2-8-0 Consolidation

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Consolidation History

Aristo-Craft had announced / talked about a Consolidation style loco for several years, and it was delivered just before mid year 2011.

Here is a prototype picture, notice the blind driver, more later.


The Prototype

Aristo has stated the prototype for their model is the B&O E27 class.

Here is B&O #2527 (from the North East Rails Steam Roster, http://www.northeast.railfan.net) that seems to be pretty darn close but the air pumps are in a different spot. This series was built by B&O themselves, I believe, in Richmond and Schenectady.   The one below has the air pumps in the right spots, but the sand dome in a different spot, ladders different:  

Even closer is #2846 below, but the air tank on different side: I'm still looking for the nearest Santa Fe prototype.

The "blind driver" story

Originally, the loco was going to be supplied with blind drivers only., (For many years Lewis told me how disappointed he was in the Mallet and Mikado sales, and that this was because of the larger radius track they needed). Thus the blind drivers. (Of course the reason for the poor sales of the Mikado was because of the many slipping drivers and destroyed side rod gear. The Mallet suffered the same problem)

Later, according to Lewis, the center 2 drivers will be blind, but (from Lewis)  "we will deliver extra flanged drivers at the time of delivery of the loco if anyone wants to change. They will not be free, but it will be an easy upgrade."

This actually changed to "the loco will be delivered with flanged drivers, but the blind drivers will be included"

Later this changed again, and "the loco will be delivered with flanged drivers, and you can get blind drivers if you want later"

The final incarnation in 2011 is that the official position is that it's too difficult for you to remove the drivers yourself, because of the new system to fix the wheels to the axles, so blind drivers will not be available at all".... hilarious story considering all the discussions over and over.

In the end the customers won, their first request was all flanged drivers. Good. (And a normal human can remove the drivers, more below)

Other changes expected: The Aristo socket will be in the tender, so no extra wire for the sound board from the loco to the tender. 

Mid 2011, it was announced that there would be a new method of fastening the drivers to the axles.

Delivery, mid year 2011

I received my Consolidation in July 2011.

In the top foam half, there's a number of things, clockwise from lower left:

  • Lower left, two packages, one with an aristo knuckle with a short shank, another with an aristo knuckle with a longer shank, and a hook and loop coupler.
  • Far left, a small packet with what appears to be 2 cab window shades and steam dynamo.
  • Upper left, a hook and loop coupler with a 4mm screw.
  • Upper right, a 5 ml syringe. 



WARNING! The syringe did NOT have a "SAFE" tip, it is a normal sharp hypodermic needle. I recommend you immediately take it out and grind the tip flat and blunt if your looks like this.   Update: In November 2011, Lewis Polk addressed this issue, and changed from a standard medical syringe to a plastic tipped one. I have not seen the new one, but thanks for correcting this Aristo-Craft.



Below is a picture of the cab window shades, and what I believe to be the steam driven generator or "dynamo"


Removing the top foam insert, you reveal the loco with a nice plastic sheet protecting the finish. There is a long block of foam under the motor block that supports it

The loco weighs 8 pounds 5 ounces. It looks great. There's a higher level of detail, for example, note that the handrail stanchions are much smaller, and the handrail is now metal, not plastic. All of it is more to scale and looks much better.  

The tender has a similar plastic sheet. It weighs 3 pounds, 5 ounces. This is significantly heavier than any other Aristo tender.  Good!

Wheels / gauge / flange measurements  

Right off, this is a huge disappointment with this loco, especially in light of the new "wheel attachment system". The wheels have improper gauge, and a terrible wheel contour. The nominal tread diameter is 1.91". I say nominal because measurement of the tread diameter near the flange is impossible, more later. The spacing between the drive axles is 2.19"

Previously, all the "prime mover" based locos always had a wheel back to back measurement that was too narrow. The wheel gauge was ok, but the flange was too thick.

So this means on straight or curved track the loco would run fine, but running through switches, the out of specification (both NMRA and G1MRA) back to back allowed trains to derail, hit the frog, etc. In addition, to accomodate this situation, the flangeway widths in switches had to be made wider, thus making even properly designed wheelsets have problems.

For steam locomotives, the reason the wheel gauge was right and the back to back was wrong is because the flanges on the wheels were way too thick. Since the wheel gauge is a result of the back to back spacing plus the thicknesses of the flanges, it's a physical certainty that overly thick flanges ensure you CANNOT have correct wheel gauge AND correct back to back measurements at the same time.

Well, the news is that these wheelsets are still out of specification, but in a different way and the wheel contour is worse. Now the back to back is correct, but that makes it a physical certainty that the gauge will be out of specification, and indeed on the 4 locos recently measured, ALL of them had a wheel gauge in excess of 45mm, i.e. the wheel gauge is WIDER than the track !!!

To contribute to the problem, the "fillet" between the wheel tread and the flange is a huge radius, so you "lose" about half of the tread width. The result is a "press fit" in between the rails. Seriously.

Here's the measurements on a new consolidation (as delivered ),  and on some Aristo track: Here's the actual measurements from the review sample, provided to Garden Railroader from Aristo: (Keep in mind that the original review only measured the back to back, and the reviewer neglected to include the wheel gauge. The first numbers for wheel gauge were measuring INTO the fillet, not the extent of the thread. After some more work, the reviewer provided the information that he had measured to the center of the fillet, and this was about 0.024"... so you will see the measurements below taking the reviewer's first "gauge" measurements, and then adding in the correction for measuring too narrow because of the fillet (having to add 0.024" on each side, so a total correction of 0.048" (reference this thread in MyLargeScale.com) http://www.mylargescale.com/Community/Forums/tabid/56/aff/17/aft/123905/afv/topic/afpgj/4/Default.aspx Axle

1 - 1.771" + 0.048 = 1.819" ( equals 46.2 mm, WIDER than the track gauge) Axle 2 - 1.769" + 0.048 = 1.817" ( 46.15, wider again) Axle 3 - 1.762" + 0.048 = 1.810" ( 45.974 mm) Axle 4 - 1.758" + 0.048 = 1.806" ( 45.87 mm) I need to clean the rest of the numbers up below, but this data above is again, from the reviewer and the loco in the GR review.   Here's some numbers from a friend's loco   rear driver 39.97 - 45.25next forward 39.53 - 45.07next forward 39.53 - 45.13front driver 39.86 - 44.33 Here's some track gauge measurements from Aristo track.new piece of track 45.23 used piece 45.09 - 44.85used curve 8' diameter - 45.31 - 45.08     Notice the wobble side to side on the following video. Watch at 2:30, watch besides the wobble from side to side, how the cowcatcher rides up and down. This is from the gauge problem, making the loco ride up on the flange effectively. Watch at 2:52, the wobble is extreme.  

(Video below courtesy of Chris Haon)


Here's worse, watch at 1:47..

(Video below courtesy of Charlie Zimmerman)

I'm interested in fixing this problem, so I decided to see the new "wheel attachment system" myself, although Aristo says you cannot take the wheel off yourself (and used this as a reason for not providing blind drivers).  

The way I removed the wheels was to use a Bernzomatic model ST250K micro torch and heated the axle screw.      

This torch has a pin point flame. I used the lowest gas setting, which gave me a flame about 1/2" long, and applied it to the screw head directly, about 30 seconds. I then waited about 30 seconds for the heat to distribute. I then heated it again for about 30 seconds and immediately removed the screw. Thanks to R.J. Deberg for this technique.  

Be sure you find a perfectly fitting screwdriver, and have the loco in a cradle or supported so you can bear down on the screwdriver and apply force while unscrewing. Don't let it cool before trying.   Below is the new bushing, it is steel and pressed into the driver. The knurling makes it so it does not slip in the wheel. Notice the red loctite slathered all over inside.     Below is a better picture of the insert: (it sticks out about 1.43 mm)     The bad news is that it appears that the bushing is tapered also! So the obvious question: "can you reposition the bushing to adjust gauge" is apparently no, it's not going to work. Now I need to investigate further if it can be pressed in further without damaging the casting, or can I press it out, enlarge the hole in the driver and press it back in deeper.   The picture below shows the front side. You can see the darker steel color in the casting. The lock washer bears on this steel bushing.       Well, even though I gave some thought to just press the bushing in further, I'm a little cautious. And good thing, I was wrong, the bushing is not tapered, there is a lip in the wheel that provides a positive stop for the bushing, look carefully inside:     Here's the bushing. The end with the chamfer goes into the back side of the wheel first, and that is the end that has the smaller inside diameter.   And here is an end view, the end that sticks out of the wheel, nearest the gearbox. You can see the taper inside:   So, my next thought is to possibly reduce the size of the lip, or drill it out altogether, and then press the bushing in to meet NMRA and G1MRA specifications, after I have machined the back side of the wheel to thin the flange to NMRA / G1MRA specs (about 1.5mm is my target).   An interesting post, showing you how Aristo still cannot admit the truth of the wheel gauge being incorrect: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gscalerailroading/message/89   Just friggin' unbelievable, here are the numbers, corroborated by many, yet Aristo seems to believe that it's someone's track.    


First run OK, so RJ tells me I'm not being fair in being upset about the gauge measurements, and I need to try running it before I take it apart.   Take it to the back yard. I think the manual is backwards, remove the coal load by pushing on the rear of the load and lift up. Looks like it might come out the other way, but harder to do.   So I am not surprised at what I see, because I saw the prototypes. There is a big board very near the top of the tender, about 1/4" clear of the speaker. The QSI board barely fits. The Aristo circuit board is placed way too far back in the tender. I guess it was easier to make the standoffs start after the tender weight.  

SUGGESTION TO ARISTO-CRAFT: MODIFY THE MOUNTING OF THE BOARD TO CENTER IT IN THE TENDER OPENING, ENSURE THAT ALL CONNECTORS ARE ACCESSIBLE WITHOUT REMOVING THE TENDER SHELL (all this would take is to make mounting posts for the board that come up through the weights, simple, also this might allow a larger speaker).   Well, that makes it very hard to use the socket, as the back of the socket is about even with the rear of the opening. Poor design. I plug in my QSI board, after being VERY careful to get the pins aligned, since you really cannot see them. Oh, guess what? You cannot put the coal load back on because the 2 clips hit the QSI board. I'll bet they hit the Revo board too. Why the heck the 2 clips are in the center of the coal load, instead on the sides where they would clear everything?   Check the battery/track switch, turn on the lights switch... and there's another on/off switch with no visible label... why? (look at the top right switch) Turn that one on too. The smoke switch has a label on it to warn you about using fluid.  

SUGGESTION TO ARISTO-CRAFT: LABEL THE UNLABELLED SWITCH   Now to run the loco on the new decoder: Press 'select'  - '3'  - 'enter' and run the loco (eat your heart out Revolution users) and the loco moves.... BACKWARDS.... yep, they wired the DCC socket backwards from specifications.  

SUGGESTION TO ARISTO-CRAFT: WIRE THE MOTOR LEADS CORRECTLY TO THE SOCKET SO THAT USERS DO NOT HAVE TO USE REVERSE TO GO FORWARDS, I.E. MEET THE NMRA STANDARD   Set the direction to reverse and off it goes, nice and smooth and quiet.... yeah quiet? Oh, forgot to hook up the cable to the speaker.   ( I later rewired the loco to correct polarity, swap the wires 5 and 6 where the wires come from the plug. In the photo above, you can see the 8 wires just to the left of the socket, and wire 8 is labelled on the board.   Before trying to bring up the sound, I check how the loco sits on the track. BAD. The front and rear drivers are TIGHT in the rails. Aristo 10' diameter SS track. TIGHT, they are wedged into the track, no side play at all.   Try sliding the center drivers, they move.... Weird, because the gauge measured the same, how can they have play? Uh oh, another problem? Yep, the center drivers seem to have some side to side play because they are NOT in line with the end drivers, they are slightly off the rail, so they can twist a bit side to side. The motor block casting must be warped or something else. So only 2 of the 4 drivers are touching the rail heads. This might also be because the outer drivers are wedged in the rails, and riding on the fillet, thus raising them up off the rail head. I am not pleased.  

SUGGESTION TO ARISTO-CRAFT: YOU MUST HAVE A PROPER THICKNESS OF THE FLANGE TO BE ABLE TO HAVE BOTH WHEEL GAUGE AND BACK TO BACK AT THE SAME TIME. YOUR CURRENT WHEEL CONTOUR MAKES THIS IMPOSSIBLE.   Electrical: Before going further, I notice that the cab light, marker lights, number boards are all wired to the headlight... so go in reverse all these lights go dim, instead of just the headlight (default QSI is dim in reverse not completely out). Dumb, but a "cheat" to use fewer wired from the tender to the loco I would guess. (I still prefer the socket in the boiler)   Also the plug between the tender and the loco is small and fragile. It would be easy to break it inserting it, it is difficulte to insert it evenly, and removing it requires pulling on the wires, which will eventually damage the connector.  

SUGGESTION TO ARISTO-CRAFT: ADD 2 MORE WIRES TO THE PLUG/SOCKET, WIRE THE CAB, MARKER AND NUMBER BOARDS SEPARATELY FROM THE HEADLIGHT. INCREASE THE SIZE OF THE CONNECTOR AND ADD "MEAT" TO ALLOW INSERTION AND REMOVAL BY PULLING ON THE CONNECTOR, NOT THE WIRES   Connecting sound:   Yes, it ran quietly, and I did not connect the sound jumper from the QSI to the Aristo electronics. In fact WHERE is the speaker connector? Hmm, there are 3 connectors UNDER the tender top, jeeze! How dumb is that? Now this is worse because the board is so high in the tender, you don't have a chance to get in there with your fingers. They are about one inch back from the opening. WARNING: before working on the tender, notice on the fireman's side there are 4 small, fragile "hooks" on the lower edge of the tender. If you lay the tender on this side, you are likely to break them. Off comes the tender shell... stupid... 6 screws.... now you can see the connectors... read that on/off switch again, no telling what it does.   whoops, there is the wire to the backup light, look carefully, it has a connector you can disconnect, usually tucked around the speaker. Interestingly the connector is polarized. This will come in handy if you replace the bulb with a LED.   OK, it works. The speaker looks pretty similar to the standard Aristo one, but will measure to be sure.   For a $540 loco, it would be nice to get the connectors with the loco...   I noticed 2 more connectors, and these are NOT documented in the manual. One apparently is fixed, and the other variable. I assume one is power for a sound board and the other is for the sound board to "read" the voltage to the motor.     Couplers Also of interest, the tender has a tang for truck mounting of a coupler, but no coupler was mounted. As mentioned earlier, there are 2 loop couplers and 2 Arist knuckle couplers provided. I'll most likely body mount a Kadee coupler to the tender.


Click the links below to go "deeper" into details on indivudual motive power by manufacturer

AML/Accucraft  Aristo Bachmann Berlyn
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Tenders Misc Pulling Power  
Weather Underground PWS KCACARLS78