How I did it... the PALINDROME.....
Here's a quick rundown on the approach and construction of my first Fairlie model locomotive.
For those of you not familiar with Fairlie engines, shame on you. Fairlie locomotives were early
articulated steam engines employing twin boilers joined at the fireboxes. They were the first
articulateds to be widely introduced to the world and despite many weaknesses, were a design with
a long history. Only one Fairlie was ever built in the US (actually, this isn't strictly true as the Johnstone
Compound engines were built here for export). This Mason-built, standard gauge engine was the Janus;
Dave Fletcher had suggested my doing this one when I asked him about Mason Bogies. As it
had been a favorite of mine for a while, I went for it!
Of course, mine would be a freelance, narrow gauge interpretation of the Janus. This is simply because I can't
follow plans and need to make everything up as I go. That's just the way I work.
Having just finished the MyLargescale.com 2001 Master Class, I had to be honest with myself. Did I really want
to scratch build every single bit of this new engine? It was a rhetorical question, and my search for usable
parts commenced seconds later. What I wound up with was some Bachmann cylinders (later bashed), Bachmann stacks
(shortened by pulling out the middle piece), Bachmann smokebox fronts (later abandoned), a set of Bachmann
ten-wheeler domes (later abandoned), HLW headlights (later abandoned), pilots from a pair of Scientific Toys Moguls
(I did use those!), and a pair of tenders and bells from New Bright toys. To me in my obsessed frenzy, this all made
it seem like the engine was almost done before I started! The engine would be longer than I wanted because of
the length of the ten-wheeler chassis, but who was I to stand in the path of Progress?!
A pair of Bachmann ten-wheelers supplied the motive power for the as yet unnamed AmeriFairlie. These had to be
seriously reworked, and after much mishandling I had them right where they wanted me. The first step had been to
cut them down to the minimum size. This proved a bit more work as the frame required additional internal supports
before being trimmed down. Then the motor/gear assembly was turned around and flipped (got it?) so that the motor
sat in an upright position. The motor would be providing the pivot for the bogie. Thank goodness I had the wisdom
and experience of Fletch a mere email away! Dave was the godfather of this engine and was a solid sounding board
nearly every step of the way. I added a new top and back to the motor block/bogie out of ABS. What had been the
rear of the ten-wheeler was now to be the cylinder end of the bogies;
Once the "bogies" had been semi-finalized, it was time to build the "foundation" for the rest of the engine.
I chose a section of ABS pipe and ABS sheet, both of which I had lying around. I prefer ABS to PVC pipe because
ABS glues with the same solvents as styrene. Unfortunately, ABS pipe needs a good sanding for a decent surface,
but at least it sands easily.
I sawed the tenders in half to see if they would in fact work as hoped. Once I had the basic building blocks
of the engine, I laid it all out on the floor to get some visual feel for what I was building. Remember, I was
building this one as I went along and never had any sketches or plans. This was my first inkling of what was to
become the Palindrome;
I used a figure I had made as a reference every step of the way, as it gave me that visual perspective on
all the pieces as I went along. I knew my engine was bound to be "off" in many ways, but if it all related
to a scale person, it would be visually acceptable.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the bogie pivot so I'll have to try to get away with a description.
Once I had secured the ABS boiler section to the ABS floor with glue and screws, I drilled holes for the
pright motors to fit in. Then, as per Fletch's suggestion, I drilled a hole in the boiler/floor for a single
screw a short distance from the motor hole. I secured a screw that extended down from the boiler, then routered
a curved, corresponding slot in the top of each bogie. Now the screw fit into the slot and allowed the bogie
to pivot. A washer and two nuts inside each bogie secured the connection. I now had an operating…thing. This was
critical for me as I have a terrible problem building engines unless I know that they're going to run!
I abandoned the Bachmann domes and cast up tops from an LGB Mogul (thanks Don Gage!). The main sections of the domes
are from Scientific Toys Moguls (the same ones that sacrificed their pilots).
Somewhere around here I got really sick of looking at the cylinders from the Bachmann ten-wheelers. I wanted BIGGER
cylinders, so I cut off the existing ones and added PVC ones. Also somewhere around here, I cut off the ends of the
ABS pipe to add Plastruct ABS tube smokeboxes. I happened to have the Plastruct tube, which had a smaller exterior
diameter and would make a nice step down from the ABS pipe. At this point in time I didn't know that Mason didn't employ
a step down in his designs, so I thought this was fantastic! The great part was that both the ABS pipe and the Plastruct
tube had the same interior measurement, so it was a simple case of gluing the two together and adding internal support.
At this point, I was starting to feel like this project might actually get finished and see the light of day!
Now for what was to become the most difficult part of the job…the cab. The one thing that I knew I wasn't
going to make concessions on was the arched roof that I had envisioned from the start. I had done two before;
one on a Bachmann Porter bash and a much nicer one on my Master Class "Porterette", the Colonel Fletcher.
I really like this look and for me, it's worth the extra effort. I started by guesstimating a side and then
cut two pieces out of a section of old photocopier. I used this because it was particularly thick and, well,
it was free. The most planning I did on this project was when I sketched out the doors and windows. The window
size was based on my pattern maker; I think it was a quarter. The door was the bottom of a medicine jar. As you
can see, I'm a low-tech modeler in the extreme.
Once the cab sides were done, I had something to measure against for the front and back. I knew that
the recurved roof would benefit from as much support as possible, so I added a couple of formers. Also
by this point, I had abandoned the Bachmann smokebox fronts in favor of new ones;
Now I was really on an inspired roll! My engine was taking shape in a very real way and I could begin to
apply much of the detail techniques from the 2001 Master Class as well as my own tried and true bashing
techniques. I shortened the stacks by pulling out the center sections and then added details. The recurved
roof is a bit of a hassle to get right. It's built up of several layers of Styrene with additional layers of
Evergreen plastic for edging. The firebox was built as a separate unit and is held on with four screws. It
holds the speakers and batteries for the two Bachmann sound units I used. My daughter's tiddly winks provided
the ends to the cylinders. Shhh! She still hasn't missed them. This really was a "catch as catch can"
construction process and most problems were not addressed until they had to be! Lots of trim work seemed to
hide the majority of evils…as long as no one looked too close!
One of my favorite finds for doing these Fairlies is the plastic drink stirrers that have a ship's wheel at
the top. Fairlies used this sort of wheel for….I don't remember! Anyway, some plastic to hide the toy look of
the tender sides, a few more details and time to start painting! At this point in construction, reference for
the color schemes of Mason's engines was not readily available, but Fletch and I had been discussing bright reds
and greens so away I went!
I painted the boiler and smokebox first because I had colors for them! But it wasn't until I started adding
the greens to the reds that the real Palindrome started to emerge. Once I began coloring the engine, I realized
that some of the "toy" details just weren't going to make it, so I scratched up bell mounts and larger headlights.
All along I had been positioning all the developing pieces with blue tack stuff to keep my overall visual focus.
It's quite a challenge to keep tabs of all the aspects of a model like this when you're winging it, so I spent a
fair amount of time tacking all the bits together and stepping back to see if it all looked like it was going
to turn into a locomotive.
Another difficulty I ran into was simply that I didn't have any reference for a Fairlie cab interior.
I had to move forward, so I adapted the cab from the 2001 Master Class with the one or two specifics
I could figure out from Fairlie photos. I'm sure it's not right, but it's not altogether unbelievable
I just kept painting and painting until it all seemed done. One aspect of this model that had been an
original concern of mine was trying to get the finish of an engine of this period. My friend Stan Cedarleaf
came to the rescue with a series of gold decals that added that special touch that I had been after. It just
wouldn't seem finished without them!
But I still wasn't done. My first choice of green didn't show off the decals well enough, so armed with
additional decals from Stan, I repainted and redecaled the green on the sides of the headlights and cab to
show off the gold a little better;
Finally, the Palindrome was done! I was happy. I was even proud! This was the first engine I had come up
with that really came out very much like I had hoped. It's not terribly accurate. It's not prototypical.
But it really is the locomotive that I set out to build. She runs well, snaking her way through the turns,
and her double sound system and double smokers make her an impressive presence on the track. None other than
the Colonel Fletcher itself later delivered her to the Rogue County Narrow Gauge Railroad!