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Handcar Plans and Misc. Handcar Photos

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Plans are in stock and ready to ship. Plans are now available on CD!

Handcars always fascinated me and ever since I was kid, I've always wanted one. However, the prices of original handcars, if you could even find were and still are staggering.

So, in 1984, I decided to design my own handcar based on a Sheffield, four man handcar. I wanted to design a car that did not require any special castings, forgings or gears. After doing thorough research for about two years, I discovered everything I needed was commercially available. The gears, bearings, wheels are all readily available from power transmission sources and wheels are available through Fairmont. All the parts that were traditionally cast iron, I re-designed as weldments.   The crank shaft, pump handle, brake parts and brackets are weldments, which can be fabricated in the smallest weld or machine shops. If you are a wood or metal worker, you're half way there!

I had all my weldments and machine work contracted out to some local shops and I fabricated all the wooden parts myself. I had a local body shop paint all the finished components. After that, it was just a matter of bolting it all together!

A handcar built per the plans, is virtually identical when compared side by side to an original. The crank travel is identical. The gearing ratios are identical. The welded pump handle that I copied was offered by Sheffield as an option. The 20" wheels were also. standard on most handcars. Only a handcar aficionado could spot the differences, which are mainly casting replaced with welded components.

It's a great project for a vocational schools, museums or a railroad. The plans are especially helpful in restoration of authentic cars as well.

I sold over 200 sets of plans, without ONE complaint!   Here are just a few of my satisfied customers:

Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society
Strasburg Railroad
Durango & Silverton Railroad Museum


E-Mail me at: bnsf89@bright.net


The most common and frequently asked questions are:

1. How much does it cost?    Answer, I have about $2500.00 in the car pictured below.

2. How much does it weigh?    Answer, about 800#, easily picked up and turned like a wheel barrow, by two people..

3. Where do I get the gears and wheels?    Answer, gears, bearings, wheels, etc... are all readily available off the shelf items.

4. What does an original car cost?    Answer, anywhere between $5000-$10,000.

5. What comes in the packet?    Answer, All scale blueprints for EVERY part to be fabricated, complete bill of materials, calling out every nut and bolt and brake shoe template!

6. What's the top speed?         Answer, With four people on a good day, level track, about 10-12 MPH.

7. What's it made of?       Answer, White oak and welded steel components.


Plans are available for $75.00, postage included.

Send to:    Bruce Carpenter
                  10241 Co. Rd. 25A
                  Wapakoneta, Ohio

E-Mail me at: bnsf89@bright.net

Remember, ALWAYS face forward while in motion!!!!!!!

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The car pictured above is Prototype #1, built in 1986. My friends and I have ridden the car in excess of 200 trouble free miles. Note the foot brake on one side of car only. There is no lining on brake shoes. Brakes are bare wood to wheel contact and is more than sufficient to stop car

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This photo show opposite side of car, without brake mechanism. The pump mechanism push rod is fully adjustable to achieve even handle travel.

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This view shows the main gear, pump handle, push rod and wooden pump tower and cross bracing. The pump tower structure is made of white oak and incorporates mortise and tendon construction, requiring no glue. The cross rods hold the entire structure together by tension.

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Here is a close up view of the brake rigging. It is very simple and made up of about 60 pieces. There is no adjustment required. The brakes will actually lock the wheels up in motion if applied in a hurry!

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Here is a front / rear view of the car showing the axles, so the cross bracing and cross section of main wooden frame. The car is quite strong and will easily support 4-6 people.


Green Bay Wis., 2004

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Railroad unknown. Very unusual, oversized deck!

Ohio, 2003

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Original Cincinnati Hamilton & Dayton Railway, Sheffield Handcar. Some close up shots of the pump handle and crankshaft.

Strasburg, PA - State Railroad Museum, 2003

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Ever see an original Sheffield Velocipede with all it's original stencils, neither had I! WOW! This great example is on display at the the State Railroad Museum in Strasburg. It's easily accessed for photos.

Strasburg, PA - Strasburg Railroad, 2003

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This is Strasburg's original handcar, that used to be at the depot on display and here is Carpenter Rail Design, Prototype #1, the day I delivered it to the Strasburg Railroad. Hope it gets a lot of use!