Every time I go to a gathering where S scale is on offer, I wonder if I’ll find anything I just have to have – and every time, I’m surprised at what that thing is. At this year’s S Scale Social, the surprising find was a gas-electric – bought from my friend David Clubine:

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I didn’t even realize these had been manufactured in 1:64 but I’m a big fan of self-propelled passenger cars – they are the perfect “pike-sized passenger train”, to quote a popular series that once ran in Model Railroader magazine.

The CNR had a variety of doodlebugs and other one-car trains – ranging from steam coaches and cars powered by banks of storage batteries to gas-electric, diesel-electric (RDC) and classic interurban. For a thorough review of these, I recommend Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR by Anthony Clegg. But this article on the Old Time Trains website includes a couple of photos of CNR doodlebugs, too.

The bad news is, this wide variety did not include an EMC gas-electric like this model. The CNR’s cars were from other builders – including Canadian Car and Foundry, Brill, Canadian General Electric, National Steel Car, and the Ottawa Car Company. In fact, the only example from EMC was one delivered to CNR subsidiary Grand Trunk Western in August 1925. Even so, it was a different model with an RPO section and smaller passenger compartment.

As a modeller working in S scale, I’ve learned the art of compromise. “S is for Scratch-build” or “S is for Sorry” (as in “Sorry – nobody’s ever made that”). So, if I want a gas electric, this model is my choice. What to do?

Two options present themselves:

– I can simply paint this model for the CNR and be done with it. This is likely what I will do, since options are so limited in 1:64. It would make a lovely model to take to train shows where the S Scale Workshop is exhibiting. And it would also allow me to add some variety to operating sessions on the Port Rowan branch. In fact, once I prep this model and my CNR RS-18 for service, I could even hold a post-steam session.

– I can find a more suitable prototype – one that I like – and paint this model for that. While it’s not an exact match, this is much closer to Toronto Hamilton and Buffalo Railway 301. But while a THB 301 would be a great addition to the Workshop module I would have a hard time justifying its appearance in Port Rowan…

Samhongsa produced this model in 1989 for “S”cenery Unlimited. (I would love to know how many were produced: If you have that, or other information about this model, why not share it via the “comments” section for this post?)

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While I ponder my choices, are are a couple more notes about the model:

Only the front truck is powered, but that shouldn’t pose a problem for my flat layout and the model does run quite nicely. There’s plenty of room for a decoder and speaker, too.

I think the model has four-wheel pick-up, but I’ll confirm that and if so I’ll add extra pick-ups so it collects power from all eight.

I’m still glad I have this model and I’m sure that however I finish it, the doodlebug will give me many hours of operating fun …

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11 thoughts on “Doodlebug

  1. If you feel like some more brassbashing, this would make a nice Sperry car. Which would occasionally wind up in Port Rowan. 🙂

  2. Other doodle bugs in S where an ancient wood and metal model (somewhat like the old Walthers passenger cars) by, I think, Dayton and a resin copy of the Bachmann HO doodlebug by American Highrail. The brass version you have was based IIRC on a Northern Pacific prototype. Nice car in any case, and I’m not sure how easy it would be to find either of the other models.

  3. I had one of the Dayton kits, but it was so bad I trashed it. I’ve also had four of the B-3’s over the years, but sold them all. The last one went back to Bill Lane, who had painted it for Pennsylvania Seashore RR, which once ran through my back yard in Cape May Court House, NJ. I sold it to someone else on eBay, but sent it to Bill who traded it from my buyer for an unpainted version. They are very nice models – and lately, very rare.

  4. I have another one (who would have thought an S scaler with multiples of one item!), painted for TH&B. It makes an excellent stand in for that one. The differences are the trucks and the operators bay at the rear of the car. They are excellent runners, but a little noisy. Mine has seen a few miles, but I seem to recall Tom Spaulding had one on the Napanee, Tamworth and Marlbank portable layout that had many, many years of excellent service on it.

  5. I have a nice cast resin kit (the name of the gentleman who produced it escapes me) made to convert an American Models combine into a Doodlebug. I bought one of the flat roofs Bill Lane offered a few years back as well, but never got around to building it. The combine shells are available separately from AM.
    I have this available if you or anybody else is interested.

  6. Trevor, does the Self Propelled book have anything on the Reid-Newfoundland Government Railway (I think I have the right year/title…it changed annually, I think…) Sentinel steam railcars? They were ordered in 1923, and delivered in 25-26. I don’t know if they survived long enough to end up as CNR property (it seems unlikely, but possible). I’m interested, but not enough to buy the book unless it has some more tidbits on them.

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