Keystone HO Shay + NWSL conversion

Discussion in 'Logging, Mining and Industrial Railroads' started by Tontos Expanding Headband, Aug 1, 2010.

  1. Hi:wave:, just joined the forum, my first, and not 100% sure how it all works, but here goes....

    I have just bought a second hand un-assembled Keystone HO Shay kit with NWSL motor conversion etc. It does not have instructions for either the white metal kit or the motorising parts, does anyone have a either that they could email to me.

  2. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    I have built two Nwsl / keysone drive mechanisms. one went into a HOn3 Keystone Shay, and the other re powered an dead PFM HO standard gauge shay. I'll have to look through my papers, and see what I have

    I have had excellent customer service from both NWSL and Keystone, so If I can't find my instructions, they would probably help you out, both organizations are outstanding.

    Bill Nelson
  3. Keystone Ho Shay & NWSL

    Thanks Bill,

    If you are unsuccessful I know I can contact NWSL by email, but cannot find anything for Keystone other than a postal address, is this correct?

    All the best, Mark
  4. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    No instructions so far.


    I have had no luck so far. the first place I looked was a plastic storage tray that was used for a project box when I built my 3 footer, and when I re-built Dr Tom's #1 a PFM Harrington shay that had multiple drive train issues. That box has turned into a steam locomotive detail parts box, and the instructions are no longer there. I also checked a ringed notebook that has a lot of OTC (old train ****) it it, no luck there, although a copy of a drawing of a 2 cylinder T-boiler shay was in there. I used that drawing as a reference ( I was thinking of altering the boiler to make a T boiler shay for my 3 footer, but the boiler I built wasn't near as heavy as the stock boiler, so I went with the stock boiler for more pulling power, as my narrow gauge is steep.

    I have a couple more stashes of paper, but I'm not clear as to where they are, and the drawing being in the notebook, and the instructions not being there makes me think that the drawings were retained, and the instructions were not.

    When you start construction, post a note here, as I made a couple changes that have made the locomotive a little more robust. The main one having to do with the ball socket joints that attach the trucks to the frame. Glue won't touch the engineering plastic truck frames so you are supposed to heat weld the ball of the ball socket joint to the truck frame. That dindn't work well for me, and several of them broke on servicing.. NWSL got me new parts, but installing them involved completely disassembling the truck, and the trucks are a pain to set up. I eventually used KD insulating nylon screws. I tapped a hole in the top of the truck frame, chucked a KD insulated screw into a drill, and turned the screw head to approximate the shape of the ball part of the ball socket. that produced a much more robust joint, and the truck can be popped off the frame without any concern of the ball comming off the truck frame instead of out of the socket.

    I built mine as I wanted a 3 foot gauge shay, and wasn't prepared to pay for brass . I eventually got a good deal on a Brass shay that didn't run, and i was able to fix it easily. as a surprising bonus my Keystone/NWSL Says doubleheads very well with my PFM 25 ton shay. I replaced the stack, headlamp and domes on the Keystone shay with brass casting to get a different look.

    In the 3 foot model, a Kd coupler box would not fit between the end beam and the truck frame, and I had to cheat. I'm not sure about the standard gauge model, in may be necessary to cheat, or to use dummy couplers. this is a tiny locomotive in standard gauge. I'd be temped to build one in standard gauge, but I got plenty of locomotives, and would be much better off building other things or cleaning my track. Check out my threads in the logging and mining section to see how bad off I have the disease.

    Bill Nelson
  5. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    Also you are correct I'm not aware of an email address for Keystone, but someone from there used to follow the 4L list on Yahoo. this is a logging list that tends toward rigidly prototype western logging modeling I still follow this list, but no longer contribute much , as they are dry and humorless, and look down on the lowly southeast loggers. so this would be another place to request help.

    Looking at this photo of my narrow gauge coupler cheat, it appears there is room for a standard gauge coupler. the problem in the 3 foot gauge coupler sits lower, and they wouldn't clear the truck, and a Had to bump it out.

    Another tricky part in the construction is fastening the covers on that hold the line shafts in place without gluing the line shafts in place. I got the truck frames and the covers cleaned up, and painted the line shaft with white lithium grease, and then used JB quick to glue the covers on over the line shafts. I used the same method on the build I did for Dr tom, and I torked like a charm on all four trucks, with the lineshafts held securely in place with little or no side play, and being able to turn freely in the truck sideframe.

    Building this locomotive is a real project. The Keystone model was designed to be a static model. The NWSL kit allows you to turn it into a fine working locomotive, but it is not easy! I learned some stuff building this kit, and I thought I knew everything (I do now by the way). The Keystone/NWSL Shay, with the brass details cost me about half what I paid for the non operational PFM 25 ton shay . It took me months to build #2 and to tune the mechanism to my satisfaction. The PFM shay looks better, is more robust, and took me 15 minutes to fix ( tuner cleaner works wonder on the comutators of those old open frame motors.

    again, any questions, I'll be glad to help. I looked in my railroad room no plans, unless they are in the nook that holds the dispatchers desk. I would need to get a new will and update my life insurance before I can disturb that pile!

    Bill Nelson

    Attached Files:

  6. Doctor G

    Doctor G Active Member

    Hi Mark,

    Here are a couple of shots of the beautiful PFM Shay rebuild that Bill Nelson did using the NWSL motor conversion. It ran great!!!!

    Have fun and welcome to Zealot.

    Doc Tom:wave:

    Attached Files:

  7. Hi Bill & Doc Tom, thanks for your posts, sorry I've taken a while to reply (vacations and house extensions got in the way!).

    I'm beginning to wonder what I've let myself in for with the Keystone Shay, no instructions and probably even less ability, still I'll give it a go but it will be a long term project I think.

    Thanks for the pictures, and advice, will be back in touch when I make a start, and I will let you know if/when I find some instructions.

    Thanks again, keep well.

  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Keystone Shay Instructions

    Which model NWSL motorizing kit do you have?

    The earliest version was a hack of the NWSL PDT drive, and I believe only powered 1 truck.

    Later, there was a more conventional drive kit available with either can or open frame motors. Before NWSL was sold to Oso, they were selling bare motorizing kits without the harder Keystone side frames, and without motors.

    The motorizing kits are once again available, but I'm not sure what if any changes have been made.

    The Keystone kit was made in HO, HOn3, and HOn30. Again, I'm not sure of the differences between the versions.

    I have instructions for a couple of versions of HO and at least one of HOn3. PM me your e-mail, and I'll copy the instructions for the requested version (if I have it).

    As Bill said, both Keystone and NWSL are still in business, so they can probably help also.
  9. Hi Fred, thanks for your response, again sorry it's taken some time to reply.

    The NWSL motorizing kit consists of a can motor, side plates driving 1 axle complete with wheels. Not sure if other bits are lurking with the other parts.

    I will contact NWSL for help with this, but it would be great if you could email any of the instructions you have for the HO Shay. My email is

    Many thanks everyone.

    Mark Packham
  10. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Keystone Shay NWSL motorizing kit

    Sounds like you have the original PDT-based motorizing kit which only powers one axle. I don't think it worked all that well.

    Current version - might be worth buying - powers all axles with centerline drive shaft and gears, very similar to diesel switchers. The problem with this setup is to make sure the Shay engine (cylinders and cranks) is NOT driven by line shafts on both trucks. This will result in binding and bending of soft metal components on engine. The usual fix is to round one of the telescoping shafts so it slips as necessary to prevent binding.

    On the Roundhouse Shay, which has the same centerline drive gearing, the usual fix is to make sure the bevel gears on the line shafts only engage on one truck. Since the only load on the line shafts is reverse driving the pistons and crank, gearing to a single truck or axle works fine.

    I will copy and e-mail instructions for both versions sometime this weekend.
  11. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    red is right the later version with power to all wheels is much to be desired. My Hon3 shay is stout and powerful with all four axles powered. With the effort needed to build either, you would be advised to use the lar=ter powering kit that powers all axles. either will be a lot of work to accomplish, but he later powering kit will provide a much stouter pulling locomotive..

    Bill Nelson

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