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Like nearly every model railroader who models in On30* see below (and a lot who don't), I bought two of the Bachmann On30 Shay locomotives - shown above. These beautiful locomotives have helped to revive this premier scale, and have enhanced the modelling of logging, where these diminutive locomotives proved their worth.

* For those of you visiting this site and who are not model railroaders and do not know what "On30" means, see What is Narrow Gauge  by clicking the link.

While the Bachmann model is excellent, my two were the same as all the other Shays that were bought. What I wanted to do was to individualize mine. The two prototype shays that I had always admired were the Michigan Californian Lumber Company's Shay #2 ( commonly known as the Mich/Cal #2 ) and the much earlier open cab version of the two truck Shay.


The open cab Shay was made easier to convert  from the Bachmann Shay by "Backwood Miniatures" of England, who brought out a brass and white-metal castings detailing and conversion kit. It was just a matter of following the instructions to produce an excellent version of this locomotive. Opposite is a photo of the completed open cab before it was painted. The water tank is from the Bachmann Shay, but has the top flared edging removed, and extension to the water filler pipe and the brass retaining fence added.

The finished locomotive, with it's distinctive open cab, large diamond smoke stack and big headlight can be seen in the photographs below





The Mich/Cal #2 conversion was a little bit more difficult. There was no helpful commercial conversion kits here. My only option was to modify the locomotive by discarding parts of the Shay such as the cab, coal and water bunker and smoke stack that did not match the Mich/Cal #2 and scratch build the parts I needed.

First I needed a good set of reference plans. These came from pages 44 & 45 of the March/April 1979 issue of the "Short Line & Narrow Gauge Gazette". These excellent plans were drawn by Al Armitage and were all I would need to do this conversion. The most difficult problem to solve was where to hide the DDC sound chip, its speaker and all the wires that are involved. I was able to hide these in the open cab shay by angling them across the water bunker - it was a very tight fit and I had to cut away some of the top of the tank to make it fit. The only available place in this model was the oil and water tanks. I placed the DDC sound chip on the plans to find it would just fit by angling it from the bottom rear of the water tank up to the top front of the oil tank, with the speaker facing down on the bottom front of the water tank, and with the wires shoved as best I could. The inner formwork for the two tanks was built from 15 thou styrene with 5 thou styrene wrapped around. Holes were left in these two tanks to allow the DDC sound chip to be slipped in when they were completed. The two tanks, shown opposite, are before the 5 thou styrene final warp was attached . Both are up side down to show the various holes required to allow the DDC sound chip and speaker to be placed.

The cab was built from the plans using 5 and 15 thou styrene sheet as well as various sizes of styrene tubing. The finished result of the cab and tanks can be seen opposite, just before they were painted and lettered.

To complete the conversion, the bottom two thirds of a spare smoke stack from the "Backwood Miniatures" kit was perfect for the #2. I added a scratch built spark arrestor made from fine brass mesh rolled around a styrene tube and soldered to form a tube. 

Both locomotives have  two engine crew, air compressors and air tanks added to complete the conversions.

Below are plans for the model drawn on a CAD program