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||Standard Gauge Plymouth Shunter
The Plymouth shunter provides a good
starting point for a rebuild into both standard and narrow gauge operations. It is also
easy to modify for the larger scales (SM32). Added to its good looks and ease of
kitbashing is its running ability. A small loco it is but a great runner is hidden
underneath. Do not write this one off if you see it, no matter how bad the body is, there
is a great mechanism lying in wait.
This article focuses on the changes required for a
standard gauge version.
A little History
In 1987 Chris Ellis, and Malcolm Carllson
each wrote an article, in the then Scale Model Trains, about a conversion for the Atlas
Plymouth Shunter. The purpose: to make a cheap and easily completed conversion to get your
O gauge layout running.
At the time I was going into O so I followed along
and began the detailing project. Years come and go and all the while I have kept at my
hobby (this loco so far was bought new in 1981, started in 1986, restarted in 1994, and is
being finished in 2000, possibly the worlds longest modelling project). While Chris Ellis'
original article contained some great ideas, there are several ways to make the little
engine that could much better than described in the original article.
The overall design of the loco is squat. This lack
of height causes it to not look right for the English loading gauge. While the American
loading gauge is wider than that used in either England or Australia this models is in
1:48 (American O) so the outsized gauge does not cause a problem for us 7mm to the
Updating the Model
The mechanism and electricals
As it stands the mechanism of the shunter is its
best feature. Out of the box all four of my locomotives have run well. After a few hours
of running-in they run even better. Slow speed crawling and even starting being their best
The first thing to do to begin this process is to
disassemble the motor from the block, by removing the two screws in the base of the block.
To get to them you have to remove the retaining plate for the wheels. this is held in
place by six screws.
With the motor out, and all electrical connections
removed set the motor in a safe place and remove the wheel sets. Store these also. Replace
the keeper plate and reseat the six screws.
Onto the body
The most obvious issue for modellers of English or
Australian prototype practice is the height of the body. This will consume a great deal of
the project time and require the most Plastikard. Do not think that this is beyond you
however. I have used where ever possible stock components available either from Evergreen
Next most important piece of body work concerns
the style of the windows. These need to have the bars removed. This gives the loco a more
appealing look about it and removes the toy-like look.
Finally we will tackle the unit's weight and motor
block. As the largest casting in the model it is very invasive to the viewing eye and
needs to be hidden. Hiding it from view is done in two phases as part of the other
- Raising the height of the loco body, and
- Painting the cast weight/motor housing black. (This lowers its
visibility to a minor nuisance. And I can live with that.)
I followed Chris Ellis' directions pretty much to letter
with basic build of this first loco.
- I cut through the bonnet of the loco, 5mm aft of the radiator and
added a 6.7 millimeter fillet to increase the overall length of the hood. While this
minimizes the front porch of the loco, for the purposes of this project, and the uses
intended for this loco, it is not an issue.
- I rebuilt the front end to remove the light and Plymouth name. I
did this because I wanted to have an inherently Plymouth design, but, reflect the rebuild
by the current owner. Also since this loco is bound for use on a UK based private line in
the late 1970's a headlight, of the Plymouth type, would have looked out of place.
- I rebuilt the cab backend to refocus the loco to a rearward facing
shunter rather than a hood first unit. I did this because I did not like the expanse of
flat space on the rear of the loco inherent in the previous articles. By refocusing the
loco's layout to the rear, I also made the unit's look much more aggressive. Something I
felt was needed to have on a tough little industrial diesel. A full article will cover the
design and fitting of the backend structural work and one piece skin.
- Narrowed the Cab by sawing through the front and rear windows.
Removing about 1.5mm. (I will not do this one again.)
- Shortened the footplate by 10mm at the rear. (In the process
removing the air-tank.) This was suggested by several of the previous articles and I
decided to follow this design for the first loco and see if I liked it. I found that in
practice cutting 10mm from the length makes the loco look unbalanced. By leaving more of
the loco you give the unit a more balanced, substantial, appearance.
- Rebuilt the cab to a more angular profile. Replaced the loco roof
with one of my own design which updates the Loco to a more contemporary 1970s design.
Chris Ellis' suggestions while interesting do lead
to some other issues that I will not repeat on the remaining three. For the article on the full rebuild, with graphics, follow this
I am suggesting that these locos represent two
different phases of locomotives. The one (my first) a rebuild, to bring it up to current
operating standards, due to union and Occupational Health and Safety pressure. The
remaining three represent the locomotives in their original guise before going to the
works for a rebuild.
The next three locos
The redesign on the next three locos will be
simpler and require less cutting and chopping, to reflect an original locomotive bought
from the Plymouth company.
The following modifications were carried out on
the first loco and will be standard modifications on the sister locos:
- Add 80 Thou to the height of the footplate. (This helps when you
place the buffers onto the loco. Provides a much more stable surface for parts to stick to
- Removed the bars from all windows. Enlarged the inner front cab
windows and re-profiled them to follow the curve of the bonnet (hood). (See next point.)
- Removed the standard exhaust housing on the loco and installed a
stove pipe chimney. This also provides the means to secure the body to the chassis. (More
on this later.)
While the list above looks extensive it is not.
The overall effect is very powerful though and gives you a highly detailed model for very
little money. For the article on the less exacting rebuild,
follow this link.
I added handmade detail parts, that were not on
either of the articles I read in the magazine. They comprise hand-made angle-cocks and
hoses. Bolt and rivet detail on the buffing plates and some after market material too:
- Three link couplings (Alan Gibson), and
- Working sprung buffers.
I am still debating the effectiveness of this
level of detail for the remaining three loco's. However until the paint job is finished I
do not know how much of this detail will be lost. I am considering it as it makes the
locomotive look much more workman like.
The first unit is fitted with Air and vacuum
Brakes. The piping on the front buffer beam is simpler than it would be for an American
loco, but the level of detail looks right for its setting.
I am still considering the paint scheme. I am
leaning toward a mid-blue body, grey roof and black running gear. Yellow ends and possible
tiger stripes may be there too. Your thoughts would be welcome.
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