Steam loco reviews/construction artilcles

Howdy: I have several Bowser, Mantua & Roundhouse steam loco kits and was wondering if there are any sites on the web that can offer specific reviews or helpfull construction articles pertaining to these type of kits? I know there are several articles in past issues of the regular model mags, but unless I can see them it is kinda hard to decide iffn that is what I am looking for. I'm hoping that someone can steer me to a site that would supply this type of info. Thank you.

Reply to
The Seabat
Loading thread data ...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Here's one:

formatting link
Bill Bill's Railroad Empire N Scale Model Railroad:
formatting link
History of N Scale:
formatting link
Railroad Bookstore:
formatting link
to 1,100 sites:
formatting link

Reply to

I kitbashed a Mantua Pacific into a Boston and Maine P4 a few years ago. Mantuas are good runners right out of the box but I found a can motor conversion for it which improved it a lot. With the can motor it would creep forward tie by tie. The stock motor gives decent low speed operation, but the can motor makes it better. Back when Mantua was still in business they had a parts place from which you could order parts for just about anything they ever made. I obtained a set a spoked drivers to replace the Boxpox drivers that came with the loco. I replaced the undistiguished molded plastic pilot with a brass casting, and added twin air pumps and dirt shields on the front deck. I filled every nook and cranny of the boiler with weight for traction. I painted it with dark grey auto primer from a spray can. With some speed lettering decals from Odd Ball Graphics it looks pretty good.

David Starr

Reply to
David Starr


First, these kits are easy to build if you take your time, and impossible if you rush. I don't understand why some people think they're so hard. (John Nehrich's anonymous student who couldn't put together the K-11 I can understand. Them kids these days and their durn rock-an-roll music always want to hurry things. I ruined my first kit, a Mantua

2-6-2, by hurrying.) There's really no more skill in putting a metal kit together than in properly assembling a plastic model car or airplane,and nobody is saying 'geez, they should all come preassembled, stupid Revell'.

Second, the hardest part of any model loco kit is the valve gear riveting. On locos with inside valve gear you'll only have one rivet at most, fixing the crosshead to main rod. Poppet-valvers like the T1 have no visible valve gear, as well. I would advise you start your kit adventures with a loco that has no visible gear, or leave the gear in its bag and add it to the loco when your skills improve. Lots of pre-1910 stuff had Stepenson gear, and you can always call your lokie an 'experimental Franklin poppet-valve Consolidation'. I'm sure the D&H tried that.

That said, don't be scared off. My 2-6-2's gear went together okay -- that's not where I went wrong in that project -- and I was 14 years old

at the time, and I have a habit of ignoring disclaimers like the one above. If I didn't I'd never learn a thing.

The following applies mostly to Mantua

There's an article on the Mantua 4-6-2 coming up in next month's RMC.

General advice for all kits: Thou shalt not rush, nor expect to build your first kit of any kind in one sitting.

Thou shalt work on a clear table or bench, placing the kit parts in a jelly roll pan, box, or cookie sheet for safety, with good lighting, and preferably a floor without carpet, and taking out only the parts needed for the current step. I am the VOICE OF SAD EXPERIENCE.

Thou shalt file or carve away 'mold flash' (thin, extraneous metal 'fins' at the lines where the mold came together) before assembly.

Thou shalt be sure the mechanism hath no binds, and thou shalt fully assemble the model, then disassemble it just enough for access before painting.

Thou shalt rivet thine valve gear with multitudes of light blows, not as the heathens do with a single wallop.

Thou shalt never enlarge the axle slots, bearing holes, or pinholes in any rod in a misguided attempt to avoid binding, lest thee be banished to the sixth pit of Modeler Hell. Thy binding will only be made worse thereby.

One more note: If a single long punched metal siderod is used to couple more than two driving wheels, look carefully at it. You will see that one side is slightly 'convex' and the other slightly 'concave' with a surrounding burr. Install these rods, if you can, so that both 'convex' sides are facing the same side of the engine. This will prevent some binding caused by miniscule misalignments of the punched holes.

Mantua - Part 1 - The "Hard" Part (the part people think is no fun so they rush it and spoil everything just trust me on this one)

You can expect the parts to be of good quality, but with considerable flash. I am leaving out the 'flash removal' from the following directions, with the understanding that the builder will remove flash from parts as he takes them out of the box.

Be sure the bronze bearings are fully seated in the frame and that the frame pins have gone into the bearing holes. Tap them gently but firmly into place, supporting the frame directly below the notches. Place the wheelsets in the bearings, then lay the cover plate on top and check the clearance between axle and cover plate. If necessary, lightly file the cover plate where it rubs an axle, or lightly file the bearings' ends (not the slots) to bring the plate closer to the axles. Remove any burs from the ends of the bearings, but do not ever ever ever enlarge the axle slots or bearings or you will have a sloppy loco. Install screws to hold the cover plate in place, then track-test the chassis-and-driver wheelsets assembly. Make sure all wheels roll freely without lube. When I say 'roll freely', for the rest of this post, I mean, 'coast down a piece of sectional track when you pick up one end of the track piece maybe about an inch'.

Use a proper wrench or nutdriver to install the hex-headed siderod Don't be like me and gall them up with a set of needle-nose pliers. That's a bad idea. Install the side rods but not the main (cylinder linking) rods and repeat the 'coast test'. If the wheels bind, find out why...there may be a bur somewhere.

Rivet the main rod to the crosshead. I have used a tiny pointed punch to spread the rivet, then a flat punch to flatten it. Your hardware store may sell 'Enderes' punches, made in Albert Lea, Minn., which are what you want. Use many light blows and do not over-tighten the rivet. If you do, work the joint back and forth to loosen it. It should be secure but move freely.

Bowser sells a rivet tool that makes this job easier. When riveting, back up the rivet head with a small steel block.

Install the crossheads in the guides, then install these into the cylinders, sliding the plastic 'piston rods' in as well. You may need to clean the small cylinder-holes and slots out with a pointed no.11 blade, but don't make them too large. Hook the guides on and set the cylinders in their notch, then hold them to the frame with a bolt and nut. Mount the main rods to the main drivers with the bolt and spacer provided, then 'coast test'.

You might want to look at this before the next step:

formatting link
Assemble the valve gear as the instructions show, being veeery careful with your riveting, and very careful to use light blows. This will prevent you from bending the part or overtightening the rivets. Tap, tap, tap them into place. Double-check your part assembly with the instructions over and over don't want to assemble something on the wrong side. You will have to remove the cylinders, guides, and main rod-crosshead assemblies before this step. Be extremely gentle with the plastic crosshead. The most obnoxious riveting job joins the curved 'expansion link' to the folded-over part of the slide. To do this, stick the rivet to a no.11 blade with beeswax (or earwax :) ) and maneuver it into place with the parts held together. Then back it up with a piece of cold-rolled steel or a mending plate that will fit between the rivet head and the other side of the fold before tap-tap-tapping the rivets down. This is probably the most difficult part of assembly.

Recommended order:

Combination lever to valve stem Union link to comb. lever Crank to eccentric rod Radius bar to comb. lever Ecc. rod to expansion link Radius bar to expansion link Union link to crosshead Expansion link to crosshead guide/bracket

Assemble both sets of valve gear, slowly. Do one rivet per evening, if you like, between other stuff. You don't have to make rate, and you'll get a better-running engine for your patience. Make sure everything is neither overtight nor excessively floppy.

Now insert the guides, piston rods, and valve rods into the cylinder block. This takes about 4 hands, but Earthlings can do it with some cursing. Hook the guides on and once again affix pistons to frame with a bolt and nut. Assemble the eccentric crank and main rod to the main driver with a long crankpin screw and spacer.

Note the problem with Mantua eccentric cranks here - the eccentric crank is only gripped by friction. Furthermore, the long crankpin has a certain tendency to work loose -- this happens on my ancient Mantua Booster sometimes. Be sure the crank is gripped firmly, but not too tightly or you may damage the screw or threads. Some modelers use a *weak* grade of Loctite on the crankpin threads. I believe this is the blue stuff, which doesn't set so hard as to be unremovable without heat.

Okay. With this all assembled, do a coast test. The mech should still roll smoothly downhill without pushing and with no binding. Do not use lube yet; you want any binds to show in full force so you can eliminate them.

Okay...I will come back soon with the next part.

Cordially yours: Gerard P.

E-mail me with any questions: kezelak [AT] yahoo [DOT] com

Reply to

Good general directions for assembling a loco! About the only thing that I'll add is that you need a good set of fine small files for taking flash out of hole edges (don't file the hole but just clean off the edge of that stamped hole!) and a larger flat very fine cut file to do flattening operations (600 or 1000 grit SiC wet/dry sandpaper can also work here taped to a flat surface - use wet) that may need ot be done, especially on the vlave linkage parts. You don't want to sand all the way throught the part but just take off the sharp edges!

-- Why do penguins walk so far to get to their nesting grounds?

Reply to
Bob May


Okay, I will post some tips on the motor, trucks, electrical wiring, &c next week (no time now) but I do have some tips I forgot.

New commandment found (on gold plates in NY state, no doubt):

Thou shalt take excessive care with self-tapping screws not to over-tighten, for they are tricky and prone to stripping their holes. If thou hast a tap of proper size, a machine screw wouldst eliminate this minor evil and make thy future maintenance easier.

(Still, most existing Mantuas,and they are legion, have their original ST screws, and are no worse off for it.)

More general tips that came to mind yesterday:

Deburring side rods, main rods, valve gear rods:

Lay them flat on a fine flat file and rub back and forth several times. Punched parts often have a burr around their edges that may cause binding later.

Be sure to straighten any bent rods, once again, to eliminate binding.

Some like to check 'quarter' of driving wheels before assembly. ('Quarter' is the term that describes how prototype and model driving wheels are affixed to their axle at an angle of (usually) 90 degrees to each other.) I do occasionally do this by eye, but not unless I find binds in the mech while testing -- misquartering can cause these. I will describe how I do it later (but it's just the usual eyeball method, with a square and rule).

Be careful not to cross-thread the crankpin screws. This is just a minor thing. I've never done it, but I could see how it would happen.

Sticking tiny parts to a piece of masking tape (screws especially) sometimes helps keep them from escaping. Be careful the glue doesn't gum up your works.

Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, the still-boxed (sigh) Sparta Railroad

Reply to

N.B.: Rub the rods *very lightly* and briefly. You don't want to thin them, just remove the almost invisible bur. Straightening rods shouldn't be done harshly,either, as too much squeezing or pounding will stretch them and cause binding. Just flatten them gently.

Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, the still-boxed Sparta Railroad

Reply to

Couple of other hints.

  1. Binding of mechanism, prevention of. If the assembled drivers/rods/valve gear mechanism has any binding (sticky spots) the engine will stall as you slow it down to ease the train into the station or siding or whatever. Once the entire unit (4 drivers, lots of rods and stuff) is all together, it can be non trivial to figure out just what is binding. Clever builders test the rolling ability of the mechanism right after the first driver is installed, and again after the second driver is installed, and so on until the whole thing is put together. This makes fault isolation easier.

  1. Check the gage of all wheels before assembling locomotive. If drivers are out of gage, be careful not to disturb the "quartering" of the drivers while adjusting the gage. If one driver is out of quarter, the locomotive will bind and stick.

  2. Double check that all the insulating wheels are on the SAME side of the locomotive and tender before assembling. If a wheel is reversed, it will cause a dead short.

  1. Adjust the clearance of the worm and spur gear. Too loose and the worm skips teeth on the spur. Too tight and it binds. It may be necessary to make shims to fit under the motor to get the clearance right. Run the assembled mechanism under power before putting the boiler on to check for binding, derailments, and other bad stuff. Run thru all the turnouts on your layout in both directions. Steamers are fussier about track work than diesels. You may find a turnout or two that needs some work. Pilot wheels and trailing wheels need the right amount of spring pressure to keep them on the track.

  2. A working coupler in the pilot is well worth having. It allows you to double head and to push cars onto sidings. It may require a good deal of filing to open up the pilot coupler pocket enough to accept a coupler.

  1. Kadee couplers come in many many sizes. It is worth checking the Kadee website or the big Walther's book to see which coupler is recommended for your model. Although it is always possible to get a Kadee #5 to fit, you can save a lot of filing and fiddling around if you use the recommended coupler. Make sure the gladhand doesn't snag on turnouts and that the coupler height is correct. If the gladhand is too low, it is a good bet the coupler is too low as well. Check coupler height before bending gladhands.

  2. Working headlights are easy to install and do a lot for the looks of the model. So does glass in the cab windows.

  1. Paint will stick better to the Zamac boilers after the metal is pickled in acid. Supermarket vinegar does a good job. The acid in the vinegar etches the surface of the metal and gives some tooth for the paint to grab onto.

  2. The locomotive will run better if it picks up juice on all wheels. Home made axle wipers can be made from springy phosphor bronze weather stripping from your local hardware store. Have the wipers rub on the axles of the wheels rather than on the wheel rims. Friction from rim wipers is just too high to be worth it.

  1. Ordinary hardware stores have 2-56 taps which are small enough for a lot of work. The smaller 00-90 and 00-80 taps are harder to find.

  2. Steamers don't pull as much as they ought to. Add as much lead as you can pack into the boiler for traction.

David Starr

Reply to
David Starr

Thank you! I appreciate all the info. I've printed your posts out to use as references. Sounds like a lot of good info that will help keep me out of the screw-up stages! Looking forward to more. Thanks!

Reply to
The Seabat


Still going to add more...I need to open my box o' railroad and look at my Mantua engines to get some ideas...

Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, the still-boxed Sparta Railroad

Reply to

PolyTech Forum website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.