How to Scratch Build a Fantasy HO Scale Yard Engine

I have tried to make Model Railroading as much fun as possible and believe me I had a great time creating my Fantasy Yard Engines. This article and photos below are a step-by-step description of how I transformed an existing engine to my Fantasy Yard Engine.
I’m not a rivet counter and I’m not a stickler for being prototypically correct. Close is good enough for me. As long as it looks good and runs well, it’s a keeper. The reason for getting into any hobby is to relax and HAVE FUN.
I have recently switched over from Model Cars. As a model car builder, I never completed a car as directed in the instructions. I always added my personal touch by customizing it; making subtle changes to make that model uniquely mine. I have (sort of) carried that over to Model Railroading.
It’s obvious that the layout you create is unique, but what about the operating equipment such as the motive power? We are limited to whatever the model railroad manufacturers offer, off-the-shelf replicas of the real motive power.
Back in the days of steam, lumber & logging companies used to create their own motive power for the yards or back woods. I chose to do the same with a more modern looking yard engine, I customized it and made it uniquely my own.
The following notes and photos are a description of how I did it.

Creating My Little Yard Critter

I started with an old operating model of a Hustler Yard Engine and an old full size Diesel body shell.
1). I removed the body shell from the Hustler drive unit. Then, using a razor saw, I removed the body from the chassis running board and sent the body to the parts bin.
Once the body had been separated, I took care to ensure the area I cut on the running board was flush with the floor of the running board.
. I removed the body shell from the Hustler drive unit.
Photo 2 – Shows the area of the body shell to be removed an discarded. It is important to get the cut line flush with the floor of the running boards.
Shows the area of the body shell to be removed an discarded.
Photo 3 – Shows the body shell after it has been separated from the lower running boards. The area shown with the cross-hatching must be flush to accept new floor.
the body shell after it has been separated from the lower running boards
2). Next I cut a piece of sheet Styrene to form the new floor plate to cover the hole in the floor. (See photo 3) I then glued the new floor to the existing running board. I used liquid styrene cement to ensure adhesion and then I set it aside for 24 hrs before proceeding.
3). Next I took the large diesel body shell from my parts bin and made the necessary cuts as shown in photo 4. I made the first cut just behind the large louvre and the next cut just behind the last side panel door ahead of the cab. Since this is a fantasy engine and I personally don’t like the look of high nose engines, I cut out a section of the hood just below the sloped section, below the number board, about .125 of an inch.
Photo 4 – This photo shows the area on the large diesel shell to be cut and removed. I save all the scrap material to my parts bin. In this case I had to save the portion of the step for reuse.
the area on the large diesel shell to be cut and removed
4). Before I re-attached the top of the hood to the body, I felt it was a good time to clear out the area of the front windows and prepare the area to receive a new window. I used the rear window section from the Hustler Yard Engine as a window donor. It took some sanding and fitting to make it fit just right. I took my time with the window; I wanted it to fit perfectly to minimize any filler work.
5). Once the window has been glued into position, you can dry fit the three body sections. Make sure to use caution when you sand the edges to be joined and make sure that the surfaces remain parallel on the mating pieces. I kept dry fitting until I got a nice clean and straight mating joint. Once this was accomplished I glued the mating pieces together. Holding the pieces together with an elastic band as a clamp, I aligned the pieces and applied the liquid glue from the inside along the seam. Put the shell aside and allow glue to set for 24 hrs. (See completed shell dry fit together, photo 5)
Photo 5 – Shows the new shape of the body shell and the portion of step that has to be refitted.
Shows the new shape of the body
Note: In my case the cut of the long hood close to the cab went right through a step. Be sure to remove the step from the scrap section and refit to existing step on cab.
6). Before attaching the shell to the running boards, I made sure the body shell fit over the motor and running gear. In order to accomplish this, fit the new body on to the running gear in the approximate position it will be when attached to the running boards to make sure it cleared the motor. With the shell in the optimum position I took some measurement to pinpoint the location of the shell when I place on the running board floor plate. I transferred these dimensions to the floor plate, glued it into place and set aside overnight for the glue to set.
7). The next day, I used a hobby knife from the underside, to carve out the opening in the floor plate to match the inside of the new body shell.
Photo 6 – The following pictures show the shell and running boards glued together and painted.
running boards glued together and painted
Photo 7 – Shows the new front window and the position of the relocated step behind the cab
the new front window
The only thing left for me to do, was re-assemble the upper and lower sections, add my choice of decals, couplers and weather to my heart’s content.
I like the color scheme of the fallen road ‘Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo’ so I painted my Fantasy Engine in the Crème and Burgundy of TH&B.
Photo 9 – The star of my Fantasy Railroad and the feature of this article, engine #51 all weathered and on the job
The star of my Fantasy Railroad
The weathering that was done is a personal preference. Weather as much, or as little as you like.
I use oil & latex paints and washes as well as powders to do my weathering.
Weathering seems to add another dimension to the model. The nice thing is, no two cars or engines weather at the same rate.
Photo 10 – Shows both engines, the first I did, in the background and the feature of this article # 51 in the foreground.
both engines
In the foreground, is this is the second fantasy engine that I created. I had so much fun with the first one, and received much praise and encouragement from fellow modelers (thanks guys), I decided to do a second engine and share with you how I did it.
Photo 12 – #51 Sharing the duties with CN 4803
Sharing the duties with CN 4803
The engine with the tanks on the deck was an Atlas small yard unit, the one with the tank on the hood is a Lima/AHM Hustler unit below.
So, I hope this article has inspire you to find a couple of donor engines and enjoy yourself.
OK, I know this type of engine is not for everyone, So before you turn it down review the build and I’ll bet there is something there that you can use on one of your projects.
Enjoy & HAVE FUN!


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