Upgrading ReadingFan’s 2124

This was a fun job.  My client, who goes by Reading Fan on some web forums,  is a big fan of Reading T-1 2124, the so-called “Queen of the Iron Horse Rambles.”  So much so, that he had a Lionel T-1 custom painted and numbered to represent that engine.  The craftsman who worked on this engine before me did some great work:  added a real coal load, added figures to the cab (and even a VIP on the tender!)  re-numbered the engine, and painted the “Rambles” scheme fully, including the yellow handrails and footboards, and the silver/white trim on the wheels.  It looked very sharp.  I was entrusted to make a few upgrades along the lines of my 2102.  Specifically, I was going to add a scale front (dummy) coupler, add the detailed top to the air pump shield on the pilot deck, and add the full valve gear.

I started with the pilot.  I did run into some unforeseen trouble.

Here’s the completed pilot next to a completely stock one for comparison.  I didn’t take any in-progress pictures, but the first step is to remove the cast on “coupler,” and that’s where the trouble started.   When the engine had been painted and lettered years prior, the artist added the “Safety is your job” lettering to the pump shields, as well as used a smaller black diamond decal over the too large, incorrectly colored, and downright crooked “Reading Lines” diamond on the front of the pump shield.  As is the correct procedure, he sealed those decals with a clearcoat.  Unfortunately, whatever kind of paint was used never fully cured.  As I used a dremel and files to remove the cast coupler, the clearcoat became caked with metal filings.  I had no choice but to strip off the clearcoat, and with it, the decals.  I had the correct Reading diesel decal sets in stock to replace them, so it wasn’t a huge issue, but it was certainly unplanned.

For the valve gear details, I had to custom order the parts from MTH (the parts I use are the main rod/crosshead/valve gear assembly from a scale Union Pacific Big Boy)  and as MTH isn’t exactly fast to ship parts to private buyers, I simply removed the complete assembly from the T-1 I had already modified.  Waiting for the parts would have added an entire month to the time it took to complete this job.

As I was checking various reference pictures of the real #2124 to make sure I got all the details right, something struck me:  All of the famous “Reading Rambles” were “special” moves, and on each of them, 2124 wore white flags to denote that fact.  So, since this was a model of 2124 in full Rambles mode, she needed flags!  First, I made flagholders out of bits of metal tube. then, I cut tiny squares out of white plastic grocery bag, and superglued them to a very thin brass wire (which I painted black.)  As it turns out one of the flags somehow got lost in shipping, so I made a handful more and sent them out special delivery.  I also dug through my parts bin and found a brass casting of a 6 chime whistle.  I replaced the rather crude casting the engine came with.

And here she is with my 2102, an MTH 5513, and an unmodified Lionel T-1, on my carpet railroad.

Again, I couldn’t have everything go smoothly…  as I test-ran the 2124 to make sure the valve gear didn’t require any adjustment, the smoke unit worked for only a few seconds, after which I heard a very soft *tink* and it stopped completely.  I returned to the workbench and disassembled the smoke unit.  After cutting free the badly scorched wicking, I found this:

Nasty.  It’s pretty clear that this was a failure brought on by old age, but still, I didn’t feel it was ethical to return a locomotive with a failed smoke unit, and since I had another disassembled T-1 on the bench (the one I took the full valve gear off of) I took the element out of that engine, repacked the smoke unit with tiki torch wick, and tested it again.  Now smoking at least as good as new, if not better with the tiki wick, I was comfortable shipping the engine back to my very anxious client.  When I emailed him to let him know it was in the mail, he threatened to wait on the porch until it arrived!

ReadingFan is so proud of the 2124, he displayed it as part of a display on the history of the Reading Railroad at a railroad event held by the Shenandoah Historical Society.  Although I no longer live in PA, Shenandoah is my home town.   It truly is a small world!

Improved Lionel Reading T-1 smoke box front

I’m working on casting copies of my T-1 front so others can have more realistic T-1s without all the drudgery of modifying them.  Probably in resin, at least at first.

Wooden Gon

I built this gondola out of balsa, match sticks, coffee stirrers, and junk I had around just to see if I could.  The trucks were what I had laying around, if I ever decide to finish this out I’ll get some nice archbars or something.