Sidebar: Frankenshay

It's kind of embarrassing to look at, but my Shay was unique; after all, back in the 70s (indeed, for decades afterward), the only way to have one was to roll your own.

I called it the Frankenshay because it was made from a crazy assortment of parts; here's how it came together. I started by chopping down the FM chassis with a hacksaw. I had to remove a fair amount of metal, and the tricky part was cutting it without putting excessive strain on the relatively tiny bits of connective tissue at the bottom.

Next, I chopped down a pair of trucks from a U-28, because they had tighter wheel spacing—granted, not by very much (right), but I was willing to take every scale inch I could. This necessitated modifying the power pickup wipers and the insulating sheets. The results of this work are shown below, with the original truck on the left, and the modified one on the right. I also took this opportunity to upgrade to Micro-Trains couplers.

When I reassembled the mechanism, I rotated the motor 90 degrees to reduce the overall height. I also replaced the wheelsets when NWSL introduced their fine-profile upgrades for Minitrix diesels.

The final step was to chop up the shell from a Rapido 0-6-0. It was challenging to do, because the plastic Rapido used was quite strange: it was hard to cut cleanly and difficult to bond.

Rick supplied a bootleg soft metal casting of the cylinders, which were far better than the crude ones I managed to cobble together. I also added a smokestack from the "old time" version of a Minitrix 0-6-0, and an air pump from some unknown donor. The results are, as I've said, pretty embarrassing, especially when compared with an accurate Shay.

Obviously I never finished my Frankenshay, even after decades of tinkering. Finally, when Atlas released their excellent model, I sold it. Strangely, I never took any good photos of it back when I first built it; the oldest surviving image is this color Polaroid, circa 1975:


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