As soon as you say Shay, people come out of the woodwork, or more appropriately, the hicks come out of the woods. To be clear, "Hick" is a term of endearment where I'm from. We weren't rednecks, we were hicks...from the sticks.
In HOn30, you only have one serious option for a Shay locomotive, the Toma Model Works brass kit. It's a gorgeous little model, and I have one that I love. They're still in production, but they're expensive ( $350 US Dollars) for an unpainted brass kit. Every once in a blue moon, Toma has some that are RTR (Ready To Run) that will set you back almost a grand. Most people don't have that kind of money for one locomotive. You can find Joe Works Shays on Ebay infrequently, but they go for about 500 bucks for one in running shape, 300 for one that needs work.
What can a person do? You could scratchbuild one from parts, or convert an Atlas Shay into a small 10 ton contractor's locomotive, try to find an HOn3 model and re-gauge it to 30", or:
Just wait for Rich to get a wild hair up his ass and draw one in 3D.
That's what I've been doing. It's a bit of an obsession now. I'll admit it. I'm burning hours drawing, redrawing, and drawing again things that only psychos like me really want, but here's the deal:
It's going to be for the Tomytec TM-04 chassis. Yes, I know that they're currently hard to find. If you're an HOn30 modeler, I know that I specifically said in a blog post a while back that you buy things when they're available. The TM-04 is the same chassis that the Marsh Creek Climax is based around, so if you're really in a pinch, you can recycle that. When Plaza Japan had TM-04 available on Ebay, I bought like 4 of them, knowing that it's feast or famine in my insane world of HOn30. Remember when nothing was available except second hand Chivers kits? I do. Remember when nothing was available but Railway Recollection resin kits? I do. That's why I design these things, so that there are more options available. I tried to get this to work with a TM-19 (8 wheel drive) chassis, but because Shays have an offset boiler, the driveline for the mechanism would be impossible to hide. Everybody knows that there are two sides to the Shay, the "pretty" side with the engine and driveline, and the "ugly" side that is just plain. Having the mech driveshafts and gear towers showing on the "pretty side" is no bueno. TM-04 it is.
But why not the Atlas Shay? Keep your pants on. I'll do one of those too. Just not right now. I've got a donor on the bench. Be prepared though, I might try to have this one printed in Brass to get the weight up. The only reason the Atlas Shay works well is because it has a die cast body. That's probably 1/3 to 1/2 of the weight of the model. Without that weight, it's crap. Try pulling a train after removing the body. I've done it, and it's not pretty.
Price: I don't know the final price. I do know that it will be the most expensive conversion to date. Not over 100 bucks I think, but there are a lot of printed parts. Just for argument's sake, If I got paid what I get billed out at for my "real" job for the hours I have into this already, it's over $5000 dollars in design time. I get super happy when I get an email from Shapeways that one of you like my stuff enough to buy one, and I make enough money to buy a beer or two.
Options: "My prototype is X boiler with Y stack" Yes. There will be options. Fancy 1890s domes, and modern 1910 domes, different stacks, a Tee boiler, and different cabs.
Does the Shay....um...Shay? No. The limitations of cost and 3D printing technology don't allow the engine and driveshaft to work as it should. Maybe that's a deal breaker for some people. So go buy a Toma Shay, or convert an Atlas model. It really doesn't bother me. I wouldn't be designing a non functioning driveline and engine if I personally cared that much. I've got a Toma Shay, and I love it. I want something different, so I'm designing it, and offering it to everyone who wants something different too. I'm never going to get rich doing this, so I do what I want.
The prototype prints have been ordered, and are currently being printed. If God is smiling on me, I might have them in my grubby little paws by this weekend, and if that happens, I'll be sharing the photos on Facebook, and here. Keep in mind that as a prototype, not all of the details have been finalized. I am more concerned with the fit of the parts and compatibility with the donor chassis.
Go Build Something Awesome.