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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Modifying Athearn Drives for American OO

Over spring break I made a quick trip to Denver to meet my brother and go to their big train show. My main purchases there were locomotives to either modify for OO or use for parts, plus a couple other random items. The first one to be parted out donated this drive.

Athearn has sold great HO locomotives for years and years. What you want are drives made in the same era as this one, which have plastic sideframes that can be snapped off and inside bearings. The wheelbase of a HO road diesel being the same as an OO diesel switcher is what makes this extremely useful to the modern OO gauger.

The modifications are pretty straightforward. Pop off the top gearbox cover to get the truck off the frame, and then pop off the bottom cover to get at the wheels. When there you could just move the wheelsets out to OO gauge (use the NMRA OO standards gauge!) but I used a wheel puller to also push in the axles (half axles) back in a ways so that they went in the center plastic part the same length as before, which should make the drive more solid in operation down the road (but not too far--or it will create a short, the two halve axles must not touch). When you put them back together you will have to add a shim between the wheel and the bearing. I used thick plastic to make a washer, easily visible in the photo.

These trucks are geared nicely, pick up from all wheels, and basically are bullet proof! They have served very well for several years now under my E-7 for example. I am stocked up for parts for these Athearn drives and they will be showing up on several models in the blog this coming year.

This drive specifically is going in a Nason gas-electric. I combined the Athearn parts with with parts from a dummy AHM Alco switcher frame, which is the source of the non-powered truck and the fuel tank. I knit the drive end together from parts from the AHM frame, the Athearn frame (both trucks are in their original mounts) and screws and wood and gap filling super glue. Every project like this is a puzzle to a point, but it came together in an enjoyable few hours, reward time after finishing the taxes. And it runs great with the vintage Pittman motor and eight wheel pick up. The only real challenge was I had to carve out a niche for the motor so that it would fit under the roof, which I also had to carve out a bit to clear the brushes. I still have details to work out on the underframe and the body needs decals but it should be finished in a few weeks, more when it is done.

Finally, speaking of the show where I purchased the Athearn drive truck used in this model, there was one seller with OO (Lionel) at the meet but that was all. Someday I have to get to York. Being way out west as I am it will be a few years though before I invest in that trip.

UPDATE: The finished gas-electric is here.

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