Scratch building steam engines

Discussion in 'Scratchin' & Bashin'' started by mhdishere, Dec 12, 2003.

  1. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    There are a couple of engines I'd really like to have (HO scale) that no one is likely to make. There are brass models out there, but they're just too expensive. There really aren't any models that would be kit-bashed either, so that seems to leave me in the realm of scratch building. Has anyone tried this? Are there any online resources for how to go about it? I did see a couple chapters in a recent Kalmbach book on scratch building a steamer, but at the time the wallet was empty so I couldn't buy it, next time I see it I will.

    I'd really like to find some web sites that give details on how to go about such a project. Any thoughts? I'm sure it's not easy, but I'm pretty handy and I've found that I love scratch building, so far mostly in wood. I'd assume an engine would be best in brass.

  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Model Railroader had a series a few years ago (probably 20 years ago now) by the late Gordon Odegard on scratch building a brass USRA light mikado. I think about 5 years ago they did another series on scratch building a brass locomotive, this time I think it was a NYC 4-6-0. The conclusion in the first series was that the cost to scratch build a locomotive in brass will be about the same as buying ready to run brass. Cost wasn't mentioned in the second series as I remember. I think the main reason for the high costs involved is the need for detail parts for a steam engine. When you start buying all of the small details like pumps, fittings, bells, stacks, feedwater heaters, trailing trucks, etc. the list gets long and expensive, although if you are willing to buy parts as required instead of at the beginning of the project you can spread out the cost. The other problem is that manufacturers, like Cal Scale or Precision Scale, who make detail parts offer a larger selection of parts than they can possibly make at one time. If a part you need is out of stock, it may be months or even a year or more before the part becomes available. You might consider putting a pic up of what you want. Members might be able to make suggestions on how to model it.
  3. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    A couple of good places to start are the Yahoo forums "Scratchbuilding" and "Brasslocobuilders."

    Down through the ages, but mostly prior to the 1960s, Model Railroader had a lot of scratchbuilding articles. Many of them related to brass, but there were even some on building with wood, cardboard, plastic, and whatever one could get his hands on.

    Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

  5. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    I should also have mentioned the Yahoo group, Traintools.

    One way to possibly beat the costs mentioned by Russ, is to find a model loco that has a lot of similar parts. Drivers, for instance, plus lots of fittings that might be close to the ones on the loco you want to model. Then buy a used one from a swap meet or eBay, and rob all the stuff you can use from it. Many older locos that are not considered hot stuff today had fine drivers, etc.

    Just salvaging the drivers, tender and other trucks, motor and gears might save you a bundle, plus you wind up with other parts for your junk bin that may be handy on some future project.

  6. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    Thanks for the replies folks!

    The two engines I'm most interested in are both CNJ prototypes, a 4-6-0 camelback and a 4-6-4T tank engine, both used in commuter service by CNJ. Both show up in brass on e-bay periodically and usually go in the $400 price range, just too rich for my blood. I looked into bashing a 4-6-0, but there just isn't an engine on the market now that combines the driver diameter and spacing the CNJ engine had, the closest seems to be Bowser's 4-6-0 mechanism, correct driver size, wrong spacing, and the difference is very noticable to me. I havn't looked into bashing the 4-6-4T yet.

    I'm also considering scratch-building because I've really enjoyed the scratch building I've already done, mostly in wood and of structures. And my wife likes me doing things like that because she knows where I am!

    I hadn't considered the cost of the detail parts, thanks for that warning. Cannibalizing a "junker" might definitely be a good idea.

    Thanks also for the links, I'll be spending some time going thru them.
  7. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    having done some scratch built loco's it takes a lot on time and soldering skills and a small machine shop dosent hurt either if you are just looking for a couple of locos you would be better off buying them even if they are high priced .if you are serious about building start with a small simple one not a loco a car or a signal bridge or other rr items will let your skill develop and you won't get discouraged and give up:thumb:
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If the Bowser 4-6-0 has the right size drivers, but the wrong spacing, get a Bowser catalog. You could start with the Bowser 4-6-0, make your own frame to put the wheelbase in the correct location, and possibly buy the correct length side rods from Bowser to tie it all together. I think the side rods they use for all of their steam engines are available separately. A saddle tank could be made from thin styrene sheet bent over a frame to fit over an existing boiler, and the Bowser 4-6-0 may have some add on details that you could use on the 4-6-0t.
  9. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    The two articles that Russ mentioned are good references.
    I've built locos completely from scratch (except motors gears and wheels). But would suggest using as many commercially made parts as possible.
    The later article will guide you through things like building the frame and rolling a boiler.
    As for part sources, I buy all the old junkers I can get my hands on. Old Mantua, Varney, Pennline, MDC and bowser parts are my favorites.
    WARNING scratch-building steam locomotives may become addicting.
    My brother has a basket case brass 4-6-4t suburban. I've been trying to talk him out of it.
  10. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    MR did an article on scratching a styrene superstructure onto R-T-R mechanisms back in the 70s if brass is intimidating. I'll try to dig it up and copy it if you're interested. Detail parts are also available in styrene as well. This would help in the price area. Modifying the undercarriage could be scary but doable. In the end though, after 31 years in the hobby, I have seen it come to the point where it is more practical and cheaper to buy the model when it comes available. However, there still is no substitute, at any price, for the satisfaction of running a locomotive you built from the ground up:thumb:
  11. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Just today I got my copy of the new Kalmbach book "Steam Locomotives - Projects & Ideas". I leafed through it and immediately remembered this thread.

    mhdishere - there is a wealth of articles about detailing, painting and weathering steam locos, as well as tips for maintenace and fine tuning. But the best are more or less complete instructions for the scratchbuilding of the NYC 4-6-0 which was mentioned by Russ. There are lots of instructive detail drawings and how-to tips.

    It is a condensation of the already mentioned series of eight articles by Stephen Anderson in 1997/98.

    In my opinion this is a fine booklet for its price of $18.95. You should find it in every shop which stocks Kalmbach books.

  12. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    That book just arrived last night. For the record, it's cheaper from Amazon. I took a look thru it, but technically it's a Christmas present so I'll wait to read it in more detail. If the article seems good I just may spring for the back issues from MR to fill in all the details.

    This project is on the back burner now anyway, after the new year I'm going to get started on my layout. Once I have a place to run trains I can give more thought to building an engine, or two, or ten.....


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