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

Friday, February 24, 2017

Looking at Scale-Craft six-wheel tender trucks

One product that I have not noted much here in this site yet are the six-wheel trucks sold with the Scale-Craft 4-8-4 and the later version of the 4-6-2.

Not that the topic has never come up, I used a nice pair of these on the tender of this locomotive (see more at this link) some years back. Then, I had no issues with the trucks other than attaching them to the tender, which I did with flat head screw and a nut up inside the tender. There is no room to screw them on conventionally.

Fast forward to now. I am working on a pair of S-C 4-8-4 models. The one that had been rebuilt by Pierre Bourassa, he actually used brass HO sideframes for a similar truck and worked out his own trucks, which was a great solution to a thorny truck problem.

Thorny problem? Short version of this topic is that S-C tender trucks are always problematic for electrical pickup, and then with this particular six-wheel truck there are yet more issues to work with.

One issue is the zinc material is not real strong in thin sections. This SC tender truck is not as robust as their other trucks, so on a number of sideframes I have the pins are broken off. You can almost feel the swear words looking at the parts even now.

The wiring method recommended by S-C for all their models was to pick up power from the tender trucks only. You were to wire feeders to the bolster clips on both sides of the trucks. The zinc material of the trucks, though, is not a great electrical conductor. On my smaller S-C locomotives I always use Nason trucks with bronze sideframes on the tenders.

So on the other 4-8-4 model I have, which came to me complete, the builder took an interesting route. He must have had some pins break off, so he took off all the pins (!) and drilled out the posts to take screws (!) and – get this – used parts from Nason six-wheel passenger trucks to replace the entire bolster setup of the original S-C design. The big plus of all this work being at least you could connect a wire to the brass Nason parts easily.

There was one other modification this builder made, clearly one end of one sideframe broke off, as in one complete journal box, and he used very small screws and shim brass to repair the sideframe! “The things people did before Facebook.”

Turning to my parts supply and analyzing what I had I found loose parts for five more complete trucks, of which I built up four. One side point to mention is that S-C axles are not all the same length and these trucks will take (and work the best with) the longest of their axles. So I went through my S-C wheelset supply with calipers, and the 12 best of the longest examples are on those two pair of trucks.

To the scale drawings, one thing that you would wonder is how do you attach these trucks to a tender? The answer is with cotter pins. There really is no room to screw anything on, and that is the attachment method used on my complete engine.

Which brings me to now. The next project is taking the trucks on the complete model off and apart to clean them up and get the wheels in gauge. At that point I will analyze their future use. I may replace them with a pair of stock trucks I just assembled from parts (and salvage off the Nason parts to fix a Nason passenger truck), but if I can get them rolling well I will probably leave them as they are.

On the Pierre engine, though, I will use his HO based trucks and NWSL wheelsets for optimal pickup. His tender is shortened anyway, so a slightly short wheelbase does match the model.

And now I am ahead one more job, I now have trucks to use on my 4-6-2 project tender.

To close, if you are working on an S-C 4-8-4 or 4-6-2 tender and need some sideframes, I have a lot of them extra, along with some parts for the bolsters, just let me know your needs. Happy to help others get models back in operable shape.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A great NYC streamlined Pullman

I was at a train show a couple weekends ago and noted on a big HO modular layout they were running a long ATSF streamliner, which included one NYC Pullman that would have been a car running through from New York on a train such as the Chief.

That splash of color reminded me to get back to featuring the wonderful OO models built by James Trout (more on him here). This car he clearly built to go with his ATSF streamline cars in the same manner as I saw at the show.

The car itself is mostly wood and card. The exterior is not that exceptional by itself – The paint is a bit faded and I suspect it was a quick build for him – but the entire car as a whole is impressive. The sides are a thick cardboard material and it is all hand painted and neatly lettered with his artists’ hand. It is rolling on Schorr trucks and there are hardly any visible commercial parts. I believe that some underbody details are now missing, I will give those a closer look soon, but what is not missing are the interior details. It is all there, nothing rattling around. The only major thing missing is there is no car name. Either he could not decide what name to use or he opted to leave it blank, you can use your imagination which car it depicts.

Click on either of these last two shots for a closer look. The level of interior detail is really quite nice, but actually simply done. All it really has are walls and chairs made from the old Suydam wood stock, with arms added as appropriate and painted nicely. Makes me want to go back to some of my own “completed” models and bring those details up a few levels, I do have the parts to do it and it would not be hard to duplicate his level of detail.

One final thing to note, unlike the heavyweight cars featured earlier in this series (such as this combine), this one has plenty of truck swing and could be sat right on my layout and operated through the curves. A bigger layout would be handy, though.

Part of my mix of projects now is to look closer at his ATSF streamline cars (including one left unfinished), more on those in the coming months.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A short tale of driver springs

Among projects underway I am trying to get two S-C 4-8-4s running again. One came to me complete but not operable, and the other I refer to as the “Pierre” engine, Pierre Bourassa had converted it to a 4-8-2 with a Canadian cab but not real successfully. That one came to me in parts and the drive (original type frame) was in short a mess with non-standard drivers, etc.

Luckily for the Pierre engine I was able to locate (unexpectedly) an essentially complete “section 1” of the model, post-war version, which is the drive and frame, with wheels, almost assembled and missing some parts (but parts I had). Looking both projects over from that point I realized that both engines only had two of their four driver springs. The original drive produced for this model used a sand-cast bronze frame, but the post war version had a built up frame with sprung drivers.

My ace in the hole here though is I have a third “kit” for a 4-8-4 that is about 90% complete, and some additional parts beyond that, the product of years of sorting parts that came from various sources. So the good news was I had six additional springs; now both of these models have (or will have) four truck springs.

Another good news item is I thought the metal holding the drive gears of the complete model had warped, but actually I was able to get it to loosen up and work. Even more good news being the motor works too. So the next project for this engine is to convert it to a modern rectifier and I am optimistic it will run without too much further effort beyond the changes needed to the tender. Then on to the Pierre engine and other projects.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A look at the Nason 2-8-0 boiler

I don’t think that I am alone in saying that there is a vintage charm to sand cast models. I have no desire to do any actual sand casting now, but I do respect the process (described further in this article) and the effort needed to build a great model from the parts produced.

Which brings us to these boilers for the Nason 2-8-0, a model introduced in 1937. I had over the years obtained most of the parts for one model (with tender) and some extra parts, but recently saw the second boiler on eBay (the shiny one) and it spoke to me too, as in my parts I had an extra cab roof and several extra boiler fronts, both of which it was missing.

The boiler, alone, weighs in at 13 ounces. Nason chose the prototype undoubtedly due to the wide firebox allowing room for a good sized motor. The shiny one was worked on more by a prior owner, even if it was not as assembled. Quite a bit of effort went into smoothing the surface and also it is notable that they drilled out the smokestack.

As to my plans for these boilers, I have one original frame with matching side rods, almost enough parts to put together a model, and additionally I have enough extra Johann/Mantua drivers to get it going well (but I have to turn two into blind drivers first…). For the other boiler I am inclined to look for a HO mechanism for 4-8-4 (find a junker at a show…) and work it over, using as many other original parts as I can from my parts supply. Ideally the donor drive will also take these same Johann/Mantua drivers, of which I have extras that could be used on this model (the diameter being the same as the original Nason drivers, I just don't have a usable set of them).

And back to the general topic of bronze OO locomotives, my present main project is working on a group of locos, non-running, many with bronze boilers. Besides visualizing the parts I have and what needs done the big issue is drivers, which will probably be a topic for another article soon, and the good news is I think I have enough drivers (and parts for drivers) to also get a Nason Hudson and 4-4-2 running, along with also a S-C 0-6-0, a 4-6-2, and a 4-8-4. It is a puzzle but really it has been enjoyable to sort out parts and visualize where the projects need to go.

With a final note being, if you are working on similar puzzles and need a few parts, do feel free to check with me, maybe I can help. It is time to get some of the few remaining of these classic American OO models running again.