venerable South Eastern Finecast 'Flushglaze' product, still available for a wide range of coaches and locos:




Highly recommended. Some, like the Hornby LMS variety I'm using here, come with moulded-on ventilator framing. Others, like those for the Hornby and Lima Mk2a/b coaches, come designed to fit around the ventilator framing, where these are moulded as part of the coach bodyshell.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Latest progress on this 4-car set!




Bodies have been masked and roofs spray-painted mat black (which, like the previous 70 Class model, turned out a to-me-pleasing satin finish). Grey sides were carefully touched up where the maroon had bled thru the previous masking.


Having finished the underframes - three power cars complete with plasticard and tube engines, engine mounts, air tanks, fuel tanks etc and a trailer with LMS-style underframe - most of the recent effort has concentrated on the interiors. Two of these are adapted Hornby Stanier compo units, the main modification being removing the toilet from the cab end and fitting a rudimentary driver's cab. Two interiors with basic seats (for the open layout vehicles) were scratchbuilt from plasticard. Ballast was added from fireclay pushed into voids in underframes and under some seating.




Above you can see one of the modified Stanier seating units, next to its bodyshell (a 42-43 series power car with compartmented layout). I still need to box in the front seat, where c.1960 a heat exchanger was fitted, as visible from the grill and the partially-plated over leading passenger window, on the front RH side of the body.


Below is the powered vehicle, one of the 36-39 series and the only vehicle in this set with guard's accommodation; in these vehicles, without the large sliding doors fitted to most such MPDs. This sits on a modified Hornby Calder Valley DMU trailer chassis with 5-pole HST trailing and motor bogies and the same DMU's bogie frames clipped in place of the HST's. The front coupling has been replaced with a less conspicuous wire loop to permit hauling a brown van or freight. The buffer bean has been fitted with an etched brass screw link coupling. SE Finecast flush glazing has been added. I need to adjust the sit of the body on the underframe a little. I plan to replace the plasticard buffers with brass ones, for this and possibly all the cab ends.




The last pic shows the powered car refitted with the alternative plain board corridor connection cover, and next to it, the un-powered trailer with the more attractive but less common windowed and painted type.




I have started making air horns and the next job will be completing the heat exchanger compartments, flush glazing the other 3 cars, fitting everything together and checking fit, sit & running, then adding the air horns, wipers and other final details. I've also started work on another 80 Class set, the cut-up BR Mk2 coach parts for which you can probably see in the first pic.

Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right, the powered car is now about done apart from numbering, and here she is.




Since the last pic, I have replaced the plasticard disc buffer heads at the cab end with turned brass ones; painted the buffer beam red; fitted handrails either side, ahead of the guard's doors, made from a cut-down staple pushed into carefully twist-drilled holes; and added a wiper and some air horns to the cab front, both secured with Humbrol Clearfix (a wisp of which you can see in the pics but this just wipes away without affecting paint, hence its suitability for attaching things to a painted model). The air horns were made from small sprue trimmed into shape, mounted in pairs on a small back plate and pre-painted maroon, for easier fitting. The sit of the bodyshell had been adjusted on the chassis and it's now a decent clip fit via front and rear lugs glued in place and painted black. As well as numbering, I need to add and paint reddish-brown a wire exhaust pipe to the right of the underfloor engine, which I'd forgotten about, but it's an easy job. Basically job done, for that car anyway, the other three will now get similar treatment.


Behind the car in the pics below is my original 1992 model, one of the sliding door MPDs. This started out as a repainted Hornby Stanier brake 3rd, complete with ribbed roof, too few passenger compartments etc and just a plasticard MPD cab. I later modified it to the present form, adding a couple of extra compartments, accurate roof detail, the sliding door etc; it still lacks a lavatory but otherwise it's a reasonable replica of MPDs 44 & 45. Power is a Tri-ang Hornby Hymek motor bogie with sideframes filed back and LMS bogie frames glued on top. With a more modern Hornby 5-pole motor and trailing bogie pickup the new model should be a better performer as well as a somewhat better and more accurate model. Again what looks like a scratch on the lower cab front of the new model is that wisp of Humbrol Clearfix which I have since wiped off.


Nearly there!



Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Nelson! Couple more pics of the powered car, in natural light which is always better ('Gods light is best', photographers supposedly say), taken from the opposite side.






This is one of the two cars with the scratchbuilt, open seating unit.


Below for comparison is a pair of recent pics of my early 1990s model of one of these (36-39 series) cars, my second MPD set, like the earlier, NIR-liveried set with modified Hymek motor bogie and in this case carrying the rainstrips & roof board mounts the 'Festival' coach conversion MPDs retained in UTA days, but seem to have lost by maroon & grey era (which for MPDs started a couple of years before NIR's 1968 debut). This model also has a small square window behind the driver's door and the hatch below it for the tablet exchanger, which from photos, seem to both have been plated over by the late 1960s, with the tablet exchange kit presumably either removed or operated differently (perhaps after the 70 Class took over the premier NCC main line services, from 1966). I still haven't got around to making an interior for it! The green car also lacks the two-part tall grill behind the brake compartment on the LH side, seen on the new model, where heat exchangers were fitted from 1960 onwards (early enough for my wasp-strpied UTA cars to have them too; but my sources are better now!).


green mpd2.jpg


green mpd4.jpg

Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Excellent standard as usual Ivor. It's a pity that the Railcar does not attract the interest it should in the history of Irish Railways especially as it's builders were way ahead of anything England was developing at this time.


Totally agree Kieran.Superb work and superb thread Ivor.The railcars were the backbone of the UTA/NIR transport system,but never received the recognition they deserved.They were caught in the era of the last years of steam and the introduction of the then new diesels that came in to displace the steam engines and therefore they paled into insignificance between the two.But pioneers they were,MEDs with power assisted doors in the 50s,certainly ahead of their time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Some more pics of the powered car, now numbered '39' (Maybex bus numbers) on the cab front at any rate and with NIR logos, some additional footboards at the cab end and on its bogie and the underframe given a final coat of satin black. The NIR logos are hand-painted waterslide transfers, brush painted onto some clear decal film in the borders of a set of Almark RAF roundels then carefully trimmed and applied. The interior of this car is open seating, scratchbuilt from plasticard and with a tab between the middle seats to hold down mostly out of sight the wire between 5-pole powered bogie and trailing bogie.


Pics of the other cars and the full set to follow later; the bodyshells having been flush-glazed, all that's left is clipping them on and applying numbers and logos.







Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK here are some more pics of the completed set, now just needing a test run.








The new 4-car set is nearest, with my 1990s NIR 3-car set behind.


The new set is designed to be run as either a full 4-car set with 36 at one end and 532 at the other, both being fitted, under the cosmetic etched brass screw link coupling, with wire loops to enable a brown van to be hauled; or with just the 3 power cars hauling freight in true Multi-Purpose Diesel fashion, leaving the trailer behind. Though more common in UTA days, even in later life MPDs in maroon and grey were sometimes seen hauling short rakes of vans or conflats.

Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

...some more pics of individual cars. To recap: the powered unit, with the brake compartment, is 39; the other two dummy power cars are 40 and 42, differing mainly in that 42 has open seating, 40 compartment, with associated differences in roof vent layout. The 'mule' or trailer is 532, which has corridor seating. The latter survived in worn NIR livery at Whitehead into the 1990s, but I'm not sure if she survived the later fire.


Power car 39 (with 45 to the left, from my original set):



Power car 42:




Three-car set comprising (R to L) 40, 39 and 42:



Power cars 40 & 42:




Trailer 532:




Power car 40:



Power car 42:



Trailer or 'mule' 532, again:



By about the time NIR took over, MPD power cars had acquired a tall grill beside the heat exchanger, visible on the LH side of 39 and on the RH side of 40 and 42. When the exchanger was fitted in the early 1960s, the latter two cars lost a row of seats in the front compartment, evident from the smaller leading passenger window on the RH sides. The grill was a later addition, being absent on some UTA era pics. Not only did different MPD batches differ in appearance, they also changed over time, so reference to photos is always desirable, when modelling these pioneering diesel railcars.

Edited by 33lima
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Finally, some pics of all the MPD cars I've built over the years. From left to right, NIR 3-car set, made c.1991; NIR 4-car set, just completed; UTA 2-car 'suburban' set, started c.1995 but just recently completed; and UTA 3-car set, built c.1994.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

NIR was truly fascinating in the early 70s. The NCC and GN sections still retained a real sense of their former identity - even the (Edmondson) tickets on each were different, being printed to former UTA designs on the NCC, and GN-style on different coloured card on GVS to Portadown.


As late as 1977, a Lisburn to Connolly day return was headed "UTA", as old stocks of tickets were being used up.


York Road had what was by then a somewhat dilapidated and random selection of MPD cars in various states, a few MEDs, with other MEDs on the isolated Bangor line, which still retained some BCDR signalling. The GNR section had an equally random lot of AEC and BUT cars. NCC and GN had steam too..... for a short while....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the kind comments, guys!


Some final pics taken during running trials, which were successful with no adjustments needed, except to the 'sit' of one car. Beforehand I had shortened the arms of the wipers and painted them a duller colour. All done!


Middle pic shows the powered car chassis which, to recap, is a Hornby 'Calder Valley' DMU centre car slightly modified to accept Hornby HST 5-pole motor bogie with DMU sideframes and suitably modified underframe; plus plasticard interior unit.


The variations in colour are down to dull natural -vs- fluorescent lighting.









Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use