Dedicated to the S Gauge American Flyer Trains of A. C. Gilbert! header image 2

Stumpy’s Station – “Prairie Dog” Part Five

December 31st, 2013 · No Comments

Well, our project is into the later stages now. It’s time to paint the loco and tender shells. Obviously, the basic color will be black as was traditional from the late 1880’s onward, except for special passenger train and streamlined locomotives. This trend was started by Vanderbilt on the New York Central to cut cleaning costs required by the earlier, fancier locomotives.
The cab roof and tender deck (behind the coal bunker) was painted Pennsylvania Tuscan red. Actually, The Pennsy did this for rust prevention when putting locomotives into storage. They just left the Tuscan alone when the loco went back into service. Other roads started using it as an appearance thing.

The smokebox was painted gray to give a dull graphite look. Paint burned off areas where the boiler was not covered with insulation and jacketing; the smokebox and firebox. Therefore spreading graphite on these areas protected them. Depending upon how the graphite was mixed, applied, and how long the engine had been in the weather, the graphite could range from a nice silver to gray to a dirty white color, this last being either engines long stored or neglected. Many roads also mixed carbon black with graphite to make the boiler a uniform black color.
The running board edges and lead truck rims were painted white to match the “wide white wall” driver tires. White driver tires were a maintenance habit to help crews spot cracks in the tires.
To “back date” the loco, the railings along the sides of the boiler, the lens ring around the headlight lens, and the number plate in the center of the smokebox front were painted “brass” color. The headlight itself is black, mostly to make it show up against the gray.
After all painting was done, and the locomotive’s number decaled onto the tender sides, everything got a coat of Testors “Gloss” to protect paint and decals. It was then set aside overnight to fully dry.
The next day, the locomotive was reassembled and photographed.
This was the first time I saw the two wheel lead truck on the assembled engine, and I had feared that the spacing between cylinders and front driver would look ridiculous. But comparing photos of real 2-6-2 Prairie Locomotives and the “Prairie Dog,” I think it looks passable, and makes the typical Pacific look a bit different.

But then a problem cropped up. The two wheel lead truck worked fine in testing, but when I started to run it on my portable layout at Christmas, it began derailing! After close observation, I noticed that the truck was lifting off the rails on a switch, slid over to one side, and turned all the way around! This cannot easily happen with the full four wheel lead truck, but is a hazard I hadn’t foreseen with the two wheel “half truck.” Inspection of the switch produced no problem with it.
After careful consideration I decided to limit the side to side travel of the “half truck.” Now that this is no longer a four wheel truck, the pivot point doesn’t have to slide sideways nearly as far! Limiting sideways movement was accomplished by drilling out the rivet that holds the truck to it’s stamped metal “valve gear” frame and replacing it with a small bolt and nut. Since I started with a bit longer bolt than was necessary, I added washers until I got just the correct up and down movement. These washers must go “above” the metal frame so that the nut won’t be below the rail heads to clear switches and crossings.
Next I added a large diameter washer to limit side to side travel on the slide by the washer bumping into the screw posts. This would limit the truck swing to almost a pure “pivot point” as normal for two wheel lead trucks on most model locomotives. While I was modifying the truck pivot, I added a 1/2×1/2” square of 1/16” thick sheet lead weight to the truck just to “hedge my bet.” The whole process took about twenty minutes of trial and error to sort out the modification, less glue drying of the weight.
This worked out fine and ran through Christmas without problem. My nearly four year old grandnephew was down to visit several times and the “Prairie Dog” fascinated him with choo-choo and smoke. Even his six year old sister watched the train go round and round! Well, at least until the wife called a halt to the fun when the smoke alarm went off!
And so, that brings the “Prairie Dog” project to a close. Next time, we’ll look into a bit of customizing the common Flyer “Northeastern” caboose.

Stumpy Stone

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