Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Arroyo Tram gets a Porter

 I recently finished my third 18 ton GrandtLine 0-4-0 porter. This time, I used an On30 conversion kit to make the locomotive On3. The kit basically includes two frame spacers, two helical gears (needed due to the narrower frame) and a new rear frame/ashpan front (the frame inserts into this piece). These gauge conversion kits were also made for On2 and I hope to have another conversion done by 2022 for the On2 module. We'll see. 

GrandtLine porter kits are an amazing box of parts and wonderful kits to build. Once in a while, its good to read ahead in the instructions to know why you are doing something and how important it might be to do at that particular step. They can be really difficult if you don't know what all those pieces are for. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself a bit with what small steam locomotive parts actually do. Cliff Grandt did an amazing job of designing a scale model. Sometimes a little too to scale and you might wish that clearances were a little greater or certain parts a little oversize for strength.

I prefer the look of the saddle tank cut back behind the smokebox, so that was my only modification from the kit. I filled the saddle tank with lead shot for weight, leaving the boiler for a speaker, stay alive capacitor and a soundtrasxx economi. I  picked up two of the economi's before they went out of production. Great sound decoders at a reasonable price. Why not use a TCS WOW decoder? Well, they don't work well with the Faulhaber geared cordless motors. I can't use them in any of my PSC shays with the Faulhaber motor, nor any of my GrandtLine porters. Soundtraxx and ESU decoders do work well with these motors.

Biggest Headache
The porters do not use a gearbox. The motor fits snuggly in the ashpan/firebox but the alignment of  the motor relative to the axle is critical. How do I know? I could NOT get this engine to run well backwards. There always seemed to be a bind in the mechanism. Note: In every GrandtLine porter I have built, there has been a bind. Usually I associate this with the side rods being slightly too short from center hole to center hole. Maybe shrinkage in the plastic? Not sure but I've struggled with binds in all three locomotives. To avoid this, I ovaled out the holes a bit in the rods during construction to assure a bind-free locomotive. You can see the "slop" in the rod in the video. Worked great. After painting and assembly, major issues. Huh?!

So, after disassembly, messing around, I determined that the bind was in the drive and by moving the motor up and down slightly, I could eliminate the issue. So, I glued the motor in and reassembled it. Still a little bind in reverse but great moving forward. A gearbox would definitely eliminate this issue. If someone out there could develop a gearbox for a different motor, I bet San Juan (new owners of the GrandtLine moulds) might be willing to produce these again.....otherwise, I doubt it.

Regardless, a great looking and sounding engine that is fun to build and a pain to get running well. Maybe the next one will go easier?


  1. I enjoyed your commentary and video. I've tried for years to get an HOn30 mechanism to run well and experienced the same issues. I recently purchased an HOn30 Forney from Toma Model Works. It has the drive shaft from the motor turns gears that in then turn worm gears on each axle. That eliminates any issues with the rods. It is a well designed mechanism. I look forward to seeing you in Hickory.

  2. "If someone could develop a gearbox....", enough said!