The Pretenders.

Many successful firms have had their products copied over the years and Motor Rail were no exception, with at least two companies copying designs or using their good name to their own advantage.

Kent Construction / F. C. Hibberd

The company most known for copying Motor Rail designs was The Kent Construction and Engineering Co. Ltd. of Ashford, Kent. This company, who used the trade name 'Planet' on their locos, was sold to F. C. Hibberd and D. A. Dwyer in 1926 and subcontracted loco work successively to various firms including Baguley and Bedford Engineering until opening its own works at Park Royal, London in 1932.

Kent Construction bought up war-surplus 20 and 40 H.P. locos and rebuilt them in much the same way as MRTC and Wm. Jones. The trouble was, they sold the rebuilt locos as 'Planet-Simplex' and were subject to legal proceedings by MRTC as a result. By the time that the company was known as F. C. Hibberd & Co. Ltd., they were producing complete locos that were almost identical to MRTC's 20 H.P. type but later also used diesel engines other than Dorman such as those from Davey Paxman and Co. Ltd. and The National Gas and Oil Engine Co. Ltd.

The bent-frame design continued to be produced by Hibberd until at least 1951, almost two decades after Motor Rail ceased to use the design themselves. The gearboxes for these locos were presumably bought straight from David Brown, who had made the gearboxes for the Motor Rail 20 H.P. locos, once the supply of old Motor Rail boxes had dried up. Contemporary publicity material for Planet-Simplex locos draws particular attention to a number of minor improvements made in the gearbox of the Planet locos.

Margolis & Ralph / E. C. Lenning Pty.

E. C. Lenning (Pty.) Ltd. of Boksburg, Transvaal were agents for Motor Rail in South Africa from the 1940s and had taken over the firm of Margolis & Ralph Engineering (Pty.) Ltd. by 1959. Margolis & Ralph (M&R) had been building pirate copies of Motor Rail locos since the late 1950s and used parts from Motor Rail in their construction. 

M&R were acquired by Lenning not as would be expected to stop the pirate copies but to profit from this activity themselves. In reality, they were responding to increased local demand for locomotives in South Africa, which was extremely high at the time with gold mines being sunk in the Free State Gold Field and the discovery of the Evander Gold Field. Also, many existing mines were converting from mule to locomotive haulage at this time. So it was not surprising that mine owners wanted a locally made product when there would be delays in sourcing locos from the UK.


Front view of an M&R 3.5 ton loco - note Simplex buffer block with "Simplex" chiselled off!

Initial investigations by M&R involved the replacement of the Motor Rail flywheel by a Chrysler torque converter, retaining the existing gearbox. Tom Dixon Abbott inspected one of these locos on a visit to South Africa in 1958 and concluded that this conversion was not ideal due to the low engine speed which was not a good match for the torque converter. Motor Rail abandoned the idea of torque converters, opting instead for fluid flywheels in the Simtran transmission. However, M&R persevered and eventually found the more suitable Brockhouse torque converter, which they combined with an epicyclic reversing gearbox driving down to a layshaft on which the chain sprockets were mounted. M&R also built their engine and transmission into a single unit which could be quickly removed and exchanged to keep each loco serviceable.


Side view of the same loco.