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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Lionel/Johann 2-8-4 in OO

A recently completed project was reworking a vintage conversion project. The OO Lionel Hudson was modified by many modelers in a number of ways, but my personal favorites are the modifications I have seen of this model into a 2-8-4. It was done more than a few times back in the day.

Which is why I was very excited to recently obtain this model. This conversion was originally worked out by Pierre Bourassa using the drive parts manufactured for the Johann 2-8-2. It was nearly complete I believe, had some real nice details (note the figures in the cab, but also he could certainly assemble a valve gear and there are some real small screws and such that took some skill to apply), but it also had a few quirks. The biggest ones being that while it had a smoke unit installed it was never wired up, and there was also no proper screw connecting the cylinder block area to the smoke box. The result was a model that I believe ran well for Bourassa but was actually not quite done or at least those details got missed. He sold this model to William Gilbert who worked on it more before I obtained the model.

Another similar locomotive on my roster I purchased directly from Bourassa, a Johann USRA light 2-8-2. This locomotive was built up well but the scratchbuilt tender was somewhat odd and undersized. I rebuilt the engine a few years ago and paired it with a Star or Nason 4-4-2 tender that I had in my parts supply, as can be seen in this article, a much better match for the engine which after my recent track work runs nicely on the layout.

The 2-8-4 had a similar tender issue, as Bourassa had modified -- somewhat roughly -- a Nason 2-8-0 tender to represent the tender used on TH&B no. 201, his prototype. That tender was also with the model (partially disassembled) and is seen on the passing track in the photo. Gilbert had made the smart move to pair the engine to a two-rail Lionel tender (no whistle), which looks a whole lot better with the big engine to my eye.

I have not mentioned yet that the model has a big Pittman DC motor and a brush had broken in shipping at some point due to the sketchy boiler mounting and things shifting, and a spring was missing. I fixed the motor (found a new brush and spring in the parts supply! Save everything), worked out a proper mounting system for the boiler so that the front of the engine is no longer loosely sitting on the frame (but had to remove the smoke unit to accommodate the new screws), and a few other details were tweaked to bring it to what you see in the photo. I thought about repainting and renumbering the locomotive itself but then decided as a freelancer I could certainly live with it being Orient no. 201.

It runs beautifully around the layout and is a great puller. I love seeing models such as this come back to life. I have several more steam locomotives pulled out now on the workbench; hopefully there will be a few more articles like this before the end of the summer.

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