A Day at the Races
by Jeff Davies
Preparing for a day's rail racing usually starts several months in advance, when I decide what kind
of cars I want to race at the meeting. This includes having several new rail cars
built to use, to try different chassis layout, motors, bodies, etc, so that I can learn the most
possible from every rail race meeting. I don't build my own cars, as I am not skilled enough to
build them to the standard I want them to be.
|Lining up for the start.|
For the May 2001 meeting I had a new Alfa Romeo
sport car built,
built by John Moxon out of Parma parts, and new wheels made for the Jaguar Mk V11.
When the Alfa arrived though the post I was really thrilled,
as it had been beautifully painted and was very well made, using a Pittman motor and MRRC steering unit,
as many of the original 1950s rail cars did. This to me is part of the fun - choosing what cars to build next
and out of what parts.
The most successful rail car since rail racing returned in 2000 is my Alfa Romeo Grand Prix
This I have gradually improved with each meeting, filing the guide shoe and slowly developing the car;
this I really enjoy. My second car, the Parma Jag
is a real monster of a rail car, ballisticly quick in a straight line,
it must be one of the quickest rail cars ever built; but it took a lot of running on the rail track to
get it to work at its best.
|Rail racing action.|
The Jag must be one of the biggest 1/32 scale rail cars built and it is a wonderful sight to see this huge rail car
flying down the straight, overtaking what almost seem like cars built to another scale, in a manic burst of speed
and sparks and noise. The first few times this car raced around the track, the back wheels were not quite big enough,
so the chassis was dragging, making the most horrendous noise
as it scraped along the rail - and with so many sparks coming from it, it looked like it was on fire.
I loved this car from that point on! It is very nervous to race and does not like corners - just like the
full size car, in fact. It never races two laps the same, and sometime will leave the rail track for no real reason.
This is why I love rail racing, it is very unpredictable!
The day of the race meeting arrives, and Phil Barry has already built the rail track up. The first thing to do
is to clean the rail with a cleaning fluid so that the car work at their best. Then the fun of practice starts.
Nearly everybody who is racing has built new cars, and the race is on to see if they can be made to work.
Rail cars are very hard to set up. This is where having a genius of a rail car builder as a racer is so handy.
John Moxon helps nearly everybody get their car running at its best. The Alfa sport car is wired up backwards
and has a one-screw body mount, which I think will not last for long. I think about gluing the screw in,
but I don't bother (big mistake).
The meeting starts with qualifying, were I use the Alfa, which is now running beautifully, and I do really well.
This is really heart pounding stuff as you choose the lane you want to qualify on and wait for the start light
to go green. Your heart is in your mouth, you are thinking, please can my car work well for just three laps
in a row, and none of my wheels fall off, which has happened to me before. The first lap you go slow to get
a time, then quicker on the next lap, and then on the last lap all hell breaks lose as you drive the wheels off
the car to get a good time.
|A rail racer's controller - so primitive!|
I qualified in the top two or three, and the Alfa sports car was really flying, with every lap of the rail track
it was getting faster and faster. Rail cars are
very temperamental (just like my wife), you have only got to put them down the wrong way and they won't
work properly again. John Moxon's Jaguar D type was playing up, so I lent him the Parma Jag
(another mistake as John is a real good rail racer), but this was only fair as
he had built it. The first race came and lights turned green and the Alfa left the line like it was rocket
propelled and total blitzed the opposition for an easy win. I knew this was too good to last with a new rail
car. Meanwhile John won his race with the Parma Jag.
Round two, and again the Alfa rocketed off the line into the lead, Then the body came lose and I had sit out the
rest of the race with a broken car. I was slightly unhappy as it was completely my own fault. I then used
my Alfa Grand Prix car for the remaining races, but even though I pulled quite a few places in coming
races, it was not enough. John Moxon comfortably won the competition for the John Moxon Cup with my car.
I really pleased that John and the Jag won. We all went down the Pub for lunch and it was great everybody
was laughing and having a great time.
In the Afternoon I used the Parma Jag which was really behaving itself and was leading the competition
going into last round, for the Lari Davidson Cup (a Art Deco trophy in honour of Lari's work on rail racing)
when my lane suddenly slowed with a short, leaving Steven Moxon to win, with
me coming second. A great day's racing, which really captured the spirit of the 1950s events.
|Hope we don't fly off in the first turn!|
This was only the start of the fun as all the rail racers were split into three teams to race the proxy cars,
two of which were built by Lari Davidson. These car were really in the spirit of the original cars as they
had hand-carved wooden bodies with brass plate chassis and Pittman motors. John Moxon had fine-tuned them
after Lari had kindly sent them to me. The other car was the Australian rail car built by David Bantoft
and Phil Kalbfell. This was a wonderful car built with a chassis built out of the rail we had used to build
the track, another Pittman motor and a beautifully painted bodyshell. Great fun was had during this part of
the day, with lots of laughing going on. The cars were very evenly matched and each car won a race. The day
ended with a ladies' race, using the three proxy cars which everybody enjoyed. I don't think I have ever seen
such a happy group of racers in my life; every single person in the room had raced.
The real winner on the this day was model car racing. Slot car or Rail car, it does not matter, it's
having fun that counts. The spirit that made 1950s rail racing draw hundreds of entries to an event
is alive and well, and was certainly with us on this day.
|John and Steven Moxon, trophy winners.|