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Blue Pullman - Cheap and Cheerful

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This paper describes one modeller’s approach to achieve a low-cost conversion of Tri-ang Blue Pullman models into an 8-car BR(W) set. The aim was to produce a set which looked the part when seen as a whole, in motion on a large display layout. The finished models do not pretend to be fine-scale examples, correct in every respect, but merely to represent an iconic train now gone forever. Persons wanting to produce fine-scale models need read no further.



Around 2000, a neighbour was clearing out his garage before moving house and came across a battered 3-car Tri-ang Blue Pullman set. Knowing I was interested in model trains, he offered it to me for free, adding that it had been used alongside Scalextrix cars – one set racing against the other when his children were young.


I accepted it and then looked at what I had received. It was rather sad, having the following faults:

  • No wheels in any of the unpowered bogies
  • Some couplings missing
  • Coarse knurled wheels on power bogies
  • Most transfers worn off.


However, the bodies were all straight and with no parts broken off. I took the set into my workshop, fitted new coach wheels and bearings into the unpowered bogies, replaced missing couplers, overhauled the motor, regauged the knurled wheels and then tested it on my layout. It worked! Even more surprising, the motor bogie was remarkably smooth, silent and powerful, easily hauling a mix of about 10 coaches on test.


What now? My 00 model railway collection was focussed on GWR (1935) and BR(W) 1958-62. The WR Blue Pullman was an 8-car set made up of 4 different types of coach (Types 2, 3, 5 and 6) and I only had 3 coaches of 2 types: 2 and 6). I looked into what could be done and found that Kitmaster had made coaches suitable for the Midland Pullman, but these were mainly of different types (Types 1, 4 and 6). Southern Pride made window inserts for the Tri-ang Type 6 Parlour car, but these were not easily available for secure on-line purchase and supply from the UK to Australia. (At the time of writing (Jan 2013), the Southern Pride website does not seem to be working, so perhaps they have ceased manufacturing.) The 3-car set was therefore put away “for a rainy day”.


By chance in 2006, one set of Type 6 window inserts was purchased through eBay and stored. More battered coaches were gradually purchased through eBay and “bring & buy” stalls at model railway shows (another complete 3-car set, plus 2 extra Type 6 and 2 extra unpowered Type 2 bodies). In 2008, I noticed that an image of one side of a Kitmaster Type 4 Parlour Car was available on http://www.kitmaster.org.uk/Coach%2032.htm. I printed a copy of this and adjusted its size on a photocopier until its overall length matched the length of the Tri-ang Type 6 body. I then made copies of this image onto several sheets of 280 gsm card.


Reference Material

In April-May 2009, “Modern Locomotives Illustrated” (MLI) published an issue which featured the Blue Pullman, including sketches of the interiors. This proved to be the last puzzle piece needed.


Overalll Construction Principles

The “Southern Pride” windows are designed to be a snug replacement fit for the white plastic window inserts originally fitted to the Tri-ang Type 6 bodies. Modellers are expected to also remove most of the intermediate supporting window frames and replace the white plastic strip with the etched brass replacement, then glaze the body with clear acetate sheet. This was good in principle, but I only had one set and needed another. I chose to photocopy the brass etch onto 280 gsm card – enough copies for two coaches. I would use this etch as a template to modify the donor coaches but actually fit the card copies. The Kitchen cars used a variant of this principle.


Motor Car Type 2 Special Details

The main issue here was the coarse Tri-ang wheels. I decided to replace them with (insulated) Airfix diesel loco wheels bought in a job lot on eBay. They were removed from their 1/8” dia axles and then pressed onto the 9/64” dia Tri-ang axles to replace the originals. The new wheels needed extra pickups but then worked perfectly. I also fitted some cab details and a crew.




Parlour Car Type 3 Special Details

The two donor coaches were both different! One had the original window inserts and the other was a later moulding which had them integral with the bodyside. In each case, the sides were modified to accept the brass etch precisely. (Coarse cuts were made with a cutting wheel mounted in a mini-drill, followed by a cut-off wheel and then careful filing.) The card photocopies were then carefully prepared by cutting out each window space with a sharp new scalpel and then the window strip was cut to exactly the same dimensions as the brass etch. After test fitting and fine adjustments, the card sides were glued to the plastic bodysides with a clear impact adhesive and left to dry. Seats for each coach were recovered from the cannibalised Type 2 coaches (described below), with one extra table/chair set made from balsa, fitted with spare part Tri-ang Pullman lamps and fitted to the centre of each coach.


Kitchen Car Type 5 Special Details

As unpowered Motor Car Type 2 models were readily available (cheaply!), I decided to make the Type 5 cars from these – cannibalising two Type 2s for each Type 5. I removed the bodies from the frames. Using a razor saw and mitre box, I carefully cut the passenger compartment half (slightly long) from each coach bodyside/roof assembly. I discarded the driving cabs and then adjusted each (passenger) half-coach until the overall length (when each was joined to the other) was identical to that of an unaltered Type 6 coach and would fit neatly onto the frame of one of the donor Type 2 Motor Cars. Once satisfied, I then joined these portions with 5-minute epoxy glue, reinforcing the joins with matches (inside the roof) and masking tape (on the inner surfaces of the sides). I took care to ensure there was a slight surplus of glue on the outer surfaces which could be rubbed back to make a smooth surface, undetectable once painted. The two assemblies were left for a few days to allow the adhesive to fully cure.


I now had coaches which had window strips at each end, but no windows in the centre. At this point, while the structure of each body was still reasonably strong, all roof details were filed and sanded off.


The “Southern Pride” window etch was again used as a template, firstly to mark the bodyside and confirm where centre portions were to be removed. Then it was used on the card photocopies of the Kitmaster Kitchen Car to mark out the strip to be removed for use on the Tri-ang shell. Window openings were cut out with a sharp scalpel and then two strips were test fitted to each body and adjusted until a perfect fit. The card sides were glued to the plastic bodysides with a clear impact adhesive and left to dry. The bodies were then inspected for anomalous markings remaining from the motor car body. These were filled with automotive body filler, allowed to dry, then rubbed back.


Seating sections were recovered from donor Type 6 parlour cars converted to Type 3 cars.



The coach bodysides were masked and the roofs then painted silver with automotive aerosol paint.

Window strips were brush painted with Humbrol white enamel.

Blue sections were brush painted with Precision Paints Nanking Blue enamel.

Remaining black and silver items on coach body and underframe were brush painted with Humbrol enamels.

Seats were painted blue (1st class) and red (2nd class).



Rebuilt coaches were glazed after painting, using clear PVC, PET or acetate sheets recovered from packaging. This required the glazing material to be cut precisely to size to fit behind the card window frames, within the slots cut into the bodysides. This produced an almost flush glazed effect and provided necessary reinforcement of the window strips.



Fox transfers (FRH4010) were used to complete the models, with the running numbers selected for the first two four-car sets described on Page 30 of MLI. After allowing time for the transfer adhesive to set, all coaches were painted with Humbrol satin clear to protect the finish.


The overall results can be seen below:


Parlour Car Type 3:



Kitchen Car Type 5:





Full set in operation:



Reflections on This Project

  1. The overall cost of this project, spread over about 9 years was A$150-A$200. The estimated local cost for a new Bachmann 6-car Midland Pullman is around A$620 – more than 3 times the cost and without the satisfaction of actually building it.
  2. This was an interesting and challenging task, which was completed during a 3 month period during 2009. I developed new skills and construction techniques which have spilled over into more recent modelling tasks.
  3. The model could have been further upgraded with replacement ends and bogies from Genesis Kits, but this probably would have tripled the project cost, defeating the object of a low-cost conversion.
  4. The full train formation in motion is elegant, sleek and looks the part. When exhibited with models of other contemporary trains, it attracts many favourable comments, with some people not realising how long ago it operated. It still looks up-to-date.
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  • 1 month later...

G'day Rob,


Fantastic article. It goes to show that with some thought and ingenuity, the old models can be brought upto scratch at minimal costs. The Blue Pullman looks great. No matter how old the old X121 motors are, they just keep on powering on with minmal maintenance.


Cheers, Gary.

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Hi Rob


I have a question for you. Did you enjoy doing your model?


From how you have described the making of your WR Pullman you seemed to have more fun than many who have commented on the Bachmann Blue Pullman thread who only had to open the box.


I know from scratch building and converting models myself that it is very enjoyable to do the research, to figure out who to make the model and then build it can be. I liked your idea of photocopying the etch to be able to make all the coaches you needed. I have been building a six car set from Tri-ang coaches. For the kitchen car I used plastic card for the cooking end. The left over glazing from the Tri-ang parlour coach being used in the power cars as the Midland Pullman differed in this respect. I only reason I have not finished it despite all the bits have been cut out is there is very little need for a MR 6 coach DMU on a ER loco shed layout. The fiddle yard is not long enough for it.


Well done.



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G'day, Clive,


Thank you for your comments.


I had a ball doing this project. It had all the aspects I enjoy:

  • a challenge to upgrade a donated, incomplete train set
  • gathering other inexpensive, tired models
  • researching the details for each vehicle in the prototype train
  • developing new techniques to adapt donor vehicles to new uses
  • restoring apparently life-expired models to "better than new" condition
  • using uncommon materials (in this case, card) in ways that are not obvious to the casual observer
  • being able to display the completed model alongside those of other members at our club's annual model railway show
  • watching the facial expressions of visitors to our shows who recognise the set for what it is meant to be as it glides around the layout so effortlessly

Like you, I have a layout too small to contain my Pullman set in the main line station (it can only take 6 coaches). However, my club's layout can easily take 10-coach formations (eg Cambrian Coast Express with two Manors), so I do have somewhere to let her have her head.


This was indeed a very enjoyable project.





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  • 4 weeks later...

A very interesting article in that I came home from the last model show with a "bargain purchase".   Evidently somebody had purchased Southern Pride inlays, replacement whitemetal cabs and bogies and wheels, only to abandon the project and trade it in for a Bachmann model.


Currently I have more time than money and hope I shall enjoy finishing the project as a Midland Pullman.


Does anyone know the answer to these questions, please?


1)   The Bachmann model has a red tail light in the centre of the cab.   Every picture I see of the Midland Pullman has a blue blank in this position.   Was the red tail light introduced later on or is it perhaps peculiar to the WR version?


2)   I have read variously that the seats were red and blue, each colour denoting 1st and 2nd class or, according to one reviewer applied alterately to each coach.   What is the correct layout, because I am not a fan of bare white plastic inserts!

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G'day, Cheshire0001,


I can't answer your 1st question, but I confirm my advice in the original article:1st class seats were blue and 2nd class seats were red. A colour illustration of the blue 1st class seats is on page 29 of Modern Locomotives Illustrated Issue 176. Here is a link to YouTube video that has glimpses of both:

. This video also shows the operation of the 1st class reclining seats. I hope this helps.





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There were three lights across the front. The units carried various discs to cover these to give the correct indications. When in normal service, running as a Class 1 express the two outer lights would be covered by opaque white glass discs, the centre by a Nanking Blue steel disc. At the rear the two outers would be the blue steel discs, the centre covered by a red transluscent disc to give a tail light.

The Midland, all First class units had both blue and red sets, with carpeting in the opposite colours. This was noted in both various contemporary articles from when the train was launched. What wasn't well documented was which coaches were in which scheme! From lengthy discussion here, including film evidence (from the B.T.P. film 'Blue Pullman') it would seem that the colours were alternated throughout the train, the Bachmann model following this. Of course, that doesn't cover the Western Region sets...

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Many thanks for taking the trouble to reply.   Certainly answers the question about the headlights/headcodes.   I guess most pictures would naturally be taken from the "front" of the train, hence the comparatively few pictures showing the tail-light arrangement.


Comparing the two replies above re. seat colours, I'm guessing that, as #7 says. the Midland had coaches with alternating seat colours while the Western differentiated class by seat colours, as per #6.   


Additionally I have a colour photo in The Story of Rovex Vol.2 showing red seats fitted with the adjustment levers shown so clearly on blue first class seats in the BTF film.   


Watching the BTF film I assumed from the route etc. that it was about the Midland Pullman... until they show the destination blind from a Western unit.   


Goes to show the difficulty researching a project when one considers that this was a comparatively modern, well-documented subject from a small class of units!

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Prompted by this exchange I looked through some of the large number of references to Blue Pullman on this forum.   It seems that I have rediscovered a mystery!


For anyone interested, I refer to these threads:



Reply #5 has a very interesting download giving the TWO colour schemes for the WR.



Post #846 is pretty definite, but contradicted by film evidence in #847.



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  • 3 months later...
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I can't answer your 1st question, but I confirm my advice in the original article:1st class seats were blue and 2nd class seats were red. A colour illustration of the blue 1st class seats is on page 29 of Modern Locomotives Illustrated Issue 176. Here is a link to YouTube video that has glimpses of both:This video also shows the operation of the 1st class reclining seats. I hope this helps.



When I made the same suggestion a couple of years ago, I was firmly told that the train was 1st Class only.....

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I travelled on the Western Pullman once and as I remember the only 2nd class seats were in motor coaches. I paid 2/6 supplement for the trip from Cardiff to Swansea.

I too have made a Midland set from old Triang stuff and the Southern Pride inserts. It gives me far more satisfaction watching it run than I would have if I had bought the Bachmann set.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Gee Rob, I really like that 8 coach Blue Pullman and it seems you had so much fun in creating it. Bachmann may bring out an 8 coach Blue Pullman but yours will probably be used more and be remembered by you as something you created yourself.

I like the ROD at Hexham avatar too.

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Thank you, faulcon1, for your kind comments. Yes, I do enjoy watching my model of the Blue Pullman whenever it runs - probably more than my 8-car lighted Hornby Pullman set.


The “avatar” linked to my on-line ID is one of my favourite images of the Richmond Vale Railway RODs.




These locos always seemed to be camera-shy on those rare occasions when I could afford the time away from studies and (amateur) music to drive to the Newcastle coalfields to photograph rapidly-disappearing steam in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


I did snap a couple of images of them awaiting scrapping, as well as a couple of them in steam.




All too soon, they were withdrawn and replaced by South Maitland Railway 10-class 2-8-2Ts.


In 1985, a work colleague arranged for me to take my then 3-year-old son on a cab ride on one of these locos, from Hexham to Stockrington and return. The crew set up fresh cotton waste for him to sit/lie on, in the rear of the cab, on a shelf over the coal space. He promptly went to sleep with the gentle rocking of the loco! Here he is – dead to the world:




Here is an image of SMR22, the loco we rode on, about to leave Stockrington Colliery with a load of coal, on 31 Oct 1985:








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  • 1 year later...

And 2 years on.........!!


From my own reading of many related articles covering many years, the Midland was indeed all 1st class whilst the Western ran 2nd class in the driver/trailer cars and the adjacent parlour cars (7 seat sets/windows rather than 6).  The 2nd Parlour car ran with the single powered bogie/auxiliary motor/end of coach exhaust pipe whilst the Midland Kitchen car carried this, the chassis detailing being very similar.  This means that the only units that appear to be the same are the pair of 1st class Parlours which means that that need to build two full sets if you want an accurate Midland and Western set, although you'd need to do this anyway to get the coach numbers and seating letters by each door correct. 


Some of you longer serving members may recall me starting my Blue Pullman project back in the late '90s when I spent weeks being accused of buying up every unit that appeared on e-bay and monopolising the market.  I then, however, got led astray by my son's interest in RC motorsport (which I had already been involved in so my fault?) but this winter I decided it was about time I finished the Pullman.  I'd already purchased a Bachmann example, a superb model straight from the box, but simply fitting the horns, centre boxes and light covers did not exactly stretch my modelling passion far so I found my batch of primed coaches and reinvestigated what could be done.  This all led to further purchases of parlour cars which, these days at least, are far easier to find and are FAR cheaper than they were before the Bachman release.


I had already removed all the coach roof moulded lifting rings and replaced them with wire ones, this much improving the appearance.  Likewise, all hand rails were removed and replaced with silver wire - Bill's wire bending jig coming in very useful.  The lower front of the motor coaches were modified with my own vacuum formed correct depth 'skirts' and the kitchen car doors were cut into the plastic shell to match the brass etches, the kitchen end door 'sealed' by removing all detail and the Kitchen car roof details were added. 


After removing all glazing and removing the frame bracing bars where they would show in the kitchen and 2nd class Parlour cars, the coaches were resprayed using Railmatch Nanking Blue, the roofs being sprayed with a primer that exactly matched the Bachmann colours (a useful reference!) and the Southern Pride brass etched window frames were sprayed with a satin white primer, then fitted.  The driver's cab window frames were sprayed the same white as the coach frames and all other glazing was replaced with SEF flush glazing.  The Western power cars had their black painted representation of the destination board carefully cut out and these were flush glazed too so that correct boards could be produced using a PC graphics package and fitted behind the glazing - the BTF Blue Pullman film was paused and copied to stills on numerous occasions to provide reference material, including the content, format and colours of the roller boards.


Fox transfers were used for all the Blue Pullman logos, crests, coach numbers and letters and HMRS trnasfers were used for all the small stuff, such as 'guard', 'kitchen', gross weight and general sole bar level detailing. These are so small that you need very young eyes to be able to read them but at least I know they are right! (it took a lit magnifying glass to even cut them from their sheet......!)


The interiors were fun.  My own investigations seemed to favour the blue/red interiors being class based on the Western examples but good reference material is scarce on this, the BTF films being consistent with this but most of their internal material was Midland based.  Either way, all seating was removed from chassis except for the Western power cars and the 1st class parlours.  The kitchen cars shared a single parlour car seating mould which was cut in two and extra partition bulkheads being cut from plasticard, as was the kitchen walls, guards quarters and all other partitions in each coach type.  The most difficult seats were those of the 2nd class parlour cars where a number of power car moulds had to be cut and joined to align with the window frames.  To get these you need to buy up a few extra cheap, tatty motor cars.  The cab interiors were produced using modified units from a later model loco, easily found under spares in e-bay and drivers fitted.  The front horns were sourced from Hornby's class 06 spare parts which are the correct size and shape and the correct type wipers from a Lima type, spares on e-bay again.


Whilst there is still work to do to the various coach chassis - all the same on the Triang model - all wheel sets were replaced with those from Alan Gibson/Maygib with bearings fitted to the bogie frames. The large, unsightly Triang couplings were removed and replaced with Bachmann three hole older type, small and neat, the holes align perfectly and provide nice close coupling.


I'd already tackled the replacement power issue back in the '90s when the bogies from two of the cars were replaced by Black Beetle power bogies and unpowered pickup bogies, these being surrounded with modified bogie frames.  The Mashima motors are silky smooth and work very well with the DCC decoders.  These bogies are mounted under the two kitchen cars and the wiring runs below the cars using the very handy plastic webbing as support with just a bracing bar fitted to keep all things in place.  The wires then pop up through the floor into the kitchen area were the DCC Concepts decoders sit.  The kitchen interior is not visible as its windows are opaque, just like the toilet windows.  This leaves the motor cars empty and ready for DCC sound to be added with plenty of space for a quality speaker(s).  Mounting the motors to kitchen cars also spreads the power over the rake in approximate thirds and this provides good, smooth running with no push/pulling occurring between cars as you sometimes get over long rakes powered from each end (my 8 car class 43s sometimes suffer from this).  I tried stay alive too but found it to be unnecessary and personally I find it can cause some odd behaviours when called on.   LED light panels are fitted to all passenger compartments and are DCC controlled.  The nose lighting has not been completed yet and, given most photos suggest they ran most of the time (daylight hours?) with the light cover plates in place, I may use my Bachmann fittings to achieve this as they look better than the LEDs showing on the Bachmann example, which I'll leave uncovered as the lights already work (that sounds like an excuse for laziness!). 


I now have six power cars, two Midland, two Western Bristol and two Birmingham and a set of six coaches, a pair of 1st parlour, 2nd parlour and kitchen cars so can run either a Midland 6 car set or a choice of 2 Western 8 car sets.  The coach numbers and letters are correct for the Midland set so the Western sets are not actually accurate as they use some Midland coach numbers and both the kitchen and 2nd parlours are fitted with auxiliary engine exhausts but I can live with that until I purchase more donor parlour cars.  Given the kitchen cars need to be reversed for Western sets you could number the coaches differently on each side but that works even less well for me!


Finally (I think?), there's the under scale length issue.  They are a few mm shorter than the correct length Bahmann cars but they look proportionally correct and all the conversion kits are scaled accordingly.  More importantly, maybe, the full 8 car set is so long that for typical home use the loss of a couple of centimetres over all is a blessing!


 Oh, and I nearly forgot - cost?  This project has kept me frowning and smiling over many, many months of enjoyable research and modelling over an elapsed (lapsed?)15 odd years.  All the suppliers of the specialist conversion parts are what you might call cottage industries and were just so helpful, producing parts to order when not in stock etc. so happy experiences there too.  I purchased my yellow nose Bachmann Midland Pullman from Hattons 12 months after the release and they were all but giving them away, curiously massively cheaper than they are now!  As such, I know my 12 modified Triang Blue Pullmans actually cost a little more but that that was due to the high 2nd hand value of coaches back in the '90s and the huge discount from Hattons.  However, I have never spent so much time and gained so much pleasure in any of my model railway projects, and there have been many, so I consider the money very well spent and, side by side, I enjoy looking at my hard work rather than the shop bought example, however great the Bachmann model is :)  In short, there's never been a better time to buy up some old Triang Blue Pullmans as there are now plentiful and cheap.  What's more, it doesn't matter if the decals are fading or the glazing is damaged!









Click below for video of full rake from Photobucket


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