Railbus Project
Nelson Riedel, Nelson@NelsonsLocomotive.com
6/27/2015, last updated

This introduction page was penned in the spring of 2015 with the intent of following with a description of the project.   The bus was too much fun and the weather was too nice to work at the computer back in 2015.  The Railbus has evolved a bit since the version shown in this introduction but is still great fun.    The interest in the website has perked up again so I'm publishing this introduction with the intent of adding design information as time and interest permits.    

I've envied those with small battery powered locomotives they bring to the track, unload quickly and are off in a few minutes.   Of course they miss out on the oil, grease, soot, burned fingers and wet clothing the live steamers enjoy before they open the throttle the first time.  Last fall (fall of 2014) I decided to make such a vehicle my winter project.

The first step was to look over the readily available kits such as those from Plum Cove Studios and the Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose castings, etc.   None of these seemed be what I wanted.  After some thought I came up with the following requirements:

  1. The unit must fit with my short line logging operation of the first third of the last century.

  2. It must be a single unit.

  3. It must be able to carry two people ---  if I take it someplace with the wife there must be a place for her to ride too.

  4. It must fit in the back of my small SUV (Ford Escape) with the rear seats folded down --- about 66 inches.

  5. It must operate equally well in forward and reverse (seats reverse).     

 The next step was to search the Internet for images of suitable prototypes.    I stumbled on Rail Buses along the way.   These came in many shapes and sizes.   The one I selected to model is shown below; hope I'm not infringing on a copyright.

I believe this to be a HO scale model.  There are several other examples of similar HO models.  I didn't find any photos of similar full size prototypes.   The vehicle seems to carry both passengers and freight --- possibly railway express and maybe a post office.   It is driven by an internal combustion engine --- gasoline or possibly diesel.    I found several references to Mack Rail Buses  which I guessed to be powered by Mack Truck engines.     Some quick calculations from measurements taken from the image indicated that a 1/8 scale length of about 66 inches --- about 44 feet full size.

After lots of design and redesign, construction and reconstruction the bus turned out as follows:


The nose is a casting for the RGS Goose in about 2.5" scale.   The height is reduced to give a more appropriate profile.    The lights are also Goose castings.    The seats with swivel bases are from Walmart.com.   The front truck is a standard logging car/freight car truck of the era (see Arch Bar Trucks).   The rear axel with 5.8 inch wheels are from a junked switcher engine (gift from Dick McCloy).      

The foot pegs are aftermarket from Heeters.com.    

When the seats are reversed,  the person in front (in the back when reversed) uses the pegs between the seats.  The angle under the rear coupler slides out about six inches to provide a foot rest for the other person.     

This is the control panel.  The two gauges are for the air brakes; one indicates tank pressure (about 60 psi) and the other indicates the applied pressure (zero to about 60 psi).  The brass handle is the brake valve, a modified Clippard regulator from Tom Bee.    The brakes are off when lever is to the right, full on when pointing to the left.   The switches on the right  are air compressor (on) front headlight (off) and rear headlight (also off) and of course the horn button.    The toggle switch on the control box in the center controls the direction (forward, reverse and center off).    The knob controls the speed.  The digital meter displays battery voltage (0-30V) and motor current (0-50A).   The digits on the display are pulsed which is not noticeable to the human eye but easily captured in this fast shutter photo.    The control box lifts off and has about 5 feet of cord to permit operation when the seat is reversed  or if the operator wishes to walk beside the bus.   (The motor control consisted of a kit for the high current bridge and a self designed low power logic to generate the PWM pulses to control the bridge.  The operation was great except for a couple hiccups.  However, I became envious of those with hand held radio linked controls.  Last fall (2016) my circuitry suffered a severe fault--- the kind of fault that makes smoke.  I just couldn't get the energy up to rebuild the controller so I opted to buy an off-the-shelf unit with radio control.  More about that later.   The control panel will need to modified to accommodate the new handset.)            

The top is hinged at the back and easily lifts up to allow access to the batteries, controller, wiring , air compressor, etc.   The red plastic chain limits the rotation of the top to just beyond vertical.

Starting at the front, that is the battery charger in the cab.    The two 12 volt deep cycle batteries are under the gray PVC sheet (under the gloves).   The motor controller is behind the batteries. The air compressor,  air tank (both from Tom Bee) and the horn (O'Rielys Auto Parts)  are attached to the underside of the top near the rear.    Push -pull circuit breakers/switches for 12 volts and 24 volts are just behind the cab on the right.  (The air compressor and horn were later moved to be next to the controller and the air tank was eliminated.)  


Additional information is at the following links:

Railbus Frame
Railbus Drive
Railbus Body
Railbus Controller
Railbus Chargers
Railbus Accessories




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