Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

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Old Man Aaron
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Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Old Man Aaron » Tue Mar 07, 2023 6:54 am

I got into garden railways with an Accucraft Ruby, as an 18th birthday present from my parents. This loco and it's 45mm gauge were chosen based on cost and availability* here in Australia, and the prevalence of people running G gauge track, over a mere handful of 32mm lines in the country. My early scratch-built locos and stock were also 1:20:3 scale, but modelling 3ft gauge really doesn't work for modelling a Queensland sugar cane operation, which have always been 2ft.
Even looked at the possibility of converting the Ruby to 32mm - would need a mill to make a proper job of it though..

I've lived with the discrepancy for years, calling my models "2ft6in with a rubber ruler", trying to distract myself by making the detailing and weathering the best I can. But it's not enough, 45mm is just too damn wide. Being "between layouts", so to speak, made for an ideal (or rather least painful) time to bite the bullet and convert to 32mm.

*The availability of 45mm stuff in Aust. is moot - if it's not plastic G scale mainline stuff (useless even as bashing fodder for cane trains) it's well overpriced, even most used stuff. Only way I've been able to model in the garden at all, on a disability pension, is by importing everything from the UK suppliers.
I'd get rail and joiners from the Yanks for handlaid track. The only difference going forward, is the track I buy used from the UK will be narrower. I digress..


A hard look was then taken at the locos and stock on hand. Some are gauge-convertible, others will need rebuilding or even replacement.

Re-gaugeable, 1-day conversion
Fowler "Victoria", Bundy "Calloway", Baguley, Decauville (Unstarted) Hudswell Clarke (Unstarted)
Image


The Essel Fowler is re-gaugeable, but I've squeezed a speaker enclosure between the wheels at 45mm, so will need the speaker relocated or replaced with a smaller one.
Image


Not re-gaugeable, conversion involves extensive work, but I'll make it happen.
Bundy Jenbach JW-15 (Unstarted), Pair of Stainzes (Unstarted), IP Simplex (Unstarted), IP Hudson Hunslet (Ironically converted from a 32mm-only kit!), PDF 50HP Baldwin, O&K mallet (Unstarted, uses two LGB O&K 0-4-0WT motor blocks)
Image


The Malcolm Moore will unfortunately need to be replaced. Trying to save the sides of the loco to reuse with narrower ends, top and chassis would be way more trouble than it's worth. Better off selling to cover the cost of it's replacement once complete. An opportunity for improvements, in any case..
Image


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On the rollingstock front, many are relatively easy to re-gauge. Most 4-wheelers just need the wheels pushing closer together. But the majority of the bogey wagons will need new bogeys - most of their bolsters would be difficult to accurately shorten and I'm doubtful of the resulting durability..
This is also a good time to finally knock out the stalled program of lowering ride and coupling heights to a more uniform (and realistic for cane tramways) height of 20mm above railhead.
Image


Other wagons are much older builds and repainted toys that just aren't up to scratch anymore. They'd make good "filler" stock, but I'm not looking to pad-out train lengths. Two of these have Roundhouse bogeys, the bolsters of which can be shortened and retain their strength of attachment to their sideframes, so I'll likely rob those wagons of their bogeys for the "nice" rollingstock.
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Some wagons have already been sold off. The coaches were some older IP kit-builds that, while tidy, were way behind in terms of detail - I'd rather scratchbuild something unique. I was happy with my Binnie skips and log bolsters, but pushing the skips' wheels closer together would've looked strange, and converting the bolsters simply wasn't practical.
Image


The rarely-seen Delorean was around 60mm gauge, supplied as a static 1/24 kit. Just getting it to fit on 45mm gauge was pushing it - forget SM32!
Another for the sell pile. I suppose this storage/display diorama will need regauging too. :scratch:
Image


The Zecar guard's van will take some work to regauge. The Zecar molasses tank (that exists only on this sticky note!) was designed with gauge conversion in mind for visiting other lines. The The toolbox wagon under construction uses the same design, just with a different body.
Image

Mid last year, much of the track was sold off to a local mate, and most of the points to Tropic Blunder of this forum. I had wanted to put the money straight into 32mm replacements from the UK, just to get it done and stockpiled. But the ancient rolling money pit - also known as my car - has required the requisition of those funds. :roll: :bom: :lol:

I did luck out and manage to get five sets of Peco SM32 points from the UK through a farcebook group, for half the usual used price.
Later, I had to pass up a huge bargain lot of track that would've rebuilt my stockpile (and then some), because someone's wheels needed sandblasting.. :roll:
Plus side is 32mm track comes up for cheap in the UK far more often than 45mm does. And I'm in no rush.


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Anyway, that's a black hole of work to do, nothing for it but to get stuck in and make it happen. So in early September of last year, when I was waiting for car parts from Yankeeland, I figured I'd start with the new wholestick cane trucks. I knew they'd be the most tedious, and wanted to get them knocked out first.

Each truck must be broken and apart at the glue joints and not the timber. Levering with a screwdriver, sometimes tapping with a small hammer to shock superglue joints. Once back into components, all dried glue is scraped away so the parts fit tightly again. Axles removed from wheels, shorten with angle grinder, cleanup with bench grinder, refit wheels. Then, glue the frames back together on a new assembly jig. I'd planned on new and more accurate jigs for future batches anyway..
Re-drill and pin the joints where needed, superglue anything I've broken, and touch-up the paint once all are done.
In a week, I got 10 out of 30 trucks converted, along with 3 of the 4 navvy trucks. Not much more painful than building them the first time, I just watch stuff on the computer while I work.
IMG_1320.JPG
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I seriously looked at building these to 32mm to begin with, but stayed with 45, and a feeling I'd probably regret it. :roll:

I did order replacements for my Binnie skips, though. And the change of gauge now means I can make use of Binnie's Hudson bogey sets, something I've always wanted to do.

Having said all that, I think you'll agree - the effort and cost are temporary, the results are permanent.
Last edited by Old Man Aaron on Sun Jun 11, 2023 2:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by ge_rik » Tue Mar 07, 2023 7:35 am

You're a very brave man, Aaron.
Very early on in my garden railway modelling career, I considered 32mm - which was much more the norm on the UK than 45mm. I'm now far too far down the 45mm route to change. I make do with a couple of short 32mm feeder lines.

I wish you well. Keep us posted.

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by philipy » Tue Mar 07, 2023 9:00 am

Wow!! That is some project.
So after you've finished, what are you going to do next week?? :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Peter Butler » Tue Mar 07, 2023 10:56 am

A Mammoth task Aaron, but you have made an impressive start. I'm sure you have the enthusiasm to continue to the end now you have begun. Your description sets out clearly where you will have difficulties fitting everything in, but that will be part of the challenge, and you are well capable of solving that problem.
This will be an exciting adventure and I will be watching closely, and enjoying the ride!
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by TonyW » Tue Mar 07, 2023 11:31 am

Good man, and welcome to The One True Gauge.
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Lonsdaler » Tue Mar 07, 2023 11:36 am

Good luck Aaron, you've given yourself a mountain of work to do! But, as Tony W (sort of) says - there is only one true gauge! :lol:
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Phil.P » Tue Mar 07, 2023 12:38 pm

I am curious?

Did you ever consider going the other way, to match the track you had?

I am thinking 7/8ths, but this is the man talking who *still* hasn't got his brain around scale, gauge, narrow, standard..

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by ge_rik » Tue Mar 07, 2023 12:50 pm

Phil.P wrote: Tue Mar 07, 2023 12:38 pm I am curious?

Did you ever consider going the other way, to match the track you had?

I am thinking 7/8ths, but this is the man talking who *still* hasn't got his brain around scale, gauge, narrow, standard..
Phil.P
I did wonder about SE scale as well, but I think that would have been even more work.

What's all this about the one true gauge? 🤔😱

Think of all those wonderful 3' gauge railways - eg Southwold, Ratty, Rye and Camber, IoM and virtually the whole of Ireland. I'd love to find an excuse to model of one of those beautiful Londonderry & Lough Swilly tender locos..... 👍😁
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Old Man Aaron » Wed Mar 08, 2023 12:51 am

ge_rik wrote: Tue Mar 07, 2023 7:35 am You're a very brave man
I think "foolish" is the word here! :lol: :lol:
for what it's worth, my usual excuse as to why some distinctive and iconic loco ended up on my fictional line, is that the line's management happened to be in the area of the desired prototype, saw it running, and was so impressed they ordered one of their own. Or they bought it cheap and worn out years later. In other words, just I do when I see 16mm loco I like and decide to get one. :lol: I say make it happen, We only live once!
philipy wrote: Tue Mar 07, 2023 9:00 am So after you've finished, what are you going to do next week??
I was thoroughly burned out after that week, so I went back to the burnout factory in the garage since then. :lol: I'm running out of work to do waiting for major engine parts, so if I work diligently I might get a couple of spare weeks to knock out more conversions.
Phil.P wrote: Tue Mar 07, 2023 12:38 pm Did you ever consider going the other way, to match the track you had?
Oh, never. The sleepers are too short and spaced wrong for 7/8, which would annoy me just as much. And while I'm happy to scratchbuild many things, it's a real lifesaver to have so many kit & RTR locos where all the hard engineering work is already done. A bit like Rik said, I'm in too deep to change scales, but a change of gauge means I get to continue hoarding my little treasures.


Thanks for reading, I know it's a bit of a slog - I was getting information overload just proof-reading it. :roll: We've all seen (or been in) cases where someone sells everything off to change scale or gauge, but I've never seen a complete gauge conversion per-se. I figured it'd make an interesting thread.
This will take some years to work through, so updates will be sporadic, but knowing others get some entertainment out of it helps me feel less alone in it, and is a big help to staying motivated. :thankyouyellow
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by GTB » Wed Mar 08, 2023 2:48 am

Moving to the Dark Side eh? ..... :twisted: If they have a mail service there, don't forget to send us a postcard now and then.

More seriously, in the distant past when I modelled the VR in HO, a friend and I looked into what was involved in converting from HO standard gauge to HO broad gauge. We came to the same conclusion as you, that it was a better proposition to change gauge, than to change scale.

At that time, with a couple of dozen finescale brass steam locos, a couple of dozen pass cars and 200+ goods trucks to gauge convert, not to mention a large layout, the conversion didn't happen. The compromise reached on the next layout was to model the track to 1:96 for appearance and everything else to 1:87.

Moving on to more recent times, when I retired and moved into garden scale, I considered SM32, but decided I was more interested in Vic. timber trams than Qld. cane trams and chose to model timber trams in Fn3. It may have gone the other way if I had lived in Qld. I'm now back to the place I was in the '80s, it's too much effort now to change scale, or gauge.

Best wishes in your new endeavour.

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Old Man Aaron » Sun Mar 19, 2023 6:07 am

Another ten down, over a few sessions this week. That makes 20, (two-thirds of the rake done) plus the three navvy trucks. Just another 10, and 4 boneyard trucks to go. Each takes just under 2 hours to convert - and I still have to touch up the paint and convert the storage cassettes. :oops: :oops: :roll:
Getting there though..
Image

I can't stop thinking about how the hell I'm going to make those LGB Koppels work for a Mallet on 32mm, not that I'm planning on starting that rabbit hole anytime soon.
Almost not worth using those chassis, but I've yet to find anything more suitable. Only the wheels, motor, some motion and the cylinders could be used, scratching everything else. Considered the PDF models Wren chassis, but it's 3-6V single-axle drive is a bit "light duty" for a mallet, even paired up.

On the other hand, I have two of these Koppels, and planning on putting one of the redundant bodies on a dummy chassis, as a boneyard loco.
I think the stock Koppel looks quite good as a cane loco, and a PDF Wren chassis would be the perfect start to a 32mm conversion for the other body..
Ugh, too many ideas, stick to the bloody plan! :lol: :lol: :roll:
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by ge_rik » Sun Mar 19, 2023 8:42 am

Well done on work so far. There must now be light at the end f the tunnel

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Phil.P » Sun Mar 19, 2023 9:53 am

PDF can supply a higher voltage motor, if asked..

Might be another option to consider, Aaron?

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Palmerston » Sun Mar 19, 2023 12:23 pm

LGB, Roundhouse and Accucraft have widen their models to enable 45mm so on 32mm they look not right.
Live steam on 45 & 184mm, battery 45mm only.

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Old Man Aaron » Mon Mar 20, 2023 12:19 am

Phil.P wrote: Sun Mar 19, 2023 9:53 am PDF can supply a higher voltage motor, if asked..
Thanks, I forgot about that. Unfortunately I'm pretty sure that only applies to the larger "round" can motors used in some of their other locos. The real issue is that it's still only single-axle drive.I'd be lucky to pull three 60g empty cane trucks with that. I can get around it in the well tank because I can turn the motor over so it's behind the rear axle like the LGB block is, and couple the wheels together with a delrin chain between the frames where the motor was designed to fit.
Palmerston wrote: Sun Mar 19, 2023 12:23 pm LGB, Roundhouse and Accucraft have widen their models to enable 45mm so on 32mm they look not right.
Aye. For the boneyard loco I'll cut down those ridiculous cab sides and put them where they belong. Dummy chassis will of course look right when built to 32mm. Would do the same on the other shell if I turned it into a loco..
Fun to think about, but the "extra" projects we get excited about are the ones that fizzle out the quickest, so I'd best stick with conversions - for now.. ;)
Last edited by Old Man Aaron on Sun Jun 11, 2023 2:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by GAP » Mon Mar 20, 2023 7:39 am

Old Man Aaron wrote: Sun Mar 19, 2023 6:07 am Another ten down, over a few sessions this week. That makes 20, (two-thirds of the rake done) plus the three navvy trucks. Just another 10, and 4 boneyard trucks to go. Each takes just under 2 hours to convert - and I still have to touch up the paint and convert the storage cassettes. :oops: :oops: :roll:
Getting there though..
Image

I can't stop thinking about how the hell I'm going to make those LGB Koppels work for a Mallet on 32mm, not that I'm planning on starting that rabbit hole anytime soon.
Almost not worth using those chassis, but I've yet to find anything more suitable. Only the wheels, motor, some motion and the cylinders could be used, scratching everything else. Considered the PDF models Wren chassis, but it's 3-6V single-axle drive is a bit "light duty" for a mallet, even paired up.

On the other hand, I have two of these Koppels, and planning on putting one of the redundant bodies on a dummy chassis, as a boneyard loco.
I think the stock Koppel looks quite good as a cane loco, and a PDF Wren chassis would be the perfect start to a 32mm conversion for the other body..
Ugh, too many ideas, stick to the bloody plan! :lol: :lol: :roll:
Image

Just to add to the confusion I did toy with a Koppel following this but never went any further. I'm using 2 Staiz for a small Garrett type loco.
old-steam-train-with-narrow-guage-used-to-transport-sugar-cane-from-bcg46h.jpg
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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by StuartJ » Mon Mar 20, 2023 9:19 am

I haven't used one, but there is also the Boot Lane Works chassis:
https://bootlane.org.uk/shop/kits/locos/No6

I'm sure you could replace the motor with a similarly sized 12v one if desired.

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Old Man Aaron » Mon May 15, 2023 1:45 pm

StuartJ wrote: Mon Mar 20, 2023 9:19 am I haven't used one, but there is also the Boot Lane Works chassis:
https://bootlane.org.uk/shop/kits/locos/No6

I'm sure you could replace the motor with a similarly sized 12v one if desired.
That might work. I'll look further into it when the time eventually comes.. :study:

In the meantime, the cane trucks are finally all converted, including the "damaged" trucks for the mill boneyard.
Paint was touched up, and the sheet lead weights under each truck, were trimmed to fit between the now closer-together solebars, and refitted.
Regauging the cassettes was going to be tricky. This was done by gluing another set of coffee stirrer rails between the existing rails inside the cassettes.
A hand won't fit down inside the cassettes, so a piece of aluminium bar was used to hold the new rails in place against the old rails, as the glue grabbed.
IMG_1584.JPG
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On a side note, the 15-month (and counting) overhaul of my car is near-finished.
Main hold-up is the gearbox - which isn't due from the Yanks until August if I'm lucky. So for now, I finally have some time for modelling again. :lol:

Next most painful job I wanted out of the way, was regauging the ramp used to load/unload stock and locos from their cassettes/carriers. I made it from aluminium bar and sheet a few years back, and it works very nicely.
Much like the cassette rails, another set of rails were ground and filed down from 9x3mm ally bar, then screwed to the ramp from underneath.
IMG_9340.JPG
IMG_9340.JPG (178.46 KiB) Viewed 4744 times

Now it's just the loco carriers to do. I don't yet have a carrier for every loco.
Same method as the cassettes, only tomorrow I'll throw a few coats of white enamel over the new rails, for resistance to any drips of oil and water.
From here on, the work to regauge is mostly smaller and more self-contained projects.
IMG_9350.JPG
IMG_9350.JPG (209.52 KiB) Viewed 4744 times
Most of the carriers' locos are quick conversions, so in another week or two, I should have three locos converted to 32mm.
Regards,
Aaron - Scum Class Works

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Trevor Thompson » Mon May 15, 2023 2:32 pm

You are making good progress!
I'm looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

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Re: Biting the bullet - wholesale conversion from 45mm to SM32

Post by Lonsdaler » Wed May 17, 2023 10:06 pm

All looking good Aaron. That's quite an array of storage boxes you have there.
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