Glenn Holland

[MOC] Nickel Plate Road S-2 2-8-4 763

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"Masterpiece"
 
Nickel Plate Road S-2 2-8-4 Berkshire 763
 
Spending so much time at the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum, one will really begin to appreciate everything in their collection, not to mention the facility itself. Everything from the extraordinary to mundane will find its way into your mind and heart. I must admit that in my years of steam locomotive research and enjoyment, the Nickel Plate 700's did not strike me. For whatever reason, they just didn't click with me. I'm not sure what it was, but obviously, that's changed now.
 
Cale and I modeled 765 way back in 2017 when we were still figuring out Brick Model Railroader. It took some convincing, but we eventually decided that Nickel Plate Road 765 would be our first collaborative steam locomotive model. We had a running model that needed some adjustment, but quickly became disinterested in the project due to external factors. We were never quite happy with where we left this project, and vowed to each other that we would return to the model some day to do it again, properly.
 
Several years later, in late October 2021, and on a whim, I laid out a scaled wheelbase in stud.io, just to see what it would look like. I left the file alone for a couple more months until the Holiday season of 2021. I began thinking about a Nickel Plate Berkshire running around a Christmas tree, inspired by the amazing "Travel Refreshed" speculative project: 
 
 
This set my mind racing with thoughts of the late 1940's when large mainline superpower led  "hotshot manifest" trains through the heart of America. If there was ever a perfect depiction of postwar steam railroading, it was this, and the Nickel Plate Road was the poster child.
 
The Nickel Plate Road connected the farms of the Midwest in St. Louis and Chicago to Buffalo in the east. The road took a fast, level route along the southern edge of the great lakes. A direct competitor to the New York Central, it was purchased by the Vanderbilts in an effort to remove competition. As such, the line was never optimized and operated with older and slower equipment. The Nickel Plate was purchased by Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen, brothers from Cleveland who had controlling interests of several other roads including the Chesapeake & Ohio, Wheeling & Lake Erie, Pere Marquette, Erie, and more. The "Vans" would lead efforts to completely transform the Nickel Plate into the powerhouse bridge road it is remembered as today.
 
One of those efforts included the creation of the Advisory Mechanical Committee (AMC), which served as a design bureau for the roads under control of the Vans. One of the first projects for the AMC was the design of the C&O T-1 class 2-10-4 engines, the largest two cylinder steam locomotives when built. Continuing in efforts to rejuvenate the Nickel Plate, president John Bernet assigned AMC officer William Black the task of designing a super-power locomotive. The result was the Nickel Plate S class of 2-8-4, built by ALCO Schenectady in 1934. The AMC, capitalizing on their winning formula for the T-1, maintained the factor of adhesion just above 4 while scaling down the rest of the locomotive: eliminating the fifth pair of 69" drivers and creating a locomotive with 70% of the tractive effort and 70% of the weight. Unbeknownst to Bernet, Black, and the AMC, they had just captured lightning in a bottle.
 
To truly appreciate why the 700's were such good locomotives, the operating mentality of the Nickel Plate must be understood. The road was a masterpiece of engineering, maintaining a very flat right of way along the mainline, running shorter but faster trains handling bridge traffic over the line. Operating conditions like these coupled with the high-horsepower 700s, there has hardly been a more perfect match of locomotive and railroad. The Berkshires were so effective and loved, the Nickel Plate laughed away EMD diesel demonstrators multiple times until the end of steam in 1958. Even still, several of these locomotives were stored serviceable in anticipation of a traffic spike that never occurred. 
 
Nickel Plate Road S-2 2-8-4 Berkshire 763
 
763, part of the third batch of Berkshires in total (S-2 class) and second batch from Lima (Works #8671), was one of these locomotives. Officially retired a few years after the end of steam, it stayed in Conneaut, Ohio until 1966 when it was purchased by the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia. 763 remained in Roanoke for several years until it was towed to New Jersey for inspection to pull the American Freedom Train, but other locomotives were selected., and 763 returned to Roanoke. Ohio Central and Age of Steam founder Jerry Jacobson purchased the locomotive from the museum in 2007, returning the engine home to Ohio. It is currently stored inside the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum in stall 4, a regular favorite part of any regular public tour.
 
Lima Superpower
 
All that to say: I never expected to have such a deep, genuine understanding and appreciation for these engines. It says a lot when someone can connect with a piece of machinery in such a way, and gain understanding of its purpose and reason for existing. The 700s were truly magnificent machines. 
 
So, in deciding that I was going to model one of these amazing locomotives, I began working in stud.io, and over the course of several months, I came up with what must have been at least a dozen iterations of the rough shape of the engine solely to achieve "the look." With 765 currently operating and with countless fans of the locomotives, the 700's are well recognized and people are going to be able to pick out the details, so any model of one has to be done properly. Once I had the correct shape and proportions, I filled in gaps and rebuilt section after section until I had a completed digital model in June of this year. By then, I had just seen 765 operate in person for the second time and was feeling inspired, so work on the custom wheels and connecting rods progressed alongside. Refining, trial, failure, adjustment, and testing continued until December 2022 when I completed the physical model. Naturally, I had to model 763 specifically, being the preserved example at Age of Steam.
 
Under the hood this model is identical to my Mohawk: a pair of Power Functions L motors geared 1:1 driving the third axle, each operating from its own Power Functions IR receiver, and powered by a Tenergy 7.4v 2200 mAh battery. 763 operates smoothly and without issue thanks to the drive train design and high-quality printing of the wheels, rods, and valve gear. Drivers and trailing wheels designed by me and printed by Rob Hendrix, all rods and valve gear designed by me and printed through Shapeways. All artwork was faithfully recreated by Cale Leiphart. Decals printed by OKBrickWorks and UV printed number boards and bearing caps are from Richard Glatter. Thank you all for your help with this project.
 
Having completed and published Buffalo Creek & Gauley 13, Morehead & North Fork 12, and now Nickel Plate Road 763, my Age of Steam collection grows. Those who know me personally understand that I'm not one to brag about my work. However, I feel I must say that I think I've outdone myself with this model. I would say this is the most new, ground-up design of locomotive I have built in a while. I've achieved detail and accuracy that I haven't seen on even some traditional scale models, and it all works together to make 763 perhaps my best model yet. A masterpiece of a masterpiece, if you will.
 
As 2022 winds down, I'm elated to publish this locomotive and check it off the list. As I mentioned earlier this year, I've had a lot in progress recently so wrapping something up feels fantastic. There's a bit more in store for the immediate future, but we'll get to that later.
 
As always, thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone for their support of my work through comments, questions, and compliments. It is always sincerely appreciated and I am thankful to be a part of such a fun community.
 
More photos here: 
 
Video here: 
 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,
Glenn Holland
Edited by Glenn Holland

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All I can say is "WOW". Well done! The history is much appreciated too.

Edited by bogieman

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58 minutes ago, bogieman said:

All I can say is "WOW". Well done! The history is much appreciated too.

Thank you! I'm glad you like it. 14 paragraphs was a lot to write for a model, but I'm happy that the context and history is appreciated - there's certainly a lot of story to tell with these engines.

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You really have outdone yourself!  You wouldn't know that wasn't an O-Gauge engine (train for that matter), even if you looked at it for a while!  As I strive to get better, its always good to have markers of what Is possible!

 

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Criminy, Glenn.  Masterpiece is right.

You should send a link to Tony Koester at MR. He'd enjoy the hell out of this.

I do too, despite its being steam.  :grin:

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16 hours ago, JWBDolphins said:

You really have outdone yourself!  You wouldn't know that wasn't an O-Gauge engine (train for that matter), even if you looked at it for a while!  As I strive to get better, its always good to have markers of what Is possible!

 

Thank you! I'm continuously inspired and driven by those in the Proto:48 modeling communities, so having a model of mine compared to their work is quite the compliment. I'm honored that I can be an inspiration.

13 hours ago, ivanlan9 said:

Criminy, Glenn.  Masterpiece is right.

You should send a link to Tony Koester at MR. He'd enjoy the hell out of this.

I do too, despite its being steam.  :grin:

I just might do that! Thanks for the suggestion!

Admit it, steam can be fun too ;)

9 hours ago, LordsofMedieval said:

This definitely belongs on the front page. Can someone alert the proper authority?

Much appreciated, thank you!

5 hours ago, GoHabsGo said:

Incredible

Thanks very much!

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Hot Dog!

What an absolutely stunning locomotive! It is incredible to see the static photos, then seeing it come alive and pulling a beautiful train! All the details are just jaw dropping!

Cheers to you!

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On 12/19/2022 at 10:33 AM, Feuer Zug said:

Gorgeous model. Your attention to every detail on this classic "Superpower" Berkshire is to be commended.

Thank you very much! They are certainly magnificent in every way. I'm happy I was able to capture a piece of that.

On 12/19/2022 at 1:24 PM, Craig Strader said:

Will this model get its place on BMR like the T-1 did?

This model is a personal project - no relation to Brick Model Railroader.

On 12/19/2022 at 11:48 PM, Supplement_Creatif said:

Hot Dog!

What an absolutely stunning locomotive! It is incredible to see the static photos, then seeing it come alive and pulling a beautiful train! All the details are just jaw dropping!

Cheers to you!

Thank you so much! I'm glad you think everything works well together. It definitely adds more "wow" factor.

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7 hours ago, Legotrain445 said:

Who made those amazing rods and joints?

Pretty sure he 3D printed them himself.  I missed this particular absolute stunner when it was posted previously, but has to be one of my favourites of yours so far @Glenn Holland!

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8 hours ago, Legotrain445 said:

Who made those amazing rods and joints?

 

1 hour ago, Vilhelm22 said:

Pretty sure he 3D printed them himself.  I missed this particular absolute stunner when it was posted previously, but has to be one of my favourites of yours so far @Glenn Holland!

Vilhelm22 is correct. All rods and valve gear are custom parts which I designed myself. They were printed through Shapeways service using Fine Detail Plastic. I should have mentioned the headlight visor is a similar story. Thank you Vilhelm22 for the compliment, as well!

 

This bump to the front page comes at quite a convenient time. I'm honored to have received the award for "Best Steam Locomotive Model" in both the Americas and Global regions of the 2023 Brick Train Awards. I am surprised, to be honest, as there was some legitimate competition this year by several participants and I did not expect to win. Regardless, I am incredibly thankful.

https://www.bricktrainawards.com/winners/brick-train-awards-2023/

Edited by Glenn Holland

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On 12/16/2022 at 5:57 AM, Glenn Holland said:

Under the hood this model is identical to my Mohawk: a pair of Power Functions L motors geared 1:1 driving the third axle, each operating from its own Power Functions IR receiver, and powered by a Tenergy 7.4v 2200 mAh battery.

Glenn, with two L motors (facing each other, and connected to the same gear, I assume) wired to their own receiver, do you not run into issues with one motor spinning faster than the other? I could see this happening either because one receiver didn't acknowledge an order from the controller or because one motor has a slightly different rpm due to age, or other factors. The only way to avoid excessive wear and tear on the motors would be to install a differential within the boiler. I have gone down that path with the 844, but after looking at my mechanical disaster and/or masterpiece, I thought it was worth it to pose the question to you.

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35 minutes ago, AbleChristopher said:

Glenn, with two L motors (facing each other, and connected to the same gear, I assume) wired to their own receiver, do you not run into issues with one motor spinning faster than the other? I could see this happening either because one receiver didn't acknowledge an order from the controller or because one motor has a slightly different rpm due to age, or other factors. The only way to avoid excessive wear and tear on the motors would be to install a differential within the boiler. I have gone down that path with the 844, but after looking at my mechanical disaster and/or masterpiece, I thought it was worth it to pose the question to you.

The difference shouldn't be that noticeable. I've been using the opposing L motors in a few engines of my own with zero issues. 

- Jeffery

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9 minutes ago, Jeffinslaw said:

The difference shouldn't be that noticeable. I've been using the opposing L motors in a few engines of my own with zero issues. 

- Jeffery

Thanks Jeffery, very insightful, love your builds. And there have been no issues with two IR receivers? My biggest concern is one receives a signal and the other does not causing one to increase or decrease rpm while the other tries to stay the same.

This is assuming the wiring is set to receive the same color coded command from the controller (all wiring on the blue connector for both receivers so only the Blue knob on the controller needs to be turned to give a command to both recievers at once)

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22 hours ago, AbleChristopher said:

Thanks Jeffery, very insightful, love your builds. And there have been no issues with two IR receivers? My biggest concern is one receives a signal and the other does not causing one to increase or decrease rpm while the other tries to stay the same.

This is assuming the wiring is set to receive the same color coded command from the controller (all wiring on the blue connector for both receivers so only the Blue knob on the controller needs to be turned to give a command to both recievers at once)

Thank you! I believe the dual IR receivers was due to them not being the V2 IR receivers. The V2 IR receivers can withstand the higher current draw of the two L motors. I personally don't use the IR receivers as I prefer the Sbrick. 

- Jeffery

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23 hours ago, AbleChristopher said:

Glenn, with two L motors (facing each other, and connected to the same gear, I assume) wired to their own receiver, do you not run into issues with one motor spinning faster than the other? I could see this happening either because one receiver didn't acknowledge an order from the controller or because one motor has a slightly different rpm due to age, or other factors. The only way to avoid excessive wear and tear on the motors would be to install a differential within the boiler. I have gone down that path with the 844, but after looking at my mechanical disaster and/or masterpiece, I thought it was worth it to pose the question to you.

 

22 hours ago, AbleChristopher said:

And there have been no issues with two IR receivers? My biggest concern is one receives a signal and the other does not causing one to increase or decrease rpm while the other tries to stay the same.

This is assuming the wiring is set to receive the same color coded command from the controller (all wiring on the blue connector for both receivers so only the Blue knob on the controller needs to be turned to give a command to both recievers at once)

You are correct - motors connected by an axle, each with their own receiver. I have had no issues with mismatched speed or IR signals reaching one receiver but not the other. Both motors are connected to the same color output on each receiver. Works quite well for me.

19 hours ago, Darkkostas25 said:

Astonishing build! 

Thank you very much!

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1 hour ago, Jeffinslaw said:

Thank you! I believe the dual IR receivers was due to them not being the V2 IR receivers. The V2 IR receivers can withstand the higher current draw of the two L motors. I personally don't use the IR receivers as I prefer the Sbrick. 

- Jeffery

 

1 hour ago, Glenn Holland said:

 

You are correct - motors connected by an axle, each with their own receiver. I have had no issues with mismatched speed or IR signals reaching one receiver but not the other. Both motors are connected to the same color output on each receiver. Works quite well for me.

Thank you very much!

Fascinating, this was not my assumption at all. Well then the 844s differential is getting scrapped and the gearing ratio will be reduced to 1:1. The 3:1 ratio I originally designed combined with XXL drivers allowed very high speed, but did not have enough torque at low speed to start much of a consist.

A ratio of 1.3:1 might be it's magic number...to be determined in rebuild #2.

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