Kemtron USRA Mikado?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by curmudgeon, Dec 11, 2008.

  1. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    I've been given what I thought to be an undecorated Mantua Mike, w/a few superdetail parts, but the only name I find is Kemtron, on the drawbar.

    It's whitemetal, Pittman-style motor mounted center-frame, plastic cab w/hinged brass tender plate, separate handrails/posts, plastic spring & brake details.
    Brass piping, headlamp, air-ringer bell bracket, marker lights, missing bell & whistle.

    Did Kemtron make locos too?
    What can someone tell me about this?
    Did it originally have a backhead?


  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Detail parts, including brass tender plate and draw bar, are likely Kemtron. The base locomotive - white metal pieces - would be from Mantua. Kemtron produced brass and plastic parts, but little to no diecast white metal. AKAIK, the only standard gauge locomotive produced in HO by Kemtron was the Wabash Mogul. And this was a brass frame and brass kit (not for the faint of heart).

    I'm pretty sure you did get a Mantua Mike that has been detailed with some Kemtron and other parts.

    just my opinion, yours may differ
  3. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    Hi pg&w -

    But don't all Mantuas have the name cast into frame, boiler or tender?
    "23" is the only marking on this, cast into the inside top of the boiler.
    The drawbar is plastic w/Kemtron cast on one side, "S" (short?) on the other.

    Tho' the frame/motor is similar to the 3rd series Mantua Mike (shown here: there is a separate brass saddleplate between steamchest/boiler.
    Also the boiler is stepped, not straight, as on the Mantuas, w/no generator in front of the cab (which certainly could have been removed), but there's also different spacing on the domes, different sand dome & piping detail, cast in & definitely not replacements.

    The tender seems slightly different too - location of water hatch, w/cast-in rear light (non-working) I don't see on the illustrations.

    I'm still thinking there's more to the story.

  4. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    For the record, Kemtron is now part of Precision Scale. Some of their detail parts are also available in plastic now. They make beautiful working handcar kits in O scale.

    Would you like to post some pictures of here?

    I have a 4-8-2 that started off as a Varney 4-6-2 and the boiler was extended.

    Perhaps your 2-8-2 is an Arbour models locomotive or so.
  5. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    Hi nkp -

    I've not heard of Arbour - a quick search shows bought by Bowser (no date, but fairly old stuff?), mixed quality reviews, exorbitant prices on original kits apparently ($3 & $400 for Allegheny!). :eek:
    No ref to a Mike kit, but seems a likely candidate.
    Think a pic of their boiler'd tell me.
    Gonna look around some more.

    I'd be happy to take pix, but I don't know how to upload 'em -will the "insert image" button do it?

    This is more intriguing than I thought! :)

  6. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    BTW -

    Not Bowser either - diff boiler details.
  7. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Arbour was taken over by Bowser and their product line has vanished.

    I think various people on here (probably not myself though) could identify it with a picture. Click on the "Go Advanced" button and I believe it is the paper clip. If the picture is too large too upload, right click on the picture and click edit...then resize it to upload it.

    I have some older HO, but I'm not an enthusiast like Ray M, Dave Harris, Toptrain, and some of the other guys on here. They don't work well with my narrow gauge trains for some reason...
  8. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    My apologies for the quality - cheep camera. :oops:
    Best detail I could get.

    Google/AlltheWeb search didn't have mention of an Arbour Mikado, but 0-4-0, 4-6-0, 2-8-4 & the Allegheny, so a Mike seems plausible.

    Hope this helps.


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  9. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    Curmudgeon, based on your photo, what you have is a Mantua cast boiler from their 4-6-2 Pacific, not their Mikado. Likewise, the tender is the standard Mantua longhaul, 6-axle, tender.

    If the mechanism is indeed that for a Mikado and everything fits together perfectly with the boiler, then it is likely to be an example of their "light" Mikado, produced for just a few years around the late 1990's. This loco used their Pacific boiler in conjunction with their 2-8-2 Mikado mechanism.

  10. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    Hi cnj -

    You may well be right - examination of the Pacific boiler pix shows a very close similarity.
    Enough so that there could have been mods to it to produce what I have.

    Not to belabor the point, but has anyone ever seen a Mantua w/no name on it, tho'?
  11. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Perhaps in the course of modification, adding details and whatnot, the Mantua name got ground off? Such is the case with my Shifter. At any rate, the Mantua name was cast on the underside of the boiler just behind the smokebox. Not sure if that's the standard spot for all their engines, however. Check with the guys at the Yardbird Group.
  12. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    It isn't that hard to file off a name. Maybe.
  13. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    This one also has no cast-in throttle assembly.
    I'll agree any of them could be filed or ground off, but that visibly changes the surface - and I don't accept that someone could do so w/o distorting any boiler bands or the sandbox sidecover, & then reproduce the original surface finish to the point it wasn't detectable under 16x.

    And wouldn't it be nice to find that Kemtron had made some?

    I'm still looking & hoping. :)
  14. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Kemtron was a small producer...they did not have the equipment necessary to produce die cast locomotives. Also, the production run would have had to be substantial...for they would have needed to pay for all the tooling and the equipment. Further, Kemtron's quality standards are far higher than that boiler and tender. It is essentially the same as comparing my MDC 0-6-0 to a Pacific Fast Mail isn't fair to either as they are apples and oranges.

    If you look around, you'll notice that different suppliers will have a certain medium...and that's pretty much all they use. Grandt Line is plastics with very few metal castings. Precision Scale is brass but with a growing line of styrene (and you don't see styrene in their older listings). Mantua was metal with a small bit of plastic & such for insulation. Later on they produced some plastic boilers...same thing with MDC.

    Resin manufacturers do very little with styrene and brass. Frequently, the styrene castings in kits are not produced by the same people as the rest of the kit. Cliff Grandt frequently would make the tooling and cast the styrene parts for other people such as Don Winter. Styrene requires the greatest cost to start...massive amounts of money for tooling and expensive machines. You can't purchase a machine for a single part, typically.

    Casting metal varies. The boiler like yours would probably require a spincaster, a metal furnace, and some tooling. It may have been made with vulcanized molds. This is not as cheap as you might think...there is a reason why Bowser would cut and lengthen their 4-6-6-4 boiler to produce their 4-8-8-4 and not just produce a new mold. On the other hand, some of the small order white metal parts in craftsman kits are produced with low temp melting white metal...and some non-American manufacturers (Railmaster comes to mind) use this to produce super detailed craftsman can use resin (rubber) molds for this.

    Laser cut kits typically just require a laser cutter and someone to produce the detail parts. The laser cutter is the cost here (and probably a computer to control it)

    Lost wax casting requires either tooling or nice masters. A mold is made of the master, and then a wax duplicate is produced in this new mold. A plaster mold is then produced around the wax and the wax is vaporized. Brass (or another metal) is poured into the mold and the mold is broken to retrieve the part. It is suitable for low runs...if you have an adequate furnace to melt the brass...1700+ degrees F. Spin casting can be used here as well.

    Resin is standard for short run rollingstock. Much of the cost goes into the molds and the material. This is the easiest to do at can get started for $50ish. You need high quality masters and quite a bit of labor on the casting. (I've done this) For professional castings, you pretty much need a pressure pot and possibly even a spincaster (why I don't currently do this). Typically 20-70 castings in the life of a mold.

    Brass is the most labor intensive...but quite suitable for even lower runs than resin...1. That is why it is expensive even with cheap chinese labor. Sheet brass is the basic material here. It is cut either with machine tools (or by hand at home). A miniature machine shop is used here...but with solder instead of welding. The castings are produced with the lost wax technique. Photo etching is commonly used here...especially in kits for home is a labor savor that requires additional equipment. The results of photo etching are much the same as laser cutting...but the production is completely different...acid baths, uv lamps, and such.

    Limited run diecast is a recent phenomenon. It is directly tied to the low labor rates of foreign countries with, essentially, third world standards of living but 2nd or 1st world education.

    It is very expensive to add a different product line to you factory unless you have to do so. That is why I cannot think of a single manufacturer to use more than 3 of the above techniques. The boiler is not Kemtron.

    The kemtron draw bar is a replacement part. Odds are good that it is plastic to isolate the tender from the the pickup on diecast locomotives commonly caused opposite polarities on the tender and locomotive (one picked up the left rail, the other the right, and a single wire connected the two). My brass 4-6-4s will short out if the cab touches the tender...and some of (or all of) my diecast locomotives are the same. For Kemtron to have had a bunch of a simple styrene casting made is one thing...especially a simple casting...having boilers made is a completely different animal.

    A different manufacturer may have made the locomotive...but it was not Kemtron. You can tell the artist by the stroke of the brush...and it is neither the right stroke, the right subject, nor the right brush to be Kemtron. Now if it was a narrow gauge 2-8-2...I'd question it for a second or two...
  15. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    Rest assured I'm not wanting a fuss.
    I have no vested interest in it being a Kemtron, I'd just like to find out who did made it.
    And I agree that Mantua is the most likely culprit, w/help from a previous owner.

    I simply doubt Mantua at this point, and it's within the realm of possibility for someone to have "outsourced" certain expensive parts such as the larger castings.
    Perhaps particularly someone such as Kemtron, attempting to expand into the field w/minimal investment.

    I'm also posting to yardbird forum - one of them may know of unmarked Mantuas or other brand & mystery solved. :)

  16. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    It's fine. I was afraid that my last post might not have displayed the proper was not intended to be argumentative. I've done a bit of research on production for scratch building, and it helps to understand how the companies work.

    Intriguingly, there is a Kemtron C-16 kit on ebay right now.

    Here is a link to the picture...

    This is the classic Kemtron kit. The current HOn3 version runs $400.

    A little outsourcing has occurred. The MDC 0-6-0t was originally created by Cliff Grandt for MDC long before he started Grandt Line. In the late 1970s, a mysterious Far East Distributors began importing "Spartan Series" 4-4-0s and 2-6-0s in Hon3 and On3. After a few years, it finally came out that it was NWSL. NWSL didn't want to attach their name to those brass imports since they weren't up to the detail standards of NWSLs other imports. Precision Scale (Kemtron's successor) is the same way with their die-cast line (all narrow gauge) being called MMI. They offer locomotives in HOn3, Sn3, On30, and On3...but this is a modern limited run die-cast line...a completely different animal from the old stuff.

    Frequently, the old manufacturers such as Varney, Mantua, and MDC were very free spirited in their adherence to prototype...very unlike today. I feel that those were from a more personalized modeling era...and it is the modelers that made the change...not the companies.
  17. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    And the winner is:

    Mantua - tho' maybe a Tyco version, since it doesn't have the name on it.

    Studying more pix, I'm now confident it's just been reworked a little.

    Thanks for all the input, everyone - I haven't been this interested in a Mantua since my first one 30 years ago! :mrgreen:

  18. pjb

    pjb Member

    The cab looks like a Pennsy design. You said this cab is
    plastic? The number of manufacturers of mikes with
    die cast boilers in 'HO' scale approaches a dozen, and
    given all the detail parts assembled by the person who
    put this collection together there is a large possibility
    that he had a specific prototype in mind. If you want to
    play sleuth, consider the specific appliances bought, and
    the unit that you have... to try and determine what was the
    ultimate intent of that person. Then try and see if you can
    build it out of the pieces.
    You have to consider that boilers were interchangeable
    with 4-6-2s in several'HO' (and other scales as well) lines.
    Although that is beside the point, since ENGLISH, MANTUA,
    PENN-LINE , AHC, and in all the diverse manufacturers monikers
    these were later sold under: had interchangeable boilers,
    used for both wheel arrangements.

    Nor is that unrealistic for the USRA, and others that
    standardized loco designs (e.g. Pennsy Ks and Ls) did
    the same.

    A few imported models , from among others, the renowned
    DJH, that had the world's largest locomotive kit line in 'HO'
    scale (until their recent abandonment of manufacturing
    German locomotive prototypes - which took about two dozen
    loco kits off the market), would have diecast USRA boilered
    mikes. Your boiler seems to have an imbedded elesco fwh
    in the smokebox, or are my eyes deceiving me ?

    If that is so... then...
    In that case the numbers are most likely reduced to a
    VARNEY, or one imported by Polk's about fifty years
    ago. The Varney boiler was cast, but it might have been
    in bronze, but I can't remember.

    FLEISCHMANN , also had an NA style mike it made, before abandoning the effort to sell those types of prototype
    trains here.

    This followed the influx of what were then cheap fabricated
    brass locomotives from Japan. It made it impossible to
    sell goods made with German wages, and also had an impact
    upon which US makers could survive. Since brass ready mades
    were cheaper than kit locos made here, consolidations like
    the one which gave the English's control over many makers
    lines of locos, as well as detail parts (e.g.CalScale, Selley),

    In any event there are lots of makers of die cast boilers
    usable for mikado type 'HO' locomotives to be had from
    1940 through 1965 or so.
    By the way, ARBOUR was a successor to WINTON, but they
    used white metal not Zamac in their major castings.
    I hope this is helpful.
    Good-Luck, PJB
  19. curmudgeon

    curmudgeon Member

    Actually, I'm not sure what alloy this is, but it does have the FWH, like the Mantua/Tyco.
    It isn't like any pix I found of Varney, Penn Line, Bowser or Cary.
    But Mantua had variations over the years - maybe others too.

    I stripped the paint to be sure nothing was hiding underneath, and found evidence of the generator & center throttle linkage having been removed.

    A pic I saw of a Tyco version, with those cast in, is just like it, down to the dimples for throttle rod mntg.

    Oh well - the elusive "Kemtron Mike" will have to await discovery by some other lucky feller. :)

  20. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    And your mike has been discovered to have more character than any off the shelf locomotive!

    Do you plan to customize its appearance to your railroad? Its distinctness helps with this...when people come over, they won't be able to tell who built it, other than you! :thumb:

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