Motor Rail was a British locomotive-building company, based in Bedford. In 1987 loco manufacture ceased, and the business line sold to Alan Keef Ltd of Ross-on-Wye, who continue to provide spares and have built several locos to Motor Rail designs.
Formed in 1911 as The Motor Rail & Tramcar Co Ltd, the company built petrol and diesel-engined locomotives, mainly for narrow gauge railways. In January 1916, the company answered a War Department tender for military supply railways. The specification was for a 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) gauge locomotive, with no more than 1ton of axle load per axle, capable of hauling up to 15tons at 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h).
The company designed a new locomotive, based around a square-set but with outer longitudinal "bent-rail" frame, mounted on two axles. The 2JO petrol engine manufactured by W.H.Dorman & Co of Stafford was centre-set longitudinally in the frame. This resultantly required the operator to sit above the engine facing to one side of the design, to enable mounting of the engine and Dixon-Abbott patent gearbox, which drove the unsprung axles through a chain-drive. The water cooling radiator was mounted to the nominal front of the locomotive, and a large fly wheel gave relatively smooth operation.
- Open: armoured end plates plus height-adjustable canopy on pillars
- Protected: as Open, plus armoured side doors and visors
- Armoured: completely enclosed with armour-plated roof, and end slits for the driver to look through
With over 900 such locomotives supplied to the WD and MoM, post-WW1 the resultantly large and cheap supply of these trench tractors opened up the use of internal combustion engine powered locomotives to many new and existing applications, where steam engines were either too heavy, too expensive or allowed cheaper operations. The trade name Simplex was used from the early days, and in 1972 the company was renamed Simplex Mechanical Handling Ltd.
|Petrol||20HP||Bent Frame||Original trench tractor built for the War Department specification|
|Petrol||40HP||Upgraded and armoured version of the 20HP, built for the Ministry of Munitions|
|Petrol||10/20HP||2ton||First new post-WW1 design. 30 built between 1929-1940, latter version using Austin 12/4 engine|
|Diesel||18HP||4ton/5ton||First diesel locomotive. First two models used the Helios 18HP made by J. & H. McLaren Ltd. of the Midland Engine Works, Leeds. Quickly replaced by the 30HP Mercedes-McLaren engine. As it cost twice as much as a similar-powered petrol engine model to purchase, most went for export|
|Diesel||20HP||4ton/5ton||Used Dorman 2RB engine. Designation changed to 20/36HP in 1932|
|Petrol||25/35HP||4ton||A more powerful heavy-weight locomotive built for use by contractors from 1930-1937|
|Diesel||65/85HP||10ton||An advanced heavy-weight locomotive built in 1932, it proved unreliable and the only model produced was scrapped at the works during WW2|
|Diesel||25/35HP||4ton||Replaced 20/36HP. Introduced 1934 when the 2RB engine was upgraded. Uses same frame and gearbox as Petrol 25/35HP, allowing later upgrade or inter change|
|Petrol||25/40HP||One built for the Ford Motor Company at Dagenham in 1932. It used Ford AA 4-cylinder, 3-Litre side valve engine, the industrial version of the Ford Model A engine. Returned within a year, it was rebuilt and sold in 1937 to Dinmor Quarries Ltd|
|Petrol||25/26HP||2ton/3ton||Available in 2 or 3ton variants, it replaced the 20HP from 1934 by using the more reliable Dorman 2JOR engine. Uses same frame and gearbox as the diesel-powered 20/28HP|
|Diesel||25/28HP||2ton/3ton||Available in 2 or 3ton variants, it replaced the 20HP from 1934. Uses same frame and gearbox as the petrol-powered 20/26HP|
Many Motor Rail products survive in preservation, and they are probably the most common make of narrow gauge locomotive still in existence in the United Kingdom.
Heritage railways with Motor Rail locomotives include:
- Amberley Museum Railway
- East Lancashire Railway
- The Battlefield Line Railway
- Corris Railway
- Ffestiniog Railway
- Golden Valley Light Railway
- Leighton Buzzard Railway
- Old Kiln Light Railway
- Moseley Railway Trust
- Great Central Railway
- Welsh Highland Railway
- West Lancashire Light Railway
- Almond Valley Light Railway
- Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway
- Volk's Electric Railway
- Wicksteed Park, Kettering, Northamptonshire
- International Rhine Regulation Railway, Austria
- Wales West Light Railway, Silverhill, Alabama, USA
- France Ouche valley railway
- Hall, D.R. and Rowlands J.A.S. (2001). A Guide to Simplex Narrow Gauge Locomotives. Moseley Railway Trust. ISBN 0-9540878-0-1.
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