“My two year old grandson is a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine, so I thought I’d purchase one for my n scale layout.
After a lot of searching, including a number of hobby shops in Japan, I finally found one on the Plaza Japan’s Ebay store.
It was on auction so I had a punt at US $75. (all prices estimated in US $s) It finally went for close to $200! Seems Thomas and friends are in very short supply!
My “toy bashed” version based on a Fisher-Price diecast toy, worked out at around $22.
A WARNING from the outset!
The Fisher-Price Thomas is over scale, so you may have to fiddle around a bit to get Thomas to make it around your n scale layout. My layout has several tunnels and Thomas was unable to get through some of them. Signals and station platforms might also be too narrow on some layouts. However, with a few minor adjustments to Thomas and to my landscaping, I was able to get Thomas around a simple routing avoiding the major trouble spots.
Thomas The Tank Engine, Take-n-Play By Fisher Price ($4)
Kato 11-105 Powered Motorized Chassis, n scale mechanism, Plaza Japan ($13) plus $5 postage to Australia. North America and European postage will be slightly dearer.
Small vice (optional, but useful)
Hobby Dremel (Rotary tool) with cutting disk and small burr.
The difficulty in ‘bashing’ any Fisher-Price toy is a testament to the quality product this company puts out! They can be tough to crack!
To remove the diecast shell from its plastic base, drill out the rivet like ends of the small retaining posts holding these parts together. The rear post is metal and will require some gentle pressure on the drill to sever it from the plastic chassis. I had to complete the job with a sharp tap on metal punch. The front post is plastic and burs out easily.
Remove the three blue wheel sets. Cut the wheel axles and remove the wheels. File or grind down the small studs in the back of all wheels and set aside for now. . The black plastic portion of the chassis can be discarded.
The Kato mechanism measures 58mm x 15.3mm. (Sorry Americans, Burmese and Liberians, but metric only!) As it turns out, the inner portion of the red chassis is also very close to 58mm long. For a perfect fit, a ‘whisker’ might need needs to be filed off the end of the mechanism. (either an imperial whisker, or a standard metric whisker will suffice! )
Cut out the base of the red chassis to accommodate the mechanism. This is very much a ‘cut and file’ process until the mechanism fits snugly. Cut off the ends of the mechanism’s cowling as shown. below.
Now cut and grind off the plastic and metal posts on the diecast shell. I added two packing strips to the red plastic chassis to lift the chassis a little higher (see photo) to avoid major grinding out of the diecast shell. The opening for the couplers will also need to be enlarged to allow the bogie to swing freely.
Optional LED light
An LED and 600 ohm resistor will fit neatly behind Thomas’s face and with a little careful burring-out, to thin the plastic; Thomas can have spooky glowing eyes!)
I then glued the shell to the chassis and very lightly glued the mechanism into the chassis. (This final joint can be easily levered open if required.)
Cut the wheels just above the raised hub and glue them to the side of the chassis.
Thomas is now happily chugging around dragging a couple of vintage DB Rail coaches. My next project will be to ‘toy bash’ a couple of Fisher-Price “Clarabel and Annie” coaches.
Best of all, 2 year old Jack (aka Captain Chaos) just loves HIS Thomas.
Well, I have to say, I never thought Thomas would be appearing on this site – but I’m glad he has, it’s an excellent ‘how to’ what ever cab you use.
A huge thank you to Paul. It really did make me smile when I saw it in my inbox.
And if it’s got you thinking too, there are lots more like it here.
Please do keep ’em coming.
Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Some cracking stuff about at the mo.