Backwoods Miniatures 0-4-0 converted to Sn2
Regaining confidence in a small way
Backwoods Miniature Vertical Boiler kit in S scale
A lot of my modelling over the last few years seem to be so I could have a break from that damn Wa kitset, which I've already posted here. Even though it's not finished. I wanted to make a locomotive, but also make something that would actually work, that I could learn from, and therefore be rewarding.

Even from my minimal experience, the Backwoods Miniatures kits from the UK were top-shelf. I bought their Sn3 0-4-4-0 Mallet, 009 Beyer Garratt that I've since sold (and regretted doing so), and a Sn3 0-4-0 vertical boilered "Bitsa". The big plan was to convert them all to Sn2, which was why I sold the Garratt. It just looked too difficult at the time, to convert.

The 0-4-0 seemed the easiest kit to start with, and hopefully I'd have a better result than the Wa kit which was going through one of its, "I want to inexplicably run like a ruptured tortoise" phases.

It's a real pity that Backwoods Miniatures kits are no longer made. Even the little 0-4-0 is a work of art, in my opinion. The simple photo-etched fret and castings fitted together perfectly and make up into a lovely model. I had a few challenges, but the excellent engineering in the kit meant that all problems were my own creation.
I started by assembling the outer frame, then added the water tank. The whole loco felt very light, so I added ballast pieces of lead inside the tank. In the end, I had to add a lot more lead underneath, epoxied between the outer and inner frames, so it would have enough traction.

Being an outside frame loco, I thought it would be easy to re-gauge it from three-foot down to two-foot gauge. However, the kit has an equalised internal frame, with reduction gears inside that, so I realised I'd have to chop it up.

It started off as a single fret and a tiny bag of castings
I made up simple spacers for the frame, but had to very carefully trim the plastic gears down as well. The larger teeth on the reduction gear only just rubbed on the drive axle bush, so I trimmed things back until they only just didn't.
Getting the frame running turned out to be very easy, with only two axles to set in quarter. The cylinder guide castings needed some fettling before the cross heads ran properly. The tiny bushes on the connecting rods were a little long, so I filed them until they were only about 0.2mm longer than the thickness of the connecting rods.

The new brass ones were much more accurate, and they didn’t split
I carefully built the mechanism, then watched it wander back and forth in a satisfyingly smooth fashion until it suddenly started jerking along, then stalled. Maybe that Wa kit was contagious, and anything built near it would start running like crap, too? I had a look and discovered the only weakness with the whole kit. The counterweights are moulded in nylon parts that get press-fitted onto the axles. They had split and shifted, putting it out of quarter.

I tried epoxy in a fit of pure optimism, but then made nice new counterweights out of brass. They look better and hold securely in place.
The boiler and cab were next and went together easily, but I was worried about the cab roof frame. It was very thin but turned out to be quite strong enough. I used thinner, scale corrugated aluminium for the roof. The plastic stuff with the kit looked too heavy.

I thought my railway should have air brakes, so added a Westinghouse pump and air tanks to the model, downloading a diagram from the internet to see how it should be plumbed in. I used a few PSC pipe fittings, an HO scale pump, and bent up a cooling coil and brackets. The steam line comes off the top of the boiler, which seemed to be right.

I also scratch-built the brake valve for the cab, which was the smallest thing I'd made thus far. I sliced tubing thinly and added bits of wire for the stand and handle. Holding it while soldering proved to be the main problem. I've since seen some lovely castings I could have used, but making this was a lot more fun.

That clamp is a small stainless surgical forcep

Small Details
Here’s the air brake valve I made. Holding it while soldering was the biggest problem.
The white metal steam lines to the cylinders which came with the kit looked a bit odd, so I made new ones from heavy copper wire, and soldered on thinly-sliced brass tube to simulate pipe joints.

The only part of the kit that didn't work for me was the brake rigging. I put it together no problem, but when it was installed, the inside frame and mechanism were effectively captured. There would be no way to take the motor and mechanism out for servicing. Since the brake rods are mostly hidden, and I wanted to get it running, I didn't mess about with adding extra brackets and screws to the rigging so it could be removable. Maybe in another life...

The kit came with a solid white metal box-style headlight, but I replaced it with a PSC casting. I added a wood pile in the cab, and hid the LED wires inside a tube running up the roof support.
Nothing Wasted
“For about thirty-five years, I've had a cast brass water hatch I bought from Christchurch Model Supplies. Now it has a home."
I had the electrical pickups working and all that, but also I'd discovered the joys of DCC and sound, so wanted to add that dimension. There was no room under the loco for a decoder, and the motor took up all of the boiler. That was all the excuse I needed to scratch-build a tender. I'd picked up a Grandt Line HOn3 four-wheel caboose kit and wondered if I could use that as the base. The Delrin pedestal mounts were too fragile for my liking and I couldn't get it to sit properly. It ended up being a waste of the kit as more parts got messed with, then discarded.

Keeping with styrene, I scratch-built a new frame and added steps, plus Grandt Line HOn3 trucks. I made a simple styrene water tank that was hollow, added a filler hatch and some tools on the top. I had a Cal-Scale steam water pump that I added to the top to finish it off. My theory was that it had started as a short flatcar then been rebuilt as a works car with wooden sides, before having a water tank added so the loco could do bigger trips.
That was all fine, but the whole thing was too light and, like an idiot, I'd made it too small. I'd started with a small cube speaker from EDU, but didn't like the sound. It was too tinny. The next size up was too big and the wires were all over the place. Dammit. After a bit of fiddling, I just put it to one side and will rebuilt it later as a water car, or something.

Number Two
This tender was better, and fun to make as well
The next tender was bigger, with a wood pile to cover the DCC gubbins and a separate water tank. The styrene tank didn't look right, so I rebuilt it in brass. The only thing I'm not happy about with the tender is the connectors for the decoder. I got some miniature plugs from the US, but they're a bit big and are six-prong, so I need two of them.

Just as well I'd bought two PSC box headlights, because now I needed another one for the tender. That was easy to fit, and I added a yellow-cast LED light inside. For about thirty-five years, I've had a cast brass water hatch I bought from Christchurch Model Supplies. Now it has a home. I wrapped thin copper wire around heavy copper to make a spiral-bound water siphon pipe, and laid it on top.
The painting was easy, and once I changed the loco counterweights for brass, it ran beautifully. I set up the decoder using Decoder Pro, and limited the top speed quite a lot. The brake squeal effect is my favourite bit.

I've tried modifying some 1:72 scale styrene figures to be S scale, but they still look like Hobbits. So that"s something else to figure out.
After all the problems with my Wa, the success of the Backwoods Miniatures 0-4-0 gave me quite a bit of confidence to carry on. Now, when I finally build a layout, I'll have an old, slow, cranky and squeaky loco for shunting, or the occasional run up the hill.
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