As promised in last week’s post this week I’ll show you a way to give some new life to old steam engines, or any locomotive which has became a ‘Shelf Queen’.
The phrase ‘Shelf Queen’ is normally used in model railroading to describe a locomotive which looks great but just doesn’t run well and spends all its time on the shelf. This could be because it has a broken part, it doesn’t pull well or simply runs so roughly or erratically it’s frustrating.
I have several of these which I kept telling myself I would get around to fixing, but time marches on and I now find myself with newer locomotives which outstrip my ‘Shelf Queen’ to the point that if they where good as new they would still disappoint.
So what to do with them? The answer is make them into a scrap train. Now I know I said “give some new life to old steam engines” and sending them for scrap is sort of the opposite! But it’s a model, so they will forever be on their final trip to the scrap yards, and will be running on the layout once more.
I have several engines to do this with but the first three, as pictured below, are a pair of original Bachmann 4-8-4 steamers with long haul tenders and a Con-Cor 4-6-4 streamlined Hudson. (The Hudson in the image is not the actual locomotive, this one is good runner.)
The first thing to do is to remove any motors, drive shafts, wires, connectors and pickups. Both of these locomotives have gears between the drive axles which I’ve left in to ensure equal turning of all the wheels.
Once this has been done and the locomotive has been reassembled it’s very important to ensure it’s free running. That is to say when pulled, or pushed by another locomotive all the wheels freely rotate and any side rods and valve gear don’t stick.
Often when steam locomotives are transported like this the connecting rod, which links the piston to one of the driving wheels, and the eccentric rod, which drives the valve gear, is disconnected or removed. This prevents damage occurring to the cylinder as it is normally lubricated by oil in the steam. However these are going for scrap and Bachmann only linked the rear three driving wheels together with a side rod; this is the horizontal rod linking all the driving wheels, probably to save material as it can’t be seen behind the connecting rod. But with the connecting rod removed it just looks wrong so I left them on.
It’s also a good idea to sort out any couplings at this stage so the effect of ageing the locomotive is all over. New shiny couplings stand out.
To transform these locomotives into rolling wrecks on their last journey I handed them to my friends at Model Railway Solutions who went to town with a mixture of weathering powders, paints and a few secret ingredients.
And now they look like this.
Once these have been weathered to this severity all moving parts will need to be re-checked to ensure they still run free. Areas like the valve gear are particularly susceptible but simply running the locomotive vigorously up and down your hand will free most of it up. The biggest issue is paint and material on the running face of the wheel. This will cause the loco to bump down the track; in real life they would be smooth as they weigh hundreds of tonnes.
However once it’s all ready the effect is fantastic, here are three powerful modern locomotives taking two giants on their last trip.
The Hudson still had some crud on the wheels so even these three diesels struggled to pull all the steamers, however in the last frame of the video it’s on the back of the train.
I intend to extend the train with some of my other ‘Shelf Queens’. Some of these will have the connecting rods removed, maybe a tarpaulin over the cabs, rusted holes in he tender and maybe the word ‘scrap’ painted on the side. Something else to consider: a lot of steam engines come with coal molded into the tender; of course this would not be here and the coal bunker would be empty. Also the side rods and parts would still go to scrap so these could be on a flat car trailing behind. Of course the scrap yard may not be the destination, they could be heading for preservation.
Next week, once I’ve recovered from this weekend’s exhibition in Bristol, I’ll share some of the show with you.