Ever had a project snowball on you?

I usually spend 4 Sat. nights a month operating at different model RRs in the area. I generally take the "yard job" and can spend 4 hours happily making up and breaking down outgoing and incoming trains.

One of my favorite engines is an old (late 50s) die cast English Yardbird (PRR A-5 0-4-0) that I picked up many years ago. Eventually the front (geared) drive axle slot in the frame became so worn that the engine wouldn't run any more. A while back I picked up another one of these that showed little evidence of wear with the intention of using it's frame to replace my worn out one.

Last week I started the rebuild. I slipped the "good" frame out of it's engine and the "bad" frame out of it's engine and then put the "good" frame in the engine I was trying to save. Before re-installing the motor I checked the wheels with their attached siderods and valve gear to make they turned freely. The wheels went about 1/2 turn and locked up solid.

Further examination showed that the frame castings were slightly different with the axle slots on the "good" frame being about 1/32 closer to the cylinder location than the "bad" one. This caused the valve gear to hit the backs of the cylinders. I figured I could fix that by elongating the slot in the valve gear hanger and moving it aft so I separated the valve gear assembly from the wheels which exposed the siderods.

Well, the holes in the siderods where the eccentrics pass through to the wheels were elongated too (which may have been part of the original problem). So I went to replace the siderods from the worn engine with the ones from the "good" engine. Turns out those castings are different too but I proceeded on. This model was only produced for about ten years so I was surprised to find so many differences. When I went to remove the screws that hold the siderods to the front wheelset one came out very hard. Turns out it wasn't a shoulder screw but a regular screw that had been screwed in to the right height and then staked (hit with a punch) from the back to hold it in place. So I took the other screw (a shoulder screw) and went searching in my junk boxes for a mate. After two + hours of digging I found one. Problem solved.

Wrong! The new siderods are thicker so both shoulder screws are too short. More searching turns up one screw with a slightly longer shoulder so I install it as a check before continuing the search. The crossheads slide back and forth right next to the front wheelset and the longer screw sticks out just enough to interfere with them on their journey. So now I have to thin down the "new" siderods. If I thin down the bosses on the front of the siderods I'll wipe out the cast detail so I have to thin down the whole siderod from the rear.

During this test I find out that the wheels on the worn engine have small bosses on the back, the wheels on the "parts" engine don't. This is because the frame on the "parts" engine is slightly wider than the one on the "worn" engine. About 15 minutes work with a file cures this problem but wipes out the fresh paint I applied to the replacement frame early on in this project.

I'm now about 8 hours into a one hour project and both engines (one of which was running at the onset of this madness) are in pieces all over the kitchen table along with several boxes of assorted parts, junk and leftover screws.

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I won't remind you about "measure twice, cut once." I think you learned your lesson. Never take anything for granted.

Yeah, same thing happened on a Botchmann 4-8-4. I started with quartering and a motor job, ended up with finding split axles (irreplaceable except from same model; Bachmann doesn't stock it anymore). The motor part turned out great. I lowered the starting voltage from 7.2 V down to 2.3 V...until it locked up because of said out-of-quarter condition.

Now I have a 4-8-4 piece of junk. I can always use the motor in a Botchmann trolley.

Jay CNS&M North Shore Line - "First and fastest"

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snipped-for-privacy@lightstream.net wrote: [snip familiar tale of a project gettingout of hand]

Mine was what I thought was going to be a simple redetailing of a Rivarossi Berkshire into an accurate Pere Marquette N-1. After carving the outlets off the sand dome, I discovered that nobody sold castings to replace them. I ended up carving some replacements out of styrene strip stock, but I wasn't happy with them, so I moved on, figuring I'd deal with them later.

Moving on to other parts of the project, I successfully turned down seven of the eight driver tires (this was one of the old "pizza cutter" models with the silver tires), only to bend and mangle the last one beyond repair. Fortune smiled on me, however, as I was able to locate at a train show a Berkshire that had been left in the back window of the owner's car and looked like a Dali painting. The plastic parts were junk, but the metal parts, including the tires, were salvageable.

Then, I figured I'd take an instrument motor I had and repower the thing. After completely annihilating the mount for the original unlamented motor and installing the new one, I discovered that the new one completely threw off the entire balance of the locomotive, to the point where it would no longer sit on the track with the pilot truck touching the rails. The whole locomotive tipped to the rear. After piling enough weight on the front to compensate for the motor, I discovered that I couldn't fit all of it in.

Luckily, the need to move my household intervened, so I stored it out of sight, and in the years since, several other more pressing projects have run around it. With the arrival of my P2K PM Berkshires Friday afternoon, the doomed conversion project is probably going to stay packed away until I can "part it out." Besides, the updated Berkshire that Rivarossi released a few years back, with blackened wheels, good flanges and better drive train, looks like a much better prospect for an N-1 conversion than the older model. This even leaves me with an extra tender to replace the one behind the Athearn 2-8-2...

-fm Rails on Wheels' Annual Model RR Flea Market and Show - Nov. 30, 2003 at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, Saline, Michigan

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The address in the header of this message is deliberately bogus to foil address-harvesters. See my web sites for my real address.

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Fritz Milhaupt

snipped-for-privacy@lightstream.net wrote


ROTFL. Oh, you have my sympathies. I think we all have done similar things. I always think of it as Gremlin's corollary to Murphy's law:

" Not only will any thing that can go wrong do so, it will do so over a period of 4 hours while you have allowed 30 minutes for the project."

I have a little sign up over the workbench in the garage. It reads "There are no 15 minute jobs." Sometimes I have to remind SWMBO of that when she "just wants a picture hanger put up".

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Jim McLaughlin

I found out a long time ago that when things go wrong like that, take a full look at what is happening and often, you will find that things aren't what you think that they are - as you have belatedly found out. At that point, it is often time to rethink what you are trying to do. A good choice would probably be to make a drilling jig to enlarge the holes so that you can use replacable bearing inserts like the Mantua/Tyco ones and go on from there.

-- Bob May Losing weight is easy! If you ever want to lose weight, eat and drink less. Works evevery time it is tried!

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Bob May

Just my thoughts.

It's Santa Fe and I'm running CNW. I bought it years ago, so if I can fix it, nice. If I can't, oh well. I'm not about to slap a new chassis under the shell. That's like getting a new car to go around your ashtray.

Jay CNS&M North Shore Line - "First and fastest"

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A perfect demonstration of Murphy's Third Law.

I've always preferred the English A5 to the Bowser version as it's more modern, has a power reverse, and a much better proportioned tender.Good Luck!

The Renovo Dispatcher

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