Test run at Westside Lumber

Motorcars, Speeders, and Inspection Cars

Narrow Gauge Project

By Wayne Parsons

In June 1998 I bought Rio Grande car # 4025 (Fairmont Ser. No. 243414) with the idea it would become my hot weather car. After some consideration I decided to make it a dual gauge car capable of running on both standard and narrow gauge track. I used the rough plans given me by Pat "Smitty" Smith. The restoration and narrow work began June 1, 1999. The motor was rebuilt by Onan, the transmission repaired by Dudley Newman. Smitty cut down the axles. I did all the tear down, rebuild, and wiring. About 36 hours of various machine, welding and sheet metal shop time went into the under carriage modifications and general repairs. A paint shop took parts of two days for the spray work. On June 3, 2000, lacking only seats and some sound proofing material, I declared the project complete. Here are photos showing the work as it progressed.

4025 Original condition

Sand blasting complete

June 1998. Photo one shows 4025 in Chuck Harrison's back yard in Las Vegas. Chuck and Sal Jacobs partnered up to buy 35 cars at a 1992 auction in Denver.

December 1999. After tear down, the motor is out for overhaul at Onan and the sand blasting is complete.


Assembling rear axle

Front axle assembled

December 1999. These photos show the narrow axles being assembled.


Ready to paint

February 2000. The fabrication of the under carriage parts, using 3/16" square tubing, is complete and the axles are mounted.  The body has been shot with primer and is awaiting machine work on the solid brake rod.  Note how the wheels stick up into the car body requiring wheel fenders.  The final color Omaha Orange paint came from NAPA.


Progress as of April 2000

Roof repairs

April 2000. The control panel was not repainted so the original color could be seen as well as the original wiring used for a guide. The railroad modifications to the wiring make sense but do not match "the book."
April 2000. The roof was bent and had several antenna and radio mounting holes. A local welding shop did a terrific job taking 4 hours to fill a dozen holes and straighten the roof.

Wayne Parsons

Control panel

June 2000. After looking at the manuals I decided to go with one white light forward and one white light on the rear. Good shop help is hard to find. We let him pose here with the completed car.

The only control panel change (besides new switches) is the added horn button below the oil gauge. My throttle is just a piece of aluminum stock used to make a new throttle when a railroad worker broke the original. A friend gave me a Fairmont throttle to replace it. However, I've decided to keep for now the fabricated throttle as somehow more authentic than the original part.

Low angle front view of narrow wheels

Rear view - 85 watt stop light!

In this low angle front view you can see how the narrow wheels are inside the car body. A second set of axles is ready to bolt on in place of these. The brake assemblies move to the outside hangers when the car runs as a standard gauge car.

The brake rod on the original car is a hollow tube with solid ends welded on. For this narrow modification, a piece of solid one inch round stock (with much machining) replaced the original part.


Richter SASR24H1-8 spark arrestor silencer

Front view

June 2000. The Fairmont muffler has been replaced with a look alike spark arrestor from Richter. The part number is SASR24H1-8. The chrome gas cap is new. NAPA part number 703-1220 is a perfect replacement for the original.

For red aspect lights when running backward, I used truck trailer marker lights that have a bright output, are easy to replace, and blend in with the original look of the car.


To see this car on the rails, go back to the main page and check out the Cumbres & Toltec and White Pass & Yukon Route reports. This car was sold in September 2002 to Ron Ivaldi of Fremont, CA. He's running it both as a standard and narrow gauge car. If you're interested in doing a narrow car, send me e-mail and I'll reply with a few of the problems to expect.

Return to home page---------Comments are welcome via e-mail wparsons@ix.netcom.com