The Vanderbilt tender is a work of art that hides some other handy
modifications. As in the Berkshire, the S-2 tender has a removable alcohol tank
and an easily operated, water tank drain. The design of the tender is such that
there is plenty of room for RC gear & batteries, and there is a hole below the
footplate for servo leads to pass. Some may think that the clean lines of the
tender means that something is missing, but not so. This engine had a
fully-welded tender, so there are no rivets by design.
Another special treat on this tender will be the inclusion of real wood planking
on the rear deck – above the water tank. The prototype models displayed at
Diamondhead did not have this but we’ve been assured that the finished models
will. For those of you who are familiar with the Aster Big Boy, the wood decking
on the S-2 tender will be very similar to the wood decking on the Big Boy model.
This detail should add a dramatic visual impact to the model.
Firing up the S-2 is simple – and quick. “Oiling around” is accompanied by
filling the displacement lubricator on the left running board, and adding
alcohol/water. Once the boiler is half full and the wicks have had enough time
to get saturated, the burners can be easily lit using the fire door in the cab.
With the external blower going, the S-2 builds pressure quickly. At 2 bars, the
blower can be removed and the engine transitioned to internal steam blower
operation; and 4 bars pressure is reached in a total of less than 5 minutes!
(Average running time on one alcohol fill is an impressive 50-60 minutes.)
Select your direction on the Johnson bar, open the drain cocks, and ease the
throttle open. You are rewarded with a nice sequence of steam exhaust as the
drain cocks clear the condensate and signal the alternating blasts of high
pressure steam. Surprisingly, this locomotive makes so much steam that the drain
cocks can be left open during mainline operation with a solid string of cars,
and the engine can still pop-off! The engine tracks extremely well with no
noticeable “waddle” to its movement. In operation, I found the S-2 every bit the
equal of the famous Aster Daylight. Traction is excellent and the S-2 provides
drawbar pull unexpected on such a large driver model.
For the majority of folks who will be assembling their S-2s from kits, the
instructions will be in the classic Aster format with isometric drawings and
separate, detailed, step-by-step directions.
With the Great Northern S-2, Aster and its North American importer, Hans
Huwyler, have developed an excellent model with new features and even better
operation than the fine Aster models of the past. This is a model that Aster
customers will be able to build and run proudly for many years to come.