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Building The 1920s 'New Shay' - In 3/4" Scale
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 Posted: Wed Dec 30th, 2020 04:38 pm
11th Post
Reg H

Joined: Sun Oct 19th, 2014
Location: Shelton, USA
Posts: 1041
The drilling jig for the frame rail end brackets is ready...

The end brackets should all be drilled by the time I hit the sack this evening.

Note the numeral "3" on the bracket. 
You can't see it, but there is also an "F" punched on the part.  

In fabricating these parts it is imperative that they be numbered,
so the right part goes in the right place. 

In this case, this bracket goes on the front of the right hand frame rail.  


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 Posted: Mon Jan 4th, 2021 05:58 pm
12th Post
Reg H

Joined: Sun Oct 19th, 2014
Location: Shelton, USA
Posts: 1041
Some progress has been made... and some mistakes have also been made.  
I describe my failures because failures are often more instructive than successes.

There are modelers on this Forum that are much more accomplished than I,
and certainly amateur machinists in the World who work on a much higher plane. 

Describing my mistakes, and the lessons learned, just might help out someone else.
It keeps me humble, too.

Having said that, here is one of the end brackets assembled on one of the frame rails. 
All parts will be trial fitted, removed, fitted again, many times before final assembly.

There is a story of failure and recovery in this photo,
all related to the file marks on the frame rail.

Most of my mistakes come from failing to exercise sufficient patience,
and this tale is no exception.  

The first mistake was failing to confirm the bit I had in the Jacobs chuck at the start. 
The mounting holes in the brackets serve as the jig for drilling holes in the frame rails.  

When I started drilling the frame rail holes I was in a bit of a hurry to get started. 
There was a bit in the chuck. 

I glanced at the drill bit case and noted that the tap drill (2.1mm) was not in it's slot.
So... I assumed the drill in the chuck was the tap drill.

I failed to notice that the clearance bit (2.5mm) was also missing. 

I drilled all eight frame rail holes 2.5mm and did not notice until I went to tap the first one. 
First lesson... always take the time to be certain of the tool you have mounted in the machine. 

Holes drilled oversized can be plugged and re-drilled. 

In this instance, I drilled the holes out 1/8" and used Loctite to secure 1/8" rod in the hole. 
I got the holes for three of the brackets re-drilled and tapped before I quit for the evening.   

The next session was short, I only had an hour or so to play in the shop. 
I wanted to get that last bracket drilled and test fit. 

I was in a hurry... again.

I did not notice, until I drilled the holes, that I had the bracket on the frame rail upside down!!! 
The result being that the holes in the frame rail were about 1/2 a diameter out of line. 

It is inadvisable to try the plug routine when a hole is only slightly out if it needs to be tapped. 
Failure is almost certain.  Doubly so if the hole had been plugged once before!!

It looked like I was in for my fifth attempt at fabricating the frame rails.
The stock is expensive, and there are 36 holes to be accurately located and drilled.
A lot of opportunities for even more mistakes.  I was less than excited about the prospect. 

After much fussing, and sleeping on the problem,
I decided to mill out the frame rail in vicinity of the out of line holes and braise in a piece.  

This worked very well, thanks to taking my time and being sure of every step, I learned,
trying to braise a piece into a thing as massive as frame rails with propane, is a non-starter. 

Those rails are 1/4" X 3/4" cross section brass and about 29" long. 
A perfect heat sink.  I found that oxy-acetylene works very well.  

I spent about 15 minutes trying to get enough heat to the joint to melt the silver solder,
with the propane torch, no success.  It took just a few seconds with the oxy-acetylene.

That solder scurried into the joint like it was chased by the devil himself.
The file marks are the result of cleaning up the braised joint.  

The good news...

The frames rails and their end brackets are complete. 

This is the last of the machine work on these parts. 
So no more opportunities to make major mistakes. 

These frame rails are the last large pieces until I get to the boiler. 

All other assemblies consist of multiple small parts. 
So multiple mistakes won't be so expensive and daunting. 

For the record, it took me four attempts to fabricate two frame rails.
The overall lesson...don't be in a hurry.  

The next step is fabricating the end sills.


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 Posted: Mon Jan 4th, 2021 06:35 pm
13th Post
Reg H

Joined: Sun Oct 19th, 2014
Location: Shelton, USA
Posts: 1041
I note that I neglected to post a photo of the bracket jig at work.

Here it is...

Just a word...
If you are intrigued by this kind of project, at this kind of scale (3/4"),
yes you can do it.

Yes, setting up a machine shop is a bit pricey. 
But for most live steamers, the building of one locomotive is their entire project. 

If you add up what you might spend to build a medium sized smaller scale layout,
the price looks much more reasonable from that standpoint. 

(Disclaimer...I am working on an HO scale layout alongside this project. 
But I acquired a bevy of locomotives and rolling stock through an estate sale)

If you are intrigued,
I would suggest getting Kozo Hiraoka's book on building the Pennsylvania A3 switcher.
This is really the basic beginner book in his series,
and includes a chapter on setting up a machine shop  " can afford"

Even if you have no interest in building an 0-4-0 switcher,
the book is a great resource.  

I started off with a plan to build a Shay in 1/4" scale. 
It is called "mission creep" or "project inflation".  

In my own experience...
I built up a lot of bits and pieces over many years with no intention of this scale. 
I wanted a machine shop and I wanted to scratch build in 1/4" scale. 
So I had a collection of measurement tools, files, etc.  

When it came time to pull the trigger, I stumbled upon an older, but very nice Clausing 12" lathe. 
Though most of the lathes on eBay are in pretty rough shape, there are gems out there.
You just need to be patient. There's that word again.
My lathe was actually advertised on Craig's List. 

I added one of the bench top, Chinese, vertical mills. 
It is small, but it handles the chores for this project just fine.  

You can do all the machining you need to do with a lathe,
but a mill makes quite a few jobs a lot easier. 

There are a lot of good videos on YouTube related to the home machine shop. 
With that, and some basic publications, you can learn to do this. 


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 Posted: Mon Jan 4th, 2021 11:27 pm
14th Post
Reg H

Joined: Sun Oct 19th, 2014
Location: Shelton, USA
Posts: 1041
Another note...

The laser center finder has proven to be a disappointment.  

Actually, it isn't the disappointment, though I have had difficulty keeping it aligned. 
It won't stay aligned once removed from the collet and put back in. 

I am doing something wrong.
But I am having trouble getting a response from the company. 

Great product, lousy customer service.

So I have returned to the (mostly) old school of locating holes.  
Layout lines are marked, often with the height gauge on the surface plate, same as before. 
But I have gone back to the age-old center punch.  

Buried deep in one of my tool boxes I found an excellent automatic punch. 
It is VERY sharp and is excellent quality. 

I would expect it to be labeled "Starrett" given the quality,
the top line name in machine measuring tools. 

It is not, but it is a product of Great Britain. 
I have had it for a very long time, and I don't know where I got it.

The automatic punch, by virtual of it's very sharp point, delivers a very narrow dimple. 
So I enlarge the dimple with a manual punch.
This is another one that has been around for so long I don't remember where it came from. 
It is an ancient Craftsman that predates my ownership. 

Whoever owned it before used it a lot.
The striking end is thoroughly peened over.  But the point is very sharp. 

It comes from the very old days when Sears, through their Craftsman name,
offered good quality basic tools at a reasonable price. 

The sharp point on the automatic punch makes it very easy
to drag the punch along one line until the intersection with the crossing line is "felt".
It is a very "old school" method. 
It takes just a little practice to get the hang of it.

If I found the need to buy a new punch, it would have to be Starrett. 
You can get a punch at the hardware store for about $10.  The Starrett is $40. 

But this is one area where it is unwise to scrimp.

The one nod to modernity is the use of the traditional "kick-out" edge finder,
in conjunction with the Digital Readout on the mill. 

It works really well if the hole is dimensioned from two edges.


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 Posted: Tue Jan 5th, 2021 04:26 pm
15th Post
Reg H

Joined: Sun Oct 19th, 2014
Location: Shelton, USA
Posts: 1041
The first end sill is machined to length.

There is a lot of work to be done on this assembly. 

The first task will be to drill the frame rail bracket holes. 

But there is a bunch of other tasks that include,
fabricating the couple pockets (link & pin), poling pockets, and foot boards. 

There are brackets for the catwalk as well.  


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 Posted: Thu Jan 7th, 2021 07:28 pm
16th Post
Reg H

Joined: Sun Oct 19th, 2014
Location: Shelton, USA
Posts: 1041
I have a bit of a problem to work out.

It is founded in the twin facts, that the plans are all in metric,
and metric materials are either unobtainable in the US or are prohibitively expensive.  

In most cases it is not really a big problem. 
For most parts I can start out with material that is slightly larger and machine it to size.

But the frame rails present a challenge. 

They are too long for me to machine to metric dimensions with the tools that I have. 
The 1/4"x3/4" dimension is close to the metric specification, but not exact.

In looking over the plans, it appeared (and still does) to me,
that the critical dimension is the distance between the inside edges of the frame rails. 

So I drilled all the holes in the narrow edge off center by the difference
between the specified metric material and the imperial material I was able to obtain.  

In other words, the center line of those holes is not the center line of the frame rail. 
The specified material is 6mm wide. The actual 1/4" material is 6.35mm wide. 

The holes are drilled 3mm from the inside edge,
so are 0.35mm off the center line of the material towards the inside edge.    

On the plans the holes to mount the frame brackets to the end sills are dimensioned
off the center line of the end sill and the vertical center line between each set of holes. 

If I drill the end sill that way, the distance between the inside edges of the frame rails
will be incorrect by .7mm.  But which way?

In the broad context, the concept is pretty simple. 
But getting down to the actual mathematics is proving to be a bit of a mind bender.  

Though it is out of sequence, I am tempted to machine and test fit the bolsters,
to establish the proper distance between the frame rails, before drilling the end sills.

Stay tuned.

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 Posted: Fri Jan 8th, 2021 08:56 am
17th Post
Steven B

Joined: Thu Aug 13th, 2015
Location: Virginia USA
Posts: 508
Hey Reg

All I can say is, Wow.
Better math than me. 

And you still have time for the layout? 


I'll be watching.  I love a stemwinder. 

Steven B.
Humboldt & Toiyabe Rwy
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 Posted: Sat Jan 9th, 2021 09:48 pm
18th Post
Nice Guy Eddie

Joined: Mon Sep 5th, 2016
Location: Long Beach CA
Posts: 374
" the plans are all in metric, and metric materials "

An experienced engineer friend of mine told me his tools

all keep their razor sharp edges cutting unobtainium !



" We Got Places All Over The Place "

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 Posted: Tue Jan 12th, 2021 07:23 pm
19th Post
Reg H

Joined: Sun Oct 19th, 2014
Location: Shelton, USA
Posts: 1041
Some more progress has been made...

Sometimes getting things right can get a bit complicated. 
The jig for the end bracket holes in the vice being applied to an end sill.

The jig, now clamped to the end sill, being used to drill the holes in the end sill.

An end bracket dry fitted to the end sill. 

Miraculously, all the holes in the all the end brackets
lined up with the holes in the end sills.

Almost getting to look like something...

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 Posted: Fri Jan 15th, 2021 06:12 pm
20th Post
Reg H

Joined: Sun Oct 19th, 2014
Location: Shelton, USA
Posts: 1041
In the interests of encouraging anyone who might have even the slightest interest in live steam,
I will post some information on setting up a shop.  

One thing I want to approach is mostly about "doing".  For me, once the project is finished, the fun is over.  If the object of building is to own, this kind of project is probably not for you.  It is about the journey, the destination is secondary.  

There are plenty of "do's" and "don't's" in that endeaver.  I found it difficult, when setting up my shop, sorting out what I really needed and what I could do without.  I have made mistakes in both directions.  I will share what has worked for me, and what has gathered dust. 

I will do this in bits and pieces. 

First, the queen of my shop and the central tool in any machine shop, the lathe.  Actually, you can do almost any machine work necessary to build a live steam locomotive with just the lathe and a drill press.  Plenty of folks have done it. 

But a vertical mill comes in mighty handy. 
More on the mill another time. 

My lathe is a Clausing 12 X 36.  That is: the swing over the bed is 12" in diameter
(the British use the radius, so this is a 6" lathe in Great Britain) and 36" between centers.  

"Wow!" You say. That must have cost a fortune!!  Well no.  Inexpensive, no, but about what a new, smaller, Chinese, lathe would have cost.  It is just a matter of patience.  This lathe is 1948 vintage, but is in excellent condition and does everything a more modern lathe will do, short of CNC.  Not even talking about CNC.  This is all (well mostly) old school.  I paid $1,600 for this tool and it was ready to go as soon as I got it home.  

It came with a nice supply of accessories and bits and pieces, too.  The big accessories are in the photo.  Most new lathes come with a three-jaw centering chuck and a face plate.  But you will want a four-jaw independent chuck.  My lathe came with the steady rest (for long pieces) and the milling attachment, neither of which I have used yet.  If buying a new lathe, add in the cost of a four-jaw, which is considerable for a good one. And there is no future in buying cheap machine tools. 

The only additional accessories I have purchased for this lathe is the quick-change tool post.  

Getting the lathe out of the sellers shop and into mine was not a trivial exercise.  A lathe this size weighs just shy of 700 pounds...without the table.  You want to find one close to home.  I was able to haul this one (and the steel table) in a 1/2-ton pickup truck.  You really don't want to have to ship something this size cross-country.

A way to save some money is to buy a "fixer".  But you better do your research.  A lathe whose ways are worn down is just scrap iron.  Of course, this would be your first "project" in live steam.  People do it.  In fact, for some folks, refurbishing old lathes is a hobby in itself. 

Another way to save money is to go smaller. 

Below is my first lathe.

It is a 6" Atlas 106.  Actually marketed as a Craftsman.  It dates from about 1950. 

These are great lathes and there is a very active community involved with their use and refurbishment.  There are lots of parts floating around, too.  I bought this one for $720 and hauled it home in my Honda Civic.  It was in excellent condition and came with a nice supply of accessories.  

These are very decent lathes and are large enough to handle the work to build a small live steam locomotive...such as one of Kozo Hiraoka's 3/4" scale models. 

As I mentioned above, the key is patience.  Haunt eBay and Craigslist and any local sources.  When good lathes come up they will usually go fast.  On a local Facebook source around here an Atlas 106 in really nice condition came up for $200.  It was sold in a couple of hours. 

Or you can get one of the small Chinese lathes.  Lots of live steam builders use them.  When comparing prices, remember that a used lathe will almost certainly come with an array of accessories and bits and pieces, a new lathe will not.  A new lathe will come with a warranty.  A used one will not. 

You probably can't set up a machine shop with the egg money.  Though surprises abound.  For instance...when I bought the Clausing I gave, yep, gave, the Atlas to a friend.  He needed it (for gunsmithing) and I didn't want to deal with the hassle of selling it.  It worked out for both of us. 

Compared to what it costs to build a typical small scale layout,
it really is not all that unreasonable cost-wise to build a live steam locomotive. 

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