About 12 years ago I was in the early stages of planning a layout based around the Morpeth line. I was looking around for things to run on the layout and I decided that I’d purchase a kit from Agenoria Models. This firm makes a wide selection of 7mm scale locomotive kits of the smaller, “industrial” type and one of their offerings, a Manning Wardle class “L” 0-6-0 saddle tank loco, bore more than a passing resemblance to Pioneer, a MW loco that seemed to be involved in helping build most of the lines in New South Wales in the mid 19th century and ran in revenue service down most of the rest. This included the Morpeth line.
I made a trip to the northern hemisphere in the 2003 and picked the MW kit up at Guidlex when I attended this splendid GOG event. The kit was stowed away in my bag and when I got home I bashed it into something approximating Pioneer and that should have been the end of the story but I did something rather silly. The Slaters wheels that were supplied with the kit had 8 spokes and Pioneers wheels had nine. Slaters happened to make a wheel that more closely approximated the arrangement of the spokes on Pioneer and were of the same diameter, so I made the fateful decision to order a set and installed them on the loco. Up until then she had run like a dream and was happy to chuff up and down my first Morpeth layout. However after the new wheels were installed the running got gradually worse till she disgraced herself completely at an exhibition where QW was appearing and after that she was packed away in her box. For 7 years!
I had essentially forgotten about her till recently when I was planning the next phase of Morpeth’s construction. There are a lot of small jobs to do on Morpeth to get the layout ready to show publicly again but once these are completed the next big construction jobs will commence. The biggest of these will be the construction of the fourth and final scenic module, the pier. This pier module will butt up to the existing layout and will incorporate a wooden trestle pier with one (or possibly two) ships tied up along side it. The pier will have track laid on its surface to allow a small loco to run on it and there should be enough room to allow a small, motorised crane to shuttle back and forth as well.
A good friend of mine by the name of Lindsay has recently been involved in the manufacture of some fiendishly tempting, moderately priced r-t-r 7mm industrial locos via the company Ixion. He’s done his level best to tempt me to buy one of his locos but I’ve managed to resist the temptation mainly through a sense of guilt over Pioneer. You see one of Ixion’s little locos would fill the role of Morpeth’s pier shunter very nicely but every time I get close to buying one of Ixion’s products I hear Pioneer calling me. “Fix me” she says. So I’ve decided to do just that. The reason I’ve decided to go down the route of fixing a loco I already own rather than buy in a r-t-r replacement is that, in spite of the fact that there’s going to be some real work in getting Pioneer to run properly, I’ve come to really love this little loco and she deserves to stretch her legs a bit after such a long convalescence.
I’ve been thinking about what I want to do to get Pioneer running well again over the last year or so and in the last 24 hours she’s gone from looking like the loco in the shot above to something resembling a Meccano set, one that hasn’t been assembled into anything yet.
I had made some unsuccessful efforts to fix Pioneer’s running in the past but I knew that to really sort out the problems I would need a better system of power pickup, improved contact between rail and wheel and I really needed to sort out the problems the new wheels had caused. To do all this really properly I needed to start from scratch and completely dismantle the chassis. After getting the frames separated and taking a really close look at the parts supplied with the original kit I’ve decided that to install the new components I want I’m going to have to scratch build a new set of frames and spacers. I was always going to install a new set of pickups (I’ve chosen to go with Slaters plunger type, ref 7157) on all six wheels and I’ve also made the decision to install sprung horn blocks on the two leading axles. The hornblocks I’ll be using are from a company by the name of Fourtrack which I suspect are no longer in business but I’m pretty sure you can pick them up from other sources. Upon close inspection of the chassis frames this morning I determined that the etched ones that came with the kit really won’t stand the sort of abuse I’m about to inflict upon them and as such I’ll be cutting out a new set of frames and spacers from NS sheet. This might sound radical but in actual fact it’s really quite easy to do, a lot easier than it sounds anyway. A far bigger and more complicated job is to alter the Fourtrack horn guides to get them to fit into the confined space between the frames of such a small locomotive. However I’m convinced it can be done and when the work is complete she will run like a Swiss watch.
The body of Pioneer is in for a makeover rather than a complete rebuild. The loco already has a DCC sound decoder and speaker installed. What I really want to do with the body is fix a slight lean on the tank and install some much needed animation in the form of lighting. She won’t be getting a headlight but I think a couple of two colour marker lamps on either end and a better firbox flicker will do her the world of good.
I’ll let you know how I get on.