Loco Lookback 7: Lionel's Westside Lumber Shay (CTT Feb 2001)

Posted by Bob Keller
on Thursday, January 31, 2019

Lionel's West Side Lumber Shay almost looks ordinary from this angle.

It is very possible that the greatest show on tinplate rails isn’t a circus train, but an industrial locomotive. It has motion, sound, and just might be the slowest engine on anybody’s layout: The Shay.

Shay’s are geared locomotives designed for high traction, slow speeds, and with small wheels that didn’t damage track that just might not meet Class 1 railroad standards. 

The locomotive used vertical cylinders that drove a longitudinal shaft that drove axles through beveled gears that increased torque, but reduced speed. This was an ideal solution for the movement of heavy loads at low speeds. Mining, logging, and construction operations used Shays – but so did major lines like the Canadian Pacific, New York Central, Union Pacific and Western Maryland.

The original Westside Lumber no. 10 is believed to have been the largest narrow gauge Shay ever made. The Lionel no. 28022 Westside Lumber Shay bends reality a bit, matching O gauge track, rather than a narrow gauge version of O track. Not a problem. If you want a Shay, few three-railers will quibble over it.

The model required O-54 track due to the extensive running gear. The low speed we measured in 2001 was 7.2 scale mph, with the high speed in the 30s! In reality, I suspect the only way a Shay hit thirty would be flying off the side of a mountain.

Detailing of the model was great, it packed a good RailSounds system in the tender, and the smoke unit was awesome. But the attention getter was the vertical motion of the cylinders as they rotated he shafts that turned the wheels. With the RailSounds off, the mechanical syncopation evoked memories of the sound of my Grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine! So with the sound, smoke, and noise of the gears, this locomotive may well get more attention than the biggest, baddest Big Boy on your layout.

Shays have been made by Lionel, MTH, and the long-departed Right-Of-Way Industries.

And on the lighter side, see some screen captures below from the only "High Speed" chase I've ever seen between a Shay and a handcar. The Hopalong Cassidy movie Riders of the Timberline, had Hoppy and his pals trying to escape the badges on a handcar ... while the baddies loaded up with riflemen and set off in hot pursuit!

This is where the action is.The syncopation of the cylinders, gears, and rotating shaft are the main event!

This model had excellent detailing, and even a number plate marked Lima Locomotive Works.

"We're gonna get that dang nabbed Hopalong Cassidy!'

'Not if we can help it, you varmints!'

'We've got'em now!'

'What will we do, Hoppy? 'Quick, grab my cell phone. I have Gene Autry on Speed dial.'

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