A Different Way to Resurrect A Shelf Queen

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.

Specialist Brick Feature for an S&D Signal Box – Part 2

In December last year I shared with you my designs for some special 3D printed brick feature details for a OO Somerset & Dorset Railway Signal Box at Bournemouth West Station; you can find the post here. In this post I’ll share with you how they came out.

This brick features, which I mislabeled as a ‘brick castellated feature’ last time, is called ‘dentil’ brickwork from the Latin ‘dens’ meaning ‘tooth’.  It’s a simple form of corbelling.  I printed the parts in strips on a sprue in Shapeway’s White Strong & Flexible material, as you can see below.


The actual construction of the signal box hasn’t started yet but the modeller, Steve Knight, has made a mock-up to see if the parts will work.


The wall has been made from layered card with the brick finish plastic card on top.  The top dentil and bottom sloping brick sections are simply glued in place.

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The whole section is then painted brick red.

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The brick details really stand out and, once weathered, will look wonderful.  As I said at the start this is only a mock-up for the signal box, but the image below gives the idea of how it’ll look on the layout.  All the track work and details, like point rodding, have already been finished.


Once Steve has completed the box I’ll share the result with you.

This weekend is the Bournemouth N-Trak Convention which I’ll be attending, hopefully on both days.  You can see videos and photos from a previous visit in 2014 here. I intend to take lots of photos and video this time as well so I can give you a nice full post next week for those who can’t make it.

A Way to Paint FUD & FXD 3D Printed Parts

I regularly get asked how to paint the Shapeways 3D printed Frosted Ultra Detail and Frosted Extreme Detail materials.  There are several methods that work but I thought in this post I’d share with you the method used by one of my fellow modellers, Chris Broughton.

Chris produces fantastic models, such as his Baldwin RT-624 as shown below.

RT-624 Button

This model has been made from one of my kits 3D printed at Shapeways in FXD. The kit arrives as shown below, except for the handrails which are fixed inside the shell for protection.

Baldwin RT-624 Kit

Chris also used my etched brass Addition to complete the model.

Baldwin RT-624 Additions Render

From here I will let Chris explain his method for painting his models;

“First, I soak the parts in Bestine to removed the waxy coating from the parts. I’ll leave them in for 2-3 days, since the Bestine doesn’t harm the parts. When the parts come out of the soak, I’ll rinse them in water and lightly brush them with a toothbrush.

PPR RT-624 (Chris Broughton) 1

Once they’re dry, I’ll lightly sand any areas that have a coarse texture from printing. In areas where there’s detail, I’ll using small sanding sticks and try to work around the details.

PPR RT-624 (Chris Broughton) 2

I use Tamiya Fine Surface Primer to prime the parts. If more sanding is necessary, I’ll sand and recoat with the primer.

PPR RT-624 (Chris Broughton) 3

As for paint, I’ve been using TruColor paint more recently. I’m used to using Floquil, so I’ve had to adapt since they’re no longer around.

PPR RT-624 (Chris Broughton) 4

I’ve been pretty happy with TruColor, but I get the best results over a primed surface, and it has to be thinned quite a bit for airbrushing (to the consistency of water). I just use 100% acetone fingernail polish remover for thinning and cleaning. The paint goes on glossy, which is great for applying decals, then spray with Testors Dullcote from a spray can to seal the decals and weathering, and give it a matte finish.”

PPR RT-624 (Chris Broughton) 5

Chris’ finished locomotive looks fantastic which just goes to show how well his method works.

PRR RT-624 8355(Chris Broughton) 3PRR RT-624 8355(Chris Broughton) 2

Many thanks to Chris for sharing his painting method and for the excellent photos.

Last week I had promised to share some new products with you and I will be shortly, I’m just making a few last minute adjustments.  As for this coming weekend I’m going to the NMRA (BR) Benson Winter Meet and hopefully I’ll have some photos and videos to share with you from the show.

Replacing the Motor in A Con-Cor Turbine/U50/C-855 Chassis – Additional

Following on from last week’s post about replacing the motor in a Con-Cor Turbine/U50/C-855 Chassis, which you can find here, I have a few updates to share with you.

This chassis has been around since 1973 and has undergone very little change.  However there have been a few, and the more I work with them the more I find.  One of my fellow modelers, Mr Mike Musick, who wrote the guest article about changing the wheels in these chassis, has discovered that the most recent version released under the Rail Baron label has a different motor cradle and the new Kato/Atlas motor will not fit.  You can find Mike’s guest post about the wheel sets here.

The problem with the cradle is solvable by removing the part which clashes with the motor.  Mike says ‘This plastic is hard and not trivial to work with, a Dremel with a small burr bit is about the only way to remove enough material.’  Below is Mike’s photo of a modified cradle.


Mike also goes on to say ‘When removing the old motor, be sure to note the location of the “white stripe” on one side of one magnet. This indicates motor polarity, and the new motor should be oriented with the white stripe in the same relative position. This is especially important if it is not going to be modified for DCC;as with DCC if you get it backwards you simply swap the orange and gray wires.

The original motor in mine came with a 0.010″ shim in the motor cradle. So I swapped it out for an 0.020″ shim, which turned out to not be enough, it should be a total of 0.030″.’

The shim raises the motor as discussed in last week’s post, however too much will cause the gears to bind.

With the C-855 extended chassis Mike has also experimented with not gluing the cup gear extenders, shown below, into the cup gears.  This ‘in Mike’s words’ ‘lets the adapter cup gears “float”, which turns them into sort of a constant-velocity joint and may also influence the noise by reducing gear pressure’.

C-855 Chassis Extenders 11

These small changes can greatly affect the running of the locomotive  by improving noise reduction and smoothness of the motor.

Bob’s three C-855s, from last week’s post, have now all had their motors swapped out for Kato Atlas Motors and I was able to catch them this weekend running through Solent Summit station.  I haven’t added any sound to the video so you can hear, or rather not hear, the motors.

Next week’s post will be on Boxing Day here in the UK so it will be nice and short but for now I would like to wish everybody a Merry Christmas.

Replacing the Motor in A Con-Cor Turbine/U50/C-855 Chassis

The Con-Cor Turbine and U50 chassis has been around for many years and has always been a solid runner.  However, by modern standards, the motor in the chassis is rather noisy and draws a lot of current.  In this post I’ll share with you how myself and Bob Norris replaced the motor to improve these issues.

The chassis, as pictured below, has a central motor powering two drive shafts which in turn power the two outer trucks.  The inner pair is unpowered.  The design has been used for the GE U50 model since 1973, which interestingly was first made for Con-Cor by Kato.  This chassis was also used for the GE 4500 Gas Turbine model which was released in 1975.

Con-Cor GE U50-Gas Turbine Chassis

And more recently it’s been used by me for the Alco C-855 as shown below, stretched and fitted with a DCC decoder. You can read more about the stretching of the chassis here or by searching this site for C-855.

C-855 Chassis Build 15

The first three C-855s I made went to Bob Norris and the chassis have been running well but recently we have added sound decoders to them and this started giving us a few problems.  Firstly the motors are fairly noisy and secondly they draw lots of current.  When pulling a heavy train with the sound at full volume the sound decoders have been known to shut off and then start behaving erratically.  Now I know the original three ordered by Union Pacific didn’t last long as they were prone to failure but that wasn’t the aim here!

So after doing some investigating we did a stall test on one of the motors and we discovered that the peak amperage can sometimes go over the maximum for the decoder by a fair amount.  To find out what a stall test is and how to do it please see this post.

Below is a short video of a C-855, running light engine with the sound off so you can hear the motor whining.  The clicking is the Digitrax DCC controller notching up and down.

To solve the issues a new motor was found for the chassis.  Coincidently it is also made by Kato, although a much newer design. The Kato motor 420000 is advertised as a replacement motor for Atlas N Scale.  We found them on eBay though the seller Soo-Much-Stuff.

The motor comes with no gears on the drive shafts which is ideal. Below you can see the new motor on the right and the old on the left.


The old motor, as shown below, sat in the middle of the raised area of the chassis and the gears ran inside larger diameter cup gears.


The chassis un-screws and separates easily allowing the motor, drive shaft and motor cradle to be removed.


The gears on the old motor (top in the photo below) need to be removed and fitted to the new motor.  They are simply press fitted and can be removed by applying pressure behind the gear.  Not too much pressure or you will spend ages looking for the gear on the other side of the layout, don’t ask me how I know this!


To fit them to the new motor the process is the same, just the other way around.


The gear needs to slide on far enough so the drive shaft is almost at the other side.  Note, this was done for the C-855 extended chassis, the U50 and turbine chassis should be the same but it’s a good idea to check as you go.  If the gear slides on too far it may not make good contact with the cup gear.


With the gears fitted the tabs can be bent up ready for soldering wires to.  If you are doing this for a DC locomotive the tabs will need to be in the same positions as the motor you have just taken out.


The bottom tab pokes through the motor cradle.


Upon test fitting we discovered the motor was sightly smaller than the original which caused it to sit a bit low. To solve this a plastic shim was made to fit in the bottom of the cradle.

c-885-new-motor-8 c-885-new-motor-9

The cradle was then fitted back into the chassis ready for the motor.


As you can see below the gears now fit nicely into the cup gears.  If the shim was too thick the cup gears would be lifting and this would cause noise and strain the motor.


The wires can now be added to the motor.  There is a channel formed in the C-855 chassis extender on either side so you have a choice on where to run your wire.



The chassis is now fully reassembled and ready for testing.


Below is another short video showing how quietly the new motor runs.

With all three units converted to new motors the performance should be greatly improved and hopefully I will get some video of them running soon to share with you.

Thanks go to Bob for the photos and videos of the motor swap.

The new Shapeways order has now been shipped so next week I will start showing you some of the products I’ve been sharing over the last few weeks.

The Best Way to Weather My Stock

In last weeks post I promised to share with you some of my newly-weathered stock so that is exactly what I’m going to do.

I have a range of rolling stock from different manufacturers and a lot of the freight cars,  although they are very nice, some do seem a bit brightly coloured.  To be fair a lot of them would have been this way when they rolled out of the factory for the fist time.  But after spending some time of the rails everything gets dirty,  and even rusty as they get older.

I think they should look more like this.

Weathered Stock 11

Here are some closeups shots.

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The next three where identical before weathering.

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Weathered Stock 3

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Weathered Stock 2 As a comparison; below is a factory weathered freight car, on the left, alongside my weathered freight cars.

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One of the things I didn’t like about the factory weathered freight car was the trucks, they look too shiny and new compared to the rest.

Weathered Stock 9

Below is a short video showing a train passing with regular stock followed by a train with the new weathered stock.

So how did I do this?  Well given that time is precious, as those waiting for projects to be draw will appreciate, I’ve found the best solution.  Get somebody else to do it!

These were all airbrushed by Model Railway Solutions. MRS provide all sorts of modeling solutions from flat pack baseboard construction, all the way up to complete model railways built to exhibition standards.

The weathering service is very reasonable and they are happy to work with large batch projects which can reduce the shipping costs when sending models from overseas.

Here are some of the other models that were on the work bench when I collected this batch.

This is an N gauge southern region Merchant Navy class locomotive.

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This is a OO Gauge 9F made by Hornby.

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Although the main body is dull and dirty the running gear looks wet and oily, these photos don’t do the locomotive justice.

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Here is a BR Standard Class 4MT made by bachmann.

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I liked the rusted areas around the tender water filling area.

Weathered Stock 21

The real coal in the tender was also added by MRS.

Weathered Stock 22

Coaches also get dirty and below is a OO Gauge collett coach made by Hornby which has also had the air brush treatment.

Weathered Stock 27

And to pull a train of these coaches, what could be better than a GWR Castle class. Again this OO gauge model was made by Hornby and is now in a typical representation of what it would have looked like when these engines where nearing the end of their life. Weathered Stock 29

Of course freight engines where not looked after anywhere near as well as the passenger locos.  Below is an image of a brand new OO Gauge Hornby 2-8-0.

Hornby 2-8-0

MRS spent some time on it and now it look like this.

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It still runs as smooth as silk but in this condition you can just imagine it has seen many years of use.

Weathered Stock 25

MRS are happy to be contacted by phone or email and both can be found on there website.  Alternatively you can always drop me a message through my contact page and will be happy to talk to them for you.