First Build Tram – Billie

First build steam (Electric) tram Billie

By: Davio Bryker.

Cutting brakes out

Back in 2018 while chatting to a member about building my first loco and while we were at Mannum, the member got chatting to my dad and then the plans got started. The tram started early 2019 with ordering wheels, motors, gears, controller and brake shoes. Frames were designed and laser cut from local business in Lonsdale not far from my work.

Meanwhile, at the club with a members help I cut and put the holes in the brake blocks. The reason for using the club’s workshop is that I have not a workshop set up at home and it was the best place to work on the under frame.

Two weeks after the brakes, the frames arrived. The frames were designed their long consist of 4 wheelers with bolts and Nylock nuts. As I’m not a welder this was a simple way to do the under frame. So once that was finished, I picked it up and went to the club again to start painting and assembling.

In the afternoon, while waiting for the paint to dry, I sprayed the metal with black oil base paint. This was the first time I had spray painted in this way. Two coats of paint and again this was done at the club with space and room to do it. At this point it was like an IKEA flat pack. No Allen keys required to put it together though.

Paint drying

After leaving it drying overnight it was time to assemble. The wheels also needed to be painted. I then made four bolts longer and that was fun and they too were painted black then dried and the end result was great.

We also put the springs in and then it was time to get it home. We did a dry run minus its body which went ok.

When people saw it they thought it was someone else’s until I said it was my first build. During a meeting night the under-frame was loaded and taken home to then wait for my dad and I to start the construction of the cab. This needed different skills and so we experimented and were amazed with we got it done.

The body work drawings and designs came left, right and centre. Some metal mounts were designed and a wooden version was cut out on laser cutter.

Construction started with dad while having time off between work and volunteering

Body construction

From the start the body was a box style. I had no details of the height and it turned out wrong as it was meant to be 600 mm from track to roof. It is higher than that for 2” scale. However, as the box came together, a few trips to Bunnings for wood edging and metal to cover end grain and other mistakes we fixed things as we went.

One thing we did before assembly was to go with the lined blank look as per carriage construction. This was looked into about three times and then I went with look of Toby the tram engine from the Thomas books.

The doors and windows were not cut square thanks to my measuring. Whoops.

Doors and windows cut out

Now came assembling the body this was fun. We left the middle part clear for the batteries and electronics.

Plus, we also needed to be able to see the wheels in case of a derailment. The corners were covered edging, giving the carriage the look it has now.

Once glued, we then started planning how to glue the roof. The walls not only separated the batteries and doors, they are handy for storage. As we glued the roof, we started working out colours. Originally green was chosen, but later decided on a light red after dad started on the under coat of white.When we got the red on, I discovered it was Coke can red and didn’t like it. Luckily dad had paint from work jobs and that was the colour we chose.

Body painting

With the body painted it looked like a tram and was ready for assembly onto its under-frame.

That became interesting as I took whole body off in case of wheel and motor were damaged. A second attempt working on the body work the floor at either end of the tram got cut out and new ones went in and roof was cut out also.


This is where the funnel and bell are now. The new panel made it easier to get the batteries and electronics with four wingnuts holding the roof on.

The power is supplied by two 12 volt batteries for the two 24 volt motors.

During November 2019 I had help to wire the motors.

Motors installed

The chain and wire were soldered by me with help if I got in trouble. Once batteries were in and the controller all wired in, it was time to get it running. Tested it and it ran well. The first run was our Christmas public run day. The night before the headlight was 3D printed for the tram and once it was wired my tram was ready to run at night. The next day I brought the tram down to the club and Dad came down to mount my bell. Once that was done it was ready for the member Christmas show and the tram ran with a load of 4 wheelers.

In 2020 not running much with public with Mr Covid around. The tram did get some nameplates thanks to a member and his 3D printer plus a funnel being made with two fruits lids and pipe painted black.

Bumper sticker installed

I also got a bumper sticker from Victoria that I have as my headboard. It was done purposely for the front and over Easter 2020 painted the nameplates in the numberplate colours from Victoria. The number 95 represents my birth year. The name was because of a friend of mine asked to change to my favourite doctor Billie.

The tram ran well. I had it at the club for a few months while going stir crazy at home during lockdown.

One added thing yet to be working is a Steam Engine Soundcard. The card will allow me to have whistle and bell as per the J70 tram had and it will have a safety valve pop and Westinghouse brake coupled to the fake funnel I have already.

Roof damage

It was August 2020 on the first run day of the month and I hadn’t used the controller since last run and hadn’t realised the throttle knob wasn’t right and so I accidentally flicked forwards and it took off and hit two posts and damaged the roof.

After this incident the tram wasn’t at the club for a long time until December 2020. On the member’s run day of 2021 January 7th. It was great to run again. The tram ran well and outperformed itself.

It stills needs more testing with more cars and people but until bumtruck is built I can only run with one unbraked passenger car.

The next thing planned is to build the bumtruck and with two carriages. All 4 wheelers. For the carriages, one is planned to name it after my niece and the other a girl I know.

Driving my new tram Billie

I’ve enjoyed building this engine and with the help I have gotten a great little engine. I’m pleased with the smiles and the feedback from everyone. The plan is to take it to different clubs in the future and people can start following my trams adventures.