Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Union Copper Gets a Shay

The Keystone in its shiny paint a few days after delivery. Let's hope the mining company continues to maintain this finish. Note the construction number of the engine on the sand box.

A long, steep grade leads from the main line down to the Union Copper Company mine in Copperopolis. For some time now, normal locomotives have struggled hauling loaded ore cars up the grade and lowering supply cars down. Now, the mining company has purchased a Shay locomotive fresh from the factory. It will now take over all duties on the mining company spur. Ore destined for the smelter in Stockton will be hauled by the new engine and then Stockton & Copperopolis locomotives will take over and carry the cars down the main line. 

In reality, the new Shay named Keystone for the nearby ravine of that name started out as the pieces to a Model Die Casting Shay kit purchased around 20 years ago. I finally decided to get the thing built. Using a Walker back-dating kit, I installed a new straight boiler with accompanying domes. Northwest Short Line gears were used to upgrade the ones which came with the kit. A Sagami motor completed the drive train. Assembling the Shay mechanism was not particularly difficult but care had to be taken so that the parts will all rotate smoothly. A Soundtraxx Tsunami2 decoder was installed along with a sugar cube speaker.

The painting and lettering scheme was based on builder's photos of various Shays of the 1800's. The number on the sand box is not the engine number but Lima's construction number. Looking at the prototype photos and checking the builder's lists seemed to confirm this supposition. Striping was also based on the prototype photos as was the lettering styles. It was an interesting project and, if you can locate an MDC kit, all the gears and the backdating kit are still available. You'll have to come up with your own motor as the Sagamis are no longer produced.


  1. How did you do the lining? it's magnificent!

    1. The artwork for all of the lettering and lining was done in Adobe Illustrator by me and then printed on an Alps printer on regular decal paper. As mentioned, it all followed what appeared to be Lima practice in that era. Thanks for the compliment.