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Arbour Models steam engine kits

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Arbour Models steam engine kits
Posted by NevinW on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 9:00 PM
Anyone assemble an Arbour models steam engine, especially a smaller one like a 4-6-0? Would you say it was harder or easier than a MDC or Bowser kit? Any serious pitfalls? How easy was it to get the mechanism running smoothly? - Nevin
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Posted by twhite on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 9:40 PM

Nevin: 

Are the kits still available?  I have heard that the older Arbour models suffered from impurities in the castings which gave them 'zinc rot', and were extremely difficult to get working properly.  I seem to remember a poster on the forum several years ago who was attempting to put an older model together and it fell apart on him. 

You'd probably be much safer going with an older MDC 'harriman' style 4-6-0.  With additional detail castings, you could probably get a pretty decent Tonopah and Tidewater look-alike model.  Plus, the MDC shorty Vandy tender that comes with it can be modeled either with a coal or an oil bunker simply by reversing the tender top casting. 

Tom Smile

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Posted by R. T. POTEET on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 12:42 AM

The dies are owned by Bowser; Bowser got them from a company called Master Creations; Master Creations got them from Arbour Models. I believe I have all the machinations of ownership correct but if there is some kind of error in my chronology please bring it to my--and the readerships--attention.

I had never heard about these models experiencing zinc contamination until I encountered it here on the forum; along about 1979 or 1980 I ask my local to order an H8. He informed me that I didn't really want to buy one and there was a guy in the hobby shop at that time who substantiated that opinion. As such I never ordered anything from the company but I understand that they had frames which were more crenalated than the spine of the rockies and boilers which could not be made to fit their frames.

There was another manufacturer attempting to penetrate the die-cast kit market at this same time: TLC--The Locomotive Company. They, so I have been told, put out a considerably better product--all smaller steam if I recall--but they fell under the same suspicions as Arbour Models and folded about the same time. 

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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 1:01 AM

I've never seen an Arbour kit myself, but I hear they were very hit and miss. Some of the things I remember hearing about are poor-fitting soft metal parts, crumbling wheel centers, and very difficult assembly. If you can find an alternative from Bowser, MDC/Roundhouse, or Mantua/Tyco, I'd recommend getting it instead. Those are all brands that assemble well, run smoothly, and last pretty much forever. All of my Bowsers run great, the two Mantuas I've had experince with are pretty nice, and my MDC 2-8-0 is a great kit too.Big Smile

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Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:56 AM

I bought several Arbour parts way back when, and at the time I thought they pretty good quality items for the price.  They still sit in boxes with the various "someday" projects for which they were intended.  I have not checked them for zinc rot, a phenomenon I remember well from the trucks on my Penn Line trainset freight cars and the entire truck housing on my Varney F3.  Imagine cast metal with the structural integrity of a saltine cracker!

Anyway the word on the street back when the Arbour kits were new was that the parts just did not fit together as neatly as the Bowser, Penn Line, MDC, Mantua, and Varney kits that folks were accustomed to.  It is one thing to have to learn to drill and tap your own screw holes in white metal -- it is another to have to do so right next to where an unusable drilled hole already exists.  You had to plug that hole then drill your new one, and people got very frustrated.  And white metal can only be forced so far before it snaps. 

I also seem to recall complaints about chill marks on large expanses of flat castings such as tender sides and cabs.  All in all I am not too surprised that Bowser never reissued the line as kits but I am kind of surprised that they never issued some of the more interesting details parts as a supplement to their CalScale and Selley offerings.  They may yet do that I suppose.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by NevinW on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 8:00 AM
My interest in the Arbour models kits is that the Sylvania Central 4-6-0 looks close to a number of T&T prototypes. I have previously heard about problems with their big engines but not the little ones. I remember the Locomotive Company engines when they came out. They looked very nice. I wish I bought a couple at the time. I wonder who owns their dies. All of these engines pop up on Ebay every once in a while. I may grab one just to see if there is anything that can be done with them. - Nevin
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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 3:42 PM
CAUTION: MEANDERINGS FROM AN OLD BRAIN THAT RESIDES IN A BODY THAT NEVER OWNED AN ARBOUR MODEL.

I don't think the Arbour Models products were zinc alloy; I think they were something softer. I would suspect the dies were not steel (necessary, I think, for the zinc alloys)--perhaps brass or aluminum. I think they also made such important structural items as side rods out of the "special metal". I sure hope someone who actually built one pipes up; they sure made a very big (and short) splash when they were introduced. Sorta like GSB SD40-2's.

Ed
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Posted by richg1998 on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 3:45 PM

 Below is a link to more information about Arbour models. Plenty of reading.

http://www.google.com/search?pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&q=Arbour+Models+locomotives&btnmeta%3Dsearch%3Dsearch=Search+the+Web

Rich

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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 3:55 PM
In trying to find out if there is such a thing as "zinc-cadmium alloy" (doesn't appear to be), I found this really interesting article:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc_pest  

 

Familiar? Now we have a name for it.

 

This is also interesting:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zamak

 

Ed
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Posted by West Coast S on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 5:34 PM

I seem to recall my Arbour H6 2-6-6-6 having some type of soft metal side rods and valve gear, never did get around to assembling it, as I recall even the driver centers were out of true, being of the same soft metal the observation of which soured me against their products.

Dave 

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Posted by TwinZephyr on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 8:09 PM

Based on looking at an Arbour Models 4-4-0 locomotive kit in-person, I'd describe them as definitely more challenging to build than an MDC kit.  The smaller Arbour locomotives feature the same materials (such as soft metal side rods and metal plated plastic drivers) and construction methods that have caused people problems when building the larger Arbour locomotive kits.  Unlike an MDC kit, with an Arbour model one needs to be prepared to do things such as fine tuning the axle slots in the frame to get the right clearance while maintaining proper alignment between all axles.

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Posted by H8Fan on Friday, November 13, 2009 4:09 PM
I may be in the minority here, but I own one of every Arbour Models manufactured. (I have three of the 2-6-6-6 H8 Alleghenies, all running beautifully) Please take into consideration that these kits are over thirty years old. They were not die cast but cast on a centrifugal casting machine in silicon molds. The metal used was a zinc-cadmium alloy know as Nye-600. This metal has absolutely no similarities with Zamac from the 1940's. The issues with Zamac were resolved in the industry in the early 1960's. These kits were also not marketed to the "general" modeler. They were marketed to the "craftsman" modeler. They bore no similarities to Bowser, MDC or even the older Varney kits. You have to do a lot of the filing, fitting, tapping and assembling on these kits. When you do, you end up with prize winning models that will run forever with the proper maintenance. I spent over 2 years building my first H-8 (the next two were easier as I learned from my mistakes) Don't get me wrong, there were problems with the kits as you would expect from any new company, but as the company grew the quality improved. Most of the locomotives had reviews written on them in either MR or RMC and from what I can remember all of the reviews were very positive for these kits as they offered a new outlet for the serious craftsman modeler. If anyone has a questions about a particular kit, please feel free to respond and I can offer what ever assistance that I can. (As to my experience I have designed and built models and attractions for Walt Disney Imagineering for the past 30 years)
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Posted by dinwitty on Friday, November 13, 2009 4:41 PM

 

http://www.qtm.net/dinwitty/rr/rr1.html

 

click on the abour/winton link

I recall someone bought the kit, tried it and threw it in the trash.

I am building a Winton and Arbour at the same time, on hold for now, but will resume the progress with pics.

I found a built one on ebay and it runs very nice, and I complimented the seller/builder on a good job. I have heard stories about someone trest runing theires only to have parts falling off the drive rods etc.

The built one I have runs very well bench tested, and some road testing, but I have to work on the tender/engine connection.

So far it doent show effects of metal aging like Zamac. My Rivarossi Berkshire I have owned for years is no longer operable because the weight/frame inside expanded, and the motor mount is broken. I have long replaced it with 2 LifeLikes and  brass one, no loss.

If you are going to tackle the kit, be ready for craftsman kit building, not for the squeamish. The kit is an answer for someone who wants to own such a large engine but not pay the big brass bucks. Thats what kits were for.

 

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Posted by 7j43k on Friday, November 13, 2009 8:52 PM
H8Fan
The metal used was a zinc-cadmium alloy know as Nye-600.

I found no reference to "Nye-600" on the Internet, but I did find the comment below when I searched for info on zinc-cadmium alloys:

Cadmium-zinc solders are used to join aluminum to itself and to other metals. They are suitable for applications where service temperatures may reach 400°F or higher.

on this site:

http://machinedesign.com/BDE/FASTENING/bdefj1/bdefj1_3.html

It looks like this alloy might have been appropriate for casting in silicone rubber molds based on its relatively low melt temperature. Silicone rubber molds are generally accepting of 400 degrees.

Ed
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Posted by 7600_EM-1 on Monday, December 20, 2010 6:18 AM

I just joined, and seen this thread. I have to add my input, I just bought an Arbour Models H-8, and its not made of any of the materials listed here. Its actually made from Antimony Alloy, which is solderable and it is soft.

 

HOWEVER if handled correctly, it will make into a VERY nice locomotive.

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Posted by dknelson on Monday, December 20, 2010 8:24 AM

I had forgotten all about this particular thread until now .. but in the meantime not only has Bowser not brought out the Arbour line but they have discontinued their own steam locomotive kits and RTR -- to general lamentation on this forum and elsewhere.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by Arbour Models on Monday, December 20, 2010 10:32 AM

Good Morning,

I am the former owner of Arbour Models 1969 - 1983. There has been much speculation over the years regarding the metals used in the production of our kits. Perhaps I can finally set the story straight.

We purchased the masters of the Allegheny H-8 from a bankrupt Winton Models.  These kits were produced in the lost wax brass casting method.  We considered continuing with this method for production but the model railroading market at that time (early '70's) did not warrant a need for a brass loco kit.  The method of manufacture would have created a kit that would have had to retail for over $500.  At that time $500 would purchase a beautifully made, R-T-R brass loco such as a Hallmark from Bobbie Hall.

After 2 years of testing and over 50 build up samples both in lost wax and in white metal, the decision was made to produce these kits in a zinc-cadmium compound called Nye-600. This metal was nothing like the early zinc-cadmium attempts from the 1930's. The formulas had been strengthened and the material was widely utilized in the jewelry fabrication industry. (Avon was one of our largest clients)

The first H-8 made from new masters and molds (our molding process was a centrifugal spin casting method) was unveiled at the 1974 NMRA Convention in San Diego, although the model was only static. We were trying to gauge interest in the MRR Community for a loco of this size. It was very well received.

The following year in Dayton we unveiled a working test loco on a Peerless reversing track and the crowds packed our booth.  From there about six months later the first H-8, Kit #101-100 was sold to a Michael Cipley of Camillus, New York. Michael built the kit and had the kit running on his layout until the day he passed away in 2006.

We were a small family business with  roots in the printing industry from the early 1700's. Our founder, Holme Martin loved model railroading and started Arbour Models as a division.  We went on to produce the following locos, Allegheny 2-6-6-6, Sierra 4-6-0, Sylvania 2-6-0, PRR 0-4-0, PRR 0-4-0T,  2-8-4 Berkshires (both C&O and NPR), and a PRR 2-10-4 Texas. In development when we sold the casting business off in 1983 was a C&O 0-8-0, a PRR 0-6-0 and a S1 electric. (as a side note our first kit produced was a wooden replica of a Reed Parlor Car and Loco floor train from 1865)

We sold the business to a small startup company called Architectural Models and never really heard what they did with the line. Lee English at Bowser now owns the old molds and masters and to the best of my knowledge has no plans to produce any of these kits.

For all of you  NaySayers out there, we had our share of problems. Such as casting the valve gear instead of having it stamped. Plastic centered drivers that we had nickel plated for electrical pickup. Yes, these were all not the best of design ideas. But in our defense we were trying to deliver a low cost, craftsmen style kit. Master dies at the time would have run into the 10's of thousands of dollars. So we utilized what dies we had for the best in cost effectivness.

These kits were for modelers that had many years of building experience.  If we were ever asked at a show how much experience you needed we would state the following, "These are not shake the box kits.  Each of these kits will take over 100 hours of assembly time. We suggest that you have built at least a dozen loco kits such as Bowser, MDC, Keystone, etc. before you attempt our kits. There is a fair amount of "work", drilling, tapping, filing, truing, etc needed to assemble our kits."  These disclaimers even appeared in the Walthers catalog as well as in literature that came swith every kit.

But even with all of these warnings, then and to this day, we would receive comments how first time modelers would buy one of these kits and end up throwing their arms in disgust and call the kit "garbage". Nine out of ten time this was due to their lack of modeling skills, not poor kits. We heard from many of these modelers while we were in business and we always honored our return policy. (Except the one time when a modeler stated that the metal was to soft to solder and that his soldering iron kept melting the castings. He returned the kit with photos of the modeler trying to solder the pieces with an "iron style" solderer. The type of iron that you heat in a furnace and use on sheet metal!) We still refunded his money.

We also heard from over 1500 very satisfied craftsperson's modelers how these locos were the best running kit models on their layouts!

I still own all of the original show models and they run to this day over 35 years later! (A few years ago we had one H-8 pulling over 100 hoppers!) I am also in the process of writing a history of Arbour Models as well as near to launching a new Arbour Models line of N-scale scenic detailing pieces.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Thank you,

Page Martin

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Posted by NevinW on Monday, December 20, 2010 4:31 PM

Since I was the person who started this thread in 2009 I wanted to thank you for adding your comments.  It is always helpful when the manufacturer of a particular set of kits is able to add their comments to a discussion. 

As for me, I acquired one of these kits and plan on building it next year.  I've built these kinds of kits in the past so I won't find it too daunting.  Take your time and don't file too much at a time is my motto! -  Nevin

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Posted by Charlie Rausch on Thursday, August 25, 2011 7:03 AM

Currently building the Arbour Sylvania Central. Had built the H8 back in the early 1980s. 

 

Very Very difficult kit. Castings poorly done. Drivers very poor quality plastic centers with splines . They are out of quarter but cannot be quartered because the splines on the axle force the plastic centers to their original out of quarter position. May have to make new axles out of NWSL stock.

Side rods, crossheads, guides all out of the same soft cast white metal holes imprecise.

Impossible to get binds out of mechanism. 

Boiler and tender castings lots of flash and fit imprecise. 

Be ready to do lots and lots of filir and harng. 

The wood cab is only printed on basswood sheet and must be cut out with a dremel VERY CAREFULLY SHould have made the cab out of brass sheet or styrene at least there would not have been grain to contned with.

Impossible!.

 

 

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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Thursday, August 25, 2011 1:27 PM

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL!!Surprise

Arbour Models is being restarted soon!Big Smile I wonder if they'll reintroduce their steam engine kits? I hope so, because I WANT KITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://arbourmodels.com/Home.html

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Posted by Espee Black Widow on Thursday, August 25, 2011 5:54 PM

Darth Santa Fe

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL!!Surprise

Arbour Models is being restarted soon!Big Smile I wonder if they'll reintroduce their steam engine kits? I hope so, because I WANT KITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://arbourmodels.com/Home.html

I agree. I enjoy the building aspect of the hobby and I miss the locomotive kits that used to be available. I still have some old Bowser and MDC kits from at least 25 years ago that I'm looking forward to building.

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Posted by JimValle on Friday, August 26, 2011 3:32 PM

The men who have replied to this thread are a fascinating subset of our hobby.  I'm currently struggeling to assemble and fine tune a Bowser 2-10-2 kit that was given to me some time ago.  As I do the filing, fitting, and detailing I catch myself wondering why, in this day-and-age I'm bothering with a crude, clunky, balky white metal kit loco which is taking up lots of time and energy for not much of a gain,  motive powerwise.  The latest generation of plastic locos look better, run better and do the sound/DCC thing into the bargain.  OK it's plastic.  If you like metal why not pick up an older brass piece, even one needing repairs and/or replacement parts?  If you have the skill set necessary to assemble an old Arbor or Bowser kit, you certainly can cope with a neglected brass piece and you'd have a much better product to show for it, wouldn't you?  Even the folks at Bowser have seen the handwriting on the wall and stopped production of their white metal kits.  Still. I guess there's something to be said for "doing weird and challenging projects for the fun of it".  My old staggering Bowser soaked up a lot of hours when it was too hot and humid to go out in the noonday sun.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Friday, August 26, 2011 3:54 PM

JimValle

The men who have replied to this thread are a fascinating subset of our hobby.  I'm currently struggeling to assemble and fine tune a Bowser 2-10-2 kit that was given to me some time ago.  As I do the filing, fitting, and detailing I catch myself wondering why, in this day-and-age I'm bothering with a crude, clunky, balky white metal kit loco which is taking up lots of time and energy for not much of a gain,  motive powerwise.  The latest generation of plastic locos look better, run better and do the sound/DCC thing into the bargain.  OK it's plastic.  If you like metal why not pick up an older brass piece, even one needing repairs and/or replacement parts?  If you have the skill set necessary to assemble an old Arbor or Bowser kit, you certainly can cope with a neglected brass piece and you'd have a much better product to show for it, wouldn't you?  Even the folks at Bowser have seen the handwriting on the wall and stopped production of their white metal kits.  Still. I guess there's something to be said for "doing weird and challenging projects for the fun of it".  My old staggering Bowser soaked up a lot of hours when it was too hot and humid to go out in the noonday sun.

Yeah, I love the old metal kits too.  Many years ago I built a Bowser K4 Pacific.  Even though I'm in S now I will eventually build my E6 Atlantic as well.  I also have a Rex (S scale) mogul to finish building and some B.T.S. kits as well.

Enjoy

Paul

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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Friday, August 26, 2011 8:33 PM

The Bowser 2-10-2 used an odd generic boiler that wasn't fully prototypical for anything, especially the cab. Many of the kits developed and redeveloped in the last 20 years, once the super detail kits are added, rival brass in terms of detail. As an example, here's my L-1 Mikado:

And more here: http://cs.trains.com/TRCCS/forums/t/144350.aspx?PageIndex=3 (scroll down for a whole photo gallery)

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Posted by JimValle on Friday, September 02, 2011 5:44 PM

And it has the STRANGEST valve gear I've ever encountered to boot!  Still, as it takes shape it's not a bad looking engine.  If I ever get all the details stuck on it and get the valve gear functioning I'm going to weather the living you-know-what out of it and make it a really grimy workhorse of a drag freight hog.  After that, no more white metal engines!  Right now I do have it running and it tracked so badly I had to add an extra pair of flanged drivers ( three sets are blind ) .  That solved the problem - sort of.  I guess the attraction of this engine is that it poses one challenge after another.  As soon as you solve one, another crops up.  By the way, your Mike looks great.  I built two of them and had some trouble getting them to run because there didn't seem to be enough clearance between the boiler and the drivers.  I suppose they put the K4 boiler on the L1 frame without adapting it properly.  You can tell it's the K4 boiler because the sand dome is in the wrong place.

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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Friday, September 02, 2011 9:42 PM

I got an e-mail from Arbour a couple days ago, and the steam engine kits won't be brought back out. Oh well.

I'm tempted to get one of the old kits and see what I can do with it. I bet I'll be able to get one going if I try!Big Smile

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Posted by 7j43k on Friday, September 02, 2011 11:49 PM

Darth Santa Fe

I got an e-mail from Arbour a couple days ago, and the steam engine kits won't be brought back out. Oh well.

I'm tempted to get one of the old kits and see what I can do with it. I bet I'll be able to get one going if I try!Big Smile

 

Darth,

You de man!  Lookin' forward to the results.  And the commentary.

 

Ed

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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Saturday, September 03, 2011 6:13 PM

I'll be sure to get to it as soon as I have one.Big Smile Currently, I don't have the money, and the next thing I'm saving for is a Lionel 2343 A-A set to replace the one my grandpa used to have. It'll be a while, but I will get an Arbour kit eventually!

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