Diesel Rail Racing
by Jeff Davies (AKA: Rail Racer)
The more picture I see of diesel rail cars the more I like them. These were complete miniature cars in every sense of the word, having engines, clutches, fuel tanks and everything else's from their full size counterparts. Diesel rail cars were some of the most beautiful model cars ever produced, with wonderful hand beaten aluminium bodies which had fanatic levels of detail built in with beautiful vents, grills and exhaust systems. They were in many cases more works of art than models and showed the tremendous level of skill of the craftsmen that form these wonderful replicas of 1950's racing cars. The diesel rail cars were the epitome of functional miniature racing cars of the period. Part of the rules stressed realism in detailing, for example installing a driver and the correct colour paint. Also, there seemed to be a continuous upgrade in the tracks as far as paddock, sponsor banners, etc.
You only have to look at pictures such as the cover of "The Model Engineer" Jan 1953 to see the wonderful scenic track details resulting in an accurate scaled down version of the full size race tracks of the day, complete with pit crews and large numbers of spectators. I think it is safe to say, that the British model racers were the only ones making this amount of effort, as most of the tracks in Britain were built by Model Enginnering Society such as Southport Model Engineering Society.
I think that the diesel rail cars in this time period were the final result of this philosophy of scale model racing presentation. Some of the diesel rail vehicle taking years to build by hand with tremendous passion. This was carried directly over into the building of the first electric rail track as they were built by in large the same group of model engineers and the electric rail cars were built with a similar level of commitment and passion.
Diesel rail racing lead directly to it's electric counterpart (mainly though the activities of one man and his patented "zonkers") and he was one of the people right at the front of both movements. His name was Alban Adams, who in 1953 ran a diesel rail racing track (one of the few commercail tracks) at Blackpool daily though the summer season, once he told me when I meet his down at his Boscombe factory he had invented slot racing and in away he was right. I am sure this is not quite the way he would have seen it but,
In 1954 Alban opened a new indoor circuit for diesel rail cars at Boscombe. This was a very grand affair and for the opening Alban had a team of 40 works built diesel rail cars representing just about every full size racing car from Ferrari's and BRMs to Cooper 500. This must have been at that time one of the largest groups of diesel rail cars ever built by one company (MRRC) in one place (fortunately many of these cars still exist), The Track was house in a centrally heated building 60x 22ft and was built to be around waist height, the track followed a basic figure of eight shape and was 120ft long. The track had a starter disc for each of the three lanes and extractor fans (ex-hairdryers) to suck away excess fumes when cars were at the start and most importantly a automatic lap-scorer.
This was rail racing de luxe according to Model Maker. But the missing factor was still there, the racer had no control over his car once it had started and was only really a spectator once the car had left the line. What was really needed was for the racer to have control of his car during the race so he could feel that heart stopping excitement of racing to victory