- A 1/8th Scale 2-BIL Southern EMU

The Background This item has been written in an effort to persuade the complete novice that it really is possible to build something reasonable with the minimum of tools, skills and knowledge. It also demonstrates that if you stick at a model engineering project and surround yourself with plenty of existing model engineers, help and encouragement is available in no small measure. The end result is a reasonable representation of a 7.25” gauge, 1/8th scale model of a Southern Electric 2-BIL Multiple Unit. It all started one balmy summer evening over a bottle of wine in the garden. Our grandson had been intrigued by the incessant revolutions of the Mamod steam train, and the idea of extending this into a proper garden railway began to gain the acceptance - even encouragement - of the domestic planning authority whose garden it is! A chance mention to friends that this was becoming more than just a pipe dream led to the shock revelation that just some two miles down the road from where we lived was a very active minitaure live steam railway! The Wortley Top Forge Model Engineers and their railway had been at the site near Barnsley for around 12 years - and we had last visited it a couple of years prior to that. What a waste of twelve years! The next Sunday saw the inevitable first vist, and it has to be said that as a visitor, I found one of the most welcoming and friendly bunch of people you could wish to meet. (I then said farewell to these other visitors and finally met the Model Engineers!!). It was not long before I had been introduced to the mysteries of injectors, boiler tubes, castings, lathes and other daunting topics about which I knew nothing. And then came the inevitable “when are you building your steam loco then”? Being too scared to admit that I didn’t know one end of a drill from another, I had to think quickly. There was no way I would tackle anything so complex, but I might be prepared to try my hand at a Southern Electric Multiple Unit (EMU), so I made the mistake of offering this for my “project”. Why a Southern EMU? In my youth, I spent many happy days trainspotting around the Brighton and Eastbourne areas and the EMU was always a source of fascination - perhaps even more so than the diminishing numbers of steam locos. My Great-uncle had been a top link driver on the Southern Region, including periods where he was a driver on the prestigious all-electric Pullman ‘Brighton Belle’, and one of my earliest memories is of being lifted by my father to see out of the driver’s window of one of the 5-BEL units as it waited in Brighton Station. Even if they did agree to my strange choice of prototype, I felt comfortable that I might just manage the project as I had built a couple of EMUs for my 4mm scale model railway. Surely it would be just a case of doing it again on a bigger scale? I had been fairly confident that this would be the end of the matter. After all, the dyed-in-the-wool model engineer wouldn’t be interested, and how many Yorkshiremen would even tolerate such a monstrosity on their railway? Horror of horrors - the suggestion was well received and the ‘novelty factor’ seemed to generate much more interest than I’d ever have imagined. So what follows is a description of the project which really does represent the first attempts of a traditional small scale railway modeller to enter the world of "big boys toys"!


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