A fuzzy old photo put this on my to-do list years ago.
I’ve driven Plimsoll, my 1957 Series I, to all points of the compass and have even floated him on water using a groundsheet and ratchet strap.
But one barmy ambition eludes me – to drive Plimsoll on rails. It’s been on my to-do list since I clocked some snaps online (no pun intended) several years ago showing some early Land Rover factory experiments.
There seem to be two different ways of achieving ‘Rail-Rover’ status. Most commonly, roadgoing vehicles are fitted with drop-down bogies fore and aft that engage with the rails while the original road wheels (and tyres) provide traction.
Check out the previous articles I’ve written (Feb 2004 and June 2012 issues), featuring David Conroy from Contracked Lands; this is the technology he uses.
But my chosen method is far more basic. Just like the photos I saw, I want to remove the road wheels and replace them with railway wheels – no bogies, no bolt-on modifications.
The first challenge was to find someone who’d take on the task of designing and commissioning the wheels. The second? To find the cash to pay for them…
David sent me a copy of a trade magazine that included some useful contacts. Top of the list was Dennis Hewitt, of Casting Services in Thurmaston, Leicestershire. After detailed phone discussions, I met Dennis outside the Great Central Railway engine sheds in Loughborough to get Plimsoll measured by David Wright and Andrew Meredith of Locomotive Maintenance Services, the firm that will take the initial castings and machine them to the exacting specifications needed.
The first step was for me to whip off one of the front wheels so David could measure up. My hardly-ever-used Hi-Lift jack took the opportunity to demonstrate why regular use and lubrication are so important.
After a short wrestle, I gave up and reverted to the more familiar bottle-jack solution. Once the wheel was off, there was soon an engineering sketch on the ‘drawing board’ (aka steel work bench).
I’d also brought along a spare LWB wheel so that David had something solid to relate to when calculating how the wheel centre will need to work.
It’s now down to David to provide Dennis with accurate measurements for the casting model. At the time of writing this, these details and costs are being finalised, but I hope to have a set of wheels before Christmas. Then I’ll have to find someone who’ll let me loose on their tracks. In a Land Rover.
Just don't mention the cost.