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.

The Bristol Model Railway Exhibition

This week’s post will be nice and short as it’s been a busy weekend, so I’m just going to remind you that I, and my fellow members of the Gosport American Model Railroad Group, will be at the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition with our N Scale modular layout ‘Solent Summit’.

The exhibition runs from Friday 28th of April to Sunday 30th and you can find out about it here.

Next week it’s a Bank Holiday here on Monday; so again it will be a short post.  But I’ll have something to share with you that will give some new life into old steam engines.

Fitting DCC to Wrenn OO Locomotives – Vertical Motors

Last week’s post was all about converting Wrenn OO locomotives with horizontal motors to DCC; you can find the post here.  This week I’m going to share with you how to convert the vertical motors.

The vertical motors were used in the City & Duchess 4-6-2s, A4 4-6-2s, 0-6-2 tank engines, Royal Scott 4-6-0s and Bullied Pacific 4-6-2s.  The two engines I’m converting are the ‘City of Birmingham’ and ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’.

To remove the all-metal shell simply remove the screw located at the front and it will come away from the chassis.

As with the horizontal motored locomotives the wiring is very simple.  The black wire goes to the right side pickups and connects to the isolated motor brush at the front of the motor.  The brown disc is the capacitor which acts as a suppressor to prevent interference with televisions etc.  The other wire from the capacitor connects to the chassis and the left side pickup.

All the wires are removed except the black feed from the right side pickup.  The brush at the rear of the motor is not isolated from the chassis and, as with the horizontal motor, it’s this one which gives us a problem.

The steel cap covering the brush simply pulls out to reveal a spring and a brush as below.

The cap fits into a brass sleeve which guides the brush and spring to the armature.  In order to isolate the brush from the chassis this sleeve will have to be removed and replaced.

It’s very unlikely the sleeve will push out; you may be lucky but chances are it will need to be drilled.  Before you do this the armature will need to be removed to prevent damage and metal filings getting where you don’t want them.  In the picture above you can see I’ve removed the magnet and side plates: this is done by removing the main bolt through the motor.  The front brush should also be removed by pulling the end cap out.  Then the top nut above the armature can be loosened and unscrewed.  Note there is a small ball bearing in the cap. The grease should hold it there but be prepared for it to fall out. Then the armature can be removed, normally from the right hand side.  There’s also a small ball bearing in the fitting at the bottom of the armature. Again, it should stay in place but be ready just in case.  The chassis should then look like this.

Using a 5mm drill the old sleeve can be drilled out and the hole made ready for the new 3D printed sleeve; you can see the new sleeve in the bottom right of the image above.  Once the hole has been drilled, clean and remove any burrs from the hole and remove any metal fillings from the chassis.  Before you fit the new sleeve make sure the brush fits through without any resistance.  It should be able to fall through if tipped up.  If it sticks there may be some 3D printing residue inside which can be removed with a drill bit or round file.  The new sleeve can now be fitted and, if necessary, held in place with a little glue.

Then simply reassemble the motor.  Before you put the armature back in check to make sure the ball bearing is still there.  The top nut should be screwed down so the armature spins freely but has no vertical movement; only then should the nut be tightened.  With the brushes refitted, a continuity test should be done with a volt meter to double-check that both brushes are isolated from the chassis.  Then the wires can be added for your DCC decoder.  The red goes to the black wire, the black goes to the chassis, the orange goes to the front motor brush and the gray goes to the rear as below.

Once a DCC test has been performed the shell can be refitted and the loco is good to go.

So where can you get these 3D printed isolating brush holders? They’re available here:

Two Wrenn horizontal motor isolating sleeves.

Four Wrenn horizontal motor isolating sleeves.

Two Wrenn Vertical motor isolating sleeves.

Four Wrenn Vertical motor isolating sleeves.

Two Wrenn Vertical & two horizontal motor isolating sleeves.

I will also keep a few in stock so please drop me an email or message me through the contact page.  If you have a different locomotive which needs a special part to isolate the motor for a DCC conversion I’d be happy to look into it for you.

Fitting DCC to Wrenn OO Locomotives – Horizontal Motors

This week I’m going to share with you a simple way to add DCC (Digital Command Control) to older Wrenn OO locomotives.

Wrenn locomotives date back to the 1960s but don’t be fooled by their age.  They’re very good models and are still widely collected and run.  If you find one in its original box it may even be worth a lot of money, depending on the model inside.

One of their main advantages is they’re all metal, making them very heavy.  This gives them a lot of tractive effort compared to models produced in later years.  The mechanisms are simple but well-built which means most of them are probably still running well.  However these were all designed well before the concept of DCC came along so the motor wasn’t isolated from the chassis.  In fact one of the motor brushes is connected directly to the chassis which makes converting these to DCC a problem.

But to overcome that problem I’ve come up with a simple way to easily make the conversion.  The Wrenn locomotives I’ve come across have one of two types of motor; horizontal and vertical.  This week I’ll cover the horizontal motor which is in the 8F 2-8-0 as pictured bellow, the Castle 4-6-0 and the Rebuilt West Country 4-6-2 which is the locomotive I shall be working on today.

The Rebuilt West Country has the motor and all the wires located under the shell.

With the shell removed you can see a single black wire, which runs from the right hand wheels, connecting into the green wire and going to the right motor terminal.

The left terminal is connected to the chassis by a metal bolt.  Both terminals are linked by a capacitor which acts as a suppressor to prevent interference with televisions etc.  Each terminal also has a spring which keeps pressure on the motor brushes inside the brush holders.

The brush holder on the right is isolated from the chassis and is only connected to the green wire.  The brush holder on the left is the one which gives us the problem.  In the image below I’ve released the spring and the brush has fallen out.  Be carefull not to drop the brush as they are made from carbon, just like a pencil lead, and can easily crack.

The brush holder is made from brass and is fixed directly into the chassis, making a perfect electrical connection.  The brush holder should pull out with a pair of pliers as I have done below.  If not, it will need to be drilled out; if you have to do this dismantle the whole motor first, because you don’t want to damage the inside or get metal filings in the armature.

With the brush holder removed it’s a simple matter of replacing it with something which works as an insulator.  And the answer is a 3D printed brush holder.

These have been designed to be a direct replacement.  They are 3D printed in Shapeways’ Frosted Ultra Detail material and should fit into the hole with a push.  It’s important to check first that the brush slides freely inside the holder.  Any print residue inside may cause the brush to stick and this will prevent the locomotive from running.  Any residue can be removed with a drill, the same size as the brush, or a round file.  If the brush holder is a loose fit in the hole simply fix it in place with some superglue.  (Superglue is made from acrylic and so is the Shapeways FUD)

The black wire from the right hand side wheels has been cut and will be joined to the DCC decoder.  The capacitor has also been removed.  Under the left motor terminal is a bolt which also connects this side back to the chassis; this needs to be removed and left out.

At this stage a continuity test using a volt meter is a good idea to ensure the two terminals really are isolated from the chassis and both left and right wheels.  If they are, then the brush can be re-fitted and the spring clipped on to hold it in place.  The wires from the DCC decoder can now be soldered to the motor terminals.

The power feeds can now be connected; one goes to the black wire and the other to the chassis.  I connected the chassis wire to the screw holding on the weight at the front of the loco.

And that’s it, the loco is chipped and ready for testing.

Next week I’ll share with you how to isolate a vertical Wrenn motor and where to get the 3D printed brush mounts from.

A Lot Of ‘Bulleid’ At The Swanage Steam Railway

This weekend I had a nice surprise when passing through Corfe Castle which is small village located in Dorset on the South coast of England.  There was a special event happening at the local heritage steam railway and I thought I would share it with you.

Corfe Castle is famous for having, as its name suggests, a large castle.

Although in ruins it’s a spectacular sight and it’s situated very close to the railway station which is now operated by the Swanage Railway; which is a heritage line.  The station is situated just to the right of the castle behind the town.  In the picture below you can see two plumes of steam, each from a different train sat in the station.  The line runs to Swanage to the right and Norden to the left passing between the castle and the far hills.

The Swanage railway runs steam trains for most of the year but what made this weekend special, and a nice suprise, was the addition of some visiting locomotives.  And they where all Bulleid light pacifics.

As the poster says this year, actually in July, marks the 50th year since the end of steam on the Southern Railway; which was one of the big four.  The others where the LMS (London Midland Scottish), LNER (London North Eastern Railway) & GWR (Great Western Railway).

One of the most influential people for the Southern was Oliver Bulleid. He was the chief mechanical engineer for the Southern Railway between 1937 and the 1948 nationalisation.  As all four companies competed to have the fastest and sleekest looking locomotives Bulleid designed a class of locomotives called the ‘Merchant Navy’ pacifics to pull the most prestigious trains, as pictured below.  Not only where these streamlined but they had lots of modern ideas such as chain driven valve gear and electric lights.

30 locomotives in the class were built between 1941 & 1949 and became know as ‘Spam Cans’ among the loco crews because of the streamlined cladding.  These weighed in at roughly 100 tonnes and although perfect for heavy express work it meant they where unable to travel on some of the regional lines on the Southern network.

This then led to the design of the ‘West Country’ and ‘Battle of Britain’ classes of light pacifics being built between 1945 and 1950.  110 were built in total and were used as express passenger locomotives as well as freight.  All the ‘West Country’ locomotives were named after West Country resorts and worked the west country routes.  The ‘Battle of Britain’ locomotives were named after Royal Air Force (RAF) and other subjects associated with the Battle of Britain and worked the South-east lines.

To mark the 50th anniversary the Swanage Railway brought in four guests to run with their own West Country making a nice set of five:

34052 Lord Dowding – (rebuilt) West Country and originally called ‘Braunton’.

34053 Sir Keith Park – (rebuilt) Battle of Britain.

34070 ManstonBattle of Britain. (Resident at Swanage Railway)

34092 City of Wells – West Country.

34081 92 Squadron – Battle of Britain.

Two of the locomotives are classed as rebuilt and have a very different appearance to the others.  This is because under British Rail (BR) all of the ‘Merchant Navy’ and 60 of the ‘West Country’ and ‘Battle of Britain’ locomotives underwent series of improvements in order to reduce the running costs and improve the performance of the locomotives.  The ‘West Country’ and ‘Battle of Britain’ locomotives went through this between 1957 and 1961 and the changes included the cladding or casing being removed and being replaced with conventional boiler cladding, the boiler pressure being reduced to 250 psi from 280 psi and the chain-driven valve gear being replaced with a modified Walschaerts valve gear which fitted both outside as well as between the frames making access much easier.  The origin chain valve gear was all between the frames inside an oil bath.

Although I didn’t travel on the trains this weekend I was able to catch a few as they passed through Corfe Castle station.

Here is ‘Manston’ arriving with the London to Paris night ferry train.  It’s a bit shorter than it would have been but you get the idea.

The real train ran from London Victoria to Dover.

Leaving Corfe Castle station ‘Manston’ heads for Norden.

Although the Swanage railway is a single track main line Corfe Castle station acts a passing point with two platforms controlled from the signal box.

The platforms are connected with a foot bridge which was great place to watch from.

This is looking north to Norden with the Castle on the left.

And this is looking South to Swanage.  Corfe Castle station has a small good yard at the South end.

I was able to catch ‘Manston’ and ‘City of Wells’ departing in different directions after an exchange.

‘City of Wells’ was on the ‘Golden Arrow’ which was another ferry train from London to Paris but this time it was 1st class all the way.

The train normally would have been made up from Pullman coaches offering every luxury of the age.  And the loco would have been facing forwards.

Lord Dowding (the rebuilt West Country) arrives from Norden.

The rebuilts do look like more traditional steam engines and I think they also look a bit larger however this is an optical illusion as they are basically the same.

‘Sir Keith Park’ (the rebuilt ‘Battle of Britain’) sits ahead of ‘92 Squadron’ awaiting the signal to depart Corfe Castle station.

Double heading was common on some of the steeper routes and is always great to see although for five coaches I don’t think these two have much to worry about.

The scenery in the area is wonderful; and can see why they built the castle here all those years ago; a good rail connection for one!

I leave you with ‘Manston’ running North in the afternoon sun.