An ode to the open frame motor and how far we have come

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Many of the younger modeler do not remember when motor/gear noise, along with the smell of ozone and hot oil was synomous with model trains. But that was the norm thru the 1950s till the late 1970s when Atlas teamed up with Kato for their drive in the yellow box era diesels. Be it brass or plastic, motor and gear noise was common, some worse that others. Even the top motors from the likes of Pittman, made right here in the USA, had noise and unstableness at slow speeds we take for granted today. But look thru a late 1950s or early 1960's model railroader and the common power on club layouts were diesels from Tenshodo, steam from Mantua, Bowser and various brass imports. ALL with open frame motors, straight cut(ie noisy) gearing. But it ran and ran fairly smooth for the day. Today we are fortunate and spoiled by the quiet running, smooth can and coreless motors. Modern gear production yields nearly silent drives in both steam and diesels, brass and plastic alike. Most open frames in todays world have weak magnets, causing them to run very hot, lack torque at low rpm's which creates even worse slow speed stablity and stalling. You can replace the magnet with ones from Micro Mark and this will restore the motor's power, lower the amp draw, but the motor noise will always remain. Some enjoy this noise, its part of our history and where we came from. Some want even smoother and quieter operation, so a remotor is the next step. My brass geared logging engines are noisy, mostly from their open frame motors. I will replace them once NWSL is back on its feet and restocks the smaller can motors I need. So many modelers talk down the older models for noise, high amp draw and cannot see how we tollerated that. But they seem to take for granted what we have today and how fortunate we are in todays modeling world. Here is a pic of my 1969 vintage NWSL Willamette Shay, genuine Pitman DC66 powered.

I even got the original paperwork for the motor with the model, interesting to see and rare to find.



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I remember the original can motors we used to replace these Pittmans were intended to move telescopes, with their need for precise movement. Even the 7 pole Pittman became obsolete very quickly. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.