Sad Days Indeed - Intermountain Frame Rot

DCESharkman Apr 1, 2022

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  1. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    I had a RR 2-8-8-0 frame turn to powder in my hands. I had another one break in three places while it was running. I sold my last one on FeePay with a warning about the zirmac rot and that because of it, I was selling the locomotive "AS-IS". I noted that it ran well before I put it into the box, but that I was not responsible for what happened when the buyer got it. It triggered a snipe war. Sure enough, when they buyer got it, the frame cracked. I refused to do anything because I had warned potential buyers about it, had started the bid at fifty bananas thus it was not my problem if three or four bidders decided to get into a snipe war over it. Finally, I had stated that while I had tested it before photographing and putting it into its box, it was "AS-IS".

    The buyer gave me negative feedback that FeePay would not remove. He then tried to hustle me by faking a report that a RR Pacific that he had bought "as is" with the same warning never showed up. He had to back down when I pointed out to him that he had bought both at about the same time and that they were shipped in the same box.

    I have not tested my B&O F-units recently. I do have my NYO&W F-3 on the track and it is running and shows no sign of this. I had the Old and Weary FT pair out a few weeks past and they were alright.

    I am guessing that IM's thinking is that you bought them over ten years past, so their obligation has ended. If you consider that you bought so many of them, I would have thought that they would have done something for you.

    I guess that I willl have to keep checking mine. If they show any sign of this, I will have to pry off the shell, but whatever I can find and swap the shells or order new frames from IM.
  2. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    I checked my one and only IM tunnel motor. The frame is still OK. I did notice however that one of the hand rails was broken and part of it missing. No idea when that happened. I can fix that.
  3. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    I bought a "basket case" Y6b where the front truck was all in pieces. I planned on using it for parts for other projects. But then, I was feeling board and decided to machine a new front truck frame out of brass to see if I could do it. Turned out great. I was running it on the club layout when a fellow member fell in love with it. Sold it to him and he is still running it 20 years later. Most of my old Rivarossi steam locomotives died of rot but live on with new brass frames I made. I made an Atlantic and a Prairie using the gears and drivers as well as the shells.

    The Atlantic is in a hurry to get out of town and is low on sand.
  4. 308GTSi

    308GTSi TrainBoard Member

    In a tiny way I know how you feel about loosing locos. I am down 1 , just 1 , SD80MAC as of yesterday and I am sooooooooo P'd off you wouldn't believe it !

    Wait a little before you do anything more. :) Emotion says crush it, burn it, blast it to Mars, but once that passes make those locos work for you.

    Sell them ...... some time in the future. You'll get some money to buy some other brand. I find it near impossible to find SD45T-2 shells so more people like me will want them too.

    If anyone has a Kato SD80MAC shell for sale (and willing to ship to Australia) I would like to hear from you. :)
    BNSF FAN, BoxcabE50 and Hardcoaler like this.
  5. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Agreed. Knowing that all is lost, I'd still be tempted to dismantle what I could and try to find a handful of good frame pieces in hope that I could rebuild and salvage a few dozen locomotives. Nonetheless, I completely understand @DCESharkman 's frustration and his disinterest in going further.
    BNSF FAN, MK and BoxcabE50 like this.
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Frustration and unhappiness is more than totally justified. Wow. What a financial blow, and more. :(

    I would finish checking them all. Then salvage what might be possible. Shells, trucks, drive mechanisms. Parts which certainly have some value. For that many units, there might some day be someone who'd develop a replacement frame pair.
    MK, 308GTSi and Hardcoaler like this.
  7. 308GTSi

    308GTSi TrainBoard Member

    I had walked away from the computer and went back to the machine shop when I had an idea.

    It's only a solution to save the bodies.

    To save the bodies you will need to get the metal frame out. Could you try reverse electroplating ?

    Errrrrr , I'm betting it will bugger the motor too though.

    Has anyone out there reading this done electroplating ? Would it work ?
  8. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    From what I have seen of Shapeways prices not an option because of costs. Unless one can work a deal for volume. Then there is low temp metal casting but here you would need a perfect frame to develop the molds. And I do not know if buying one's own Printer would be economically sound and making new frames with.
  9. johnh

    johnh TrainBoard Member

    Did they quote you a price for frame halves?
  10. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Do we know the quality of any replacements, as to their not having similar issues?
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  11. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I would love to see Russel Straw's homebrew frame for the steamer, to see how it might be adapted for the IM units...
  12. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    No they did not. They said it might be a year or more before they run the SD-40T's, they have an upcoming run on the F units,
    But I am going to pass because it seems they do not really care about Quality control of their products. So I will salvage what I can, and never trust InterMountain again. If they can not stand behind their products, the hell with them. I do not care that some of these locomotives are several years old, if the quality control was there to begin with, none of this would be happening. There was nothing I could have done to make the frames swell or crumble like dust. It was all poor oversight in quality control.
  13. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

    This is a sad story and I'm sorry to hear about your experience @DCESharkman. At the end of the day, these things aren't sold to last forever. It amazes me that we can still buy detailed, fine running N scale locomotives for (inflation adjusted) lower prices than ever. That said, just as with automobiles, houses, electronics, etc. nothing stays new forever and age, despite low use, often catches up with stuff. I mentioned earlier that I now only own Kato locomotives. That was probably a bit insensitive and for that I apologize to anyone who it didn't sit right with. As I've gotten older, I've placed a higher and higher emphasis on quality and reliability. It just makes my life easier/more enjoyable. That certainly applies to my remaining model railroading activities. It wasn't just selling off my Atlas and IM locomotives. It was also downsizing/simplifying to Unitrack and keeping only Kato passenger and MT freight rolling stock. Were any of my Atlas and IM locomotives exhibiting any rot or similar deterioration? Absolutely not. If they were, I would not have sold them to fellow modelers here and elsewhere. But, it's not a perfect world, and stuff like this is just part of the game. I've actually developed a strong aversion to further accumulation of N scale equipment. I'll still buy the latest and greatest Kato name train release, but I haven't bought a freight car in years (I probably have fewer now than five years ago). We age, we shift priorities, many of us either choose to downsize or are forced to. It's not all bad. Fortunately, we can enjoy our hobby with a Kato starter set on the table at the assisted living facility just as much as some enjoy (or not) that huge empire that has become a constant drag on their time, patience, budget, space, etc. I'm currently somewhere in between, but trending away from the former and towards the later. I may start a thread on my current heavily downsized Japanese type approach to enjoying my trains. I can assure the readers that it will be a much more concise read than my old modular shelf layout mega-thread. That was fun and enjoyable at the time. But times change....

    Sorry if I hijacked your thread David.
    Carl Sowell and Hardcoaler like this.
  14. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    I know things do not last forever, as an Engineer, I know even the best designs will someday be outdated, look at all the bridges and Dams in this country that are old and on the verge of failing. That is not what really bothered me, it was more the flippant attitude from Intermountain and the fact they really did not care about the poor quality. There is clearly an identifiable cause for these worthless locomotives (had a harsher word in mind but used discretion) and they just have no concept of Quality Assurance. Just Oh well attitude.
    The one good point for this, it is an imposed downsizing. And that is sad because Kato never put out F units in all the road names like IM did.
    If Kato had done Southern Tuxedo F Units, I would not have had to buy IM.
    MK, mtntrainman and Kisatchie like this.
  15. tehachapifan

    tehachapifan TrainBoard Member

    I'm going to guess that part of the issue is the large number of frames involved. They might be able to handle a few here and there (I had a Tunnel Motor frame replaced a few years ago), but they may not be able to handle a sudden need to replace a couple hundred. That, I'm guessing, would essentially require another run of new frames. Interesting side note.... I once heard from what I think was a very reliable source that typical runs of a N scale loco from any given manufacturer is only a few hundred total. Seems low.
  16. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    Intermountain seems to be struggling in general with slow product releases and long production backlogs. If they were operating more efficiently, making more products per month, I think this would be less of an issue. Sourcing hundreds of locomotive frames for a model that hasn't been made in years sounds almost impossible. I'm not condoning it, but I understand their reluctance to help. I wouldn't want to make promises I couldn't deliver on either. It's a big order, and all these manufacturers are operating at the margins. Finding spare parts, even for new models, is basically impossible these days, and the batch production system makes producing new parts on a whim difficult.

    If they were smart, they would tack on many more frames to the upcoming run, with the intent to keep them in stock to replace failing frames from older models.
  17. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    So what is the difference between 300 customers with one locomotive with Zinc Rot frame asking for a frame replacement...and ONE customer with 300 locomotives with Zinc Rot frames asking for frame replacements ? :confused: 300 frames are 300 frames. :confused:

    It sounds like IM saying that definitely losing one big customer over 300 frames is better then possibly losing 300 customers over one frame each ? :censored:
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2022
  18. tehachapifan

    tehachapifan TrainBoard Member

    If they don't have anything close to 300 in stock, then there is no difference. My guess is, up until now, they probably (mostly) only had the occasional customer coming forward with perhaps only one or maybe two frames max in need of replacement. Let's say that, before now, they've only been asked to replace, say, a total of 30 or 40 frames since theses locos were released (is that number low or high, I don't know). Perhaps their stock of spares has since dwindled to a few. If I were a loco manufacturer, it would seem unrealistic to have hundreds (thousands?) of spare frames or parts on-hand at all times, in perpetuity, in the event some unexpected manufacturing defect crops up years (decades?) later. Is zinc pest something manufacturers should be aware of and know how to avoid? I would have to say yes. But that is a separate point.
  19. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

    And, how are they going to guarantee any new frames aren't going to do the same thing. It sounds like they didn't/don't have a handle on the successful manufacture of Zamac castings.

  20. Thomas Davis

    Thomas Davis TrainBoard Member

    Are the frames for the newer IM locos (the ones with "wired" motor connections) interchangeable with the earlier ones?

    As of last time I checked (about 2-3 years ago, when I installed decoders), the frames of my IM F and FP units were all still solid. But I guess it is time to check again.

    The shells of any given loco can sometimes be given a new lease on life on another company's frames. I have some Bachmann spectrum units - the bodies are based on very late F7s, and have an annoying mold line in them (at least mine do)- I am thinking about "backdating" them by adapting some spare IM shells I have. Not a perfect fit, but I think I can make it work.

    When I first encountered IM F units, with wire grabs, stainless grills, etc, I thought they were a major improvement over the Katos I had. I would have "standardized" on the IM F units IF they had actually produced what they were talking about producing. But in recent years, they have been unavailable. Meanwhile, Kato has produced in higher quantities, and even between runs, seem to be constantly available on auction site and second hand sources. At least in the ATSF paint schemes I've needed. And I've painted Kato undecs for others I've needed, because they were readily available, and because IM listed, but never produced, some of the roads I wanted.
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