Salvaging an old brass tender.

Found an old Max Grey (probably) S.P. oil tender on eBay for a "buy it now" price of $75 and took a chance. Turned out to be a *really* old max Grey
tender, probably from the mid to late '50s, as it had only a generic brass turning to represent the brake cylinder, minimal detail elsewhere, twice-oversized rivets, and -get this- solid brass wheels with no plating whatsoever. On the other hand, all the basic dimensions were correct, and with the exception of the left rear stirrup step all the original parts were present and accounted for.
A trip through the old parts box yielded (A) a proper S.P. pressure style cap for the oil bunker, (B) an oil dipstick, (C) a marker light box for the tender deck, and, (D) an S.P. style water-cooler box for the bulkhead.
A call to Walthers revealed that -wonder of wonders- they actually had Cal-Scale tender brake sets and NWSL replacement wheelsets in stock, so those got ordered.
The missing left rear stirrup step presented more of a problem as nobody makes anything today that resembles the original, so I cut one out of an .065 brass sheet; using a jeweler's saw to cut it out, fine diamond-grit pattern-makers files to clean it up, and the right-hand rear stirrup-step as a template.
The original S.P. tenders had a series of three grab-irons on the face of the tender bulkhead so the engine crew could climb up on the deck at fuel and water stops, so I bent them from .015 steel guitar string that I favor over brass wire both for it's strength and for it's ability to withstand higher soldering temperatures without melting. I also used the same gauge of guitar string to make the fuel line that led from the fuel bunker to the locomotive, and for the brake rods.
The brake line on the rear of the tender I fashioned from a short length of .045 brass-wound guitar string that I use because of it's strength. (My locos get used a lot, and soft brass brake lines tend to get broken off in handling.)
Upon disassembling the tender I discovered there was a 2 ounce lead weight bolted to the frame (probably to ensure solid electrical contact with the unplated brass wheels they were using back then), so I removed it, washed everything in warm soapy water, and set up the resistance soldering rig while the tender parts dried out of doors.
After that, it was just a case of removing the old brake cylinder, soldering on all the new parts, installing the new wheels, and grit-blasting the entire thing to get rid of it's dark patina and provide a rough surface for the paint to adhere to. Grit-blasting a bit longer than usual also had the effect of eroding off a good portion of the previously oversized rivet detail. (They're all still there, but now they don't stick out like sore thumbs.)
With a minimal investment I now have a tender whose detail will more or less match a modern brass steam loco, or at least not stand out as being the rather crude representation of an S.P. tender that it was when it first left Japan, Lo those many years ago, and it made for a fun and somewhat challenging project as well.
-Pete
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Sounds like a really fun project. Any chance of posting a photo of the finished product, or even better, a before & after?
Carter

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Sorry, no photos.
-Pete
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On 3/14/2008 1:28 PM P. Roehling spake thus:

[...]
First of all, sounds as if you did a bit more than just "salvage" it. So have you repainted it? I'll bet it looks good.
And let me ask you: now that it's done, are the oversize rivets really that noticeable? I'm guessing not.
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Haven't repainted it yet other than to spray a light coat of flat clear on it to prevent the brass from oxidising. Those old Japanese brass pieces were made of a higher quality brass than the Korean stuff being imported now, but one of the prices you pay for better brass is that it starts developing a noticable patina practically overnight if left nekked.
I'll get around to finishing it when I paint the S.P. MM-3 2-6-6-2 that it's intended for -that way the colors will match- but that loco's got several more waiting in front of it, not to mention it's factory-supplied tender, so it will probably be a while.

Well, they're *still* oversized, but now they don't stand out as high in relief as they did before, and a coat of paint and some modest weathering should blend them in nicely.
(Note for those who don't know: just as a mottled camo paint job can make a 60 ton tank fade into it's background, so the slightly uneven coloring of weathering goes a long ways towards concealing sloppy solder joints and etcetera that are otherwise difficult or impossible to hide.)
-Pete
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P. Roehling wrote:

A decent piece of rolling stock, and many hours of modelling pleasure -- not bad for $75!
--
wolf k.

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Yeah, but I'm discovering why old coots like myself get a reputation for grumbling about "the good old days". I bought my first piece of Brass -an early United 2-truck shay- brand new in 1958 for a grand total of $52. And that included the sales tax!
Of course, the part I'm conveniently forgetting is that as a 15 year old it took me all of one summer to earn that $52 mowing lawns and doing yardwork...
Maybe the good old days weren't all that great after all.
-Pete
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P. Roehling wrote:

Well, they were and they weren't.
$52 in the late 50s would be equal to about $350-400 today (general inflation), and about $700 in terms of my current income, which is a good deal less than I maxed out at before retirement....
But I still have the third car I ever built, a tank car built following Eric Stevens "Dollar Car" article, decorated for BA Oil (who were bought out by Gulf who were bought out by Texaco.) A card roll from something or other, with tank ends and dome carved from balsa, all overlaid with paper. The dogs/bolts holding down the cover (circle of card punched out with a hole punch) are track spikes. I bent and soldered the handrails together out of copper wire that I straightened and work-hardened by stretching it, one end held in a vise, the other in a pair of pliers. The frame made of a mix of card and wood parts. Decals, ladder stock, couplers and trucks were the only bought'n'paid for bits. And a bottle of gloss black paint, of course. Not the most precise or crispest modelling, but it sure triggers the nostalgia. ;-)
--
wolf k.

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Pretty accurate cost increase...not sure if you are figuring in Canadian dollars or US dollars but according to http://www.aier.org/research/cost-of-living-calculator/ US$52 in 1958 would equal in 2007, latest year available, somewhat close to US$373.
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On Sat, 15 Mar 2008 17:46:39 -0400, Wolf K. wrote:

I still have the remains (regrettably crushed during a move) of the stick-built double decker (sheep and pigs) stock car I built from a similar article back in the late '50s. I haven't been able to track down the article (last time I looked in the Kalmbach database) but I'd sure like to find it and build one in styrene.
--
Steve

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Southern Railway Stock Car, April 1957, page 46. That one is a double decker. There is also a "Dollar Car" single deck stock car in September 1953 page 40. I have both, if you're interested I can scan a copy.
Rick Dorgan

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On Sat, 15 Mar 2008 20:46:37 -0400, Rick Dorgan wrote:

Please, sir, a little of both and thank you kindly!
I can send my address by e-mail, or you could e-mail me the .JPGs; let me know.
Wow - April '57 - I was 13.
--
Steve

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On 3/15/2008 1:46 PM Wolf K. spake thus:

Pictures? Some of us are curious.
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What happened to the first two?
I came across my first car a while back, I think from a Dollar Car article. A door and a half box car, cardstock sides braced with toothpicks. Scored and bent cardstock for door tracks. A few years after I built it I guess I took the trucks and couplers off and used them on another, probably better, car. I kept the body because it was the first.
--
Bill Kaiser
snipped-for-privacy@mtholyoke.edu
  Click to see the full signature.
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snipped-for-privacy@mtholyoke.edu wrote:

Destroyed. One was a boxcar, that I didn't finish. The other was a stock car (made with cardboard strips and wooden matches) that I burned on the concrete lintel of our study room window (I was at boarding school at the time.)

Kinda wish I'd done the same, but I was ruthless in those days.

--
wolf k.

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Sigh.
When I came back from my first year away at college I went looking for the boxes of railroad stuff I'd stored away in the garage attic -including a box of my dad's old HO stuff from back when I was just a baby.
My mother informed me that she'd "needed to clean out the garage", and had sold everything.
A few things escaped her notice, which is the only reason I still have my first brass locomotive.
-Pete
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Same thing happened to me. My Dad gave away the layout he and I had started (and never finished....) while I was in college. Lot's of great stuff now long gone. Many years later after he died and I had to clean out the house I found some of his scratchbuilt stuff and two detailed steam locomotives that he had packed away. What a find! 50+ years have taken a toll with dried out glue joints etc. My biggest challenge will be a wooden water tower. All the pieces are there, but he had simulated a cedar shingle roof with tiny pieces of masking tape stained brown. Now they're curled up in a few places and peeling up from the card stock underneath in others. Have to think about that one!
Rick Dorgan
wrote

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On Wed, 19 Mar 2008 08:41:06 -0400, Rick Dorgan wrote:

You should see what 40+ years will do to the rubber bands in an Athearn diseasel!!
--
Steve

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"Diseasel"
I like that!
Sounds like a Dr. Seuss character who spread cholera at Christmas.
-Pete
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On 3/19/2008 10:49 AM P. Roehling spake thus:

Or like a 6-axle weasel.
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