This is Going To Take a Bit

I was inspired earlier in the week to start in on a(nother) project, converting an ancient, original center drive Weaver RS-3 to Proto:48. While Comstock Road can only plausibly host one locomotive at a time, having a backup is something I want both in case of unexpected issues and so that I can still push cars around while re-detailing one to proper CNR outline. Thus, I picked up a consignment Weaver RS-3 with drive issues and ordered the drop in conversion axles from NWSL. There it sat for a couple of years.

For a change of pace from machining type model building, I took up the project again expecting to have the swap done in an hour. Here are the two axle types for comparison.

You can see the first gearbox already converted in the background. It was non-trivial only in the sense that the little nut and bolt sets holding the gearbox together were very stubborn. I foresee a purchase of precision nut drivers in my future because getting a good grip on the nuts with the end of my needle nose pliers was challenging.

Sadly, my quick project was not to be. I got the second axle of the first truck done and reassembled the truck. I quickly discovered that the new axles which are supposed to fit into the holes in the sideframes which bear the weight of the model were too short. A bit of internet searching later turned up reports of others with similar issues. It appears that a packaging/labelling error is too blame. Being way past a reasonable return date, I elected to go with another solution.

The alternate solution is to narrow the bolsters and cut new notches in the tabs on the sideframes that clip into the bolsters. Not for the faint of heart but not undoable. The upside of this approach is that the sideframes are brought in to closer to scale width. The downside is that this is a one way trip whereas the drop-in would be reversible. (Proto:48 locos have a much smaller market than O 2-rail.)

I considered making the modifications with my mill but I have no experience in machining plastic and did not want to risk melting or shattering something that is hard to replace. I settled on a combination of jewelers saw, x-acto knife and files. The initial effort before life intervened is a qualified success. I need to tweak the notch but otherwise I can believe that I can do this. We shall see.

If it all goes pear shaped, I plan to mill a replacement bolster out of brass or aluminum. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary but knowing that I have a backup plan gave me the confidence to dive in and start hacking away.

Climbing the Couple Learning Curve


One of the great things about the model railroading hobby is the many and varied tasks required to execute a model railway. Some modellers end up with a favourite aspect such as building rolling stock, or structures but for a complete railway, somebody had to do all the jobs even if it is some unknown person in a factory on the far side of the world. Even then, there are many basic skills to be aquired.

My skill development in the hobby has been uneven due to some of that factory based help. I find myself able to hand lay track to finescale standards, build fancy benchwork, the odd craftsman kit, wire it all up and so on but I have never replaced, installed nor assembled a coupler. I don’t think I have been unconsciously avoiding this potentially character building task but who knows.

With the companionable support of our Saturday night video get together, I set out to remedy this lack. My initial solo operating session pointed out a number of things to address, two of which are coupler related. I figured there was no time like the present while I had a head of steam going. Soon I was searching the show floor for tiny little springs like a seasoned pro. (That would be the character building part of the deal)

The SW-8’s Atlas O couplers are much too stiff for my liking and are hard to get loose from the Kadees on the three cars I have on the layout. I suspect that the springing specs are aimed at 3 rail operation. The photo shows the bottom of the loco after I have got the old couplers off. This was a learning opportunity in itself! I tapped the holes for the 2-56 machine screws prescribed for holding on the Kadees and then realized my only screws on hand are too long at 1/2″ for the loco. Box cars can take any length of screw but the end platforms on a loco not so much. Order placed!

The other coupler related issue is that there are only three cars on the layout. I have an assortment of Ow5 cars and kits on the project shelf that will remedy this to some extent. I identified the car I had appropriate trucks on hand for and installed new couplers and replaced the trucks. So now there are four cars on the layout to knock about once I get the new couplers on the loco.