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Stumpy’s Station – “Prairie Dog” Part One

September 1st, 2013 · No Comments

With this, we begin another multiple part locomotive kit bashing project of a comparatively common American Flyer steam engine, the plastic boiler shelled (#282 etc.) Pacific. You can find these in junk boxes almost as easily as the plastic boiler Atlantic. Even one purchased complete and running off a vendor’s table can be had for between $50. and $70. Any higher price than that takes it beyond “bash quality.”
If your engine doesn’t come with the later, common plastic tender, get one of those too, or a Franklin tender, or a Marx tender.
In this series I will turn the common plastic Pacific, which pretty much represents a “modern” engine built in the twenties and thirties, to a Turn of the Century locomotive not commonly seen. This was the 2-6-2 Prairie.

Let’s start with some history: By 1890, the railroad car builders had begun using a lot of steel because this stronger metal was able to support longer cars and heavier loads than the wood which had been used until then. This led to the cars themselves also being heavier. Increased traffic required longer trains.
The engines mostly in use at this time were the 4-4-0 American, 2-6-0 Mogul, and 2-8-0 Consolidation wheel arrangements with the fireboxes between the driving wheels. (Unlike most people’s guess, the 2-8-0 Consolidation, not the 4-4-0 was the most produced locomotive in history.) To pull the increased weight and length of trains, boiler and firebox size had to be expanded. For this reason, locomotive builders and the railroads themselves began considering the placement of a larger firebox behind the rear drivers and as wide as the clearances allowed. To carry the addition weight, a “trailing truck” would have to be used.
On the earliest of these experiments this “trailing truck” did not move laterally and increased the wheelbase of the locomotive. By making the rear truck “swing” the locomotive could operate more reliably through tighter curves such as those found in rail yards or on branch lines.
With the firebox moved back, the boiler size could also be lengthened. This provided longer flue length, hence more water evaporated into steam, and the added weight created more traction. In the first experiments the 4-4-0 American became a 4-4-2 Atlantic, and the 2-6-0 Mogul became a 2-6-2 Prairie.
The 2-6-2 Prairie was built as both passenger and freight type engines, the size of the drivers being the deciding factor. The Prairie was also the first engine to be seen by many roads as a “Dual Purpose” locomotive when equipped with “medium size” drivers, being used for passenger locals and fast freight service interchangeably. As they were demoted to low grade service in later years this trend continued, and on some small roads was expanded. The 2-6-2 also became the “big power” on many logging, mining, and industrial railways.
Unfortunately, in this era of “cut and try” technology, many of these early 4-4-2 Atlantic and 2-6-2 Prairie engines had stability and balance problems. The railroads themselves made running changes, and this led to a second generation of wide firebox/trailing truck locomotives.
By proving the concept, the Atlantics and Prairies were soon relegated to secondary service or sold off to smaller railroads to make room on the roster for the 4-6-2 Pacific and 2-8-2 Mikado. The last Class One railroad to use 2-6-2’s was the Nickel Plate Road, which used them as branch line power into 1957. For this reason, the lowly Prairie can be placed on your railroad right up to the end of the Steam Era.
Our “Prairie Dog” project will depict a Prairie which might have been built in about 1910, and updated over the years to run until the end of steam, probably on a Class Two or “Shortline” railroad.
There will be changes to the lead and trailing trucks on the locomotive chassis, and the tender. Most of the customizing will take place on the plastic boiler shell to backdate it to that early 20th Century look. I’ll use weathering to age the older style engine to look as it might when it was last operated in about 1957.
To speed up the whole process, I’ll forgo the information on purchasing, cleaning, inspecting, and repairing the locomotive. This can be found in the “Project Atlantic” series here on the My Flyer Trains website, Stumpy’s Station section. More information can be found in depth in the “Guide to Kit bashing American Flyer Steam Locomotives,” also here on My Flyer Trains.

Stumpy Stone

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