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DalaGStanator's Customs, Mods and Experiments
#1
This thread has been long overdue, in part because I haven't posted in WDYDTYTT as often as FfarDev did before starting his own thread. I was also initially reluctant to jump straight to subsequent projects rather than tracking down my earliest posts. Either way, I will now try to reserve WDYD for things that don't quite fit this thread's title (such as repairs, layouts, simple changes and a few other exceptions).
 


You may remember I expressed interest in developing a "one of a kind" custom narrow gauge system as an alternative to Take Along, Capsule Plarail or other commercial small scale options. Having recently found another small track system from a (currently unidentified) non Thomas set I had, I wanted to see what I could actually do with the idea. I built this prototype Rusty by measuring the Take Along Mavis, and the face is a hot melt glue cast of hers. The hot glue was used for the buffers, radiator cap and fuel tank as well. Given it's not the final version, he will most likely not be painted.

[Image: 023.jpg][Image: 024.jpg]

I've experimented with using metal wick sustainers (tabs) and clay to fabricate custom wheels for non Plarail use, each one being made of two sustainers on either side. They tend to get bent easily and are difficult to align with precision, but they can still roll fine. Might be a reason why I've never seen anyone use them for this purpose before. Here's a test fit on Junior Train track with two such wheelsets (not connected):

[Image: 025.jpg][Image: 026.jpg]

Unlike Take Along/Take 'n Play, where the wheelsets are fully exposed under the running boards, my narrow gauge stock will have the tops of the wheels going through (like on Plarail/TrackMaster/ERTL/My First Thomas). After the above test, I remembered finding this (unpowered H0) bogie from a Smart Toys set. I found out it fits on the other, more complete track system and attached Rusty to it.

[Image: 001.jpg][Image: 002.jpg][Image: 003.jpg]

The condition of this bogie compared to the other ones made him unstable and a tad difficult to center (one side of each wheelset is almost falling out). It can work well on both systems, though it runs much more smoothly on Junior Train. Given this track is slightly wider, most TA/TnP items that have less wheels than Edward, James, Arthur, etc. (by extension, Adventures/Collectible Railway) work on it flawlessly. Oddly, regauging the wick tab wheelsets didn't work and the wind up engine from Junior Train is too narrow for it. My only real problems are the traction grooves on the outer rails, weak connectors and lack of points (switches). Nevertheless, I'm glad I still have it and the set came with straight pieces in addition to curves.
 

 
[Image: Union-Express-Box.jpg]
(image from an eBay listing)

Another childhood train set I had before Thomas & Friends was one of these S scale sets known as Union Express. It came with an 0-6-0T powered by two D batteries with a headlamp and smoke unit, a red coach, blue caboose, silver tanker and a dark green station building that uses the typical "whistle-chuff-bell-track" soundchip. Like Junior Train, it has countless variants with different boxes, colours, rolling stock, accessories and track layouts, but the locomotive and coach designs are consistent (for the most part). I chose an image of a variant where they have the same liveries as mine. Here's the track system and two of the rolling stock from it:

[Image: 003.jpg][Image: 006.jpg]

As shown below, it's quite similar in size to TrackMaster but not elevated, has non rounded connectors and a much bigger curve radius. Rather than flat wheels on the inside, the rolling stock uses flanges on the outer rails. My variant only had curves and two very short straights (presumably to complete the oval), while some others come with full straight and cross pieces to build a figure 8.

[Image: 005.jpg][Image: 004.jpg]

Just about any non powered TOMY or TrackMaster item will fit on this track. In fact, they run even more nicely than the train it was made for. However, driven axles on engines and other power units make them too wide for it. Seeing as it's much more limited in piece variety, I don't think it would be advisable to sand/file the rails to help fit the engines. Furthermore, chances are they might wheelslip on it due to lack of inside traction grooves. I could possibly regauge certain engines by replacing the driving wheels with front ones, in exchange for battery power and coupling rods. Mega Bloks don't fit either because they only have sliding axles. I would love to be able to use it as alternative track for its neat looks. Now for the best part...

[Image: 007.jpg]

...except for the curve radius and connectors, the unknown system I showed above makes a perfect narrow gauge version of Union Express (even though it was made by an entirely different company). This is the main reason why I'd want to use UE with TOMY and TM. In addition to having the same outer rails and similar joints, it even has less sleepers like real NG track normally has. Another (not as fortunate) similarity is both their own trains don't run as neatly as those that don't belong to them, especially the small one. Of all the various track systems I've owned, these are the only two that look similar but are different scales (unless I would repaint TM1 black with silver rails to match Smart Toys, or the other way around).
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#2
This is going to be a very nice Thread LaG
[Image: super-smiley-emoticon.gif]
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#3
[Image: 001.jpg][Image: 002.jpg][Image: 003.jpg]

Regauging a TOMY engine the way I described turned out possible and worked as expected. A front wheelset can fit under the drive unit or in the rear of the chassis (not without some light effort), but not simultaneously. I temporarily mounted a spare one from a previous Thomas and folded a piece of paper to hold it in. He would've rolled better if I made an actual retainer from something like LEGO. Now that I think about it, the first image helped me figure out how to classify the set; I remembered this S gauge conversion of a TOMY Thomas (+Annie and Clarabel), and the photos Trainfanz provided show the exact same size compared to the track. If I had the Diapet range, they would've been the obvious choice of models to use. Great to know I found a "harmless" solution, even if it means disabling engines and having no coupling rods. Should I ever perform this mod again in the near future, I might also put the Flip Face James back together and adapt him the same way.
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#4
[Image: 004.jpg][Image: 005.jpg][Image: 006.jpg][Image: 007.jpg]

I've done some long awaited adjustments to Spenry, mainly giving him his own smokebox with proper supports and a more accurate funnel. Now he no longer has to share it with the working (Fisher Price) Edward, and it's also glued to the boiler and running board. Admittedly, it did turn out slightly too long at the front. I transferred the face cast and gave it a repaint due to the faded gloss. Everything else went 98% unchanged. I chose to ignore the tender wheels being black, in part because I still want the option to revert him to Spencer with ease.

[Image: 008.jpg][Image: 009.jpg][Image: 010.jpg]

Naturally, this meant I also made a new cast for Edward after returning the smokebox to him. Apart from the eye direction, I recreated the TOMY features as accurately as I could. Have to say it turned out brilliant compared to the paper face and failed self tracing from earlier. I might have to find an alternative to the gloss to prevent/reduce fading wherever applied.
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#5
Looking good LaG. Was this face made with your Hot Glue method?
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#6
Yes. Both he and Henry use hot melt glue casts made from clay moulds of the TOMY Edward face.
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#7
[Image: 017.jpg][Image: 018.jpg]

My custom Henrietta used a premade orange paint that gave her an unsuitable "neon" colour, so she's been repainted with my own mixture. The only clear indication on camera is in the underneath shot, where the previous shade remains on the inside. I would've preferred to get a similar mixture to the first version, though it's still a welcome improvement.
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#8
Looks Good LaG Smile
[Image: super-smiley-emoticon.gif]
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#9
[Image: F07-C26-FD-77-AA-4-C5-F-AFFE-C15-EDBDFEB25.jpg][Image: 0-A8-EB76-E-BB69-4621-95-C7-3-B178-FB60229.jpg]

I've made a new scratch built Jack with accurate proportions to eventually replace the first version (repainted Mighty Wheels backhoe). This was mainly done in an effort to reduce the scale, because he, Alfie and Byron were oversized. The front wheels came from a (low quality) pull back fire engine, while the rear ones were from a portable concrete mixer (which I used to use as Dizzy). This time, the hydraulics are fake and the arms don't usually stay up. While I sadly didn't get the "Take Along size" I wanted, he should still look better next to TOMY engines, coaches and trucks. At the time of writing, he just needs his detail, the face, the rear axle cut to size and a front axle and he'll be done. The face is expected to be a slightly reshaped cast of Take Along Thomas'. Alfie will be updated as well, with the excavator arm from the previous version.

Edit:

[Image: 79-A7-B490-B655-40-C4-B056-01-F06-BE1655-A.jpg][Image: 7-B309559-3-E6-C-4389-8573-02-C20-B6-F7171.jpg]

The detail has been added and the face cast was made, though the Take Along Thomas face was too small even after being expanded. The front wheels are the same size the face should be, so I took one of them and "carved" the features inside the mould (while filling the gaps and then smoothing the whole thing). Turned out very effective.

Edit 2:

[Image: CED77-DFA-6-D51-4435-A267-F167-DA8-F838-B.jpg][Image: 1-E0-BEF43-A563-4-CCD-9536-840953761-FC9.jpg][Image: 8-E23168-A-55-BD-459-F-A908-E3-D4-E1-C6927-F.jpg][Image: 28-A4-E8-E7-061-D-46-E4-9-B45-E32150-B4-EB6-A.jpg]

Now finished. I thought I wouldn't be able to trim the rear axle since I don't have a rotary tool, but a strong set of pliers worked fine. The front axle is a cotton bud handle and may sometimes lock up. Here's how he looks with an engine and a motorized vehicle (pretend Elizabeth is Isobella; shame Jack isn't the same height as her, though):

[Image: D5-A1-ED2-F-99-B4-4054-9-A70-5-E2-A2-C9-B1263.jpg]
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#10
Wow, excellent work out of cardboard LaG. Smile
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#11
[Image: 359-B8984-8-A0-E-451-E-8-CAC-8-E47-D0-E8-CB63.jpg]

Just like with Jack, work on the new Alfie has commenced. Unlike the first version (left), the top is finally able to rotate. Now that the whole model is smaller by a few millimeters, the old arm should be more proportionate. He will have a somewhat lighter shade of green since he no longer has to match the Mighty Wheels telehandler. His wheels are from a cheap pull back monster truck (whose motor and axles were rusty). I originally considered using those from a pull back dump truck/mobile crane I had, but they were too small and might be used if I make Ned. Shame their rims couldn't fit in these tyres very well, because the star shaped ones really don't fit him. I'll probably fill them in using clay or glue or just cover them. The arm will also be held properly and not hastily glued on. Very eager to start building the top, and I hope he will turn out as great looking as Jack.

Edit:

[Image: 8-CC13499-4232-4-CD6-BB67-F695-AB3-F7-DD0.jpg][Image: DEAA8644-40-E0-4902-9-C7-E-D0-BF21-D0825-D.jpg][Image: 6-A2-D5-D07-47-FB-478-B-9-BCE-E8-F86-AD640-BA.jpg]

Main body finished and primed, with certain detail to be added after painting. In terms of looks, my wish above was definitely granted. I'd say the most difficult part was to attach the arm, because it has pegs rather than holes. The previous green paint was (mostly) removed before priming, and glue was applied to the pegs to prevent it from falling out. Before the body was built, the rims were filled in with clay. It may not be easy to tell on camera, but the top wasn't perfectly built and makes him unbalanced. Face will be a modified cast of Mega Bloks Toby's. Apart from the stability issue, I got the exact result I was going for.
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#12
[Image: 91340495-4571-4793-AF3-B-7629320-C1048.jpg][Image: 59-E2-C2-B6-01-D1-4-C5-B-8-C0-E-6-C3-B78144192.jpg][Image: 003.jpg][Image: A1-CC06-E8-5-CE8-4989-A9-D0-953555-AC074-A.jpg]
[Image: 385-FB0-C8-F4-C0-437-D-BF8-D-1-E9-CCC2-E4-BAE.jpg][Image: C5-B5123-D-4573-4-A58-A5-A1-802-C42-A1-DAB1.jpg][Image: FCEC0717-83-F6-4309-9-D0-B-2-B62-A58-DB9-BF.jpg]

Alfie was painted and detailed yesterday, and the face cast has been finished today. Unlike the red used for Jack, the green had to be applied in several coats due to some of it coming off and leaving yellowish stains on him. The only thing carried over from the previous version besides the arm were the digits (cut and turned into stickers, with the biggest being copied for the back). After that, the whole shroud was torn off the telehandler and the original arm released from the glue. I remembered the Mega Bloks Toby face being taller and flatter than TrackMaster's, but didn't know it would be the perfect size for the cast. It occured to me the body is too thin because the arm is too close to the cab (the piece between them should be the same width as the other side), but it does help the arm stay up a bit better. Given he's taller than V1, he has to be stored with both pieces separated. Still have to find how to make him more balanced and not wobbly and leaning to one side, in a way that would not hinder the rotating base. Might help if I remove the small piece near the back and insert a heavy weight behind it.
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#13
That is just some Awesome work LaG. You are getting so good at cardboarding for sure. [Image: winking-thumbs-up-smiley-emoticon.gif]
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#14
[Image: EF1022-E6-2-A71-4-E3-D-9-EDF-55062-D88-DCA0.jpg][Image: 4-B13-F286-4-FEC-4464-8-E1-A-D506-DB5-BD6-DE.jpg][Image: 1474-C04-D-3-B5-E-4-C2-C-9-AC4-BE9511-C2-F407.jpg]

Having just bought premade olive green paint, I've given the TOMY Cranky a second repaint eight years after my first attempt. The less accurate shade I used back then was kept underneath, because the olive green seemed a little too bright for him when applied (hence why I didn't prime him). In parts where I overrode the black spaces, I used markers to fill them in again. Have to say it turned out much better, and the unintentional weathering helps add a perfect look to him. Shame I (currently) can't do anything about the faded face without wiping the eyebrows off, because the previous repaint was clearcoated by spraying (without masking). The fact he sat near large windows until last year doesn't help either. Here's how the new colour looks under outdoor lighting:

[Image: 180-F8-DB0-191-B-47-B4-8819-41-AF656364-B0.jpg]
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#15
[Image: 9-B9-ECF96-634-C-4-D88-BDED-CD552-E14-E962.jpg][Image: F60-E6396-59-F0-476-A-AA33-D14114-DD9520.jpg]

Made a second attempt at building a prototype Duncan for the Junior Train wind up loco chassis. I didn't like the first version one bit, so it was never documented. He is now much more accurate, thanks to the rear overhang like he actually has. Before trying to build a new top, I redid some of the donor's detail and added a cardboard bufferbeam where the cowcatcher used to be. I initially wanted to build Rheneas, but the wheelbase was too short for him and more similar to Duncan's (or Skarloey/Sir Handel/Peter Sam's driving wheels). My previous running board designs somehow caused the chassis to run in circles, even though nothing was (visibly) blocking the motor. To rectify this, the running board is now wider. He does still get stuck with it, though it helped make him run straighter. Like on the first version, the face is a cast of Take Along Fergus' (the closest face to the narrow gauge engines in my collection). The funnel and rear dome were originally a small lead container for an old compass, the dome being its cap. He is currently painted in an incorrect shade of yellow, to be replaced with a mixture of yellow and brown or similar. In spite of the running issues, I like the result a whole lot better. If I had six Junior Train locos, I would've simply reshaped the original tops instead of (fully) removing them. That way, the wheels wouldn't pop out and perfect running would be guaranteed.
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