How to make a shunting tractor

15 December 2022
Phil Parker shows how easily a die-cast road model tractor can be adapted to represent those used in small industrial railway operations.

Where a locomotive would be an expensive luxury for moving odd wagons around, a tractor fitted with large steel bufferbeams was a popular alternative for standard and narrow gauge railways.

A quick web search revealed many prototype images, but it looks like the conversions were normally carried out locally and without recourse to plans. Therefore, unless you have access to a specific prototype to measure, models will need to be built from photographs and by eye.

Fortunately, starting with a die-cast tractor makes it easier to produce a convincing model.

These projects are both quick and easy. The brown ‘Fergie’ only took an hour to build, the yellow Fordson just over twice that. An evening messing around with plastic sheet can be quite productive.


  • Die-cast tractors
  • 0.5mm and 1mm thick plastic sheet
  • Assorted Microstrip
  • Superglue
  • Liquid plastic glue
  • Micro Krystal Klear
  • Craft knife


Raw material from Oxford Diecast. From left to right – David Brown, Fordson, Ferguson.


For each model, the rear wheels need to be removed. Gently twist them with your fingers and the axle will pull out of one wheel. The mudguards can be pulled off, they will break so be careful to remove all the plastic around the square axle end.


Starting with the yellow tractor based on a Ferguson, an inner panel (see diagram below) is superglued to the tops of the cast axle parts, followed by the bufferbeams.


The outer panels require a curved cut-out for the wheels. Mark this with a pair of compasses fitted with a spike in each leg. Over the rear wheels, the top is built up with layers of plastic.


Once dry, the plastic top corners are rounded with an abrasive stick.


The cab is a rectangle of plastic, curved on top using the abrasive stick, then supported on four 1mm square lengths of rod. A windscreen is cut from plastic sheet. On the prototype it looks a bit of an afterthought so isn’t blended into the body properly.


The Fordson wheels are removed as before but the mudguards are held in place with a rivet. Filing the face away from this releases them.


A much simpler set of buffing gear here. 5mm deep strips of 1mm thick plastic are notched to be level when fitted to the top of the axles. 24mm long buffer beams from the same material are just wide enough to match the width of the buffers on a standard gauge wagon.


Detail is added using scraps of 0.5mm thick plastic. Boltheads, which are pretty hefty in real life, are cubes cut from square microstrip. On both models, the tyres were removed before priming from a spray can.


The yellow tractor has wasp strips from Fox Transfers, these are attacked with rust colour and weathering powders to show where the wagon buffers have worn them away. Both models are given a wash of thinned track colour paint, before adding numberplates that I produced on the computer.

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