By Craig Bisgeier
Life is tough when you model the golden age of steam. There are not a lot of ready-to-run models out there anywhere close to accurate, depending on your period. On my late 19th century Housatonic, I need a lot of 4-4-0 and 4-6-0 locomotives made by Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor Locomotive Works of Paterson, NJ from 1870 to 1892. It's tough because there's no useful HO scale model of this engine available in quantity. The old Mantua 4-6-0 'Dixie Belle' is exactly the right engine, but it's grossly out of scale. Arbor Models made a Sierra Railroad # 3 model kit, also a near-perfect match, but they are hard to find, expensive and not easy to build.
When Bachmann's Spectrum line announced two versions of a 4-6-0 a couple of years ago, I got excited, hoping it might be a Rogers prototype. I soon learned that it would not be a Rogers but a Baldwin prototype, but when they arrived at around $100 a unit I still invested in several of the low-boilered versions on the theory that they would, at least, be respectable stand-ins until something better came along. And maybe it could be used to kitbash into a reasonable Rogers stand-in at some point. I particularly like that the motor and drivetrain is located inside the locomotive, because many early locomotive models have the motor in the tender and an unsightly driveshaft connects the two parts.
An example of one of the Housatonic's Ten-Wheelers built in 1890 is shown below:
For comparison, an image of the Spectrum low-boiler 4-6-0 is shown below:
Proportionally they are similar in size and shape, a good start. The most obvious differences on the Baldwin are:
|Axle / Driver spacing on the third axle|
|Placement of the steam and sand domes|
|Different boiler layout (slope section located too far forward)|
|Different valve gear (much more complex on the Baldwin)|
|Driver size slightly too small|
|a lot of details that must be removed and relocated!|
Not shown here is the earlier period cab (comes with the Unlettered locomotive) which has better proportions and appears much closer to the Rogers style.
A kitbash of this model will not make a perfect copy of the Rogers, but I figure it should make a model that comes within 90% which is good enough for me -- until someone else comes up with something better commercially. The way these things often go, a spot-on model will be released six months after my heavily kitbashed model is finished. That's OK, bring it on.
My first step was getting the thing apart (they sure don't make it easy to figure out how in the exploded diagram) and was pleasantly surprised at what I found. The boiler shell is a cast metal piece with a plastic smokebox front and backhead glued on. It lifts off after removing three screws and gently prying loose some of the added grab irons and details. This reveals the chassis and motor assembly. The motor assembly is held to the chassis with two screws and is self-contained in a two-part shroud, inside of which is the motor, a transversely-mounted belt drive with a pulley, which drives another pulley mounted to a shaft slung under the motor with a worm gear that interfaces with the spur gear on the center driver. A neat and clean design.
Predictably, the boiler narrows just ahead of the belt drive, and the motor assembly does too, with nothing important projecting out ahead of the belt drive except a supporting bar for the LED and prism that lights the headlight.
After examining the model I have determined the major steps involved in kitbashing the model:
|The taper of the boiler from larger to smaller courses has to take place closer to the cab. This may be a problem because the width of the motor assembly shroud around the belt drive may interfere with the smaller boiler courses. However, at first glance it looks like it might be possible to cut away part of the the forward shroud and pick up some clearance.|
|After trimming the forward shroud, it's time to rearrange the boiler. The larger boiler course should be slightly taller than the baldwin model, but I'll live with the proportions. I can save a lot of work by cutting the middle out of the boiler -- just behind the strap behind the steam dome, and just ahead of the strap in front of the sand dome -- and moving this section back so that the cab is nearly touching the steam dome. I might even shorten the model by moving the cab up about 1/4" to better capture the right look.|
|A new section of smaller boiler course will need to be fabricated and placed between the steam/sand dome section and the smokebox making up the difference in length.|
|The running boards get cut off at the cab edge. What's left stays on as the cab floor.|
|The walschaerts valve gear has to come off and be replaced by a simpler system. The gear on a Rivarossi Civil-War era 4-4-0 is closer in appearance to the Rogers locomotive and might provide necessary parts, or at least a roadmap to the changes.|
|The rear axle / drivers need to be moved back so they are under the cab. How far it goes back depends on how much work I want to do -- to place it back where it belongs I need to extend the chassis a bit, which would probably mean a new chassis (built up from model and molded / cast). If I move it back to the back end of the existing chassis it will help look more correct visually, and be far less work to implement, but be somewhat less accurate. Moving the cab forward slight as mentioned above would help here too.|
|New side rods will need to be fabricated. This would probably be best done by checmical etching on brass, and I have a friend who may be able to help with this. Fortunately only the rods between the second and third drivers need to be done.|
|The brake cylinders will need to be relocated to a spot between the second and third driver instead of under the cab as they are now, and fenders over the first and second drivers will need to be added.|
After all these changes, this is about what I'd expect the model to look like:
And here's the original model again for comparison:
Isn't PhotoShop wonderful? :-) If only building the model were that easy. It's not perfect but it is a lot closer, don't you think? It was too difficult to get the valve gear and running boards out of the picture, but I think this makes the right impression.
Once a master model of the Rogers boiler for this locomotive built and fitted to the chassis, I'll mold it so multiple identical copies can be cast in resin (impregnated with metal dust for weight). Then it's simply a matter of making the changes to all the chassis identically (six in all) and slapping the things together. This is a LOT better than trying to build six of these individually! This way a lot of effort can be put into making one great master model, then make as many copies of it as you need. It's possible the chassis might need to be rebuilt, molded and cast too.
Because the Spectrum's boiler is cast metal, it would be very difficult to work on directly. A better option for me is to clean up the boiler, make a mold and cast several polyurethane resin copies of it, then hack up and reposition the resin copies. This way it's easy to replace sections if they get screwed up, the resin machines easily with hand and power tools, and extra parts are readily made if needed within about 30 minutes.
Since I had already the boiler removed from the chassis, I started by removing the many details glued onto it with a small pliers and hobby knife. Try real hard not to scratch up the finish of the boiler. It's not easy. Most of the pipes and fittings have to be cut or twisted off. Be especially careful with the Air brake pump and the bell because you'll be using them again. I saved all the detail parts on the theory I might need them later. The smokestack and the two domes are held on with screws from the inside. The Steam dome came off easily but the sand dome is stuck, probably painted on. I'll have to work on it with a pliers and some rubber jaws to persuade it off without damage.
Temporarily re-attach the cab and mark where the running boards come out from underneath. My Rogers prototype didn't have running boards, so I'm saving the parts that act as the cab floor and the rest will get cut off the boiler. (Almost everything on this model is metal -- the stock version probably pulls great.)
Once all the details are off, you'll need to gently file, putty and sand any marred surfaces. Take care not to erode details like boiler bands and rivets! Cover them with masking tape to protect them when working nearby.
Update: This project sat idle for a while as we got into working on the rest of the layout. But my friend Ray asked about it after seeing it here on the website, and I agreed to let him take a crack at it. A couple of weeks later he sent me the following picture, showing the boiler cut up and the rear driver moved:
To be sure much remains to be done with this model, but it is coming along nicely. I hope we get a chance to do some more work on it soon.
To be continued...