About that Mack…

Mack 33T - Painted

Back in November – I can’t believe it was that long ago – I posted about an O scale model I own of a Mack 33 Ton switcher. I then put the model – still in lifetime brass – on a shelf in my workshop and forgot about it.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I happened to spot the model and my inner Imp of the Perverse whispered, “You really ought to paint that, you know…”

So I stripped it down, primed it and painted it:

Mack 33T - Components
(The Mack switcher, separated into three components. The cab interior is still in primer at this stage)

I’m sure the prototype was basic black, but I sprayed my model with Tamiya Dark Iron. This is a colour I love – it has a whole lot going on in it, and it really brings out details. As the lead photo shows, I used an emery board to carefully remove the paint from the “MACK” sign and from the emblems on each hood. The couplers – from Protocraft – are finished with Neo-Lube. I need to give them another coat.

When I took the locomotive apart, I discovered this nice little tag installed by the builder – the late Lee Snover:

Mack 33T - 52 of 54

For now, the model is finished. But already I plan to do more. I’ve ordered four 30″ wheels from Jay Criswell at Right-o’-Way so I can convert this model to Proto:48. This will allow me to run it with other 1/4″ scale models in my collection, and run it on the layouts of a few friends in the area.

I also plan to add DCC with an electronic flywheel (capacitor), additional pick-up wires, and sound. And, of course, install an engineer and window glass.

I’ll return to this project when I have collected the rest of the materials I require. But already, I’m glad I’ve made progress – and it has me looking around the workshop at other “someday projects” that it’s past time to tackle…

Minimum Space Mack

Mack 33T switcher

What do you do if you like large scales but don’t have lots of space? Adjusting your goals to embrace large models of small prototypes is one approach.

Years ago I picked up this delightful O scale model. It’s a 1921 Mack 33-Ton switcher, produced in brass by Lee Town Models. As the Canadian two-dollar coin shows, it’s tiny – less than 4.5″ over the footboards. Despite its diminutive stature, the model has a can motor between the frames and runs beautifully, while the brass construction gives it plenty of weight. And while I haven’t yet attempted it, I suspect there’s plenty of room belowdecks to squirrel away a LokSound Select Micro, a pair of ESU sugar cube speakers, and a TCS Keep-Alive module – my favourite configuration for DCC and sound these days.

But what does this have to do with layout design? Obviously, a 4.5″ long locomotive doesn’t need a lot of room to manoeuvre. More importantly, the prototype – featuring chain drive and a pair of 40 HP engines – wouldn’t be expected to pull a whole lot or conquer grades: It’ll look right at home trundling about with one or two cars in tow.

While it’s not necessary to build a small layout for a one-car or two-car train, such an endeavour can become a showcase for fine model-building. It also provides the opportunity to think outside the box. Over on his Prince Street blog, my friend Chris Mears has been developing some ideas for small layouts that do just that, using innovative benchwork configurations. Examples include The Broken View / The Overlap and The Matchbox.

Finally, the Mack switcher is not the sort of unit one expects to find in wide open spaces: Critters like this would’ve worked in mills or factories as in-plant switchers. That suggests a layout built around such a locomotive would feature vertical scenery – brick canyons and concrete silos – which would trade real estate for air rights. An example of “going tall” – in O scale no less – is 13th and North E, an urban cameo by Mike Cougill. The Mack 33-Ton switcher would look right at home in Mike’s warehouse-dominated environment.