Christopher Brimley updated September 20, 2011

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  • A Penn Central Locomotive in O Scale

    by Jim Teese, MMR

    Photos by the author

    Model Railroading - May 2001 - Page 53

    The genesis of this engine goes back quite a ways. In the mid-1970s I was working for Bell Helicopter in Iran and building a few HO models in my free time. I saw an ad from AHM in Model Railroader offering a sale on their O scale loco kits. Just for the w hy not of it I ordered a pair of the 0-8-0 kits with the idea of building something bigger than I was used to. There had been an article in a previous issue (author unremembered) about going to a larger scale for variety, and that sounded like a good idea to me. The kits arrived, and I put the first one together according to the instructions - it was indeed a big brute!

    What to do with the second kit? I started noodling around with a pencil and paper, and it appeared as though this one could become a nice hefty Consolidation, along the lines of a New York Central locomotive. So I started looking for brass parts for the conversion. Any model with this amount of work involved had to be able to move, so a couple of the motorizing kits were ordered also. The parts came from every m aker of O scale lost-wax parts around - Kemtron, Backshop, Central Loco Works, Loco Workshop and possibly some others. I do recall that the pilot truck came from the LocoWorks in Florida.

    While waiting for the parts to arrive I started a little sculpture on the boiler shell. The rear sand dome was removed and the front sand dome increased in height. The steam dome was also made a bit taller. The stack was removed to be replaced with a brass one, the cab roof was raised about 9" (in the window area) with additional details and the turret cover was enlarged and superdetailed - hinges, plastic NBWs, etc. I decided not to make any basic changes on the massive front end except to remove the bell mount and fabricate mountings for the class lights - it seemed to fit in quite well with the concept I had in mind. None of the kit piping was used, although some of the mounting brackets were saved for reuse. The new piping was bent out of assorted sizes of brass rod - all runs horizontal and vertical in the classic NYC style.

    I had to fabricate a lot of the parts myself, since not everything I wanted was available. The frame was extended in front of the cylinders to allow room for the new pilot truck, and a new pilot was fabricated from styrene somewhat along the lines of the Lima SuperPower pilots on many of their later locomotives. At this point there w as not a whole lot of the original engine still there mostly just the bare boiler shell. Now came the real fun part adding all those beautiful new brass parts. The cab interior was detailed to include a nice overhead throttle, connected to the existing front-end throttle assembly. I even rubbed off some of the paint on the control handle to simulate usage. There was certainly a lot of epoxy and CA used in construction.

    Three-quarter view of right rear of cab showing Johnson bar handle and release. Note added detail on cab roof and turret covers. The 9 increase in height of the cab was added in the window area on the sides. Note starter valve on the large pipe running down from turret.
    Model Railroading - May 2001 - Page 54 Model Railroading - May 2001 - Page 55

    Now for the Tender

    The trucks that came with the kit included one very nice tender truck with leaf-springs and one booster engine truck. Since I wanted a matched pair of road trucks I swapped the booster truck from this kit for the unpowered one from the first model and had a good looking set of wheels. After playing with the parts it appeared that a nice Pennsylvania Lines West tender could be fabricated, so I went to work. It was also superdetailed with both fixed and flexible electrical conduit, etc. The rear strap steps were built from brass strip, with rivets from copper wire to hold everything together.

    Painting was next in order. Since I had no access to an airbrush, Floquil spray cans were used - and I managed to do a creditable job. The decals were from Champ, and when they were all in place the whole model was oversprayed with Floquil Flat Finish - which is not quite flat but does look good.

    Remember the furor a few years back when Walthers came out with Penn Central steam loco decals? Well, I could have used them on this locomotive - with a New York Central engine and a Pennsylvania tender, it is indeed a Penn Central locomotive. When I left Iran in 1978, just before the revolution, I brought the engine with me. I finally found someone with an O scale layout I could run it on and so it was run - and I decided the motor should be replaced with something stronger and quieter. I found a nice ballbearing micro motor and installed it, along with a revised lighting system. Just for the heck of it I entered it in the contest at the 1982 Washington National NMRA Convention and came in second to a beautiful handbuilt brass Climax - not a bad position for a kitbashed plastic model!

    So that is the story of my kitbashed Penn Central locomotive. It has indeed been a fun experience.

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