The Hornby Pullman Observation Car is without doubt an excellent model in appearance but as supplied it has one serious design omission, it is operationally useless on a layout! Why is this the case? For some bizarre reason it comes bereft of an absolutely essential operational requirement for any item of rolling stock, fully functioning couplings at both ends.

However, this deficiency can be easily overcome and fitting a Mk.3 bogie mounted metal coupling to the observation end is a very simple task. Materials required are a Tri-ang type metal Mk.3 coupling (of course) and a small piece of black plastic card about 1/32 inch thick, 5/8 inches in length and 1/4 inch in width plus some super glue. Using the glue, attach the end of this plastic card to the top of the metal coupling making sure no glue gets into the pivot of the coupling hook. Allow to set for a few minutes then put some glue on the top of the other end of the plastic card and insert the assembly on the observation end bogie between the bogie frame and the brake rigging, positioning the coupling to align correctly with the end of the carriage. If the gap is too small then you get buffer lock on curves especially when propelling. If the gap is too great then the gap between coupled vehicles looks bad.

Compare coupling settings with a normal coach with bogie mounted couplings. By good chance the coupling is at the correct height and once the glue sets the car is now fully functional allowing a locomotive to be coupled to the observation end and to take the car to the turntable to be turned ready for the return working.

Does the fitting of a coupling spoil the aesthetics of the vehicle? Well, yes it does, slightly. However operational functionality must override aesthetics at all times therefore this modification is an acceptable compromise.

Having suitably modified the Hornby Observation Car by fitting a coupling at the observation end, it was time to give the car a good run on the layout. The regulated interior lighting is most impressive and works well from first applying power right up to full speed on the controller.

However, after some running in both directions, the interior lighting ceased to function. On careful examination it was found that a wire that should be attached to the metal wiper on one of the bogies had become detached. This should be a simple job to resolder it back on I thought but it is not so. The wire is so tight it is impossible to reattach this wire in its original position and anyway putting a small soldering iron anywhere near the plastic bogie would cause severe damage.

My solution was to remove the bogie from the car and drill a small hole through the bogie frame and metal wiper strip and insert a piece of thin flexible wire through this hole and solder this to the wiper well away from any plastic components. Allow about 1/2 in of wire to protrude above the bogie in carefully solder the end to the broken off wire protruding from the car. Leaving this extra 1/2 inch loop of wire allows the bogie to pivot much more freely. No doubt I shall have to do the other bogie eventually.

That this should have to be done at all is down to poor design. As built, these fairly tight wires are attached to the bogie about 1/4 inch inboard of the bogie pivot and they are subject to forced flexing every time the bogie turns, thus causing the join to weaken. The correct way would have been to take the wire through the centre of the bogie pivot thus reducing this side to side movement. Is there a precedent for this? Of course there is. If the designer had studied the Tri-ang Hornby Mk.2 carriages with lights as introduced 1968, they would have seen the correct way to collect power through a bogie.

This is another example of designers not actually building and playing with practical models in train set conditions on a layout but instead relying totally on playing CAD on a computer.