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Let’s talk about customizing Triplex Locomotives. Lionel’s announcement of a variety of Vision Line Triplex models built to order has generated loads of enthusiastic discussion here on the Forum. And a lot of folks already have Triplexes in their stables from the previous releases by MTH.

What customizations to a Triplex would be appealing to you? Have you done some customization work on a Triplex? Let’s see it! What techniques and materials did you use? What advice might you offer others who would like to do something similar?

In their posts folks have shared what customized features they would like to have in Lionel’s offerings. Mr. Muffin’s trains had a limited time offering of customized Triplexes that did not include white paint on the wheels. Many folks greeted that with enthusiasm. Others who missed that opportunity might decide they want to paint the wheels on their Triplex black. Other folks buying the Halloween version of the Vision Line Triplex have said they would appreciate something other than “Happy Halloween” written on the tender. There’s an opportunity for removing a graphic and replacing it with a custom decal. For folks who are skilled at that sort of thing, you could share your advice and/or point to helpful threads on that subject already on the Forum.

Some folks might want to customize a Virginian Triplex to more closely resemble the prototypical Virginian Triplex 700. The prototype had four wheels on the rear truck rather than the two on the Lionel Vision Line offering. Maybe the shape of the tender on the prototype was a little different than on the Lionel or MTH Triplexes? Maybe folks with access to archival photos can describe what other opportunities there are for bringing an O scale model closer to the Virginian 700 prototype.

Last edited by Norman R
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Careful what you wish for Norman, …sure, painting the white striping black, or adding a decal WITHOUT taking the locomotive apart won’t bother or hurt a thing, ….however, modifying the mechanicals, changing a truck, changing a shell, woukd require opening up a brand new 2K+ locomotive ( or whatever the price point may be ) and thus give them a good enough excuse to void your warranty!….Now,if you’re a card carrying member of the warranty voiders anonymous club, like some of us, then pay no never mind to this reply,….but if you are not,…..be careful crossing that line!….I’d hate to see you on here complaining how your warranty got voided because you modified your engine and they tell you to kick rocks!……

Pat

Pat you make an important point here, thanks for highlighting this. I guess by now I have accumulated enough experience in life to know that I have got to be the one to bear the consequences of my actions. As soon as I take a screwdriver to an engine I am out there on my own and can’t expect Lionel warranty service to fix problems I created. Its good not to assume everyone else sees things that way. Maybe folks can share their thoughts on where their own threshold of risk acceptance is for modifying an engine that can cost more than two grand.

Norman

The four wheel truck is the most intriguing mod for the Virginian version for me. I intend to pursue it too. I just haven't given it much thought because I don't know how the two wheel truck will be attached and how much extra space will be available on curves.

I would be very interested in changing the tender change to more closely match the real Virginian Triplex. Somebody feel free to reach out if you have a detailed drawings with measurements. I could even do some estimating if someone has a photo that has a person standing next to the tender. I'm betting I could 3D print one that could be painted and detailed to look great. A lot of it depends on what's in the production tender but I suspect it wouldn't be too difficult if there's enough real estate to spare. I do get a little squeamish about putting a heating element in a plastic container made of PLA but perhaps somebody could print an ABS body. I 3D printed a super basic ingot buggy/car and it's held up very well. It's a little bit light weight as printed but it tracks well and weights could easily be added. I think I'm up to the challenge. I need to finish my blast furnace first though

I'll likely paint or weather the whitewalls unless I end up liking them. I feel like that engine at that time would have had white walls because of it's magnificence and the pride behind products back then.

I plan to mess with the cable on the bell if there is one. I've been meaning to try different materials on the locomotives I have with the swinging bell. I haven't had time though.

Either way, we can accomplish a lot if we put our heads together and keep the thread from falling into Lionel-shoulda-but-they-didnt chatter. The group build threads on here have produced outstanding locomotives and taught me much more than I would have learned on my own. I'd like to see that be replicated in this case.

@Norman R posted:

Maybe folks with access to archival photos can describe what other opportunities there are for bringing an O scale model closer to the Virginian 700 prototype.

We all have access to such - they are on the Internet, along with almost everything else.

The Virginian and Erie locos did not favor much, actually, excepting the obvious concept and general layout. I am all for approximations of favorite locos and rolling stock when an accurate model is not available (I have them, and have bashed more than a few), but because this loco costs a squillion dollars I would think many times before turning an excellent model of an Erie into a mere approximation of the Virginian.

BTW - I have a beautiful MTH RK Triplex; high-end RK, I call it. It was compressed in only some areas, and many parts (cylinders, cab, pilot width, etc.) are of scale or near-scale size. So - it looks like a scale model of a smaller prototype, not a downsized "toy". Runs well. Maybe use one of these for VGN Triplex mods.   

This is a good thread, Norman. The Triplex is a long-time coming for Lionel. Unfortunately, Lionel has not been consistent with too much of anything in recent years. Nevertheless, for people who have a strange affinity for machines like me, it is cause for enthusiasm. Simply put, the Triplex is the most fascinating steam locomotive, both real and toy, that I have ever seen, and I've run a lot of toy steam locomotives . The MTH model's smoke units are prolific; I can only run them with smoke on for a minute or two as my basement is limited in size. I do have an air filter and fan that helps somewhat. The disappointing aspect is that MTH's sound system leaves something to be desired, both for PS2 and PS3. The PS3 Triplex does have the quillable whistle via DCS remote (assuming you have the latest software loaded...6 point something) but activating it is cumbersome, at least for me. The sounds and quillable whistle via Cab II is where I am trusting that the Lionel version will be better. The wheel slip gimmick seems neat.

Steve aka Mr. Muffins let me know that if enough people are interested, he'll ask Harry Heike to ask his decal guy to make a run of custom Halloween decals. If anyone is interested, let's get a tally via this thread. Am assuming any decal would first have to be put over a black decal that would cover "Happy Halloween" or use lacquer thinner to remove "Happy Halloween" and then apply the new decal. Anyone with experience on these methods care to chime in?

Steve also said Harry can do the whole thing himself, though I imagine that would cost more. Personally, I am not crazy about having expensive engines shipped more than they have too. An initial idea for a run of decal names are the following:

Graveyard Shift

End of the Line

I saw the N&W Triplex rendering in an e-mail from the Train Loft...it looks very nice - maroon colored boiler. I try to limit my passion to Erie, Reading, and PRR, so this is not a consideration for me. Plus, I have no idea how I am going to pay for all these engines factoring in next year is the 20th anniversary of the Polar Express.

Mr. Muffins also has a US Army Triplex. I am uncertain why they're using Eisenhower's name as he was WWII...General Pershing may be more applicable, but what do I know.

Thus far, my only customization has been on my MTH Virginian Triplex - an engine that the boss men of the PRSEL (Pennsylvania Reading Seashore Erie Lines) bought from the Virginian on the cheap and the guys in the RR backshop used Polly scale paint, painting over the "Virginian" lettering under the cab window and near the top of the coal bunker. In theory, they could've used lacquer thinner to remove the lettering but were in a hurry to get the engine into revenue operations. Now it looks great in doubleheaded operations with my black Erie Triplex. I'd post a picture here, but it'd likely get a few chuckles. It is shown in passing shot via a video, below (this video is a repeat from the Triplex brochure thread):

Last edited by Paul Kallus

Awesome video, Paul. I’ve never seen Triplexes double headed before. It really makes the case for them as icons of the steam age, three sets of churning drivers going past in close succession and then another three. It’s good to hear your observations on the MTH Triplexes seeing as you have two of them in house.

I appreciate your advocacy for customizing graphics. If this thread can share successful techniques, materials, and resources for doing mods, it should help increase the chances of first try success for folks who have never done it before. You’re already doing that with encouraging folks to indicate here their interest in a Steve Nelson/Harry Heike/decal resource custom run. Removing decals? On the Forum I have read about using automotive brake fluid for the job. Is that going to be a go-to method for removing a Lionel Triplex decal or is there another method with a higher number of successful outcomes? Hopefully those with experience will let us know or point to where it is covered on the Forum.

It looks like BillYo is stepping up and considering four wheel trailing trucks and changing the shape of the tender shell for a Virginian Triplex. Depending on the configuration of the stock Visionline tender, it seems like this could range from a relatively straightforward mod to relatively challenging. There’s an opportunity to blaze a customization trail for interested Virginian owners.

Meanwhile, Pat harmonyards riffs on Jean Shepherd in “A Christmas Story”:  “What? Mod your Visionline Triplex? Forget it kid, you’ll  shoot your eye out  void your warranty!”

Yes, I agree if there is an Army Triplex offered as a custom run, General Pershing would be a name for it since they were built during World War I. Medal of Honor winner Sargent York would be another good name. US Army Major Charles Whittlesey, commander of the “lost battalion” also won the Medal of Honor in WWI. …Maybe an Army Triplex is an opportunity for customized decals too?

@Norman R posted:
It looks like BillYo is stepping up and considering four wheel trailing trucks and changing the shape of the tender shell for a Virginian Triplex. Depending on the configuration of the stock Visionline tender, it seems like this could range from a relatively straightforward mod to relatively challenging. There’s an opportunity to blaze a customization trail for interested Virginian owners.

I would greatly appreciate any help from anybody that can share leads on finding blue prints for the Virginian tender. It would save me some trouble.

@Norman R posted:
Meanwhile, Pat harmonyards riffs on Jean Shepherd in “A Christmas Story”:  “What? Mod your Visionline Triplex? Forget it kid, you’ll  shoot your eye out  void your warranty!”

hahahah nice!

@BillYo414 posted:

I would greatly appreciate any help from anybody that can share leads on finding blue prints for the Virginian tender. It would save me some trouble.

I wholeheartedly agree with your desire to obtain blueprints. Primary source references are the best, particularly if you are going to be investing your own personal time into a project. I don’t have any sources, but I did a quick superficial look for them on the web.

The Norfolk & Western Historical Society has a website with a search feature. With a little looking I was able to come with photos and something called “Baldwin Locomotive Works Specification Diagram for VGN Rwy Road #700 Triplex Class XA Articulated Steam Engine”. Impressive title, but not a blueprint. I think these items need to be purchased.

Actual blueprints might be best chased through the archived records of the Baldwin Locomotive Company. I was able to find a link to a gateway below:

https://txarchives.org/smu/finding_aids/00052.xml

The website indicates that the collection is open for research use.

As expected, the website states:

Publication Rights: Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement: It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Good luck. I hope with a little more time invested a source for blueprints fall into your lap. We Virginian #700 Class XA fans are rooting for you. Even if Pat is already printing a “warranty voiders anonymous club” card with your name on it.

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