Collector's Item

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Collector's Item

by Col. Howard G. Hill, CE-USAR Ret.

1339 Montague Street, N.W., Washington 11, D.C.

The Miniature Locomotive, November-December 1954

ODShuptrine 4 4 0 1915.jpg

Back in 1915 when I was an apprentice draftsman with the Southern Pacific Lines at the T. & N. O. Shops in Houston, Texas, I had the privilege of inspecting a Live Steam 4-4-0, about 1-1/4 inch scale, built in 1896 by O. D. Shuptrine, a locomotive engineer on the old Houston and Texas Central R.R., which became a part of the Sinset-Central Lines, later Southern Pacific Lines in Texas and Louisiana. I think she was the first Live Steam model I had ever seen. I was fascinated by her but could not figure out any way by which to acquire her.

During October 1950 I was in Houston and the memory of this model popped into my mind. I found that Mr. Shuptrine's home was still there, but he had made his last run to the final terminal in 1941. His son, E. E. Shuptrine, took me to a shed behind the house where I found this model standing on a table exactly where I had seen her 35 years prior to this visit. The brasswork was black, the Russia iron jacket was rusted on top, and the mahogany cab was slightly damaged, but otherwise she appeared to be in excellent mechanical condition. it was apparent that she had not been moved since I saw her in 1915.

I talked to Mr. Shuptrine like a Dutch Uncle for a few minutes and, to my great joy, he consented to sell her to me. I loaded her into my car and took her to my hotel. By midnight that night I had her completely dismanted and was grinding away with steel wool and emery cloth in a major cleanup operation, from which she emerged with all brass parts highly polished and a new paint job in colors. She is my prize possession and has been on exhibition in hobby shops here in Washington, where she has excited much favorable comment, and several unsuccessful attempts to purchase her have been made by Live Steam fans.

Following are brief specificationsof this mode:

  • Cylinders 1-1/4 inch by 2-1/2 inch
  • Drivers 6-3/8 inch diameter
  • Gauge of track 5-1/2 inch
  • Driving wheelbase 9-1/16 inch
  • Engine wheelbase 25 inch
  • Engine and tender wheelbase 49 inch
  • Length overall, engine and tender 62 inch
  • Height to top of stack 14-1/2 inch
  • Weight of engine about 90 pounds
  • With tender 120 pounds
  • Stephenson link motion with slide valves
  • Boiler (a fine piece of workmanship) wagon top type, of brass
  • Engine truck and tender truck wheels of brass, 2-3/4 inch diameter

Drivers, valve gear, equalizing system, guide yoke, guides, cylinders and saddle, all of brass. And believe it or not, the frames, headlight, stack, steam dome casing, sand dome, and cylinder head and steam chest covers are of cast aluminum, which is surprising in view of date of construction.

Unfortunately, the builder did not equip this model with any water works, so I have never attempted to fire her up. I expect to equip her soon with a couple of Bassett-Lowke injectors, a steam gauge, water glass and other minor jewelry. The mahogany cab had become somewhat damaged and was brittle with age, so I am building a new cab for her. That is shy she appears in the photograph without a cab. It is my intention is dismantle this model soon and make detailed drawings so that she can be duplicated by anyone who desires to build an early 4-4-0 model.

There is a model in a museum in New York City, built by W. C. Landon, which is almost an exact duplicate of my model. The number on the cab is 870 and "N.Y.C. & H.R.R.R." appears on the tender. Harry P. Albrecht's Railroad Photo Album No. 1, Page 45, shows N.Y.C. & H.R. R.R. No. 897, apparently of the same class. I think these were built during the 1880's. Landon's model has an 8-1/2 inch air pump, cam type driver brakes, air reservoir behind saddle between frames, brakes on tender, and Nathan Monitor injectors.