This week I received something I won on eBay, my first Brass Locomotive. For those who aren’t familiar, for a long time, Brass Locomotives made in Japan or Korea where the only way to get accurate models of many locomotives, especially steam locomotives. They were (and remain), expensive and often, poor runners (which makes them lousy for layouts like mine designed for operations). They were as often as not, owned by collectors and displayed, and not run. I won’t get into a long history of brass and bore people, that’s what Google is for if your interest is piqued, go search. Suffice to say, given the price of a single locomotive that I knew likely wouldn’t run well/at all, and many brass locomotives came unpainted (which mine is, but now I have the skills to paint a locomotive), they were always something where I’d look in hobby shops display cases, and quickly turn away. I always chose to spend less and have several models vs. spending a lot on one item. All that said, they do mean that many odd prototypes or locomotives that wouldn’t sell from traditional mass manufacturers are out there if you are willing to find them and pay the price.
Something I never thought I’d buy, a Brass Locomotive.
I hadn’t even been looking for one, it was one of those “some day when the layout is built I might look for one” things, but since I announced my layout prototype, two of my friends Trevor Marshall and Ryan Mendell had bought Van Hobbies O-18a’s!! One of them, my friend Ryan Mendell saw this one pop up on Ebay a couple of weeks ago at a good starting price and let me know about it, and I was able to buy it for slightly less than either of them bought theirs (anecdotally the Brass market has been softening as the number of model railroaders shrinks and the older modellers with large brass collections try to sell them off and can’t find buyers or pass away and leave their family to deal with them).
The history sheet and original decals that came with the unpainted brass locomotive. When mine is painted I will use modern decals as these ones are likely not fit for use after years in a box.
The O-18a’s were 0-6-0 switching locomotives, originally built for the Grand Trunk Railway, a predecessor of Canadian National Railways between 1919 and 1921. The last ones were retired in 1961, and two survived into preservation. They were used for industrial and yard switching, and in Toronto, were based at the Spadina Roundhouse, and serviced industrial areas in downtown Toronto including Liberty Village, hence my eventual need for one.
With this locomotive, I now have my core fleet of locomotives for the layout, and I mean it when I say I won’t be buying any more for a while!! I need to spend time and funds on things like laying track, constructing buildings, scenery and a DCC system to actually run the layout. While many of the locomotives are projects (This, CPR U3e, CPR S-2 (post coming), they are in hand, its paint and details and work, not buying more than I need to actually be able to operate and have a bit of variety.
Tour around the Locomotive.
Below are two videos of the locomotive being tested. It runs, reasonably well, but since it will need to be fully disassembled to install DCC, and to paint it, I will likely replace the motor and gearbox with something more modern and reliable. I know Ryan will be doing that with his, so I’ll be able to see what he has to go through, and observe someone who is much more mechanically inclined than I am do the work before I have to take on the task.
The only thing left for me to do now is some research on which of the O-18a’s which lasted into 1956/57 when my layout will be set were still working in Toronto, and choose a road number for the locomotive when painted. I’ll have to be sure to not choose the same number as Ryan and Trevor, otherwise they won’t be able to bring their examples to run on my layout!! So for now, another project, but another important one for my layout, so i can live with that at least!!