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1:35th Muir Hill rail tractor

Started by Bernhard, December 02, 2020, 07:00:00 AM

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Hello model building friends
You may have noticed that I am a fan of Fordson conversions. Today I would like to introduce you to a new project on this topic: the Muir Hill rail tractor. This is another narrow gauge critter powered by a Fordson tractor.

The Prototype

ManufacturerMuir Hill (Engineers) Ltd, Manchester, GB
Year of construction1925
DriveFordson N
Drive power20 hp
Number of gears3 forward and 1 reverse
SpeedAbout 10mph (16 km/h) in top gear
Track gauge2 ft (610 mm)
Weight4.5 t
Today's locationPrivately owned by Colin Copcutt, GB

Muir Hill (Engineers) Ltd based at Old Trafford in Manchester, started in the early 1920's. Amongst other products they built rather basic petrol engined locomotives, mainly for narrow gauge. The early locos were little more than a Fordson tractor skid mounted on a rail chassis, with a chain connecting the rear axle of the tractor to the rail wheels. The simple drive concept was a real weak point. If you couldn't sweep the rail tractor at the end of the track, you had to reverse at snail's pace.
The firm was sold in 1959 to the Winget group from Rochester, Kent.

Colin Copcutt, the current owner, writes about his rail tractor with the number 110, its odyssey and its successful restoration:

"Muir Hill No.110 was ordered in March 1925 by T Day and Sons Ltd, the Ford main agent in Okehampton, on behalf of Meeth (North Devon) China Clay Company limited. The China Clay Company quarried ball clay deposits from pits in Woolladon and Stockleigh. Two-foot gauge railways were built to transport the ball clay from the pits to the works and the interchange with the standard gauge railway. More modern locomotives were purchased in the late 1940s and the Muir Hill was probably not used after their delivery.
The remains of the loco were purchased by Rich Morris in 1970 who stored it on a farm in Longfield, Kent. In 1976 it was moved to the Gloddfa Ganol 'museum' in Blaenau Festiniog and then subsequently sold on, in 1997, to the Abbey Light Railway in Leeds.
What I purchased in October 2014 was the bare frames, the buffers, four new wheels, two new axles and a box of assorted castings. A project plan was developed for the restoration of the loco, with the initial emphasis on working towards a rolling chassis. Fabricated axle boxes and axle box keep plates were designed and built, the wheels were pressed onto the axles and new springs made. In the box of castings received, there were some components which were likely to have been part of the original loco braking system. Using these as patterns, a number of new castings were made and machined. The vital parts of the braking system including the handbrake column and all of the brake actuating mechanism were missing so a whole new system was designed. A mixture of castings and fabrications were used for the operating mechanisms together with a second-hand ACME screw thread and nut for the brake screw mechanism.
A Fordson tractor was purchased, overhauled and converted to the correct specification for the loco.
The relevant tractor parts were fitted to the chassis and new drive sprockets manufactured. Drive chains have been fitted, hidden beneath the newly manufactured chain guards".

Now the rail tractor presents itself perfectly restored and operational.


The model

Colin provided me with the main dimensions and various detailed photos of the rail tractor. With this I was able to create a first dimension sheet.


This resulted in a 3D model with all the necessary detailed drawings for the manufacturing of the parts.



Hi Bernard.
that you for a great background it is going to be a wonderful  model-1/35 scale?.
Happy Christmas.


Please keep us up to date on your progress. -- Russ


Yes Kim, it's 1:35th. News coming soon!

Ray Dunakin

Wow, they did a great job restoring that loco! What an excellent subject to model.
Visit my website to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!

Ray Dunakin's World


Let's start with the frame.


The side parts cannot be made from one piece because of the pockets.


They are therefore composed of two parts.
The pockets are milled into the upper parts with a circular saw blade.


The contours of the lower parts are milled on the turntable.
Finally, the upper and lower parts are soldered together.


Front and back of the frame are 3D printed parts. This was the only way to reproduce the waffle pattern on the side kicks (unfortunately hardly visible on the photo).


Also the buffer plates are 3D-printed, because I don't have a suitable circular saw blade for milling the slots.


The front tractor carrier is also made according to the slice principle:
Milling a profile
Cut off slice


The crank guide is manufactured in a similar way.