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.
Bill's Railroad Empire
N Scale Model Railroad:
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Resources--Links to 1,100 sites:
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.
First, these kits are easy to build if you take your time, and
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
music always want to hurry things. I ruined my first kit, a Mantua
by hurrying.) There's really no more skill in putting a metal kit
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
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
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
Thou shalt work on a clear table or bench, placing the kit parts in a
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
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
the model, then disassemble it just enough for access before painting.
Thou shalt rivet thine valve gear with multitudes of light blows, not
the heathens do with a single wallop.
Thou shalt never enlarge the axle slots, bearing holes, or pinholes in
in a misguided attempt to avoid binding, lest thee be banished to the
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
wheels, look carefully at it. You will see that one side is slightly
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.
prevent some binding caused by miniscule misalignments of the punched
Mantua - Part 1 - The "Hard" Part (the part people think is no fun so
rush it and spoil everything just trust me on this one)
You can expect the parts to be of good quality, but with considerable
I am leaving out the 'flash removal' from the following directions,
understanding that the builder will remove flash from parts as he takes
out of the box.
Be sure the bronze bearings are fully seated in the frame and that the
pins have gone into the bearing holes. Tap them gently but firmly into
supporting the frame directly below the notches. Place the wheelsets
bearings, then lay the cover plate on top and check the clearance
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
to the axles. Remove any burs from the ends of the bearings, but do
ever ever ever enlarge the axle slots or bearings or you will have a
loco. Install screws to hold the cover plate in place, then track-test
chassis-and-driver wheelsets assembly. Make sure all wheels roll
without lube. When I say 'roll freely', for the rest of this post, I
'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.
a bad idea. Install the side rods but not the main (cylinder linking)
repeat the 'coast test'. If the wheels bind, find out why...there may
be a bur
Rivet the main rod to the crosshead. I have used a tiny pointed punch
spread the rivet, then a flat punch to flatten it. Your hardware store
sell 'Enderes' punches, made in Albert Lea, Minn., which are what you
Use many light blows and do not over-tighten the rivet. If you do,
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,
the rivet head with a small steel block.
Install the crossheads in the guides, then install these into the
sliding the plastic 'piston rods' in as well. You may need to clean
small cylinder-holes and slots out with a pointed no.11 blade, but
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
You might want to look at this before the next step:
Assemble the valve gear as the instructions show, being veeery careful
with your riveting, and very careful to use light blows. This will
from bending the part or overtightening the rivets. Tap, tap, tap them
place. Double-check your part assembly with the instructions over and
over again...you 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
to the folded-over part of the slide. To do this, stick the rivet to a
with beeswax (or earwax :) ) and maneuver it into place with the parts
together. Then back it up with a piece of cold-rolled steel or a
that will fit between the rivet head and the other side of the fold
tap-tap-tapping the rivets down. This is probably the most difficult
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
like, between other stuff. You don't have to make rate, and you'll get
better-running engine for your patience. Make sure everything is
overtight nor excessively floppy.
Now insert the guides, piston rods, and valve rods into the cylinder
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
Assemble the eccentric crank and main rod to the main driver with a
crankpin screw and spacer.
Note the problem with Mantua eccentric cranks here - the eccentric
is only gripped by friction. Furthermore, the long crankpin has a
tendency to work loose -- this happens on my ancient Mantua Booster
sometimes. Be sure the crank is gripped firmly, but not too tightly or
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,
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
yet; you want any binds to show in full force so you can eliminate
Okay...I will come back soon with the next part.
E-mail me with any questions:
kezelak [AT] yahoo [DOT] com
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?
Okay, I will post some tips on the motor, trucks, electrical wiring, &c
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
for they are tricky and prone to stripping their holes. If thou hast a
proper size, a machine screw wouldst eliminate this minor evil and make
future maintenance easier.
(Still, most existing Mantuas,and they are legion, have their original
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.
parts often have a burr around their edges that may cause binding
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
are affixed to their axle at an angle of (usually) 90 degrees to each
I do occasionally do this by eye, but not unless I find binds in the
while testing -- misquartering can cause these. I will describe how I
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
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)
helps keep them from escaping. Be careful the glue doesn't gum up your
President, the still-boxed (sigh) Sparta Railroad
N.B.: Rub the rods *very lightly* and briefly. You don't want to thin
just remove the almost invisible bur. Straightening rods shouldn't be
harshly,either, as too much squeezing or pounding will stretch them and
cause binding. Just flatten them gently.
President, the still-boxed Sparta Railroad
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Working headlights are easy to install and do a lot for the looks of
the model. So does glass in the cab windows.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Steamers don't pull as much as they ought to. Add as much lead as
you can pack into the boiler for traction.
On 8 Jul 2006 08:39:02 -0700, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
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!
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