How To Build a Railway Handcar

A railway handcar, also known as a pump trolley, is a wooden platform on a small trolley frame and it is operated by use of a pump handle. The handcar has (4) steel trolley wheels on axles that are the width of standard railway tracks, 4’- 8 ½”. The length of a handcar is usually 6’ and it has no hand railings.
Forged materials used will be (2) trolley axles with 12” steel trolley wheels. Each of the axles have an offset bend at mid axle forged as part of the drive mechanism. These offsets will have a bushing housing similar to an automobile connecting rod assembly and drive rods from the pump handle will connect at these bushings to turn the axles. A steel frame consisting of ¼”channel iron is attached to the axle system by means of threaded “U” bolts that affix to the axles at (4) points under a 4" thick wooden platform.

To assemble the trolley system, begin by securing one of the axles to a bench or vice table so that both ends are completely accessible. Apply heavy-duty axle grease to each of the wheel hubs and slide the trolley wheels onto the threaded splines at each end of the axle. Secure the wheels with a flat washer, castle nuts and cotter pins. Press a bushing into the housing at the offset at mid axle. Repeat this process with the second axle and set both completed axles aside.

For the platform frame begin by cutting (2) lengths of 2” x 2” x ¼” thick steel channel to 72” total. These will be the side pieces. Cut (2) lengths of the same material to 60” total for the end pieces. Lay the (4) pieces in a rectangular configuration and check for square. Make full welds at each of the corners of the platform frame. Weld (2) lengths of flat ¼” steel across the short span of the frame at 12” from each end and drill for ¼” diameter x 12” long “U” bolts at (2) locations on each cross piece. These will be the attach points for the axles.

Place the (2) axles on a flat surface and mark the U-bolt locations so that they coincide with the pre-drilled hole locations on the cross pieces. Weld the underside of each U-bolt to the axles so that the threaded ends are facing upward. Slide 10” long x 3” wide composite spacers over the U-bolts. Place a pre-drilled ¼” flat steel washer atop each of the spacers. Align the U-bolt holes and place the platform frame atop the axles. Secure with washers and machine nuts.

Cut lengths of 4” rough lumber to fit the inside dimension of the platform frame. Drill for the U-bolt holes at the (4) locations and make a 12” x 12”cut out at the center of the piece. This will be the location of the man handle. Drill ¼” holes every 12” along the bottom channel of the steel frame and attach the platform pieces to the frame using machine bolts, washers and machine nuts. Make the U-bolt connections using machine washers and nuts.

Attach the pump handle assembly to the platform using ½” x 5” machine bolts with castle nuts and cotter pins. Connect the pump rods to the bushings at each of the axles and secure with castle nuts, washers and cotter pins. The handcar is now ready for operation.


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