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

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Building a better Baldwin, Fleischmann HO to OO conversion 2.0

A few years ago, I did an initial conversion of a Fleischmann Baldwin switcher to operation in OO. This is a vintage HO model that is rather overscale for HO (more here), the only major dimension that is off really for OO is height, the model is a bit short.

As the first conversion ran well and came out looking great in the ATSF “zebra stripe” scheme I finally decided to build a second model up, using the same methods but improving things a bit. The first model used the original Fleischmann paint, and I kept the original Fleischmann number that is cast into the cab. The new model as it came to me had several heavy coats of paint on it that I had to remove, and in the process of prepping the body I also sanded the numbers off.

The body and the handrails were spray painted black. As I noted in the article with the original model (here) the zebra stripe scheme hides very effectively the fact that the box ahead of the cab is close to twice as big as it should be. Painted black, the eye is drawn away to the stripes. The black handrails on the new model are an improvement on the original model, and I may go back and paint those black as well. The big headache was applying the decals, straightforward but time consuming. I used Microscale HO decals.

I had a request to show how the drive was put together, which hopefully this photo reveals better. I tried to improve on the first drive, but I think the first one might have come out better, so this photo is of the original drive. The frame, motor, and front truck on the new model are from a blue box era Athearn road diesel. It has to be cut down a bit to fit, cutting as much off as possible while maintaining the original motor mount. I have had very good luck with the converted Athearn drives, more on that process here. The Athearn frame is held secure using the original screw holes that held on the original front truck. On both models I did not correct the shape of the fuel tank, it is not quite right but I can live with that detail being off, it is not obvious to the eye being painted black.

The back truck is the front truck from an AHM SW1 which also donated that portion of the frame (cut down) and all four side frames. The fit between the base of the Athearn motor and the AHM truck is very tight and requires careful trimming of the Athearn frame and the truck itself. You will also need to cut part of the Athearn drive shaft off to not interfere with the truck mount. When it moves freely you will be good to go! I attached the remnant of the AHM frame to the body with screws into some heavy wood strips glued to the body.

Looking at the bottom, you can also see how the truck sideframes are mounted. On the Athearn end donor HO Athearn sideframes were cut down and the AHM sideframes glued on with clearance not to interfere with the wheels. On the AHM end, spacers were inserted to give sufficient clearance for OO gauge wheelsets. All the wheels are somewhat undersized for OO but it is not I feel very noticeable.

The couplers I should mention are mounted directly on the Fleischmann body casting but in the Kadee plastic boxes; if mounted directly on the bodies there would be a short between the two models operating back to back.

Together the two models run great and can pull 8 of almost any type with ease on my layout. Of course, this is actually me using modelers license, as so far as I know the prototype ATSF models were not MU equipped.

Among models I run regularly the Fleishmann Baldwin deserves a quick comparison to an AHM S-2 (the “Alco 1000”, more on this model here). The S-2 is clearly overscale for HO but it looks small next to the Baldwin, which gives a better impression of being to scale for OO. In reality, both models are a bit small for OO, but overall the Fleischmann is certainly a good looking model. I don’t imagine it looks right on a HO layout, however!

Finally, sharp eyed readers who clicked on the very first link in this article might have noticed I also have a Garco Baldwin in bronze. I’m on the fence what to do with that model. Originally I was thinking to rebuild it, but it is not quite as close to OO scale size and a little rougher model -- and actually has the original HO drive too. No rush anyway, and I'm thinking most likely a HO collector might appreciate it as it is.

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