Winnipeg Electric Company
Streetcar 356

After running live steam for most of my life I found myself getting lazy in my old age. The prospect of loading over a ton of machinery on a flat-deck trailer, driving for hours, spending a day hot and dirty, then hauling everything home and cleaning up the mess was beginning to lose its appeal (I wonder why?). As much as I love steam, the appeal of something electric couldn't be denied - a fraction of the weight, clean, turn a switch and go, put it away and forget about it until the next time ...... something to be said for that! But what to model? Something unique, to be sure! Not a diesel-electric locomotive ..... and then I thought about a streetcar! There is something unique -  not many of them around! Why not something with a local historical significance?

It just so happened that Heritage Winnipeg had a streetcar they were hoping to restore, something I could gain access to, and Heritage Winnipeg turned out to be very cooperative so in the summer of 2012 I started the design of car 356 in 1/8 scale for 7.5" gauge (since there are two local live steam clubs who have 7.5" gauge track).

(Heritage Winnipeg could use some support in restoring 356 and it is desperately in need of a home. If you can help, visit their restoration site HERE!)

Car 356 was built locally on Brill trucks so as much information as possible was collected and the design was started in AutoCAD. It was decided to equip 356 with 100 Watt 24 volt motors on each of the four axles for a total of about 1/2 Horsepower and, to keep the interior open for detailing, the batteries and control electronics would be located in a riding car pulled behind the streetcar. Two additional motors could be incorporated in the riding car if desired and could be larger (since there are no size restraints in the riding car) allowing plenty of horsepower.

Motors, a controller, and steel was purchased and construction of 356 was begun with the trucks in December 2012. The first part fabricated was one of four motor mounts.

Four motor mounts completed, less paint, and turning oil-impregnated bronze bushings for the motor mounts to ride on the axles.

Bushings fitted, chains and sprockets fitted, ready to go on the axles.

The wheel blanks were mild steel supplied as plasma-cut by a local steel company but the first group of blanks were so inaccurately cut that they could not be finished round at the required diameter so the supplier replaced them. Because of the lack of precision of the plasma cutting, each blank required extensive machining. A total of 12 wheels were required; 8 for the streetcar and 4 for the riding car.

The first step was to locate the centre of each blank and drill just under 1/2" diameter then ream to exactly 0.500". Once reamed, each blank was chucked on a 1/2" bolt in the lathe to turn the outer diameter to 4.500". (The final diameter and tread profile will be turned between centres with the wheels mounted on the axles for greatest accuracy.) Because of the initial inaccuracy of the cut, each wheel required about 1 hour just to machine the rims to run true.

After machining the rims, each wheel had to be 'faced' to ensure that the side of the wheel would run true to the axle.
A jig was made up using a piece of bar stock turned down to 0.500", drilled and tapped for 1/8" iron pipe thread, and split 4 ways to create a mandrel to hold the wheel for machining. The wheel is slipped over the mandrel and as the iron pipe is screwed into the mandrel, the 4 fingers expand to hold the wheel tight and true.

Each wheel blank had one face turned to run true to the axle, another step that required about 1 hour per wheel.

While the lathe was working away on auto-feed, I welded up a section of 'shop track' from 1/4x1" flat  iron. The track will be required to assemble the undercarriage parts without things rolling off onto the floor and being damaged. (Besides, it was something to do while waiting for the lathe to finish each cut!)

With the backs of all 12 wheels faced, I could modify my super-duper homemade faceplate to turn the outside face of the wheels and with a more solid setup, the machining can be more aggressive.


I got fed up with the amount of time it was taking to turn down wheels from the steel blanks and I wasn't going to end up with nicely profiled wheels anyway so I decided to set these blanks aside for the riding car trucks and order pre-machined wheels from Plum Cove Studios. While waiting for my wheels to arrive, I decided to go head with machining the axles.

Each Axle was faced, then centre-drilled, and one end machined down for the step (between the wheel and the bushings in the axle boxes).


The piece was reversed in the lathe and the length (between wheel faces) was marked out before turning the step in the second end.


In short order, one powered axle was complete and not long after, all four.


Next step (while waiting for wheels!) was to turn each axle box to the right width to fit in the side frames.

Since I don't have a milling machine, I made the slots for the horns by cutting 1/8" plate, grinding a radius on one edge, and tack-welding them to the axle boxes. After welding, each of the 4 pieces was brazed to each axle box. After clean-up, the axle boxes are ready for paint.


After a couple of weeks where circumstances kept me from working on the streetcar I was finally able to return to working on the trucks.
Not having a milling machine I was not sure how to do the pedestal caps. I wanted more "beef" than scaling down the caps from the Brill so I decided to use rectangular iron bar and I found I was able to arc-weld to enough precision to add stops to the bar rather than milling slots for the pedestals. (Make do with what you have!)


The next step was to fabricate the bolsters. Compared to some other tasks, this one went easily!


While awaiting material to make the leaf springs, temporary steel bars were installed in place of the leaf springs and the trucks were installed to the 1/2" plate sub-chassis with 1/2" kingpins.
Terminal blocks were added for connection to the traction motors and wire duct to manage the under-chassis wiring.


In order to track-test the chassis and ensure everything works properly, a sheet of 1/2" ply was installed on top of the chassis to retain the batteries, motor controller, and controls - throttle, power on/off, and brakes switch.

The track testing was a resounding success! The chassis stuck to the rails like it was in slots and handled the irregularities beautifully. The maximum speed, however, was scary and provisions must be made to limit the maximum speed! The unit exhibited great acceleration and should have very good pulling power.

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