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Kitbashing an HiFi drive Athearn Buddliner

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Kitbashing an HiFi drive Athearn Buddliner
Posted by dstarr on Saturday, May 18, 2019 10:25 AM

I built and painted a 1980's MBTA commuter train a while ago.  As a result I have a fair stock of old beat up Athearn RDC models.  For my now project I want a B&M version of the Buddliner.  The Athearn models are not bad, a little short, but I look at that as selective compression,  making things a little smaller to fit on the layout.  As you can see I have a sixpak of shells to work from. 

 

And also a bunch of chassis to work from. 

 

Of the batch, only one had a motor that turned when power was applied.  That make selection of a chassis obvious. 

 

 

 

The original rubber bands for the drive were long gone.  Following a tip I got off the Internet somewhere, I bought a box of girl's hair elastics at a drug store and they work just fine.

3 in 1 oil for the motor bearings,  clean the commutator with Goo Gone, and install the rubber bands and she runs.  Take care that all the insulated wheels wind up on the same side of the chassis. 

Things yet to do.  Kadee couplers. wire hand rails.  Replace missing window glazing.  Add lights, both headlight and interior lights.  Detail interior.  Paint chassis.  Dark wash on roof ventilator grills. 

 

 

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, May 18, 2019 11:04 AM

It can be satisfying work to restore and/or upgrade these models from an earlier time. 

I had a couple of those Athearn RDCs, one powered and the other a dummy.  While they ran somewhat rocket-like, they were solidly-built.
After riding in a real one, (at almost rocket-like speeds), I decided to upgrade the powered one with one of NWSL's, at that time, recently released, PDT powered trucks. 
It was powerful enough to pull the dummy unit up all of my grades, but was also capable of smooth, controlled starts and running reliably at low speeds.
Sorry, but I have no photos, as they were sold when I back-dated my layout to the late '30s.

I'm looking forward to following your rebuild of these classics.

Wayne

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Posted by SPSOT fan on Saturday, May 18, 2019 11:43 AM

Great start to a project with some great potential. I earnestly look forward to seeing further progress!

Looks like a nice alternative to buying one of them $300 Rapido RDCs! That is if you’ve got time, skill, patience, and aren‘t a rivet counter like me who could never deal with the fact the car is too short. I commend you for your efforts, wish I had that skill and patience!

It would be cool if you could show some pictures of the previous set of RDCs you did! Just curious!

Regards, Isaac

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Posted by RR_Mel on Saturday, May 18, 2019 11:45 AM

I would imagine that every model railroader back then had at least one of those Athearn HiFi Drive locomotives, mine was a War Bonnet F7.  Can’t remember what happened to it but it’s been gone a long time.
 
Yours is looking good.
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by SPSOT fan on Saturday, May 18, 2019 12:19 PM

Just figured out how these Athearn “Rubber Band” drive locos work from the OPs image. That can’t be a good running system, the low speed must be TERRIBLE! You can’t rely on just fiction like that! Glad they don’t still make stuff like that!

Regards, Isaac

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Posted by dstarr on Saturday, May 18, 2019 12:27 PM

My 1980's MBTA commuter train.  These ran for years around Boston.  By the 80s the RDC cars no longer ran under their own power.  Story I heard was that T maintenance folk had stopped bothering to put engine covers back under the engines and the spray and gunk kicked up onto the engines during the Blizzard of '78 killed half of the engines.  Hence the F unit to pull them. 

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Posted by SPSOT fan on Saturday, May 18, 2019 12:37 PM

Thanks for the picture dstarr, looks nice, I’m assuming that’s custom paint? Very nice! Is is just me or is the second RDC too short compared to the F unit and the other RDC? Irregardless very nice!

Regards, Isaac

I model my railroad and you model yours! I model my way and you model yours!

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Posted by dstarr on Saturday, May 18, 2019 1:00 PM

SPSOT fan

Thanks for the picture dstarr, looks nice, I’m assuming that’s custom paint? Very nice! Is is just me or is the second RDC too short compared to the F unit and the other RDC? Irregardless very nice!

 

Custom paint.  I am flattered.  I painted them all my self, with rattle cans and masking tape.  Both of the RDC cars are Athearns, I haven't measured them to be sure, but I think they are both the same size and length.  I didn't do any trimming or splicing to make 'em longer or shorter. 

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Posted by G Paine on Saturday, May 18, 2019 7:09 PM

doctorwayne
I had a couple of those Athearn RDCs, one powered and the other a dummy. While they ran somewhat rocket-like, they were solidly-built.

I had an F7 and a Hustler. If I wanted the Hustler to go really fast, I disconnected one of the bands; slow accleration, but went like a rocket once it had some momentum

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

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Posted by OT Dean on Monday, May 20, 2019 1:07 AM

When I changed from AF S gauge (operated at prototype speeds) to HO in my teens, my first HO loco was a Hi-F Pennsy (the LHS didn't have a Santa Fe Warbonnet) F7.  The hobby shops usually had an AA, AB, or ABA on the point of a train in the window or somewhere in the shop, and pulling a train was a little breathtaking.  They ran quietly, with only a little brush noise, and smoothly, even starting a train nicely--and the weight of the train kept the speed down if you weren't over enthusiastic on the throttle.  Very soon after they came on the market, someone had an article in MR on how to slow them down a little: carefully wrap electricians friction tape around the oversized axles, making sure the beginning and end were properly aligned to avoid out of round trouble.  Then someone (Pittman?) brought out a replacement assembly with gearing between the motor shaft and the upper rubber band shafts.  BTW, I think the Hi-F units cost $5.95!

Deano

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Posted by mbinsewi on Monday, May 20, 2019 7:54 AM

Nice project, David.  I've managed to collect a few of Athearn RDC's, and I wanted to do a complete repower, and put together a train.

I also have a P1K RDC, the length is correct, but adding a decoder seems to be a major undertaking, from what I've learned so far.

I haven't gotten serious with either project, as of yet.

Scrolling through your thread caught my interest.

Mike.

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Posted by dstarr on Monday, May 20, 2019 1:29 PM

OT Dean

  BTW, I think the Hi-F units cost $5.95!

Deano

 

I bought my first Athearn, a GP7, HiFi drive fro, Bob Rule's hobby shop in Lancaster PA back in the early 1960's.  If memory serves it only cost $10.95. 

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Posted by AntonioFP45 on Monday, May 20, 2019 6:18 PM

If I recall correctly, the RDC's should be the same length as the Athearn streamlined "shorty" passenger cars, which are a scale 72 feet long.

dstarr
SPSOT fan

Thanks for the picture dstarr, looks nice, I’m assuming that’s custom paint? Very nice! Is is just me or is the second RDC too short compared to the F unit and the other RDC? Irregardless very nice!

 

 

 

Custom paint.  I am flattered.  I painted them all my self, with rattle cans and masking tape.  Both of the RDC cars are Athearns, I haven't measured them to be sure, but I think they are both the same size and length.  I didn't do any trimming or splicing to make 'em longer or shorter. 

 

"I like my Pullman Standards & Budds in Stainless Steel flavors, thank you!"

 


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Posted by mbinsewi on Monday, May 20, 2019 7:33 PM

AntonioFP45
If I recall correctly, the RDC's should be the same length as the Athearn streamlined "shorty" passenger cars, which are a scale 72 feet long.

Yes, they are.  I measured mine this morning.  I also have a P!K, (Proto 1000) and it is the correct 85'.

Mike.

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Posted by xdford on Monday, May 20, 2019 9:34 PM

Hi All,

I made a plastic insert to fit around an Athearn Switcher truck which is of the same wheel base and have a Canon single ended motor powering the one truck. Not quite to a Proto (which I do have) or (I imagine) a Rapido (which I do not have) but fairly good running just the same.

If I had a newer truck,  I could use the Budd sideframes but as it is I have shaped down the cast trucks I did have to a close to the outline and it would take a fairly reasonable eye to pick it.  

I like the Athearn units from the point of view of the travelling around curves ... even in the compound areas where there are 32" radius in part of the curves, the overhang of the Proto units still does not look right to me.

You can see what it looks like here

and the entire page for the Budds is here

http://xdford.freeasphost.net/stag07.html

Cheers from Australia

 

Trevor

 

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Posted by emdmike on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:26 AM

The newer Stanton Drive from NWSL is much better over the original PDT drives.  But for anybody going that route, act fast incase nobody buys out NWSL and keeps them going.  I have a NJ Custom Brass RDC and it is so much longer looking than the shortened Athearn ones.  But the plated finish is much more realisitc for the stainless finish of the prototype.  Good looking RDC's guys.   Mike

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Posted by slammin on Thursday, May 30, 2019 8:12 AM

Ernst produced super gearing sets for many Athearn locos. They also made kits to convert the RDC and the Hustler from rubber band drive to gear drive. IIRC, for the RDC it only powered one truck. You can still find them at train shows and on eBay.

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, May 30, 2019 10:37 AM

 I had a set of Ernst gears in an Athearn S12 I had. Did all of the tuneup stuff to the motor, use Pearl Drops to break the gears in, then cleaned and washed them all and put it back together - with the worrms off, each truck, even with the extra gears of the Ernst set, would roll rather than slide when tilted on a flat board or pieceof track. That loco was as quiet as anything. I did lose traction by putting on the NWSL nickel silver wheels, but it was much better for electrical pickup. I tested it at the club, by stacking weight all over the outside, and it was able to pull the same train as 3 standard Athearn road units (unmodified ones). On the steepest grade on the layout. At least until some of the weights started to fall off.

SOmeone once brought an AThearn rubber band RDC. Yes, slow speed was horrible. Top speed would have made a bullet train jealous. But the most fascinating aspect of it was the snap back if you killed the power. Talk about whiplash...and I don't mean Snidely.

I think the AHM MDT switcher I had was even faster though. That loco would act like a Lionel - go too fast around a curve and it would tip over and roll off the rails. It was like driving a slot car on tracks, had to slow down to keep it n the rails. Get it just right and it would go zzzzzzzzz....zing...zing...zing...zing..zzzzzzzzzz as the inside wheels lifted and it lost power. That's how it ran - straight out of the box. 

                                  --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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Posted by dstarr on Sunday, June 02, 2019 4:39 PM

Done some more work on the Buddliner.  I want to install constant brightness lighting for both headlights and interior lighting.  Will use the classic four diodes in series with the motor circuit.  I use a Radio Shack full wave bridge rectifier assembly to get my four diodes in a compact package.  I cut a piece of perf board to fit just inside the roof top radiator blister.  I will use sticky tape to keep it in place. 

Found an old microconnector in the junk box.  Soldered longer leads to it.  This will bring juice from the motor up to the constant brightness board.  These things had twin automotive style headlamps on each end.  I ordered some 1/16th inch clear plastic rod from Walthers to make the headlamp lenses.   Hartmann's, the last hobby shop anywhere near me is gone, owners retired, so I have to mail order everything now a days.

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Posted by emdmike on Monday, June 03, 2019 1:28 PM

Looking good Dave. For those that have a Hobbytown USA near them, they have started carrying some of the old Radio Shack line of electronic parts, mostly the stuff that pertains to hobbies like trains, science fair projects and RC stuff.  I dug out my old brass RDC2, removed the single chime horns and replaced with Nathan P5's with all bells foward on each end.  Drilled out the headlights so they can be lighted, still need to do the red markers.  Then she can go to the painter to become Susquehanna M5.    Mike the Aspie

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Posted by dstarr on Sunday, June 16, 2019 3:45 PM

My plan for headlights was to drill holes in the shell and sink clear plastic rod into the holes to serve as headlamp lenses, and mount a bulb inside the shell to make it light up.  I ordered some 1/16th inch clear plastic rod from Walthers, stock number 570 90858.  The rod came in but it was opaque white, not clear.

Fortunately the 1.2 mm 1.4 volt micro bulbs Walthers stock number 474 CO310, are small enough to serve as headlamps all by themselves.

To improve the brightness of interior lighting I installed bright shiny tape on the ceiling of the shell. 

And here is the constant brightness circuit board with all four headlamp bulbs powered up and lighting.   Next step is to drill the shell for the headlamp bulbs.  But its getting late,  I'm getting tired and so I knocked off for the day. 

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, June 16, 2019 6:48 PM

SPSOT fan

Just figured out how these Athearn “Rubber Band” drive locos work from the OPs image. That can’t be a good running system, the low speed must be TERRIBLE! You can’t rely on just fiction like that! Glad they don’t still make stuff like that!

 

 Several Bachmann steam locos use a belt drive from the motor to a jackshaft which then has the worm to the driven wheel, to keep a worm and a drive shaft from being visible in the space between the boiler and frame. They run just fine. A flat belt and friction keep many of the accessories in a car running just fine as well. Even internally - for the camshafts.

 The only real problem with the Athearn Hi-Fi drive was that the motors run at way too high a speed, and they can't make the drum on the axles any bigger to achieve a decent reduction ratio, they are limited by the wheel diameter. If the motors ran half as fast as those original ones, the starting speed would be reasonably slow. 

                               --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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

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Posted by xdford on Monday, June 17, 2019 6:12 PM

Hi All,  Just in relation to Dave's post, why not use a couple of LED's in the shell? I was thinking I would do that with perhaps clear PVA as glass protecting the "twin sealed beam" lights. Anyone else tried that?

In regard to the gearing system, here is a pic uploaded to show my gearing system using the Athearn switcher truck...

it isn't perfect but not painfully obvious and with canon motors, they run well.  

 

I did have Athearn Budd wheels in the axle gear at one point on one car but with the older truck it rode too low so I opted upward with the wheel size. With the wheel size I had to space the mount upwards but it is not obvious from the outside.

The mount was made from a scrap bit of plastic that originally held a hose connector on a rack in a hardware shop, drilled and cut to fit the Athearn truck. My other unit has half an old switcher frame spliced onto the Budd Car frame, not elegant either but practical and none too noticeable 

Regards from Australia

Trevor

 

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Posted by Eilif on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 2:51 PM

Really enjoying watching the progress on this thread.  I've got a 4-unit RDC set I'm putting together (2 powered, 2 not). Needs a bit of attention and of course it starts a bit jerky, but it's a delight to run and with two together it seems to run and start a bit smoother than one alone. 

Still haven't decided whether to leave as NH or try and modify to CNW though.

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Posted by xdford on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 7:16 PM

David,

Sorry mate, I should have read your thread right through...  I got distracted and did not see the other images related to the 4 LED's. Are you planning to glaze the front and if so, how are you planning to tackle that yourself?

As Eiliff says, the progress is interesting!

Cheers from Australia

Trevor

 

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Posted by dstarr on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 2:24 PM

I plan to just drill holes in the shell where the headlamps ought to go, and then friction fit the 1.2 mm bulbs into the holes.  The business end of these bulbs is clear glass, a bit rounded over, and that ought to do it.  If I find the look of the plain bulbs not quite right, I might punch some 1/16 disks out of clear plastic sheet, say an old Entemann's danish pastry box and fit them into the holes in front of the bulbs. 

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Posted by dstarr on Saturday, July 13, 2019 6:43 PM

Got back on the RDC project. 

Here we have center punched the holes to take the headlamp bulbs. 

Here we are set up to drill out the headlamp holes on my drill press.  The piece of wood inside the shell is just a stiffener to let me to tighten up the vise without crushing the shell.  The angle ruler lets me drill at a slight angle to have the holes come thru inside the shell and adjust both ends of the shell to the same slight angle.  Trainboard, the photo site I moved to after Photobucket went crazy, rotated the photo onto it's side, for no apparent reason. 

And here we have the headlamp holes drilled.  Again Trainboard rotated this photo on its side. 

 

Here we have the constant brightness board installed in the shelll.

 

 

 

And here we have the lamps installed and lighting up.  Things yet to do.  Paint a black wash over the grills in the radiator blister on the roof.  Install windows.  install wire grabs.  Paint the undercarriage.  Paint the trucks. 

 

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