Finding the steam engine I wanted turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected. First I wanted a to use a 4-4-0 American locomotive. This and the 2-6-0 Ten Wheeler pretty much defined the Wild West period for many of us. These are typically the two styles of locomotives that you see used in the Western movies and the American is the engine that Walt Disney choose to use for his frontier train in Disneyland. For my wargaming readers that don't have a clue to what I'm talking about here is a quick lesson in how to tell steam locomotives apart (this applies to English and European engines as well although the names are likely to be different). A steam engine has three locations on the frame where you can find wheels, they are known as the lead truck (sometimes called the pony truck and guides the steam engine around curves in the track), the drivers and the trailing truck. A truck refers to the component that actually holds the wheels. Drivers are the set of wheels that are turned by the side rods that are driven by the steam. So when you see 4-4-0 that refers to the total number of wheels in each location. In this case 4 wheels in the leading truck (two on each side), 4 drive wheels (again two on each side) and no trailing truck. Our 2-6-0 has 2 wheels in the lead truck (1 on each side), 6 drive wheels (3 on each side) and no trailing truck. Here is a chart of some different wheel arrangements. There are many more!
So the 4-4-0 is appropriate to the Wild West and I thought would be easy to find in S Scale because its so iconic to the western scene. I had forgotten that the vast majority of model railroaders out there tend to model the transition period as steam gave way to diesel in the late 1940s through the 1950s. Pre and even Turn of the Century locomotives are actually quite hard to find and even harder in S Scale. I finally found two versions in S Scale made by American Flyer in 1959 and 1960; The Franklin and the Washington. That's another interesting aspect of the Wild West period as steam engines had actually names as well as numbers. Both of these models definitely fall into the collector market, especially the Washington. At this point I looked more on the wargaming side of the house and discovered that Dixon Miniatures makes their own version of the American 4-4-0 in their Old West line. This is a non-operating pewter and resin model for 75 pounds. Non-operating means that the wheels don't turn! I needed the wheels to turn! Plus it is designed to be in scale with their miniatures so if I wanted freight and passenger cars I would have to buy theirs as well as the track. That was looking pretty expensive pretty quick. So back I went in search of an American Flyer Franklin which was going to come in cheaper after the dollar to pound conversion.
Well I found one for $80 bucks (including shipping) and it arrived yesterday. I took some quick shots last night to show it off and you will find those below. The gauge is right so its certainly going to fit on the S scale track I'll be ordering but it seems quite large, closer to O Scale. There are a couple of pictures with the some American West miniatures from Brigade Games and you can see that the drive wheels are taller than the miniatures. Now this isn't necessarily wrong as drive wheels even on early steam engines like this could get quite tall but that translates to it being a very powerful locomotive. Still I'm quite happy with it and I think its going to work out just fine. Now I just need to dig up some passenger and freight cars for it. Oh and I'm going to gut it too (collectors everywhere are beginning to shudder I'm sure). Since I'm not going to power the rails I need the drive wheels to spin freely and I want to detail the cab. The electric motors in these old engines are huge so all of that needs to come out so I have some room to work with in the cab and so that the engine can be pushed along the tracks.
I promise to take some better pictures when I get her back to my workbench. Oh and if you want to see a truly awesome Civil War era Model railroad then check out Bernard Kempinski's blog: US Military Railroad
|Right out of the shipping box. I'm going to strip and re-paint her. She's not quite gaudy enough!|
|Brigade Games American West Miniatures use to provide a little scale. These are BG-AWE011 American Characters 3. I think the Black Scorpion Miniatures I have will look really good with this engine.|