The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 150

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© April 11, 2010   

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From Zero to Steam In 124-ĺ Hours
(part II)

 

Written by Terry D. Spahr

 

Continued from part I

 
When I began to assemble the locomotive, it never occurred to me that it would be so easy to do.  But I did start with a mechanical background and a good neighbor to assist me.  However, I believe that a person with some basic mechanical skills and a little care can easily build this working coal fired model as I did. 

The first thing to consider is where you are going to build the locomotive.  I chose an extra bedroom with a light colored carpeted floor!  You may laugh, but when you start to drop things on the floor that are the size of a human hair, you will be happy that your floor covering was clean and light colored!  An old white sheet under the table will work just fine.  If a clean spare room is not available in your house, be very sure that the floor is clean and that once completed you can get the locomotive out of the room.  It will be heavy and will require 4 people to move it to your vehicle for transport to your club or backyard track.  You will need a long 5/8Ē piece of rod from the hardware store to move it easily.  It inserts into two holes at the rear of the locomotive frame.  Observe all of the lifting points in the directions. 

Plan to start and complete the project in the same place.  You cannot easily move the many things that you will unpack once the project is started.  I would never build this locomotive in my garage!  And if your garage is anything like mine, you should not either!  Itís not warm in California in November and December and impossibly cold to work in other parts of the country.  So I would consider comfort to be a big factor along with lighting and cleanliness. You will drop things on the floor.  I suggest a bright flashlight for finding them once dropped.  The light will also come in handy when you are working on the locomotive to illuminate things as you work.  I use a small Streamlight with an LED bulb. 

I choose a 6 foot table to start the project, however, nearing half way through the assembly I began to worry about the weight of the locomotive and added an extra brace under the table at the center for support.  I am told that someone built their locomotive on the dining room table!  Decide where you are going to do this, but the cleaner, the brighter, and the warmer your room, the better it will be. 

The first box contains instruction books and a quick read of them will help you to become familiar with the process.    The kit comes with tools, however, like the flashlight; you will want to get a few extra things to make the job easier.  A set of metric Allen wrenches that are long and have a ball like swivel on the end are desirable.  The ball snaps into the Allen head screws and helps start the screws easily.  I bought a set of short metric Allen wrenches that fit a ľĒ drive socket set. 

Before I forget, get a magnet!  It will help you find and pickup all but the brass and stainless screws and nuts that you drop.  A small hammer for peaning, two adjustable wrenches, 6Ē and 8Ē, (the instructions call them monkey wrenches) needle nose pliers, tweezers, and a set of metric ľĒ sockets, ratchet and extensions will come in handy.  An Exacto knife will be needed to open all of the parts to the locomotive, as each individual part is blister packed and sealed!  I was impressed with the packaging from the start!  And as the project progressed it was evident that the care in packaging was not the only outstanding part of this engine.  Every part fit together like a Swiss watch!   

The packages in each box are numbered.  They are to be opened in order.  There is no reference to the package numbers in the directions except for the hardware.  There is a reference to the boxes and the stages of construction referred to in the directions.   We laid the bags of hardware out on the bed in the order that they came from the box so that each bag could be viewed individually.  Washers are all together, bolts are all together, nuts together etc.  The directions will reference a specific bolt and or nut for each assembly and you will need to scan that stack of little bags many many times.   

Grease, steam oil, and silicone are supplied with the kit.  There are letters in circles on the instructions as you go along to note where each is applied.  They are easy to miss if you are not careful.  Some 30w oil in a squirt can is needed, as oil is specified but not supplied.  Steam oil can be used. but later when you operate the locomotive you will be oiling every day.  A can with a long flexible spout is desirable.  

When you open the box for stage 10 you will discover that many of the parts that you may want to paint are in that box.  If they are not in that box, youíll find them soon.  I selected a dark green color that Dave and Roger mixed for me and then painted the boiler jacket, the centers to the domes on the top of the locomotive, a portion of the headlight, the cylinder covers, selected portions of the cab, and the sides of the tender.  Iím very happy that I painted these parts as they make my locomotive unique from Bobís and others that club members will build in the future.  One future OS Locomotives customer is going to use dark blue which I think will be very nice!  The other color that I would suggest is one that The Virginia Trukee Railroad specified for their Mogul from Baldwin back in the day.  That color is called wine red!  Burgundy wine, if you will.  That will be an outstanding color for the parts mentioned above and contrast well with the brass. 
If you have access to a powder coating shop, I would use powder coating instead of paint.  Even though the boiler is covered with a ceramic cloth under the cover, the heat appears to be having a negative effect on the paint!  Ouch!  I will subsequently remove mine and do it over but not now. 

I went to a graphics company with the tender sides and the cab sides and designed my own lettering layout.  There is an ad in DLS from a graphics company that does the same thing.  Give them the design, the sizes and ask them for a mockup in actual size and fit it to your needs.  The graphics in the kit are white vinyl and ok but Iím sure that you will want to make your locomotive unique as I did.   

The areas of difficulty that I experienced may be different for you but care needs to be taken in some specific areas. All of the copper lines are straight when they come from the packages and need to be bent to fit the locomotive.  I was so careful not to kink those lines and you will need to be very cautious also.  Copper lines once kinked tend to not ever be correct and will restrict the flow of water or steam etc.  The ends are soldered on the lines and replacing a kinked line will be extra work.

 Also, when the directions tell you to only hand tighten or partially assemble a component, do not question that instruction as you will be called back to that component later in the direction to complete it.  And you will see the reason why!   

I tightened all of the bolts myself when I put the pieces together.  When Jerry was working with me, which was every night but one, he would read the instructions, pick up the parts that I had unpackaged and then tell me to attach the part where it belonged with a specific piece of hardware from the bags.  That system assured us that all parts were tightened and none left loose.  Of course if you are working alone, that will not be a problem. 

 Only on rare occasions did the directions call for Loctite on the bolts (green is supplied). Since running the locomotive for about 12 hours since assembly, there are parts that I would have used Loctite.  Use good judgment here and install Loctite (I used blue) on bolts that are covered and will never be visible or accessible again.

Specifically, use Loctite on the Allen screws that secure the valve gear cams to the shaft.  This is a critical area of concern and the directions need to be followed closely. (Pages 18 and 19) There are pictures only for this operation!  And unfortunately you will not find out if the timing is correct until the very end before beginning the tender.  This test is performed with air and is mentioned later in this article. 

If you canít find the screw that the directions call for, do not substitute another one that you think will work!  Keep looking, itís there somewhere!  There were no missing parts from this kit!  There are some extra pieces of hardware in the kit but let those be leftovers at the end and donít use up your spare pieces because you dropped one and canít find it! 

Handling small screws and nuts were a real problem for me as my fingers are not as nimble as they once were.  That Allen wrench set that I mentioned earlier helps here.  Also the small socket drivers in the kit will help holding small nuts. 

We looked ahead in the pictures often to see more clearly what we were working on; however we did not skip ahead one time.  The individual phases and steps need to be followed religiously or you will find yourself taking things apart and very confused. 

We cut a small slit in the top of each hardware bag as we needed the parts but removed only the part required and placed the bag back in its original spot on the bed.  Do not rip the bags of hardware open.  They will not lay flat in the stack on the bed and will spill parts when you move them later.   

When you arrive on page 28 of the directions, pay special attention to the small insert at the top left-hand portion of the page.  When installing the rod caps, a small washer is placed behind the cap prior to installing.  Otherwise you will find as I did that the rotation of the wheel causes the screws to unwind and the caps fall off!  I reinstalled them with the washers and Loctite as you may well imagine! 

Others have experienced problems inserting the boiler into the smoke box and then lowering it into the frame.  This is not an easy operation as the boiler is heavy.  The instructions do not tell you to leave the smoke box bolts loose until the boiler in inserted snugly into the box.  If you tighten them earlier, you will not be able to accurately install the boiler.  If things donít fit together smoothly, just loosen some bolts around what you are working on and then retighten everything once that difficult part is installed.  

When many bolts or screws are required in assembling any component always insert all before tightening any!  This is especially important when installing the cab, the water tank and the tender.  A small center punch will help you align all of the holes properly while installing the screws, then tighten. 

Installing the site glass in the boiler is an interesting chore!  Be careful with the glass and use the rod supplied to align the top and bottom then insert the glass!  If it leaks you will not know until you add water for the first time. 

I didnít want to make a mess in the bedroom with water testing the pump and fittings so I had a drip or two when I first steamed up at the club.  I did test the water tank in the boiler in the bathtub overnight as instructed! 

The most exciting event of the project happened at the end of the locomotive assembly before we started assembling the tender. 

The locomotive was still on blocks and we connected an air line as instructed to the proper copper line.  A special connector needs to be made to accomplish this task but itís not difficult. But soldering a leftover copper line to an adapter is required.  Any leaks will become evident at this time and the steam pressure gauge will begin to climb!  Of course the first thing that I did once we had achieved about 40 psi was to blow the whistle! Everyone in the room smiled!   

Next we placed the Johnson bar in the forward position and then cracked open the throttle.  The wheels moved forward and the exhaust cocks on the cylinders spurted oil!  Wow!  Next we moved the Johnson bar to the rear and opened the throttle and the wheels turned backward!  What a thrill!  The timing was correct and we were excited!   

At about this time in the project, the six foot table appeared too short.  The cow catcher hung over the front of the table and there was just room on the table to begin the tender assembly but not enough room to connect the tender and lines to the locomotive. 

So I built a rolling stand to hold the locomotive and the tender.  This served a couple of purposes.  I completed the work on the stand and when it came time to load the engine and tender into the Yukon for transport to the club, I took a piece of plywood and attached two tracks to it the same as the stand.  That went into the Yukon, the stand rolled from the bedroom to the driveway and with a small one foot piece to connect the two; we rolled the locomotive and tender right into the Yukon.  Now when the engine is at my shop for repair or storage, I simply roll the stand to the car, insert the short piece and roll the whole engine unto the stand. 

Once finished, we took the locomotive to the LALSM and unloaded it for inspection. Peter spent the morning making sure things were correct.  We rolled it through the track gauge and it fit perfectly.  Next our club inspector used go-no-go gages to check the wheels and suspension, wheel spacing, flange height and coupler height.  All passed with no adjustments!  Once again we saw the quality of the OS Locomotives precision manufacturing and design.  He accepted the boiler certification from the factory signed by the authorized person in Japan.  He then affixed two small numbered plates, one for the boiler and one for the tender. 

Now it was time for the ultimate test!  Time for the fire!  We soaked some charcoal in Diesel fuel while we continued. 

We filled the boiler up to the middle of the sight glass and filled the tender to the top with treated water from our club water treatment plant hose.  We carefully oiled all of the moving parts even though everything was greased and oiled during assembly as per the instructions.  We inserted the blower into the smoke stack and turned it on.  Next we opened the fire door and lit the fire!  Before long, smoke came from the blower and the steam gauge began to move up. Wow! We disconnected the blower and opened the blower valve in the cab to continue the draft.  Shortly we began to put coal on the fire and before long, the smell of Diesel fuel and charcoal was replaced by the distinct smell of coal burning!  Another wow! 

Just a note here about the kind of coal to use that we found to be most satisfactory.  I had brought some hard coal from PA on a trip in January, so we tried it first.  Next we tried some Pocahontas #3 coal form WVA that Bob had used on his OS demonstrator and last we tried some other junk that was at the club.  We were not able to run continuously with either the first or the last coal that we tried.  So our choice was the Pocahontas #3 and we located a source for some at Penncoal.com. Iíve attached a picture of the coal to judge the size of the pieces since there seems to be different grading terms in use from the different suppliers.   

The coal from Penncoal is pea and not nut coal as we originally had thought.  Lazzaria Fuels in San Francisco however calls this size nut.  I purchased 100 pounds from them.  Iíll take the word of the coal miners in the East rather than the coal sellers in San Francisco.  Just use caution when ordering coal over the phone or a hammer will be needed as the opening to the firebox is small.

 There are three options that I ordered for this engine.  Super-heater tubes in the boiler, an injector and a propane burner.  There are two methods of filling the boiler with water.  One while running, the axle pump, and the hand pump on the tender.  An injector adds water with steam pressure in addition to the other two and it can be used standing or moving as long as you have steam pressure.  The super-heater heats the steam to a higher temperature and guarantees better performance and almost no condensation passed on to the cylinders since the steam is heated in the tubes away from the water in the boiler.  The steam goes immediately into the cylinders from the front of the boiler and the super-heater tubes. 

The third item is the propane burner.  I wanted to burn coal for a couple of reasons.  I knew that there would be an added challenge to operating the locomotive with coal. So I started with coal and now that I know how to build a fire the rest comes easy.  Peter said it had to be flaming like the fires of H***!  I think of that every time I open the fire door!  Is it or not burningÖ..!  However because our club is in a location where extreme fire danger exists in the summer, everyone must switch to propane from coal.  Those live steamers who live in other parts of the country have seen the news about our Southern California fires season! 

However, switching to propane brings up another problem as I see it.  Where do you put the tank?  A propane tank from your barbeque on a gondola behind the tender is ok but ugly!   

So I have found that a forklift propane tank is about 12 inches in diameter and about 28 inches long!  It will lie on its side and adjusted internally so that vapor is drawn off of the top of the tank.  I will cover it with wooden staves and bands and make it look like an 1870ís water tank car. Mounted on a wooden flat car with blocking and banding should do the trick! 

Any added ideas on that would be appreciated.  I like authenticity myself and burning coal is just what fits that requirement to a tee! 

OS Locomotives does offer this engine assembled.  However there are two reasons to buy the kit and not the locomotive complete. 

The education that you will gain about how the locomotive works is invaluable!  If you buy the locomotive complete you will miss that opportunity.  You will need that knowledge as you operate it to maintain it properly and repair it if necessary.  The time delay for them to assemble the locomotive will be considerable whereas the kits are in stock, I believe. 


Bob Crone (left) and me double heading!

Second, it will cost you more money not only for the locomotive but you will have to pay duty on it.  Whereas the parts have no duty. 

Well, thatís about it!  I took the plunge into a project that I had never done and with patience, persistence, perseverance, I can happily play with trains again! 

Good luck with your choice of locomotives and fuel, but Iíd encourage you to do as I did, buy an OS Locomotive and fire it with coal!  Then in about 100 hours, you will be at the club with your locomotive with a big smile on your face! 

There are three people that need mention as part of this project:  Bob Crone, club member at Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, and National Sales representative for OS Locomotives, Jerry Bushrow, a retired American Airlines Captain, neighbor and friend, and Peter Bowen, club member, mentor and friend.  Each has had a part in this project.  They deserve my thanks and appreciation!


Oops.

Written by Terry D. Spahr

the end

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