Happy memories of model building lead to some interesting mysteries as well…


January/February 2024My late wife, Irene, and I were married in June 1955. While we were courting, Irene bought me a copy of This Was Logging by Ralph W. Andrews for my birthday. She knew I liked logging railroads and spent all of $8.95 on the book, a considerable sum since we were both in college and money was scarce. Such are the happy memories of a long and happy marriage.

I immediately read Ralph’s book and found two photos of homemade logging locomotives on page 133 that I wanted to build. But it took me over 55 years to get around to it.

The model I finally built was On3, had a horizontal boiler and was powered by a Grandt Line Porter 0-4-0 mechanism. It ran well and I added a decoder a few years ago. But the little locomotive would not always start which annoyed me. So, when Walthers brought out their HO 0-4-0 Plymouth gas switcher, I wanted to see if it would convert to On3 and bought one. It was an easy conversion. I just unscrewed two screws holding the cover plate, dropped the axles and wheels, converted the HO gauge wheel sets to On3, which was easy because there was plenty of axle length, and screwed the cover plate back on. The mechanism even had a decoder. I soon put the Walthers mechanism in my model and it no longer stalled. I was so happy that I bought a second Walthers locomotive and converted it to On3. But it would not run at all and did not respond to my hand controller. So, I put it on the shelf above my workbench and got on to other projects.

But I still wanted to build a vertical-boilered locomotive. As I was sorting out some cabinets in my workshop, I found a box with a mystery On3, 0-4-0, Diesel in it. I can’t remember buying this locomotive or reviewing it. It’s a complete blank. One end of the box has Putt Trains, P.O. Box 465, Orwell, OH 44076, and the other end has “95, Diesel Switcher Kit, On3 w/Mashima Motor, $85.00.” Does anyone remember this outfit?

I had added a decoder to this mechanism, but it would not respond. I readdressed the decoder to “3” and got some grunts out of it, so I took it to my workbench and found that only one axle was powered, the other one would not even rotate. After some screw tightening and light hammer tapping, I got it to roll. The powered axle has a worm and gear with an idler gear. I decided to run the mechanism in and disconnected the decoder and clipped on some clip leads from my DC power pack since I don’t have a DCC test track. After a few seconds running, the idler gear popped out, fell in my lap, and bounced to the floor. That was enough for me. I put the Putt Trains mechanism back in its white box and hid it back in my cabinet. Way back.

But I still wanted to build a vertical-boilered locomotive and remembered that second Walthers Plymouth. I took it down and re-addressed it to “3” and it worked beautifully. At full speed it takes three feet to stop and on one occasion I picked the mechanism off the track to avoid a collision and it ran in my hand for several seconds. So, the decoder has momentum and a current keeper. The only problem is they seem to be sold out, I even had Charlie Getz looking at train shows for another one with no luck. Anyone have one for sale?

So, I built my vertical boiler model using this second Walthers mechanism and a Charles H. Brommer (C.H.B.) Dolbeer donkey boiler, cylinders, gears, and water tank and it works just fine. I hid the electronics under a wood pile. The only problem is it wound up too wide and keeps knocking down line side detail.

When I look at my logging locomotives and watch them trundle by, I remember Irene giving me a book she knew I wanted but could not afford, nor could she. Only one of many happy memories.

—Bob Brown, Editor

January/February 2024This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2024 issue of Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette. Subscribe Today!