Motive Power

Since I have both D&RG Narrow Gauge and PRR standard gauge, I have a weird collection.

Standard Gauge (Mostly PRR)

This has been the hardest part of the gear accumulation, since only two PRR-prototype locos have been mass-manufactured to run on G-Gauge track, the Aristo 0-4-0, and the Lionel 4-4-2. The 4-4-2 is discontinued, and was available in only two versions, the expensive PRR version (which was a little overpriced and had a sound system incompatible with pulse power) and the non-PRR versions with no sound and weird paint jobs, like Chessie System.

Early Attempts:

I tried a used early Aristo 4-6-2 painted for PRR, but couldn't get get used to what looked like a USRA heavyweight pacific wearing PRR colors. Also, it was big and heavy, and hard to balance when putting on the track. Every time I got it out I broke something off of it, as had the previous owner. I sold the Aristo to another fellow with my apologies for all the reglued pieces, but he was very happy with it.

In retrospect, I probably judged the thing too harshly. After all, PRR did have one heavyweight Pacific with radial stays (the K-29s, which inspired the USRA Pacific, not the other way around. So I may attempt to pick up one of the new Ariso 4-6-2s once they're reengineered. Of course, if someone would just make me an affordable PRR K-4 or M-1, my life would be that much better.)

I also tried a Bachmann 4-6-0 painted for PRR. But it just looked silly. The coaches were nice enough, but I sold the whole thing as a set to a guy in Colorado, and he's very happy with it.

In passing, I also owned a Lionel 0-6-0 labeled for PRR. It ran fine, but was a silly flourescent-green color. Besides, it resembled prototypes that PRR discontinued just after the Civil War, a long time before my modeling period of interest. It was sold to "Fletch," a kit-basher and D&RGW fan in Australia, and parts of it, including the cab, found their way into an award-winning model.

I bought one AristoCraft Rogers 2-4-2 in supposed PRR colors used on the 'net. It ran fine but the fellow had dripped modeling cement all over it, leaving permanent, obnoxious, highly-visible scars. ("Very Good Condition" was how he described it.) Even if it handn't been damaged, I probably wouldn't have kept it in the Tuscan red, since A: the paint job was non-prototypical, and B: the locomotive itself was not like anything PRR ran in the 1900s. However, I have picked up a black one that I plan to relabel for the New Boston and Donnels Creek, my "short line."

Current Projects

Current Projects Include:

Click for bigger photo.></a><A NAME=PRR 0-4-0s--After listening to many hobbyists who kept telling me Aristo's engines were "lacking" in one way or another, I bid on an Aristo 0-4-0 and tender on Ebay, and got it for about $70. It was used, but not too abused. I loved the locomotive from the start. Yes, it doesn't run great once the wheels get dirty, but show me an 0-4-0 that does. A can of flat black and a little light sanding fixed the paint job (it had been decorated for RC Cola). (For a picture of the loco with the RC Cola logo intact, click here. You'll need to use your browser's back button to get back.)

Recent measurements determined that Aristo A-5 is 1:29, except that it is 22 Scale Inches too short, measured front to back. The missing 22" seem to be all "stolen" from the firebox. As far as I could tell, the boiler length, cab length, etc. are correct or very close.

The 0-4-0 takes relatively little juice to run nicely--it runs nicely on my 180' loop even with an HO starter-set power supply, although it runs smoother with Pulse Width Power (like Aristo's power supplies use).

The tender has a built-in (if less than awe-inspiring) sound system with a hidden volume knob. Again, the sound system works better if you are using pulse width power. If you're using a "straight" power supply, it sounds better if the locomotive is dragging a few cars, allowing you to goose the throttle a little more, and giving the sound system the power it needs to do the job.

The locomotive is detailed enough to look like it could run; most of the piping is there (although the sand pipes are molded on). There is very little "fine" detail, although I'm sure it could be added. My ex-RC locomotive is shiny black plastic, with chrome-looking wheels, but other (non-promotional) paint jobs are more realistic.

P.S. When I get around to running a power cable from the tender to the locomotive, I'm sure it will run even smoother.

I often leave my 0-4-0 out (hiding in the tunnel) with a short train, so I can power up quickly on days I don't time to schlepp my "big" stuff in and out. On "official" running days, it may get moved down to the "branch line" and replaced by something bigger.

For a detailed technical description of the locomotive and information on how to add lots of options to it, try George Shreyer's 0-4-0 Page. One "caveat" is that the wheels on my 0-4-0s don't crud up anywhere nearly as fast as those on George's earlier models.

Click for bigger photo.PRR 4-4-2s--I have always thought the Lionel Atlantics were noisy, foreshortened, and overpriced, not to mention that the sound in the expensive PRR version is incompatible with the rest of my equipment. Still, when I got a chance to pick up a "basket" case at a hobby shop in Kenner, LA, for $60, I couldn't resist. It was missing the rear driver, the tender, and many other parts, but I figured if I could get the drive train going, I could work up or scrounge up the rest. The photo to the right shows it repainted and more-or-less reassembled as described below. (I do have the drive and side rods on it now, in case you wondered.)

When I got it home and took it the rest of the way apart, I decided that the mechanism was sound enough to justify rebuilding the thing.

Lionel's parts dept. DID have the rear driver pair (whew!) and several of the other parts, but not all of them. So a lot of repainting and a certain amount of fabrication took place.

George Shreyer tells me that the locomotive's overall measurements scale out pretty well to 1:32, although the drivers are too small. I believe that the cab and boiler are misproportioned, as well--they sit higher than they should for the length of the locomotive, a common failing of Lionel gear of all scales. But compromise is part of first-generation model railroading in any scale, and Large Scale is no exception.

The PRR version comes with the headlight in the right place, but a sound system that my AristoCraft power supply would destroy.As you can see from the photo at the right, the tender that comes with the Lionel 4-4-2 is a little foreshortened, too, so instead of trying to track down another Lionel tender, I repainted a used Aristo full-length Milwaukee tender. The Aristo tender is slightly wider than the Atlantic's cab, but once it's on the track you honestly can't tell unless you're standing on top of it.

To connect the Aristo tender to the Lionel locomotive, I put an LGB-style loop on the front truck and did some filing, etc. to adjust it. On my 10'-diameter curves, the cab roof overhangs the front part of the tender, but nothing bumps, so it's OK. If I was running 20'-diameter track I might consider moving them closer.

The repainted Lionel Atlantic and Aristo long haul tender look great together. The fact that the tender is a little too long doesn't detract from the locomotive. Rather it makes the locomotive itself seem more substantial and believable.

The Aristo sound is also a nice touch. BTW, Aristo sound units work better with Aristo Pulse Width Control power units, or else serious voltage. But Lionel steam locos require very good power sources. The voltage necessary to drive the Lionel even slowly was plenty to activate the Aristo's sound system, even with a generic controller. The Aristo tender could stand to sit a little lower on the tracks, as could almost all of their products, but that would require significant disassembly and reassembly of this unit, because of the wiring, so that project is way down the list.

P.S. I've recently discovered that the pilot wheels for the Bachmann 10-wheeler fit the Lionel 4-4-2's pilot like they were made for it. In addition, those puppies are metal, unlike the Lionel's. So I have painted a set of those black and swapped them onto the Lionel. That leaves the trailing truck as the only plastic wheels on the engine. I measured the wheel from the trailing truck on an Aristo Pacific, but it didn't seem like it would be big enough to do the job or look right. Still, every wheel I change from plastic to metal is that much better it will hug the rails and that much less I will have to scrape gunk off the track. :-)

Since rebuilding my first 4-4-2, I've picked up a couple more in good working order (one in PRR colors, one in NYC). Like my original rebuilt model, the "newer" ones have both lost the reversing rods on rough trackage, but at least I know I can keep one of the three running at any given time.

For an excellent technical description of many useful modifications, please refer to George Shreyer's tips page.

This photo is from one of the few times I have had the Mikado running, at a clinic in 2007. Click to see the whole photo.AristoCraft Mikado and Pacific - In 2007, I got tired of waiting for Pennsylvania prototype locomotives that I could afford and bought two, a first-generation Pacific and a Mikado, both painted for Pennsylvania. The Pacific is really a USRA Pacific, as used by B&O, but I rationalize using it because THAT locomotive's design was largely based on the design of Pennsy's experimental K-29, which did see service. Similarly, the AristoCraft Mikado was based, not on Pennsylvania's sleek L2, but on the utilitarian USRA heavy Mikado design.

My Mikado came equipped with a fancy sound system that was run off a gel-cell battery. When I first got it out, the battery was charged, and the locomotive sounded great. Unfortunately, it wouldn't run over the track on my railroad very well, so I put it back in the box until I could relevel the track. I DID get it out of the box for a garden railroading clinic in July and August of 2007. Unfortunately, when I got it out of the box in August, I discovered that the locomotive had been put away with the sound system on and the gell-cell was toast. That said, the Mikado is heavy, very solid, and very reliable, when not handled by idiots. :-) It's probably the best-engineered model of a steam engine available in Large Scale.

The first-generation Pacific was used and a little flakey, so even if it might run on my uneven trackage, I need to tweak it a little to get it to run well. It looks nice, though. I prefer Aristo's original paint scheme to the one they use on their "PRR" pacifics now.

Narrow Gauge (Mostly D&RG/D&RGW)

Lionel 0-6-0--The D&RGW kick started because I like the paint job on the Lionel D&RG 0-6-0. I bought the Lionel Gold Rush set for my middle daughter, and my father bought her some other narrow gauge cars. The 0-6-0 is a decent runner for a switcher configuration, has good traction for a small engine. The only downsides are that the little silver posts on the pilot are very prone to breakage and that the gears that conduct power to the middle drivers are noisy. I actually bought a backup for this but my daughter wouldn't run it because she wanted to run "her train" so I sold it to a nice man in Australia named David Fletcher, who gave it to his wife for her birthday. I also sold him the Green PRR 0-6-0, which he has rebuilt into a Mason Bogie. For a picture of the sister 0-6-0 on David's line, click here. (BTW, David's wife makes and collects teddy bears; the driver in the photo is one of her creations.) For a picture of the sort of thing David usually runs, click here. Nice stuff, Fletcher.

Bachmann - We have had various Bachmann 4-6-0s as time went on, including the battery-powered ATSF ones which could barely drag their own weight around the track. However they did get us started in the hobby, and they can drag a track cleaning car around dirty track, so we keep them. We tried a early 2-4-2 and were not impressed. We currently have a third-generation 4-6-0 that we use to drag around some LGB D&RGW coaches when we're in the mood for narrow gauge operation.

Fanciful (Thomas)

Click for bigger photo.When we were getting ready for the Holden Arboretum clinics, we also planned a Thomas railroad to take along as a display. As part of this project, we acquired two Thomases (one for backup) and one James. Both locomotives are based on the mechanism used in the Lionel 0-6-0, so I was familiar with their maintenance. We discovered during the presentations that James (a 2-6-0) handles rough trackage better than Thomas (an 0-6-0). After a good cleaning, both locomotives ran for several hours straight (and on one day James ran in the rain for three or so hours). If you're thinking about getting a Thomas or James for your kids or grand kids, the Large Scale versions are still floating around on eBay. But be prepared to clean the wheels if they've been run much.

If you're interested in more information about Thomas and James, I kept a Blog about my experiences finding and using these locomotives, as well as setting up a Thomas-style railroad that I could move in a hurry.

In the Shop

Since I've had relatively decent luck rebuilding the Lionel 4-4-2 basket case, I've accumulated a couple others I may try to rebuild:

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