16mm Projects

Mike Gray: converting LGB Colorado & Southern 45mm gauge stake flats


Mike Gray (E00380213)                                                                    

This is my Roundhouse Sandy River #24 running on the Grimsby and Cleethorpes MES garden railway track at Waltham Windmill, on the 32mm loop (Peco SM32 track), on a cold though bright morning last December. A good day for steam - a little chilly for the guy at the controls!

The track consists of three loops, Peco SM32 and G1 (45mm) for steam running (Code 200 rail), and a brass rail Code 332 electrified track for LGB, Bachman etc.  The track was completed (Phase 1) in August, and is still a bit raw, especially at this time of year. 

#24 is my only US loco (and very nice too), but most of my stock is Swift Sixteen, BMS (Accucraft) or homemade – British and European looking and quite inappropriate for the loco.  That BMS W&L brake van at the rear is just a tad, er, out of place.

Now before we proceed you must know that I am Scots-Irish and therefore inclined to try and use what I have on the shelves rather than simply buy more ‘stuff’.  This philosophy does not necessarily apply to Roundhouse locos!!

About a year ago I bought a pair of LGB Colorado & Southern 45mm gauge stake flats in poor cosmetic condition, cheap.  More recently I took a look at them with a view to conversion for use with #24.  Slightly surprisingly their basic dimensions are not bad for transforming them into 16mm SR&SL flat cars (19.1:1 scale). Fitted with Roundhouse 32mm gauge trucks they run nicely and look suitably American; they’re the 2nd and 3rd cars in the train.  Some hacking was needed on the underframe (with a Dremel cutting wheel - care & safety glasses required) to allow the narrower back to backs to swing on the curves, even the large radius ones on the GCMES track (about 15 ft).

But there are a few problems which spring from considering drawings and photographs in the two references below.

  • Despite the frame hacking the cars are still a bit high off the rails – they don’t have that low slung SR&RL appearance. The car platforms should ideally be about level with the bottom of the tender base (photo below, taken before fitting couplings), not the top.  Scalewise this is about 6”.
  • The SR standard freight trucks had a 42” wheelbase, which scales to near enough 56mm.  Roundhouse trucks have a 42mm wheelbase. The scale wheel diameter, at 18”, is spot on.
  • Normally I fit chopper couplings, entirely appropriate for UK stock.  These are effective but put the cars too far apart, and isn’t exactly what’s done in the US.  Several pairs of Kadee G scale couplings have just been purchased from GRS.  Fitting up is on my to-do list, and we’ll see how they look and work.  If OK, then they will become standard for SR&RL stock to go with #24.

So, very much work in progress, and ignore the left over C&S colours and lettering.  The spray cans, brushes and transfers will come out when the mechanics are right.

I’ll leave the Roundhouse trucks for now – they do run very nicely and the short wheelbase is not terribly obvious unless you look in carefully in at the side. 

The thing that really frustrates me is not achieving the squat Maine 2’ gauge look.  Hack and fiddle as I might (incl upside down truck bolsters) I just can’t get the bodies much lower, and am coming to the view that the stripwood box will soon be raided for some scratch building (which I find very satisfying in wood).  A flat or two to start with, then a combine, a few box cars and a tank car.  Mr Carsten’s fine little volume contains plans for all of these. 

On the other-hand I might place an order with Bowmans Models from their SR&RL range.  That passenger caboose looks very nice.

Ref 1:  Slim Gauge Cars, Hal Carstens (Editor), Carstens Publications Inc, Newton NJ, 1991

Ref 2:  The Maine Two-Footers, Linwood W. Moody (Edited by Robert C Jones

February 2020

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