What magic is this? How do I get working bicycles on my model railway?

cyclist magnorailYou’ve probably seen moving cars, buses and lorries on model railways but how about bicycles complete with cyclists, their legs furiously moving up and down?

Just watch this. The tiny little cycles move around complete with legs pedalling away.

What magic is this?

When I first saw these bikes on a layout at Woking model railway show, where the video above was recorded, I was just impressed that there were moving bicycles on the layout. My interest jumped to a whole different level when, on looking closer, I realised the cyclists were actually peddling their bikes!

Yep, their legs were furiously peddling away, up and down, round and round.

What? Really? How?

It’s achieved using a called Magnorail.

It’s an ingenious, innovative, piece of engineering. It’s also remarkably simple once you know how it’s working.

A 12V motor driven chain sits under the road surface. At a point on the chain are two magnets which hold the bike in place, as the chain moves the bike goes with it.

But what about the leg movement?

If you look closely at the bikes, you’ll just about see a clear plastic wheel in the center of the bike that touches the ground. As the bike moves, this wheel turns. The cyclist’s legs are attached to this wheel and pined at the top so as the wheel turns the legs move up and down.

Simple but clever and it gives a very real impression that the cyclist is peddling the bike. The 12V motor is geared so keeping the speed down to something appropriate for the scale.

But it doesn’t stop there.

As the chain is hidden below the baseboard surface and uses magnets to connect to the vehicle above there’s no interruption to the surface material and so it can be also used to cars, buses and vans and even boats on rivers or lakes. Here’s the full video from the makers.


The system is flexible and works for all manner of vehicles. The only limitation is that the distance between the chain magnets and the vehicle above them must be thin enough for the magnetic pull to hold the cycle etc.

Magnorail recommends a surface layer, between the chain the vehicle, of no more than 1mm but this is enough to create whatever surface is desired.

The system will work for HO/OO, N, TT, Z gauge and can be easily made to work with just about any larger vehicle – cars, vans, buses, boats etc. The cycles are sadly only available in HO/OO scale.

The sets cost around £140 to £150, depending on the pound to Euro exchange rate. You can find out more at Magnorail.com.


Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.
  1. I have built the track which works perfectly. I purchased two cycles and attempted to put them together. Disaster.the plastic wheels fell to bits am trying to rescue them but with no luck.l would like to purchase cars.or even try to try the system with plastic model cars.any help please.Mr Terence Gilpin. Email [email protected]

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