We’ll start off by removing the boiler shell from the locomotive chassis and tender shell from the tender chassis. To build our “end of steam” version of the 2-6-2 Prairie, you’ll want to get a later American Flyer Pacific 2 wheel trailing truck with the outside bearing frame, or order one of these from LBR Enterprises at: lbrenterprisesllc.com
Of course, the first thing we have to do to change the AF Pacific into a Prairie is to remove one axle from the four wheel “pilot” or lead truck of the Pacific. Remove the front truck/valve crosshead assembly from the engine. This assembly generally has the truck riveted to the crosshead with a coil spring between crosshead and truck frame.
Turn this assembly over until the underside of the truck frame is “up.” Cut the truck frame about half an inch from the center spring/rivet so that you have just a two wheel lead truck assembly. While you can hand saw, I have found a Dremel tool to be far better for this. The rapid cutting motor tool will heat up this part quickly, so work in spurts or wear gloves!
The frame and wheels still attached to the crosshead is now the two wheel Prairie “lead truck” and the cut off piece goes to the scrap/parts bin.
If you had a cast lead truck frame for this, you’ll probably not need any additional weight between the coil spring and front axle. If you have the stamped steel pilot truck frame, a bit of lead weight will be required. In either case, the strength of the spring will often determine if you need weight and how much. I like to use the lead sheet available at hobby shops as it can easily be bent and cut. Tungsten is a new material that is popular in Pinewood Derby racing because of it’s heavier weight for the size, but is VERY hard to cut and work.
Now, lets go to the rear of the locomotive chassis. Since the old 1910 locomotive would probably been upgraded from it’s inside bearing trailing truck at some point, you’ll want to get an outside bearing trailing truck. You have three options; 1. Find an original American Flyer later Pacific two wheel trailing truck. 2. Get the two wheel trailing truck from LBR Enterprises. 3. Get a two wheel truck COVER from LBR to use on the original tender drawbar if you use the 4-6-2 tender. If you change tenders as I did, you’ll need option 1 or 2.
If you use the LBR two wheel truck cover, you simply attach the part over the original trailing truck. If you use the complete trailing truck option, you’ll have to remove the original truck wheels and axle by grinding off the rivet. Once this is done, the complete truck will fit right in the hump in the drawbar left open with removal of original wheels and axle.
Another option would be to remove the entire original drawbar by grinding off the rivet on the tender and making a new drawbar from wood, metal, or heavy wire. This would allow you to get the tender prototypically closer the locomotive cab too.
I have successfully used Popsicle (craft) sticks cut to length and holes drilled for a bolt and nut to attach to the tender. At the other end, an old Flyer or LBR two wheel trailing truck can then be placed in position, and if the truck casting at the pivot point is filed down, the original mounting screw can be used.
In the case of this project, I had the make a slightly different wood drawbar by doubling the Popsicle sticks at a point where the drawbar went over the trailing truck. I then filed the portion of the “lower” stick away over the trailing truck. The drawbar now had a “hump” in it for clearance.
This will also work with changing to a Franklin style or other tender because you have to make a new drawbar anyway and allow the engine trailing truck to pivot separately. Changing tenders makes an instant visual change to the appearance of any locomotive, particularly the more common Flyer ones everyone is so used to seeing.
On my locomotive, I decided to use an old Marx 3/16 size tender. This required that I come up with a new floor for the tender shell to mount S gauge trucks and couplers.
There are two options for this. 1. An AF tender floor cut down, or 2. Make your own new tender floor.
An old Flyer tender floor was too long, so I cut equal lengths from both ends until the floor fit under the Marx tender. Holes for mounting screws were the only other modifications.
On an earlier project where the tender floor was badly rusted, I made my own floor out of sheet balsa and strip wood and used American Models trucks and with their electrical pick ups. I only needed a coupler on the rear truck of course.