Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

How to build a neat Critter for less than $50 (lots of pictures)

12885 views
34 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    June 2005
  • 4,039 posts
How to build a neat Critter for less than $50 (lots of pictures)
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 7:37 PM

For today, I'm giving you all a fun little "how to" project.Big Smile I tried submitting this to Model Railroader, but never got a response, and it may not be up to their quality or interest standards anyway. This topic will show you all how to build a neat little Critter for your layout using a Jordan Products "Mack 15 Ton" non-powered kit, a Bachmann 44-Tonner power truck, and a few other parts. And all for $50 or less!Big Smile

STEP 1:
 The first step is to cut a large area out of the floor piece to clear the motor. Don't cut out too much, because there has to be enough left to rest on the power truck frame. Assemble the pilot and sideframe parts to the floor using plastic glue (liquid recommended, leave the brake details off for now).

STEP 2:

Disassemble the power truck completely, then cut and file it as shown while making sure the top is completely level. Also cut the top motor brush contact level with the truck frame (leave the other contact alone unless you're going to use DCC). Put the wheels back in the truck, and make sure they line up well with the sideframes with the frame assembly sitting on the top of the power truck. The Bachmann power truck wheelbase is shorter than the Mack frame by a few scale inches, so the wheels won't be perfectly centered behind the journals.

STEP 3:

With the floor centered on the power truck, drill a #72 (or so) hole in each corner. Glue a piece of 0.020" brass wire into each hole, and cut them at about 2mm height. This will act as the mount later while keeping the power truck perfectly straight and centered under the body. Reassemble the power truck, making sure everything runs smoothly. Once you're sure the truck is running as smooth as possible, glue the motor down with super-glue. The original motor mounting bracket will not fit in the Mack body.

STEP 4:

Prepare the parts for the body for assembly. I'll be installing headlights using micro-bulbs, so I drilled the headlight pieces out using a #53 drill bit, and I drilled a 1/8" hole in the cab front/back pieces to clear the wires.

STEP 5:

Begin assembling the body according to the kit instructions. Leave the roof and ceiling pieces off until the final assembly after painting (I would also recommend leaving the windows and headlight lenses off). Notice how tight of a fit that motor is! The truck's super compact size is the reason I chose it over a more expensive Bull Ant, Flea, or Stanton Drive (which all appeared too large in the front or back for this model).

STEP 6:

Assemble the detail parts to the model. The kit includes plastic grab irons, but they're fragile and not very clean looking. I decided to use 0.015" brass wire instead. To install the brake details, the brake shoes have to be cut off completely to clear the Bachmann wheels. Before the glue for the brake parts dries, put the truck in place under the frame and line up the details with the wheels to prevent binding. There will be very little clearance, but still just enough for the wheels to turn freely.

STEP 7:

There is just enough space behind the motor to hide a small constant lighting circuit in one of the hoods. I soldered six 1N400X (1 through 7, doesn't matter) series diodes into a small brick, making extra sure there were no solder bridges or points where a short could happen, and that all of the diodes were in the correct direction. The diode brick is very sturdy on its own. I'll show how to wire the circuit in the next step.

STEP 8:


The circuit may look confusing in the first picture. The bottom motor brush is grounded to the right rail (with the worm facing forward), and the top brush is wired in series with the circuit. For those who don't know what the diode symbol in the diagram means, the line at the end of each "arrow" represents the gray band on the front of each diode. If you don't want lighting, simply solder a wire from the top brush to the left rail contact. For those wanting DCC, there's enough room in the cab above the motor for a small N-scale decoder (use resistors of at least 530 ohms for the lights, assuming the decoder puts out 12 volts to the bulbs. Use 600 ohms if the voltage is any higher).

STEP 9:

Make sure everything fits together. It will be very tight with the lighting circuit. I found that the diode brick is sturdy enough and far enough from anything that could cause a short that electrical tape or heatshrink wasn't needed. The model needs about a half ounce of extra weight to run well, so I cut an A Line 1/2oz stick-on weight into two pieces. I further shaped the two pieces for fit, and stuck them into the cab under the windows. Run the model extensively in both directions to make sure it's broken in and working properly.

STEP 10:

The model comes with dummy couplers, but I wanted mine to pull something. There's not enough room to cleanly or easily install swiveling couplers, so I cut the back off of Kadee #58 scale couplers. I drilled a 1/16" hole straight into each coupler pocket, and pressed the couplers in place (they will be glued after painting). The wheelbase and overall length are so short that swiveling action isn't needed for any standard size curves.

STEP 11:

Remove the couplers, power truck, and lighting circuit. Paint and letter the shell to your liking. Once the paint is dry, assemble the windows and headlight lenses. Use a small amount of carefully applied liquid plastic glue to hold them in place. Assemble the power truck and lights into the body (make sure the bulbs aren't reversed). To hold the truck in place, put super glue on each of the four mounting pins made earlier. The light bulbs in mine stayed in place on their own, but glue will have to be used if yours don't. Cut the middle out of the ceiling piece to easily clear the light bulb wires, and glue the two halves in place. Glue the couplers in place.

STEP 12:

Assemble the final roof parts. Make sure everything is holding together. If all has gone well, enjoy!Big Smile

And now, a completed shot on the layout!

I think my little project turned out rather well!Big Smile It runs smoothly and quietly, it looks good, and it can pull three small freight cars and a four wheeled caboose on level track without a problem.

I'm not the first one to use the 44-Tonner power truck for this engine. I got the idea while looking around Google, and came across a picture of one someone had built for a fun little 10"? circle of track. He said it was powered with the Bachmann truck, so that's how I knew it would work. Jordan Products says in the instructions to use a Bachmann Gandy Dancer with the figures removed, but that won't line up with the sideframes or have enough traction for even one freight car with its single axle drive.

Although the Bachmann truck is available and has been upgraded, there was a problem. The first truck I got had axle gears that were warped and cracked beyond use. Bachmann immediately sent a replacement with good gears, but those were starting to show signs of breaking down too. To avoid the problem as best as possible, I drilled out the axle gears  with a 1/16"? drill bit. This left enough material for the wheels to have a slight grip inside the axles. I carefully super-glued the wheels in to make sure they wouldn't slip out. It was troublesome, but worth it in the end.

_________________________________________________________________

  • Member since
    August 2006
  • From: Nashville, TN area
  • 498 posts
Posted by hardcoalcase on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:00 PM

Great article! Terrific modeling! BowBowBow

Jim

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,710 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:47 PM

Darth Santa Fe!

Great project! Fantastic modelling in a tight space.

I am into critters (as I'm sure you can tell by my avatar). Why MR would not want to use this for an article is beyond me. Certainly many other articles they have run in the past required similar skill levels.

This one I absolutely have to do, and I will try to do it in DCC. I already have one of the Jordan 15 tonner kits and I just ordered 2 power trucks to start the project (I have another critter that I will try to see if the truck will fit).

Thanks for the inspiration and the excellent details!

Dave

  • Member since
    June 2005
  • 4,039 posts
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 9:17 PM

The Jordan Products kit was a gift, but most distributors (like Walthers) keep a regular stock of their products. You should be able to find one very easily for $10. The truck came directly from Bachmann. They recently created a shopping area on their website with a huge stock of parts. To make it easier for you, here's a link to the 44-Ton truck page. Not a bad deal for $15! Shipping and the rest of the small parts and supplies brought it close to $50.

_________________________________________________________________

  • Member since
    February 2004
  • From: Knoxville, TN
  • 2,055 posts
Posted by farrellaa on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:42 PM

Great model and article. I have been looking for a way to repower a couple of old Athearn Hustlers and was consideriing the Bull Ant or the new NWSL power unit. I may try one of these now that you have paved the way. Really nice work. thanks,

    - Bob

Life is what happens while you are making other plans!

  • Member since
    June 2010
  • 1,012 posts
Posted by Forty Niner on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:58 PM

Looks fantastic Darth, just thing to "bump" the Super Chief and make everybody scratch their heads...............;-)

Question, what do you think about using Bachmann's "Doodlebug" power truck? Or is it basically the same thing. I have both but would have to dig the out to compare. And don't get me wrong, what you have done here is top notch all the way, just curious about the other one as well.

Mark

WGAS

  • Member since
    May 2009
  • From: Sonoma, California
  • 331 posts
Posted by Javelina on Thursday, March 24, 2011 7:08 AM

Nice Critter, Darth.

I'm always glad to see folks "rollin" their own, as the case may be. Hope the reliability issues don't crop up again.

On Mark's question about the Bachmann Doodlebug, if mine is any indication it doesn't have a "power truck" per se, but rather a gear tower truck like an Athearn. It's powered by a single shaft with a U joint from a can motor and flywheel. Much too big and complicated to work in such cramped quarters.

Lou

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,230 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, March 24, 2011 11:07 AM

You´ve done it again, Darth!

BowBowBow for your little "critter"!

  • Member since
    June 2005
  • 4,039 posts
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Thursday, March 24, 2011 11:50 AM

Thanks everyone.Big Smile

farrellaa
Great model and article. I have been looking for a way to repower a couple of old Athearn Hustlers and was consideriing the Bull Ant or the new NWSL power unit. I may try one of these now that you have paved the way. Really nice work.

You may still want to use a different power unit with your Hustlers. The Bachmann power truck is over 6 scale feet shorter than the Athearn wheelbase (7' vs. 13'6"). NWSL is working on a new Stanton drive to fit the Hustler, but you can still find an old PDT occasionally too.

_________________________________________________________________

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Chamberlain, ME
  • 4,906 posts
Posted by G Paine on Thursday, March 24, 2011 1:37 PM

Darth Santa Fe
I tried submitting this to Model Railroader, but never got a response,

Have you considered Railroad Model Craftsman? This would probably qualify for one of their RMC Kitbash Awards

George In Midcoast Maine, 'bout halfway up the Rockland branch 

  • Member since
    July 2002
  • From: Bloom County
  • 390 posts
Posted by potlatcher on Friday, March 25, 2011 4:03 PM

OK, but where exactly do you put the sound decoder and speaker?  No model is complete without sound these days!!Stick out tongue

Tom

  • Member since
    June 2010
  • 1,012 posts
Posted by Forty Niner on Friday, March 25, 2011 4:09 PM

potlatcher

OK, but where exactly do you put the sound decoder and speaker?  No model is complete without sound these days!!Stick out tongue

Tom

Right behind the "smoke unit"!!!!!!

Mark

WGAS

  • Member since
    May 2010
  • From: Cresco, IA
  • 1,773 posts
Posted by ChadLRyan on Friday, March 25, 2011 5:00 PM

Awesome work & thanks for the excellent documentation!!!  Nice job!

Chad L Ryan
  • Member since
    March 2009
  • From: Independence, MO
  • 50 posts
Posted by Prowler7 on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 4:30 PM

This is a newby question, but I am a newby, so I will ask :

What DCC decoder would you all recommend for this project?

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,710 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 7:04 PM

Prowler7

The first thing you have to do to choose a decoder is measure the amps the motor will draw at stall. If the draw is less than 1 amp there are several decoders that should fit in the cab above the motor. Tony's Train Exchange has a comparison chart:

http://tonystrains.com/productcompare/decoder_comparison.htm

From my unassembled Jordan kit and by looking at the pictures by the OP I estimated that the available space is approximately .94" wide x .44"  x .38" high above the motor.

The chart shows Digitrax DZ125 2 function, DZ143 4 function, and NCE N12SR and Z14SR. I didn't check to see if these particular examples are current or discontinued.

Dave

  • Member since
    June 2005
  • 4,039 posts
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 8:55 PM

The stall current of Bachmann's motor is less than half an amp, so practically any small N scale decoder should work. My recommendation would be to use the smallest decoder you can find. I don't have DCC, so I can't suggest anything specific.

_________________________________________________________________

  • Member since
    March 2009
  • From: Independence, MO
  • 50 posts
Posted by Prowler7 on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 5:27 AM

Thank you for your answers. That really helps

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,710 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, April 21, 2011 9:12 PM

Unfortunately according to Bachmann the 44 ton power trucks are sold out and they will not be making any more. I ordered a cable car power truck to see if it could be used as a substitute but unfortunately it is a little too big. It might be possible to use the cable car truck if the engine cowlings were expanded but if that is done the cowlings will interfere with the cab door. The only way to get the 44 tonner trucks is to buy a used switcher (make sure it is the early style with two motors, later ones had a single motor driving two trucks).

Dave

  • Member since
    June 2005
  • 4,039 posts
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Friday, April 22, 2011 12:58 AM

That does seem to be the only way now. The NWSL Stanton and Flea drives are a little too big for this little critter, and I suspect the Bull Ant won't quite fit either. If cost isn't an issue, it may be possible to use just the Flea axles and gearboxes with NWSL's small 3.125:1 ratio transfer gearbox in the middle, and fit one of their smallest motors into one of the hoods. It would certainly be tight, and end up costing about $90 for the drive parts, but it might work?

_________________________________________________________________

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Germany
  • 1,951 posts
Posted by wedudler on Friday, April 22, 2011 1:21 AM

With a little bit money more I've got my 25-ton

It's made from brass sheet, I've bought a driving unit and an ESU Loksound micro decoder. .

Wolfgang

Pueblo & Salt Lake RR

Come to us http://www.westportterminal.de          my videos        my blog

  • Member since
    October 2004
  • From: Modeling the Seaboard Air Line Ry.
  • 531 posts
Posted by citylimits on Friday, April 22, 2011 2:13 AM

Well, I'll be dar-ned.

What a great project to have selected - many thanks for sharing.

I built this kit and painted it gray; I think that I paid around $12.00 for it, with a view to placing it on a wharf used by the Navy during WW2. Mine will remain un-powered because I have a log jamb of projects already needing my attention, but I enjoyed reading what you have done and with less on my plate I think that I would power mine now that you have showed us how.

Well done bringing this critter to life!

 

BruceSmile

  • Member since
    June 2005
  • 4,039 posts
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Friday, April 22, 2011 10:52 AM

wedudler, that's a nice little critter you've got there! I'm also working on one of those Grandt Lines, but I'm keeping the stock mechanism. I've got it running very smoothly (except for some wheel wobble, which I'll look into), and it can really crawl! All that's left to do is paint it and make some lead weights so it can pull something.

By the way, did you have trouble cutting the window frames from their sprues? I got the left one out with minimal damage and was able to repair it, but the right one was totally destroyed (no big deal, I'll just imagine it's open). And that was with very careful cutting using a sharp knife.

_________________________________________________________________

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,710 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Friday, April 22, 2011 6:42 PM

Wolfgang

Excellent modeling! Do you have any pictures of the construction of the locomotive? I am particularly interested in how you fit the decoder and speaker into such a small space.

Dave

  • Member since
    February 2009
  • 1,789 posts
Posted by railandsail on Friday, February 14, 2020 10:28 PM

I just found a couple of Tenshodo WB-31 motor bogies that I wonder how they might be used?.....maybe for something like this??

  • Member since
    April 2018
  • 766 posts
Posted by Harrison on Saturday, February 15, 2020 3:22 AM

That'a a nice little loco. Thanks for posting you article here, I know it's frustrating when MR doesn't respond to interested writers.

Harrison

Homeschooler living In upstate NY a.k.a Northern NY.

Modeling the D&H in 1978.

Route of the famous "Montreal Limited"

  • Member since
    April 2018
  • From: 53° 33′ N, 10° 0′ E
  • 1,916 posts
Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Saturday, February 15, 2020 3:31 AM

Seeing the late Wolfgang Dudler´s name appear again filed my eyes with tears. Wolfgang was such an excellent model builder and a well deserved Master Model Railroader!

His webpage is still up:

Westport Terminal RR

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

  • Member since
    February 2009
  • 1,789 posts
Posted by railandsail on Saturday, February 15, 2020 10:33 AM

I'm wondering if one of these motorized trucks might make a kitbash drive for these small docksider locos,...afterall it appears they are quite compact, and often have BOTH axles powered??

http://arumo.a.la9.jp/r0123.htm

 

 

http://arumo.a.la9.jp/r0138.htm

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 27,315 posts
Posted by rrinker on Saturday, February 15, 2020 10:52 AM

 You might want to check the January 2013 MR for an article on repowering one using NWSL parts.

                               --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,710 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, February 15, 2020 2:27 PM

railandsail
I'm wondering if one of these motorized trucks might make a kitbash drive for these small docksider locos

Hi Brian!

Those trucks are fantastic! They fill a void left by the closing of Hollywood Foundry who made a similar unit to the one in the bottom picture. It was called a Bull Ant and came in a variety of axle numbers and wheel bases. Wolfgang Duddler used a Bull Ant in his 25 tonner.

I noticed that there are only two wheel bases available - 24.5 mm and 26.0 mm. Further investigation revealed that the company makes drive systems similar to the NWSL Stanton drives with a wider variety of wheelbases. I don't know what the wheel base on a manufactured docksider is, but if the trucks that Brian showed are too short then one of the other drives might work.

I can see all sorts of possibilities with these little beasts. Thanks for the link!

Dave

  • Member since
    June 2005
  • 4,039 posts
Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Saturday, February 15, 2020 3:24 PM

Thanks for that link to the Arumo trucks!  I hadn't heard of them before, but it looks like they've come up with a creative design with a lot of flexibility.  The pricing isn't bad either (looks like it's about $45 each before taxes and add-ons).

 

It's been a while since I checked Hollywood foundry's website, and it is sad to see them go.  I do know the owner was getting older and had been thinking of retiring.

Has anyone picked up the Jordan Products line?  This and their other kits were good quality, so it would be a shame if they were gone forever.

 

Wolfgang was one of the great MRRs on this forum.  Hard to believe it's been almost 8 years now.Sad

_________________________________________________________________

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!