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Twenty or so years ago I decided to build a model of the NIR Railbus. As the real railbus was built using Leyland National bus parts, I purchased two Tower Models Leyland National bus kits, one red London Transport, one green London Country.

I looked closely at the bus kits, and decided that there were not enough windows of the right size to build the railbus, so the project was shelved, and the kits consigned to the junk box.

More recently, while having a sort out, I came across the unbuilt kits, now robbed of parts for other road vehicles, and decided it was time to dispose of them. However, it suddenly came to me that the BREL Pacer was a development of the railbus, and it too used Leyland National bus parts. A quick check revealed that the Hornby Pacer had windows of the correct size, but it would require two bodies to give the correct number of windows for the railbus.

Two bodies were obtained and examined. Sure enough, with a bit of cut and shut, the two sides could be produced for the railbus.




However, the roof profile was totally incorrect, and was too wide. It was decided to make up the sides only from the Pacer bodies, and use the roofs from the bus kits, suitably shortened and spliced together, plus the two front ends.




Apart from the doors, the Pacer sides were not deep enough, so plastic strip was used to extend the depth of the sides.




All the parts were assembled, but the bus roof heating units were not correct for the railbus. The Pacer one was, so one unit was removed from a Pacer roof, and fitted to the railbus. It was also discovered that the Pacer doors were not the correct pattern for the railbus, so the Pacer doors were removed, and those from the kits were spliced in instead.




The pictures show the origins of parts. Red or green parts are from the bus kits, orange or brown are from the Pacer bodies, and white is additional plastic, except for the white line above the windows which was part of the Pacer livery.

The Pacer underframe was totally unsuitable for the railbus, except for the axleboxes, so these were cut out, and along with black plasticard, and white plastic strip, used to build the railbus underframe.

Motorising was the most difficult bit, as I did not want anything protruding into the passenger compartment, so everything had to fit below the floor. Four different transmission systems were tried, driving one axle, and eventually one was found that was not too fast, slow or noisy. A small Mashima motor and flywheel powers the railbus. Hornby Deltic wheels were used with a three point suspension system to ensure the best possible contact with the rails. The Deltic wheels were used as they are plated and stay clean longer, they also have a wider tyre which makes for smoother running through point frogs, and the flange is slightly coarser than Jackson Romford wheels which helps such a long wheelbase vehicle negotiate sharp curves.




A sound decoder has been fitted, again below the floor, but the speaker is fitted inside the roof. Connection to the decoder is by phosphor bronze strip fitted to the inside of a window pillar on each side. It is thin enough and narrow enough to allow the glazing units to be fitted over it, so no wires within the passenger compartment. Thin wires connect the top of the strips to the speaker, and the decoder is attached to the bottom. The sound is generic, having been taken from the ESU website and modified to be acceptable in conjunction with video footage taken of the railbus on the DCDR, in other words, sounds like a bus.

Holes have been made in the railbus ends for red tail lights and white headlights, still to be fitted.


The interior is made up using plasticard and the seats from the bus kits.

All during the construction and testing, something bugged me about the ends of the railbus, but I could not figure out what it was. Only when it came to painting did I realise what it was. There were two versions of the Leyland National bus, the Mk1 and the Mk2. They both had similar, but different front ends, and the railbus used the Mk2 front. My bus kits were Mk1. I don’t know if Tower Models ever produced a Mk2 bus kit, but I certainly was not going to undo the work already done.

Painting was done using my concoction for NIR light grey all over, and then after masking, my concoction of NIR light blue, followed by the orange panel, all sprayed. The black on the ends was masked and brush painted. Decals were made up on a PC and printed on to clear decal paper.






To finish the railbus, glazing and lights need to be fitted, and the underframe completed.          

Edited by Dhu Varren
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