Old Model Treasures

After many years in this hobby I have began to realize that we model railroaders do one thing exceptionally well... We collect kits!.. Lots of them! We have the best intentions to build each and every one, but we keep buying more.

Many of these older kits are as good in their detail if not better than many produced nowadays. There are plastic cast models still produced today from dies made fifty years ago, this when many of the early models were first cast in Zamac metal. Sometimes these older kits find their way to railroad swap meets and still in the original box.

During the late 1990s I acquired this all metal Athearn 200 ton crane a swap meet. What really impressed me about the model is that it had all the cable sheaves just as its prototype, not like todays cheeped-out plastic version. All holes were pre-drilled and tapped in the zamac cast parts for screw together assembly. Rods were provided as shafts for a prototype number of sheaves, this allowing each sheave to turn freely, no glue was needed for any part of the assembly. I did make one modification to the boom by adding a spring to hold the boom down adding pressure against the cable to keep snug against the sheaves. (This was a Model Railroader magazine tip from the 1950s.)

The crane came with fully operating Buckeye six wheel trucks, I did replace the large flanged wheels with NMRA standard RP-25 wheels sets.

The one page instruction sheet read like a treasure map with all the details for assembly including how to string the cable through the sheaves and back to the windless inside the cab. At the lower right hand corner of the instruction sheet was the name of the draftsman; B.E. Danielsen, dated 9-51, making the model a half century old before findly getting assembled. This made me think back to what was happening in 1951, one thought; railroads were still under steam power. Only took 50 years to get this kit together!

The Athearn crane closely matched the Southern Pacific Bucyrus-Erie 250 ton steam hook that was once stationed at Taylor Yard in Los Angeles. I did add details like the prototype and replaced the cast in ladders on the back side of the cab with stand-off ones, added cab door hand rails and roof grab irons.

Because the Athearn crane is made of metal, it's quite heavy and just like its prototype its also restricted to the same 25 mph speed restriction.


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