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Walter Vail | Showcase Miniatures Nn3 Shay

| October 21, 2015 More

Walter Vail of Showcase MiniaturesTo model railroaders not familiar with narrow gauge modeling, can you give us a little background on the prototype of your Class B Shay locomotive kit?

Actually, there is not one individual prototype for this Shay. These locomotives varied within their class according to many needs of the individual owners. Many prototypical engine designs went into this kit and it is a conglomeration of what would typically be found in a Lima original production. This model represents a typical Class B Shay and the kit also contains parts to make it a wood, coal or oil fired locomotive.

Were all Shays designed to operate on narrow gauge rails?

Not all Shays were built to operate on narrow gauge rails, especially some of the larger Class C and D models, but this small and powerful engine was well suited for operation on the demanding terrain of backwood logging operations and most of these operations used narrow gauge track.

I think many of us may associate Shay locomotives solely with logging. What other industries did the Shay locomotives serve?

The original Shay was designed by Ephraim Shay as a means to get logs from the backwoods to the standard gauge rail lines for shipment or to mills for lumber production. Its ruggedness and strength were recognized by other industries as well. Copper and gold mining operations put the Shay to good use. One of the more famous was the Gilpin gold railway. This was a two-foot gauge tramway that moved gold ore to a smelter in Colorado in the late 1800’s.

An image I think many of us have would be of Shays operating only in the western areas of the US, is this accurate or was the use of Shays more widespread?

The Shay was used most famously in the western forests on railways like the West Side Lumber Company where the mighty redwoods were felled and transported to lumber mills. However, geared locomotives found their way throughout the country in other small and large industries – primarily logging.

I’ve seen contemporary photos of Shays pulling tourist excursion trains, were Shays used for passenger service back in their day?

These locomotives were not designed for passenger service but transported people out of necessity – taking workers to and from the jobsite and occasionally company dignitaries to see where their money was being spent.

What motivated you to design and build your Nn3 Shay model, what gets you excited about this model?

I have always been a huge fan of narrow gauge railroading and especially logging railroads. The resourcefulness and ingenuity of these pioneers to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles has been an inspiration for me. The Shay is only one tool that was used to accomplish their goal but there is something very romantic about seeing a Shay locomotive winding through a forest with a train of cars loaded with logs. Since the tracks were designed to be moved to where the trees were, roadbed preparation was at a minimum. Many times, the rail and ties were simply laid on the ground or even through submerged stream beds.

What are the chassis and motor used in the Showcase Miniatures model?

This Shay kit is designed around the Searails’ PowerMax! Motorized truck. This unique little mechanism is one of the smallest manufactured and can be fairly easily hidden even in this small locomotive. It is even small enough to be used in our Class A, T-Boiler Shay that we hope to introduce in the near future.

Your model has terrific weight to it, what material did you use for this Shay? There’s also a good amount of fine detail parts, are these etched brass?

The kit is manufactured of lead-free pewter to give it enough tractive power to pull a line of cars. Most of the details are pewter but the handrails, builder’s and number plates, ladders and other details are brass etchings.

As far as pulling rolling stock, what method do you use to couple the cars to the loco?

The finished model is designed to be used with Micro-Trains Line Civil War Era Link and Pin couplers. We have include two of the drawbars with the kit.

Looking at the quality of this Shay, including all the detail designed work; this really looks like a labor of love for you. What’s one more detail you’d like people to take away from your work in bringing this loco to market?

We tried to make this kit all inclusive so that many different versions of the Class B Shay could be rendered. There is still room for individual customization too. This is our first locomotive kit but many more are planned. Along with the Shay, the Climax and Heisler geared locomotives were also used extensively in logging and mining operations. There is literally no limit to projects for narrow gauge railroading.

Article Links

Showcase Miniatures Nn3 Scale

PowerMAX! 6.5mm & 9mm Powered Chassis

Micro-Trains Line Civil War Era Link & Pin Couplers

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