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Back in September, there was a thread here on the Tinplate forum about "Standard Gauge 6-drive-wheeled steam engines".  In the discussion, Arno posted some photos of the Harmon and Thon 4-6-6-4 Standard Gauge Challengers, and I had a one-word response, "WOW!" That someone had basically hand-built something like that in Standard Gauge is pretty mind-blowing.

 

So I followed up on it: Arno introduced me to Bob Thon.  Bob is an interesting guy, to say the least.  He bought Roberts Lines Standard Gauge from Russell Roberts and continued to manufacture that line.  He has also worked on some other amazing Standard Gauge projects:  he marketed the big GG-1 developed by Robert Hendrich: and he acquired the design of the Harmon Challenger.  Bob continues to build these, developing the design and adding detail, using a combination of custom-made castings, hand fabricated parts, and some off-the-shelf parts as appropriate.

 

A few years ago, Bob finished assembling one of these Challengers and started lugging it around to shows and SGMA events.  He didn't paint this one, leaving it "natural" so that the construction details - copper boiler, aluminum castings - were visible.  And I mean "lugging" it!  The Locomotive and tender are 50" long and weigh in at 60 pounds.  Bob Build a special wooden box to pack and carry it in.

 

101 copy

 

 

Long story short, Bob and I met up at York in October and I came away with the Challenger.  It is Bob's #115, which I would say qualifies as fairly low production.  This one is powered by two 3-axle McCoy open-frame traditional motors.  Each of the motors is actually 2, having two armatures driving the three axles.  And there's two of these units.  It's the motor which was native to McCoy's "Chief Cle Elum" Ten-wheeler locomotive.

 

I actually really liked the unpainted look of the locomotive - the copper and aluminum is reminiscent of a long tradition in Standard Gauge of unpainted metal trains starting with Lionel's Brass #7 and continuing up through the Mayflower and Prosperity Special.  But in the end I decided to paint it, which of course means completely disassembling the beast.

 

PICT0033 copy

PICT0037 copy

 

 

 

david

 

 

 

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  • PICT0033 copy
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Originally Posted by rtr12:

I had no idea there were things like this out there.

Believe me, I didn't either.   I'm learning a lot.  This whole "Modern Era Standard Gauge" universe is very exciting.  Not so much the big manufacturers as the small, limited-production shops or just a few copies handcrafted.

 

Bob said he's going to start on another Challenger and should have it ready to "lug around" in a couple years.  

 

 

Let me just say, this is one of the best, if not THE best, looking Challenger I have ever seen. It just doesn't get to look like this with a rattle can and a file. Bob Thon has forever been evolving the look and operation of the Challenger. But it takes someone like David with the skills and patience to follow it thru to the end result.

 

ARNO

Okay, here we go, a pile of parts fresh from painting.

 

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at this point we're committed to the project, there's no going back.

 

 

 

And a couple days later, here's some sub-assemblies coming back together:

 

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I hope I found the right green for Great Northern.  Southern Railways also had the green, gray, and orange; but it was a lighter green.  GN seems to have a dark olive green, and I'm hoping this is going to look okay.

 

Thanks for the vote of confidence Arno!

 

david

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I still have a few details to work on; the number "4000" needs to go on, under the cab window, and I've got some ideas for a coal load in the tender, and a few adjustments.  In general the decals came out okay, the tender sides were difficult because of the rivet heads, but patient use of the decal solvent solution helps them conform.  So here's how it looks now (click on photos to enlarge):

 

 

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PICT0119 copy

 

 

 

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Last edited by Former Member

Rob, I sure it's just a matter of time. I heard the train crew was out on the tracks clearing the main line. They haven't had that size a locomotive on the HHC RR since the GG-1 hit the rails. The maintenance engineer had to put in a couple work orders to move a semaphore or two and there was a cow too close to the rail. All should be good to go soon.

 

I can't wait to see it run either.

 

ARNO

Better check the "wheel" arrangement on that "cow". From here it looks more like the rarely seen in captivity "2-1-2" not the more common "2-4-2"!
 
 
 
Either way, hope the beast is gone soon so the Thon Challenger can run!
 
Originally Posted by hojack:
Originally Posted by moderneraSG:

and there was a cow too close to the rail. 

 

HUH??

 

26899

 

 

 

Okay, here she is:

Standard Gauge 4-6-6-4 Challenger,

made by Robert Thon - Robert's Lines trains, c. 2011 I think;

finished as Great Northern #4001 by myself this year 2014;

pulling a drag of 9 coal hoppers and a caboose made by Red Forney in the 1980's.

 

Somebody's going to ask, so the curves on the outside loop that she's running on are both 84 and 72 diameter traditional tinplate tubular track curves.  Most of the curves you see the train going around are 84's.

 

You see the train climbing the layout's 2% upgrade on one side and the same 2% down on the other side of the layout.

 

Long may she run.

 

 

 

 

 

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Videos (1)
Thon GN 4001 Challenger

Many thanks for posting the video, Hojack. I just watched and it made my morning!  

 

It looks great hauling the Forney hoppers and caboose. My favorite part is watching it go past the 840 power station - it makes that large structure appear pretty tiny!  

 

I'm sure it will provide you many hours of fun! Thanks for sharing it with us here.  

Arno,
 
Seeing this video made many thoughts about MESG run through my mind!  Not the least of which was quitting my job and moving my family to Hojack's place.   Maybe he'll let me park my camper in his back yard and I can help him with layout maintenance all day long!
 
After I snapped back to reality, I did think about how much I want to try to get that JAD GG-1 running at some point.  I hate to see it just sitting there not earning its keep.  Oh, and a few more Forney hoppers would definitely be a nice addition at some point. Do you know where I might find some?
 
 
Originally Posted by moderneraSG:
Rob, after seeing this, does this mean you need more Forney hoppers?

ARNO

 

Originally Posted by Rob Shaubach:
I did think about how much I want to try to get that JAD GG-1 running at some point.  I hate to see it just sitting there not earning its keep.  Oh, and a few more Forney hoppers would definitely be a nice addition at some point. Do you know where I might find some?

Rob,

Just for the record, the GG-1 is a John Daniel's Railway Lines product, not JAD. Yes, John was a partner in JAD, but it was a partnership. The GG-1 and heavyweight cars he did on his own.

 

As for Forney hoppers, I might have a few more. You'll have to hit me up at York next April.

 

ARNO

Andy, both of the motor units pivot under the boiler, so they articulate in that sense.  They gotta, to make the curves.

 

The Forney freight cars really work out well:  they are big enough to hold their own, but they are also remarkably lightweight.

 

Thanks to all for your kind comments, and Bob, I hope one day you get your Mallet!  Also I want to send my real appreciation out to Bob Thon for all his work, and all his kind support in getting me up and running.  And to Arno for setting it all in motion by introducing us, and encouragement along the way.

 

Rob, get your GG-1 going, and if you ever have reason to come through northern Vermont, bring it along.  We'll do laps.

 

 

Arno -- thanks for the info on John Daniel's.  I have much to learn, but that's half the fun! Forney hoppers or no Forney hoppers, a visit to your table is already on my agenda for April York.

 

Hojack -- thanks for the invitation -- you never know, maybe I'll get to your neck of the woods someday.  In the meantime, I'll focus on layout work and the many projects on my "round-to-it" list.

hojack posted:

Back in September, there was a thread here on the Tinplate forum about "Standard Gauge 6-drive-wheeled steam engines".  In the discussion, Arno posted some photos of the Harmon and Thon 4-6-6-4 Standard Gauge Challengers, and I had a one-word response, "WOW!" That someone had basically hand-built something like that in Standard Gauge is pretty mind-blowing.

 

So I followed up on it: Arno introduced me to Bob Thon.  Bob is an interesting guy, to say the least.  He bought Roberts Lines Standard Gauge from Russell Roberts and continued to manufacture that line.  He has also worked on some other amazing Standard Gauge projects:  he marketed the big GG-1 developed by Robert Hendrich: and he acquired the design of the Harmon Challenger.  Bob continues to build these, developing the design and adding detail, using a combination of custom-made castings, hand fabricated parts, and some off-the-shelf parts as appropriate.

 

A few years ago, Bob finished assembling one of these Challengers and started lugging it around to shows and SGMA events.  He didn't paint this one, leaving it "natural" so that the construction details - copper boiler, aluminum castings - were visible.  And I mean "lugging" it!  The Locomotive and tender are 50" long and weigh in at 60 pounds.  Bob Build a special wooden box to pack and carry it in.

 

101 copy

 

 

Long story short, Bob and I met up at York in October and I came away with the Challenger.  It is Bob's #115, which I would say qualifies as fairly low production.  This one is powered by two 3-axle McCoy open-frame traditional motors.  Each of the motors is actually 2, having two armatures driving the three axles.  And there's two of these units.  It's the motor which was native to McCoy's "Chief Cle Elum" Ten-wheeler locomotive.

 

I actually really liked the unpainted look of the locomotive - the copper and aluminum is reminiscent of a long tradition in Standard Gauge of unpainted metal trains starting with Lionel's Brass #7 and continuing up through the Mayflower and Prosperity Special.  But in the end I decided to paint it, which of course means completely disassembling the beast.

 

PICT0033 copy

PICT0037 copy

 

 

 

david

 

 

 

So Hey Dave,

What a prize - got any photos of her painted?

Jim Waterman

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