LOWER ARISTO-CRAFT'S FA-1
A QUARTER-INCH MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
BY ORLANDO PINELLI
AS MANY HOBBYISTS, I model standard gauge in the steam-to-diesel transition era. I was happy when ARISTO-CRAFT produced the handsome FA-1 and FB-1. They are very good renditions of the prototypes except for the large gap between their trucks and underframe. That causes the body to ride about a quarter of an inch too high above the rails. Modifying the frame turned out to be fairly easy and the more realistic results are evident from the photos.
Use half of the foam packing as a cradle, turn the model upside down, and follow ARISTO-CRAFT's instructions for removing the upper body. Also remove the two screws securing the fuel tank. Put the body aside.
Turn the frame right side up again, set it on your work surface, and disassemble it as follows:
- Remove the diesel engine casting. Two screws hold it in place. Then gently pull the male electrical truck connectors from their female receptacles on the printed circuit board. Avoid pulling on the wires or you may damage them. Handle the plastic connector only.
- Unscrew the weight retainer screws and remove the weights.
- Remove the engine compartment lamp fixtures. A pair of screws holds each fixture.
- Remove the two circuit boards. Two screws hold the rear bulkhead board; three hold the floor mounted board. Note: Pry the lamp fixture wires from their holes in the frame carefully before removing the floor PC board.
- Remove the truck mounting screws, then the trucks.
- Remove the pilot. A pair of screws holds it in place. Also remove the two screws holding the rear coupler to the frame and set the coupler aside.
- Finally, remove the six step castings by depressing the tab extending through the frame. Glue secures the rear bulkhead to the frame but the bulkhead will not be in the way.
Use a cutoff disk in a motor tool to trim around the base of both body bolsters until they come free from the frame. The cut should be about 5/32-inch deep. Work slowly to avoid cutting away any more material than necessary and be sure to wear safety glasses; sometimes cutoff wheels shatter.
Clean up any rough edges in the holes and on the bolsters with a sharp hobby knife. Then, using an appropriate combination of nut, bolt, and washer, chuck the bolsters in an electric drill. Be sure you have centered the bolt and bolster and make certain they fit tightly. Otherwise you may fail to achieve a perfect circle when you file or sand. I found 9/32-inch a perfect fit.
Turn on the drill. Use a slow speed if possible. Use a flat bastard file or a sanding block to turn down the bolsters until they fit tightly into the holes you left in the frame. Proceed very gradually and test fit often to prevent taking off too much material. (If you do remove too much, you may use shims to fit the bolster to the frame. Just be sure the hole through the middle of the bolster is centered in the frame.) Also at this time, sand away as many of the cutting marks around the bolster holes on the bottom of the frame as you can. That will result in a flat surface. It is not critical, but some areas should be smooth because the raised part of the truck bolster will now ride against that area.
Glue the newly turned bolsters into the holes in the frame, flush with the frame bottom. Use a good solvent cement such as Plastic Weld. The small end of the tapered center hole should face up, toward the inside (top) of the frame. Let the assembly dry overnight. Note: It is okay if a few nicks and chunks appear around the edge of the bolster protruding into the interior; only the center portion must be smooth.
Finally, cut four strips of plastic 1/4-inch thick by 1/2-inch long by 3 inches long. Quarter-inch Plexiglas works well, or laminate scrap styrene to the proper thickness. Use the strips as spacers for the weights you removed earlier. They will prevent the weights from interfering with the truck mounting screws and wiring. Use CA (superglue) to tack the spacers to the frame.
Now just reassemble your FA-1 by following the directions above in reverse order. Then enjoy a more realistic looking locomotive. Incidentally, my first conversion has been running for more than a year-flawlessly.