The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An OO Gauge FM H16-66 Diesel Conversion, Part I

I like to feature in American OO Today articles on history and collecting and articles on projects readers could construct themselves. Today we have the latter, the beginnings of a FM H16-66 conversion project. [And see the UPDATES at the end for the finished model.]

Here is what it looks like to begin; click on the photo for a larger view. The model is based on a HO Athearn FM H24-66 model. When I purchased it the work on the drive to convert it to OO was done, a purchase from the Morlok auction, I believe done by Bill Johann. I was going to use the drive to power a Schorr RS-2 to make it an approximation of an Alco RSC-2 (with trucks that would have been a bit off). However, the body and frame of my particular Schorr model had been modified to accept a drive that was appropriate for a Kemtron GP-7. So I put that drive to work in a GP-7 and planned to use the Athearn drive in the RS but was having trouble working it out, it needed body modifications. But then unexpectedly a pair of Schorr RS-2 dummy trucks came to me mounted on a passenger car! I decided it was a sign; that RS-2 will become a dummy model on those original trucks. [UPDATE: The finished RS-2 model is here]. Which got me to looking at the Athearn FM body again as a possible OO conversion.

This is a model that several OOldtimers modified for OO; one was among the junker engines seen in this article for example. The reason this engine was modified is made clear in the "Extra Issue" of The OO Road in 1993 which has an OO scale drawing of the FM H16-66. It is interesting to compare this drawing to the HO H24-66, as at a major detail level there are only a few big differences. While specific details are off, the hoods are actually within about six scale inches of the correct height (above the walkway) and length! That saves a lot of work (if you can accept the door details and such being a bit off). The major items wrong are after that are:
  1. Walkways too narrow/overall width of model too narrow (but the hoods are the correct width for OO)
  2. Frame not "heavy" enough (height--the extra height needed is in the frame area)
  3. Trucks undersize
  4. Cab undersized, mostly in width, with windows that are too small.
Two of those are relatively easy to address, that of the cab and frame. And the drive as mentioned is ready to go. To get an idea of how to do the drive modifications, way back in this article I show a bottom view of a similar Athearn drive conversion, and in this article I show the drive I worked up for my E-7 from Athearn parts. If you do the conversion be sure to have a newer version of the drive for this model.

So the next step was to put couplers on the model. To get them higher I used Kadee #47 underset shank couplers that I had on hand. The result is the couplers are still a little low for OO. I will address this more later [UPDATE: the mounting was re-worked], but with a little looking though I found a car with slightly low couplers and the result is I got the engine rolling for testing as seen in the first photo.

The boxcars in the photo give perspective as to how the model looks in OO; the boxcars are from left to right Scale-Craft, Lionel, and Picard. I plan to modify the cab and frame area so that from the side in particular it should look quite close to being accurate for OO. It has flywheels and runs beautifully, and will be a model I will try to bring to completion in the coming months.

UPDATE: I added a scan of the page referenced above of The OO Road to show the comparison of the body styles.

UPDATE II: I took a long break from the project. For a time I ran the converted drive with a body of the same model modified somewhat by the late David Sacks for his Greenbrook line. As noted in the article, the drive with the model was shot and it was interesting to see it run as Greenbrook with his cabooses in tow. However, the body was really not in very good shape either, with damage at the bottom of the sides and bad decals and heavy paint! So ultimately (2012) I made a decision to modify that body and the body in the photo at the top of this page, combining them both with a cab modified from a Tyco GP-20. A HO EMD cab being roughly the same overall size as an OO FM cab.

So looking at the photo before painting the model it is best to visualize the body modifications like a cake. The top layer of the hood is from newer model, cut downward so that it would have a bit more height. The next layer is the top area of the frame area from the Sacks model, stripped of paint and cut off flat. The bottom layer is the rest of the newer frame, with plenty of putty connecting the parts as needed. It matches out the overall "big picture" dimensions of an OO scale FM H16-66 very well. The cab in particular I think makes the model pop, and the engine even with no paint looks great pushing around the dummy RS-2 mentioned earlier in this article.

It will be painted soon! Be watching for a final update.

UPDATE: Continue to Part II and the finished model

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