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  • Frequently Asked Questions

    What is included in the kits?

    Each kit includes all the parts needed to build a handcar. This includes laser-cut aluminum for the frame, platform, and wheel centers. You also get machined and drilled steel tires for the wheels, stainless steel gears, photo-etched brass for parts like the journal boxes and the walking beam, brass stock to build up the axles, pump handles, etc. and all the hardware needed to assemble the kit. You’ll have to supply glue, paint, and your time. Here's what an unassembled kit looks like.

    How hard is it to build one of your kits?
    Our kits are what used to be described as craftsman kits. They are certainly more difficult to build than, say, a plastic boxcar, but they don’t require any extraordinary skills or abilities. The toughest operation you’ll be asked to do is to drill a series of holes to assemble the frame. Beyond that, you’ll need to be able to cut brass, glue parts together, and paint everything. If you’re willing to read the instructions and work carefully, you should have no trouble building one of our kits. And we’re available to answer questions, should any arise.
    We’ve included a few pages from our written instructions and the accompanying diagrams so you can get an idea of what you’re in for. We’ve worked hard to ensure that the instructions describe all the assembly steps clearly and completely. We estimate that the average builder will take about 40 hours to assemble and paint one of these kits.

    Has anyone built and reviewed one of these?
    The Home Railway Journal reviewed the 1" scale Sheffield kit in their Winter 2010 edition. Matt Mason was kind enough to allow us to include the reprint.

    What kind of tools do I need to have?
    All the machine work has been done, so you don’t need a mill or a lathe. A caliper (dial, digital, or even vernier) is pretty much a necessity for making measurements and checking sizes of stock material. Although not absolutely necessary, a hand-held rotary tool (like a Dremel™ or Foredom™) will be a huge help for cutting brass and drilling holes. After that, you’ll need the appropriate drill bits, a few files, a hobby knife (like an X-Acto™), small screwdrivers, clamps, etc. If you’re much of a kit builder, you probably already have almost everything you’ll need.

    How much do the kits cost?
    Prices are $349.00 for the 1:12 scale kit and $399.00 for the 1:8 kit, plus shipping.

    How big are they?
    An assembled 1:12 Sheffield No. 1 car is approximately  6-5/8" L x 5-1/4" W x 4-1/4" H. It sits on rails that are 4-3/4" apart. The 1:8 car is  10" L x 7-7/8" W x 6-3/8" H. Its gauge is just over 7". If those are a little hard to visualize, here’s a link to a .pdf file that you can print out that shows the handcars full size.

    Can I ride on one of your cars? How about my kids?
    No. Although 1:8 and 1:12 are the common scales for rideable trains (the ‘live steam’ scales), these models are too small to ride. You can take them to your local club track, but they’re really desk models.

    How accurate are the models?
    The short answer is: very. The frame is assembled just like the prototype (except that our frame parts are aluminum instead of oak or pine). The drive train and brakes are functional. We have made a few compromises to absolute scale accuracy in order to make parts easier to produce or to assemble. However, those changes are fairly hard to detect when looking at the finished model. You’d have to be pretty familiar with the prototype to recognize where the compromises have been made.

    Does the pump mechanism work?
    Yes, when you pump the handles up and down, the wheels on the driven axle actually turn. And the brakes are functional as well.

    Do I need an airbrush to paint my handcar?
    No. While an airbrush will make painting easier, the kits can be sprayed with paints in aerosol cans or even brush painted.

    Where are your kits manufactured?
    Alameda Car Works kits are made in the U.S.A.