If all goes according to plan, next month we return to Kit Bashing old Flyer steam engines. This time I’ll take you through the process step by step, with photos, of modifications to a cheap and plentiful Atlantic.
First we’ll discuss which ones are preferable for Kit Bashing, move to clean up and inspection of the chassis of the locomotive and tender, installation of a DC can motor, and then we take a Dremel tool the shell itself and make changes small and large.
You might ask why I’ll start with selecting a suitable engine and why you’d want to disassemble the engine. Well, not all Flyer Atlantics were created equal! There were dozens of variations over the twenty year production of these locomotives, and some are just poorly suited for Bashing. Of course, this long production history is what makes the Atlantic so plentiful and inexpensive, a perfect combination for a first Kit Bash.
While some of you have done Flyer repairs before and may be comfortable buying from junk boxes, for others this may be their first time inside the locomotive. The better “deal” you get price-wise, the more likely you’ll have some unseen trouble inside. Since there is little point of doing a lot of cosmetic work and then discovering the locomotive has mechanical or electrical problems that don’t allow it to run well, I advise finding and fixing running problems first.
Most times even better vendors at train shows won’t have cleaned up the inside of a lowly Atlantic. All that dirty and hardened crud can effect the operation of the engine. But you can’t just dump the engine and tender in the dishwasher and expect it to work out! (Although while I worked at the hobby shop a woman who wanted to sell us her husband’s old trains did just that! With disastrous results!)
There are right ways and wrong ways to clean certain components and things to look out for which could cause problems down the track. Reassembly and lubrication is also going to be covered.
While basic painting and decaling would normally be the easiest thing to do, and where most of you would start with your first simple changes to the appearance of old American Flyer steam locomotives, we’ll wrap up the series with that! Why? Because most of the changes we’re make will require cutting, drilling, putty, filing, and sanding, so there’s no point painting and decaling before finishing all the “body work.”
We’re going to make a few easy changes, such as moving the bell and whistle to different locations. Do some middle level changes such as moving the headlight from the top of the boiler front to the center. And I plan to make a drastic change to the wide Wooten firebox.
Now, a word about installing a DC can motor; I come mostly from the “model” side of trains. One of the major differences between “toy” and “model” trains is that “toy” trains run on Alternating Current, while “model” trains run on Direct Current. With AC power, you are required to carry an on board reversing unit to change the locomotive’s direction. With old American Flyer, this item can be problematic, often sticking, and impairment prone to dirt and rust.
With DC can motor power, no such device is needed. By throwing a switch on the power pack, the locomotive changes direction with out going through a “forward-neutral-back” cycle. The advantages are; ease of operation, less electrical drain through the reverse unit, and no problematic reverse unit to tinker with. Besides, the old motors are tired, draw more current, and run hotter than the modern can motors.
To provide DC track power you can buy a large DC power pack such as those used for G scale trains, or you can add a rectifier and direction switch between your AC transformer and the track to create DC track power.
The modern DC packs are expensive, but put everything in one convenient package that gives much finer control than any transformer. The combination of old AC transformer, rectifier, and electrical switch is much cheaper, but requires you to fashion a box for the rectifier and switch, and start-stop speed control is not as good.
I’ve included some tips about the DC can motor installation simply to give you that option to consider. After all, when you Kit Bash, there’s no going back to original anyway.
And so, that’s what is coming up here at STUMPY’S STATION as we move into Fall. I hope you will add this series to the information you already have by reading my “Kit Bashing American Flyer Steam Locomotives” guide available here on MyFlyerTrains. Enjoy!