I often get asked to have a look at damaged locomotives and see if there’s anything that can be done to repair them. And I’m happy to say most of the time there is. So this week I have another 3D printed part made specifically to repair a locomotive to share with you.
Bachmann make model locomotives in many scales and I normally work in N Scale but this time it’s HO and it’s a lot bigger than N!
This locomotive has a motor in the rear of the boiler which drives the rear axle. The other wheels, just like the real thing, are driven by the connecting rods on the side.
However this particular model suffers from cracked axles causing an issue with the quartering. But what does that mean?
Well, as each driving wheel picks up power from the rails the axle needs to be electrically isolated to prevent it from shorting and this is done with a plastic axle. Each metal wheel has a peg at the center which fixes into the plastic axle. Below you can see the chassis upside-down with the base removed. Between each driving wheel you can see the plastic axle and between the rear wheel set is an axle with a gear which is driven by the motor.
This all works well untill the plastic becomes weaker with age and the pressure of the wheels turning causes it to crack. In the photo below you can see the crack line running through the original axle.
When it’s cracked like this the peg on the wheel will not be fixed tightly into the axle and the wheel can move differently to the wheel on the other side of the axle. And it’s this which causes the quartering issue. Quartering is a name given to the positioning of each wheel relative to the cylinder and piston. In the image below you can see all the wheels are connected to the connecting rod at the same point. Half way around the wheel on the left hand side, or at the 3rd quarter point. And the piston will be all the way to the front of the cylinder.
At the same time on the other side of the locomotive the wheels are all connected at the top of the wheel or the 1st quarter point. And the piston will be in the middle of the cylinder.
All steam engines are offset like this, although some are a bit different if they have more cylinders, but it’s this offset which ensures one cylinder can always push on the wheels no matter where the locomotive stops. If both side rods were in the same position and the locomotive stopped with the cylinders in the middle of a stroke, it would be nearly impossible to get it going again. So either side of an axle a driving wheel is positioned a quarter of a turn apart. But if the axle doesn’t grip the wheels then they get out of sync, the side rods get jammed up and the locomotive stops moving. And that is exactly what has happened to this locomotive.
However, there is a simple solution. I have drawn a replacement set of axles and 3D printed them in Shapeways Frosted Ultra Detail material which is accurate and hard-wearing, so ideal for this replacement part.
Yes, I know the original had a square section in the middle but out of the three I’ve changed only one of them did and I don’t know why. The other two had round sections and as I could see no reason for it being square I made them all round. If anyone does know why, please get in touch.
And as you can see in the image of the chassis the axles fit well. The wheels push in with a tight fit and stay at the correct quarter spacing.
I’ll be making these axles available soon in my Shapeways shop so if you also have a Bachmann HO 4-8-4 with spit axles you’ll be able to fix it and keep it running.