Annually, the North Bloomfield Historical Society hosts their Trains in the Town Hall, a seasonal Christmas train display in their Historic Town Hall. This beautiful Western Reserve building faces the Town Commons, where it has stood as a sentry since 1893. Each year the display gets bigger & better and all the money donated goes back into the display purchasing & upgrading equipment & rolling stock. Once in a while a family comes forward wanting to donate some old, used or broken trains, (and sometimes it is a combination of all three). This story has its beginning during the summer of 2015.
A local family stopped by my home one afternoon with a box of old trains that they didn’t want anymore, and would rather donate them to our display rather than piece them out on internet auctions. In the box was a significant amount of vintage track, a couple American Flyer engines, a couple O scale engines, and some odds & ends. I promptly thanked the family, and took it up to the Town Hall for our upcoming Historical Society meeting.
We removed the two 4-4-0 American Flyers and the Lionel 2026 from the dusty box. We put them on a test track, the headlight would come on, but nothing happened. With our display coming up, these were put on a table, as we had some serious work ahead of us for our 2015 display.
Unable to get any of the three engines running in time for our show, we did set the 2026 on a siding inside an Engine Maintenance Shed that was recently purchased. A little sign on the engine recognized the family that donated the tired engine, and we noted that it was in the engine shed “for repairs”.
After the show when things settled down, I looked up a friend of mine (from the OGR forums) that repairs engines on the side. I like to work on my own stuff, but these three tired engines needed some attention, and I just didn’t have the time. I mailed them off and asked him to do what he could. It was less than a week later I got the good news, all three were fixed. I mailed off a check, and had them back in our hands in a matter of a few weeks.
This 2026 was produced in 1952. It was a rather plain engine, nothing fancy, no valve gear, and no tender. It had some significant play time on her wheels, but it really showed in her paint. It is a cast engine with headlight & a smoke unit. When I took the old engine out of her USPS box, I thought I caught a scent of smoke tablets. I was glad that we went ahead and fixed her up. The family is originally from my hometown, so possibly this engine made her debut around a North Bloomfield Christmas Tree 54 years ago. It seems fitting that the old girl will be pulling cars once again, five decades later in her home town.
While looking online trying to find a replacement tender for her, I was a little discouraged in the selection of vintage items. Either the tender looked two shiny, or to “played with” or I just wouldn’t be able to mate the two parts up without it looking quite obvious that they weren’t an original pair. So I closed up the computer & went down to my work area to do some general cleanup.
While boxing, labeling & organizing all of my “Not good enough to use, but too good to throw away” treasure box, I came across a lonely Marx 333 tender. It was missing wheels, it was beat up, it was ugly, and it was New York Central! In my home town, we had the PRR running on tracks that were owned by the Pittsburgh, Youngstown & Ashtabula. No one talks about New York Central, we don’t even use them as the butt of jokes! I set it on the table, with the intent on using it in a scrap yard scene. However, it caught my eye, and I set it on some three rail behind the 2026. I just kept looking at it, and the more I looked, the more I knew Frankenengine would soon come to life!
I took the tender apart, and removed the hand rail from the back of the cast aluminum shell. I took it into my shop, and set it inside my sandblast cabinet. In my cabinet, I had black diamond media, however, I had been doing some excessive blasting cleaning up multiple cast iron pieces to a tractor. So the media was well worn & due for a change out. The old used black diamond worked fantastic on the cast aluminum. If the current sandblast media would not have been so soft, I would have changed it out for some glass beads or walnut shells. A sharp media could quickly do some significant damage to the details of a 50 year old cast aluminum shell.
Bringing in my freshly cleaned up piece, I flushed it well with rubbing alcohol to remove dust & stray pieces of sand. I looked through my cabinet, and there was a can of Rustoleum flat black paint & primer all in one. A couple light coats, and the tender was looking great. I left it undisturbed in the shop overnight to dry & cure.
I removed the shell from the 2026, and repeated the same process as I did with the Marx tender. Again, I was quite pleased with the results. A couple light coats, and I shut the lights off for the night.
Focusing on the Marx tender, with its lack of wheels, I decided to get back into my Junker box. At the bottom I found a pretty good set of Lionel trucks & couplers. I removed the wheel-less trucks from the Marx frame, attached the Lionel trucks, and I now had a rolling tender for the first time!
The wire hand rail on the Marx tender received a light coat of metallic silver, and was reinstalled. I attached the shell to the frame, and had a very nice mate to the 2026 that was still in the shop.
Getting the 2026 put back together took about 30 minutes. I put a thin coat of silver on the bell, the same which was used on the Tender grab wire. The engine & tender really looked good sitting on the old three rail, but it still needed something. I sent an email to my buddy Dave, (AMC Dave on the forums) posing the question. Let’s just say if the US Olympics had a Model Railroading decoration team, Dave would be the captain. Dave had some good words of advice- “Keep it simple, or you will lose the charm of a vintage engine”. He was right. So I abandoned my “super detail” mindset, and decided to grey out the front, and red out the roof like a Pennsylvania Steamer would look.
Back to the shop I go, and next to the can of flat black was a can of primer grey & primer red. I masked off the front, and the cab roof and applied some color to the flat black. It was hard for me to wait to remove the masking tape, because this little add of color was looking good! After letting the paint cure, I removed the masking, and it turned out better than I thought. Dave was right; simple is sometimes better.
I printed new decals on a laser printer at home, used some setting solution and placed them appropriately. I would have liked to have gotten the black a little more “blacker” but I’m still happy with the result. I wanted to reletter the 2026 numbers on the engine. I refused to letter the tender as original. Even though the PY&A didn’t run their own engines, I felt it appropriate to tip my hat to our local history, so the Pittsburg, Youngstown & Ashtabula will have a pretty nice Prairie style steamer pulling the revenue through Bloomfield!
This December, Frankenengine will make her Christmas appearance. A Lionel Engine, pulling a Marx Tender on Lionel Trucks. The 2026 will be riding the rails, puffing smoke & being enjoyed by thousands of people.