w&esthr logo

about    latest news    locations    rolling stock     events    sitemap

'Bulrush Dining Car'

Once the Rocket-powered B-type bus has been built then, if all goes to plan, this will pull the Lazybeach Special, making Nellie free for other duties. And, as Nellie is the locomotive most closely inspired by Rowland Emett's illustrations, then why not a rake of carriages which also emulate his creations? Such as sleeping carriages and a dining car: the 'Darkrise to Candleford Sleeper' and 'Bulrush Dining Car'.

'Why not?' is purely rhetorical – clearly this is a 'must do' scenario. But, as with most other 'must do's' on the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway, only when other projects have come to fruition first.

Rowland Emett included fairly mundane dining cars in several illustrations. However one approach to dining cars – and kitchens – deserves to be emulated by the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway.

Emett's dining arrangements on the Sandycombe Railway.
No Michelin stars. But five 'Pirelli Pentagrams' and four 'Dunlop Donuts'.
Just for effort.

As already announced in the Brindlecliffe ECHO!, designs for the interior of the Bulrush Dining Car have been commissioned, inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh and Herbert Ibberson (more about Ibberson).

Ibberson's kingfisher     Ibberson's bulrush        Ibberson's kingfisher and sun
Two of these designs are available from the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway gift shop as fridge magnets.
And if you're wondering what kingfishers have to do with railways then you're not up to speed with the (re)design of the Japanese bullet train.

Back in December 2018, when these designs were commissioned, the management of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway had forgotten that Charles Rennie Macintosh had 'connections' with model railways. In the middle of the First World War, one of his clients was Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke (1877–1953), for whom he designed 78 Derngate, Northampton – the only house Mackintosh designed in England and now a museum.

Part of the interior of 78 Derngate, Northampton, as restored 2002–3.

Bassett-Lowke was the son of a boiler-maker and a governess, who left school at thirteen. He spent eighteen-months in an architect's office, before joining his father in the family business. He took up the hobby of making model stationary steam engines. Realising the impossibility for the ordinary enthusiast of purchasing small parts, which he had made in his father's workshops, he soon began a small mail-order business. His father's bookkeeper, H.F.R. Franklin, joined him in the project.

The rest, as oft said, is history. Bassett-Lowke produced trains from 1:4 scale (15-inch gauge) live steam models to Gauge 2 (2 inches), Gauge 1 (45 mm) and O Gauge (32 mm). Also a large number of waterline models of ships were produced, many used as recognition models by the British and other navies. Until recently Bassett-Lowke models were independent of rival brands such as Hornby and Exley. However the Bassett-Lowke brand name was aquired by Hornby in 2008.

Bassett-Lowke's 'crepescular' catalogue cover from 1904–5.

The interior of Bulrush dining car just might have a whiff of this archetypal Charles Rennie Macintosh interior – one of the original Willow Tearooms at 217 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, which were completed in October 1903.

The Willow Tearooms as recreated for the twenty-first century.
'Macintosh at The Willow', as the venue is now known, fully opened in July 2018.

June 2019 update

As oft with the management's plans for Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway rolling stock, projected timescales are distinctly fluid. Mostly this is at the more treacly end of the viscosity spectrum [Ed.: an unduly periphrastic and prolix paraphrase of 'slowly'] but sometimes the pascal-second value unexpectedly approaches unity ['Eh?']. While the Jackdaw Works team enjoy the challenge of making motors and gears turn some wheels (as is currently underway for the B-type railbus) there are times when the relaxation of simpler 'non-mechanical' modelmaking is desired. So sketches were made of the interior of the Mackintosh-inspired dining car.

But then the penny dropped. While much fun will be had spoofing the interior design of Mackintosh's Willow Tearoooms, most of the time the interior will be almost invisible. More importantly, the exterior needs to look Mackintosh-esque. Now there is, and always has been, a world shortage of Art Nouveau railway carriages, dining cars or otherwise. So more than a little imagination was needed. But initial sketches looked promising, with the intention of emulating a traditional wood-framed railway carriage with planked infill, with the planks running vertically.

First sketch of the exterior side elevation. Planking will run vertically between the mid-grey frames. Designs for stained glass yet to be finalised.
In the end it really didn't look much like this…


The management had planned to scratchbuild all the chassis needed for the Occidental Express, Bulrush dining car and field kitchen using Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's 'standard issue' axles, axle boxes and wheels from Binnie Engineering. However, shortly before All Hallows Eve in 2019 a pair of unused LGB 4010 open wagons came up on eBay at rather nifty prices, so were snaffled. These are about 2 inches longer than most LGB non-bogie rolling stock so just right for an imposing dining car.

The field kitchen will probably be built on an LGB stake wagon as a few days later a brace of these were won on eBay at a suitably attractive price (the horrid yellow colour of these 'safari'-branded ones probably explains their affordability; the yellow will of course be quickly replaced by Regulation Grey).

    While probably revealing too much about the management's state of mind, the phrase 'stake wagons' impetrates a pun about wagons used to deliver rump and sirloin steaks. Fillets and T-bones too, perhaps.

    Or the vision of Joan of Arc or a medieval heretic being tied to a stake in the centre, with a cone of faggots around about to be ignited under their feet. Perhaps a toned-down-and-safe-for-the-children adaptation could become part of the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's Bonfire Night celebrations?

    In reality the stakes are around the sides and are the simplest way of retaining tree trunks, pipes and other loads liable to roll around. But, in empathy with T.S. Eliot's observation about humanity, the management cannot bear very much reality.

Some bits and pieces for the field kitchen and the sleeper cars had been bought earlier in 2019 from suppliers of doll's house accessories, such as The Dolls House Emporium.

update February 2020

Between June last year and about Christmas time the bodywork of a dining car based on the initial design sketches took shape. But progress was slow. Frankly it just didn't have the right 'look and feel' – way too much wooden panelling and not enough stained glass.

So around the turn of the year the decision was made to put this to one side and start with a different design, although using the same LGB chassis. In the meantime much progress was made with the 'Darkrise to Candleford Sleeper'. Finally, around Shrovetide, black polystrene sheet was laminated with balsa wood sheet, then a surprising quantity of bamboo kebab skewers were cut to length to provide the all-important eponymous 'bulrush' profile.

Much was assembled using UHU but where things needed to be stuck to the clear windows then E6000 adhesive was used as the refractive index more closely matches.

Although the inside was 'lined' with black polystyrene sheet (strictly not the lining but forming the main construction) the slightly glossy finish seemed all wrong. So, after a bit of simple masking, a light spray of matt black improved the look of the interior immensely.

general view without roof and ceiling – nor tables and chairs

the 'mantlepiece' on the inside of the end wall

the dresser (not yet fully 'dressed')

Not quite Waring & Gillow. The florist has yet to deliver the table decorations.


Artwork for the stained glass windows.

The stained glass windows in situ.

Almost finished.

Tables settings yet to be completed.

Looking 'up' at the ceiling with LEDs and copper busbars.


The stained glass lit by the interior lights.

After coming up with several fiddly ways of trying to produce 1:20 scale stained glass in the event the easiest option worked well enough. Which was to print out the artwork onto 'old school' OHP film sold to work with ink jet printers. Surprisingly it's still available, even though Powerpoint presentations have long-since replaced OHPs. Getting the print out to fit exactly and to getting the colours sufficiently saturated required delving into parts of the printer menu hitherto little-used. To protect the printing a blank sheet of OHP film was placed over the first, coated sides together.

The inside of the end wall was fitted with a 'tiled' bulrush decoration, surrounded by a 'mantlepiece' from balsa strip and a lollipop stick (all stained mahogany) with two wee nanoblocks acting as Art Deco-style corbels.

The 'PVC strip curtain' door to the kitchen was modelled from a thick polythene bag. The entrance door is from balsa wood sheet, as is the 'dresser' – all stained mahogany. The tables are the bits of thin ply 'popped out' from the windows of a laser-cut kit of a B-type bus as are some parts of the chairs. The rest of the chairs are cocktail sticks and coffee stirrers, all stained with the same shade of mahogany.

The roof is a spare LGB coach clerestory, without the clerestory (it ended up on the hearse van). The screw holes were masked with ventilators. Not the lobster-back type usually used on old coaches but an emulation of the rotating sort which might be fitted to vans. The roof is supported on an 'architrave' of black poylstyrene sheet. This also supports a false ceiling (from white polystyrene sheet), leaving room for the batteries and switch associated with the four LED light fittings under the ceiling.

These light fittings are 5 mm diameter ABS tube decorated with thin, self-adhesive copper tape. Two lengths of the same copper tape were used functionally as 'busbars' to get electricity to the LEDs. Presumably the main use for this copper tape is for slot-car tracks. It solders surprsingly easily, although an old metal baking tray was placed under the polystyrene sheet to which the copper tape was stuck, to minimise any problems with over-heating. Several previous lighting attempts would have been much easier if this copper tape was known about earlier!

The copper tape 'busbars' were left exposed as the combination of copper and black polystyrene 'backing' against the white ceiling seemed vaguely Art Deco.

Accoutrements include a stack of red paper napkins cut from, well, a red paper napkin and stuck with PVA. The glasses were cut from packaging protecting the business end of watercolour brushes. The copper jugs were sold as 1:12 scale dolls' house accessories. Dinner plates were cut from the gently domed bottoms of blister packs for rather large 'pills'. The dried flower arrangements were kindly donated by JSB Supplies from stock sourced at Petal & Stalk, the wonderful florists in Navenby.

After some delay cutlery was provided for dinings. Knives and forks were created by hammering 3 mm aluminium wire flat at one end. Handles were cut from 3 mm bore white ABS tube and glued in place. They look more like fish knives than steak knives… but bear no resemblance to runcible spoons.

Suaimhneas croi!


Field kitchen

In keeping with Emett's cartoon at the top of this page, the dining car needed to be 'served' from a field kitchen. But then there is also this cartoon from his pen:

No wagon construction required, just a standard LGB flat bed sprayed Regulation Grey. A suitable small branch was acquired from the Nottinghamshire side of the tripoint with Leicestershire and Lincolnshire then cut to a suitable shape. Expectations of finding it difficult to secure to the wagon were wrong. A clearance hole through the wagon bed and a pilot hole into the centre of the stem allowed a bog-standard woodscrew to gain purchase effectively. So good that an offcut was added the same way to provide more hanging space.

The copper pans and the black cauldron are 1:12 scale dolls' house accessories – with a 'dusting' of matt black paint sprayed on the underneaths to simulate soot. The tub of utensils came with the copper pans, although the utensils have been slightly modified to look less out of scale. The wine bottles were miniature skittles included in a Christmas cracker, suitably painted. .

Ten green bottle sitting, not on a wall, but on cocktail sticks.

The charcoal in the BBQ and fire dish is vermiculite mixed with black acrylic paint, allowed to dry, then prodded into a 'puddle' of cheapo PVA glue. Some of the beige vermiculite peeps through the black paint so looks suprisingly like the white-coloured embers of a charcoal BBQ.

The rest is Fimo (the cool box), Milliput (the rabbits and pheasants), paper and cardboard, ABS profile (the stands for the BBQ and fire dish), coffee stirrers, kebab skewers, the bottom of an eye drops phial (the bucket), part of an acetate cocktail stick dispenser vintage circa 1960 (the 'oil drum' BBQ), part of a deodorant bottle cap (the fire dish), the backing for a locket (the serving tray), and aluminium wire– plus assorted paints and a certain amount of serendipity. Not forgetting flickering LEDs and the necessary 'lectricks'. The logs for the fire dish were sawn and split from offcuts of the 'trees'.

Progress so far.

About there.

Old Ben in action

After some delay a master chef was recuited for the field kitchen. As a result of a previous pastime of cosplaying as Obi Wan Kenobi he's known as Old Ben. As the management have no idea about the characters in Star Wars this had to be explained, nay, prompted. Thanks – yet again – Ian.

There is some logic to this moniker. The body of the chef is a ?1930s lead figure of a stationmaster, presumably made by Britains. He's quite portly and wearing a 'frock coat'. Sadly his head and neck were damaged. So a new head was substituted, taken from a 1:16 scale figurine of, yes you've guessed already, Obi Wan Kenobi. Some Milliput created an almost-passable chef's hat and two coats of white paint completed the makeover.

This website does not gather or store any visitor information.
To request email updates please email
Your email address will not be shared.
Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021