NYC ALCO FA / FB Units

NYC ALCO FA / FB Units
Custom Painted P-2000 units

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ALCO FA Issues Continue

Greetings All,

Penn Central subsidiary the Lehigh Valley RR recently sent an FA-FB-FA set of engines to the New York Central Train Layout Locomotive shop for evaluation and possible repair. The N.Y.C.T.L. Shop Foreman inspected the units and found 1 FA unit with no defects noted. 1 FA and the FB unit were found to have severe structural frame cracks and outer shell damage. These two units were immediately removed from service and brought into the shop. After several days the FA unit emerged from the shop and was put back into service. The FB unit however could not be repaired it's frame is damaged beyond repair.

So what exactly is going on? Zinc-pest or zinc-rot as it is commonly known.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc_pest
This issue has been plaguing these Walthers models for years. This is the second time I have addressed the issue of expanding and cracking frames with these specific units. I contacted Walthers earlier this year to see if I could purchase new frames but was informed there were none available and none expected. I also have a couple of A.T.S.F. units that suffered from the same issues and needed to be replaced.

In 2012 I posted here about the problem with these engines;
http://newyorkcentrallayout.blogspot.com/2012/12/walthers-trainline-fa-issues.html
Check the link. It has a lot of pictures of the issues that won't go away.

Lehigh Valley FB #531 showing stress cracks in shell   

FB #531 with it's expanding frame is forcing both ends outward 

Lehigh Valley 538 shows a large cracks where the frame has pushed out the back of the shell

The only available solution for the FA unit was to cut the back of the frame off with a hacksaw.
I needed to drill and install a new coupler box but the repair worked (for now)

The newly repaired FA couples up to the other FA that is not affected by the zinc rot. 

The FA units were tested extensively on the Empire Belt Railroad 
Empire Belt train, the Terminal Yard Transfer, from North Side Yard passes Bedford Tower and gets orders from tower operator 1/87th scale John B.

The next day Train NB-3 (Terminal Yard to Selkirk) has departed Terminal Yard and is passing thru Bedford NY behind a U30C and the two FA units that will be given back to the Lehigh Valley. The LV FB awaits an uncertain fate. 

Thanks for reading!!

10 comments:

  1. I got a lot of these extremely cheaply in the 1990s. So far, I've seen th problem with only one. The same zinc pest issue also happened with thier 8-40Bs.

    One workaround would be to seek out current-run FAs from Walthers as replacements. They can be found here and there in the $30-40 range, last I checked. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Walthers-Trainline-Alco-FA-1-Pennsylvania-Locomotive-9602-931-206-/371594752048?hash=item5684c5f030:g:rucAAOSwiylXBp5T This may be a lot for just the frame, but the shells are in fact very nice, and I don't think they reisseud LV.

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    1. Hi John, Just checked my 8-40Bs and they are thankfully not affected as of this time. Between my sons and I we have about 20 FA/FB engines in various road names purchased at various times. At least six have been subject to zinc rot. Seems ot have started with the knuckle coupler releases. The original horn hook coupler release seem to be fine. Thanks for the link.

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  2. That's really too bad about your LV FA and FB units suffering from such a problem. I had never heard of zinc rot before. I checked my two Walthers FA units and they seemed to be okay. Nice units for the money. You would think a company like Walthers would stand behind their products and at least send you some replacement frames. Hats off to the N.Y.C.T.L. shops for their excellent work on the repairs. Nice article as well.

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    1. Hi Brian, It is a shame that some of these fine running good looking units suffer from this.Although I was disappointed with Walthers for not being able to remedy or assist in the remedy of the situation the fact is that some of the units are well over 10 years old so them not having replacement parts is understandable. I'll keep my eyes open for a new release from them and look for replacements at local train shows where I can carefully check the frame prior to purchase.
      Thanks for the compliments! John

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    2. I was doing some research on possible remedies for the zinc pest/rot. I came across some chat rooms that were covering the problem. I guess Bachmann had lots of problems back in the Seventies with zinc issues. The whole locomotive frame would twist itself into a banana shape. From the sounds of it just about everyone has had bouts of zinc pest/rot with their products. AHM, Tyco, Mantua, Bachmann etc... But most of it was during the Sixties and Seventies.
      I remember a company in the early Nineties that was making a kit that you could build your own FA and FB using their shell and frame with Athearn trucks and drive. Similar to the Rail Power Products that came out about the same time. Sorry I can't remember anymore about it, maybe they advertised in Model Railroader or in the Walther's catalog. I'm sure the crew at the N.Y.C.T.L. shops will keep the FA fleet in top shape.

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    3. Hi Brian, Thanks for the research. I'll keep my eyes open for the 90s FA FB kit you mention. As for the zinc rot there is no cure. Eventually it will destroy the frame. You know even the great GG1s suffered from cracked frames in their later years so looking at it in that light we can say it's prototypical.

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  3. Kudos for keeping the FA units running despite this odd problem. The LV scheme is very attractive and they look great running on your layout.

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    1. Thanks Ralph! Better kudos than cooties I always say! I'm hopeful that I'll come across some new frames for the LV FA and FB units so they'll be able to soldier on.

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  4. Sorry to hear about the engine issues. Are those FA units Walthers or the old Life-Like units? I think I have some of them as well. Will need to check with the A.P.R.R. engine shops to see what they tell me. Glad to hear you were able to do some re-working on them. Kudos to the N.Y.C.T.L. shops and their great work!

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    1. Hi 1:1 Sir Neal! The units are Walthers Train Line. Thanks for the compliments to the N.Y.C.T.L. shop personnel I'll see they get a little something extra in their 1/87th scale pay envelopes this week. Hope your fleet is not affected.

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