I’m Readjusting, Thanks For Asking.

The spring train shows have been swept off the calendar. So have the club’s routine get-togethers. My non-train-related social activities are also gone. My workplace was deemed non-essential by the state, and is shut down until further notice as a public-health measure.

I’ve got nothing but time on my hands. Perfect time to catch up on some hobby projects, right?


I have countless projects, large and small, sitting around in various states of completion. I can make progress on some of them. One of the tank cars for the Inglenook, for example, needed some additional weight, so I took it apart this week and hot-glued a couple of nails into it. I have a couple of the club’s new DCC circuit breakers I’ve been meaning to mount to a board, and that has now been done. For a lot of my projects, though, I’ll need to be a little more creative. I have a limited supply of paint and glue for things I want to build, and the hobby shops are shut down. Maybe I can get what I need mail-order. Maybe. Some places are still open for business, but given all the disruptions in the supply chains these days, who knows. The next DN163K0A decoders I need might be sitting on a warehouse shelf next to all the toilet paper.

Forget anything involving serious woodworking. I’ve always been dependent upon someone else’s shop. Until further notice, I’m cut off from all the machinery I’d normally use to build a module carcase.

In an effort to stay occupied, I’m going to see how far I can get with this American Flyer 302 I picked up last month. Graham saw me admiring it on his sales table at the last show, and made me an offer that was too hard to resist. It’s not as though I really needed it—I have one just like it on the shelf already. This is the early 302, built in 1948 only. It’s the only American Flyer Atlantic with the beautiful 4-piece die-cast body shell and a smoke unit. Somebody at the A. C. Gilbert plant must have realized how much money they were losing on this thing, and promptly did some serious cost-engineering to cheapen it up for the next catalog. It was the bottom-of-the-line locomotive in its day, and it’s beautiful. I couldn’t say no, could I?

At first glance, it looked fine: all the pieces were there, save a couple of handrails that are almost always missing. The tender shell was loose, but its tabs weren’t broken off the way they often are. Broken coupler, but that’s not a big deal. The problems didn’t become apparent until I got it home and put some power to it. The relay was clicking, but the motor had no response at all. Again, no big deal. Those contacts are usually oxidized from sitting around. When I tried to twirl the armature with my thumb, I noticed the badly mangled side rod. Then I discovered the loose drivers. Two out of the four were loose on their axles.

Okay, that’s serious. What are my options?

I could wait until the distant day when train shows are happening once more, show Graham the problems, and get my money back. He’s a nice guy, but American Flyer isn’t really his thing. If he’d noticed the problems, he’d have pointed them out up front. Or I could part out the engine. There are enough good components on it to justify what I paid. Or I could look around for a donor chassis with good wheels. Stripped AF Atlantics are hardly a rare commodity. I might even have one buried somewhere deep in the basement.

Times being what they are, I’ve decided not to do any of those things. I’m going to get it running with what I’ve got. I’ve been working on these things since I was old enough to hold a screwdriver. This shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge.

Close examination reveals that somebody had trouble with these wheels in the past, and tried to fix them by bopping the hubs with a prick punch to draw metal tighter around the axles. The wheels were loose, but not a rattle fit on the axles, so after I got everything apart and cleaned up, I squirted some Loctite into the holes on reassembly. I made sure that the drivers were properly quartered as they went back on. There’s a quartering jig that you’re supposed to use, but I’ve never owned one, and have done just fine by eyeballing it. The wheels aren’t quite true on the axles (I’ve got engines with drivers that are worse), but they seem to be tight now.

That bent side rod looked a lot worse than it really was. Two minutes’ work with a bench vise was all it took to make it nice and straight again.

So far, it’s looking good. The next item on the list is the jack panel, which broke into about four pieces when I unfastened it. That’s not surprising, it’s a very thin and brittle part, prone to damage. I’m going to try a creative solution for it.