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Motive Power 
Class A Shay


The specs for the 5” scale, 15” gauge loco:


Length O.A.                 12’ – 4”

Height to top of cab            54”

Width O.A.                         36”

Weight                              2 Tons

Boiler Dia.                           18”

Fire Tubes                   31, 1 ”

Operating Press.             150 psi

Fuel                                 Hardwood

Bore & stroke                  3” x 4”


A fascination developed with Shay locomotives when I first visited Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia. The locos were fairly simple in overall design: a vertical, multi cylinder steam engine bolted to a frame, driving box car size wheels via in line drive shafts and bevel gears. This arrangement appeared much simpler than a conventional rod loco and probably easier to build for a beginner, like myself. The other advantages are tractive effort on steep grades and they aren’t too fussy about sharp curves. This made the design ideal for our hilly property.


The fact that I was a beginner at the time made this type of locomotive a good starting project. Also, I figured it could be built with minimal out-of-pocket costs. The latter, at least, turned out to be true. The entire locomotive, excluding the bell casting, cost me just $2000.00 out of pocket. That’s two thousand, not twenty thousand. I only mention this as an encouragement to others who believe they can't afford a project of this magnitude. This was the only way I could afford to do so.


The main design premise was to fabricate as many parts from weldments as possible, instead of castings. Any patterns required were made in my wood shop. Most visible welds were ground so a particular part looked like a casting. The secondary design premise was to scrounge as much of the raw material as possible. This meant in some cases whittling down a thick, discarded steel burn-out to obtain a smaller finished part, as well as network with friends for materials sources. The last premise was I would make everything, except the plumbing valves and poor the few castings.


I would encourage anyone to give it a try. If I can do it, so could most others if they want to bad enough. No, I’ve never worked as a machinist, etc. I sit at a desk most days.





 Rail Truck

The truck cab and fenders were constructed from sheet metal salvaged from large electrical control panels at the company I work for. The plywood for the box/seat was from a large shipping crate, timmed out in cherry. Doors are walnut and cheery. The engine is a heavy, old 10 HP Koehler with a starter/generator. The 12” diameter rear drive wheels were machined from scrap 2” thick steel burn-outs. The clutch and transmission consist of two 90 opposing discs; one on the engine crank shaft and the other on a jack shaft. The latter can be slid back and forth on either side of the drive disc center for infinite speed range in forward and reveres. Moving the motor in or out to engage or disengage the discs acts as the clutch.





The design is loosely based on a Fairmont Speeder and is powered by a 5 HP Honda engine. The basis for this thing again was a set of donated wheels and axles from someone I barely knew. I built the speeder to take people for a ride who would like to see the railroad without having to fire-up the Shay.  The speeder is now home and housed in the Car Barn, which was just enlarged, as of June, 2008. It has succesfully pulled a work car loaded with three children and one adult with the throttle set at a fast idle. The single brake disc provided more than enough stopping power.



Hand Car


A lot more fun than a rowing machine and kids love it. Rolls on 8” diameter cast iron wheels cast from my pattern. There is a connecting rod at the lower end of the pump handle attached to a wrist pin on a bull gear. The bull gear in turn drives a pinion on the rear axle. Two laps around the railroad is about all I want to do. You have to practically pry some kids off of it.