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MDC and Keystone Shay comments

From rec.models.railroad

Article: 7705 of rec.models.railroad
From: (John Harper)
Subject: Re: HO Shay kit questions
Date: 24 Jan 94 17:25:49 GMT
In-Reply-To: bill's message of 17 Jan 1994 22:39:28 GMT

(Apparently this never made it out from my site)

In article <2hf430$> (Bill Smotrilla) writes:

>Has anyone had any experience with either the Keystone or the
>Caboose Industries HO Shay locomotive kits?  What is the quality
>like, how do they run, etc?  Also, is the Caboose industries kit
>the same one that used to be put out by Model Die Casting?  I'm
>interested in a powered model, not static display.  I'm also curious
>as to how tight a curve they can negotiate, how they handle grades,
>any gotcha's to look out for with either of these kits.  Can anyone
>out there help with these questions?
>Bill Smotrilla and
>I made an error in my previous post on this topic.  My questions
>referred to a kit by Caboose Industries.  I meant to say Roundhouse
>Products instead.  Sorry if I caused any confusion.  Bill Smotrilla

I have built both the MDC Class C Shay (70 ton three truck) and the
repowered Keystone Class B shay (20 ton, two truck). Both are somewhat
of a challenge to get running well, and how well they run depends on
how much effort is made. Mine run very well, I have heard of others
that don't.

(Roundhouse and MDC seem to be the same company. Can anyone else
clarify the exact situation?).

For the MDC get the NWSL gear upgrade (replaces some plastic gears
with brass, and also provides slant cut gears) and also the universal
shaft upgrade (which gives you much smaller U-joints).

The quality of some parts is somewhat poor, I should have replaced the
plastic air-compressor with a brass casting. I added a bunch of other
detail, so it still looks pretty good.

The kit itself is relatively straightforward. I did find a number of
things that needed attention (also, there was a pair of articles in
RMC a couple of years back about getting the mechanics of the
two-truck kit working. I used those ideas; I can find the exact
references if anyone is interested.)

1) The spring metal wiper contacts from truck to frame can't be made
to work reliably. Replace them with wire couplings, and run the wire
in a loop around the truck so it has enough give to allow the truck
free motion.

2) I replaced the motor with a Sagami, and got 1 flywheel on the end
(details here depend on which MDC kit you're interested in).

3) Any misalignment of motor shaft and gear shaft will cause binding
and poor running. Use a pair of sockets with the short Cardan shaft
between to couple the motor shaft to the gear tower.

4) Trim the gears off the wheel face on one wheelset in each truck.
It's way too hard to get everything aligned properly with all gears

5) Check everything for flash, clean all gear teeth.

6) test run each truck separately with the line shaft in place (but
not the actual model drive worm shaft). You should be able to push the
truck lightly and have the line shaft rotate. Check the plastic
snap-on shaft covers and make sure they aren't too tight. The
line-shaft is the hardest thing to get right. Too tight and it will
bind, too lose and it will jump gear teeth.

7) Use enough thrust washers to take up the play when you put in the
worm shaft.

For the Keystone, NWSL makes a power kit (which cost more than the
model itself: this gives you a small Sagami can motor (about the size
of the end joint on your little finger), new wheel sets, worm gears,
and line shafts, gear tower etc, plus a good set of instructions). I
used the left-over parts in a scratch-built dummy shay of identical

The Keystone is the harder kit to make. It consists of white metal
castings which they suggest you glue together. I drilled 0.02 holes
and used wire pins with ACC to ensure the cab will not fall apart.

You cannot repower a built model, so get it altogether before you
start. There are mods. to be made to the kit, such as digging a hole
in the frame for the gear tower, drilling and tapping some holes for
ball joints etc.

The quality of some of the parts is low. I had to chuck and turn down
the smokestack to make it round. Some other parts are too weak for a
working model, such as the cab steps. I replaced those too.

The trucks are tricky. The NWSL kit provides beautiful line shafts
with brass gears, and wheel sets with one gear set cut down to make
life easier. I would not glue the shaft covers on (since I did not
believe I would get it right first time, and once on you are pretty
much committed to things). I used a loop of 30 gauge soft brass wire
around the line-shaft to hold it in place. I tested this for smooth
running, then glued the covers in (which now have great clearance and
will not cause binding).

I also left the truck "flexible": when screwing the side frames to the
cross-member I did not tighten the screw all the way (I think the kit
wanted me to glue this too).

Much of the same procedure for the MDC can be used here.

In addition to the above, both my kits have scratch-built working Shay
engines, with moving rods etc. (not just the piston rods). They look
very nice (but as might be expected, are noisy: so were the real ones).

As for radii: both of mine will negotiate 18". I modified the MDC so
the tender ran closer to the rest of the engine (the default spacing
looks way too big). This requires care with the line shaft sleeves etc
to avoid binding on the inside of a turn, or disconnecting on the

Since I don't have a layout :-( I can't say about grades, but both are
quite heavy models for their size (which BTW is only about 3 inches
long for the Keystone) so I expect they will do ok. I doubt they will
pull 30 boxcars or loaded hoppers up a grade.

Hope this helps.

John Harper    "There's someone in my head, but it's not me" -- Pink Floyd
Dept. of Astronomy, U. of Toronto, Scarborough Campus

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