Monday, January 21, 2013

The First Two Diesels

Yesterday morning I went down to the layout to spot a few last cars prior to the afternoon operating session. As I began to move a consist of F units and a GP9, I noticed that an SD9 in the engine service area was moving slowly. I keyed in the loco's address to my throttle and tried to get it to stop. It wouldn't. So it was off to the programming track in an attempt to re-acquire the address. While trying to sort this out, I noticed that the lights were going on and off intermittently. I finally figured out that another throttle was plugged in with the SD9's address and the knob was turned slightly past the off position. But by this point the flickering lights were really bothering me and I realized the unit wasn't going to make the operating session. So it went to the workbench to get a new decoder, which I had planned to do at some point anyway as I want all of the diesels to have Tsunami sound or the compatible non-sound decoders from Soundtraxx.

As I took the SD9 apart, I thought about adding sound to it. I want all consists on the layout to eventually have sound, and this unit had been running solo on a local. I had planned to have two SD9's running together eventually, so I decided to check on the new one  Proto 2000 units that have Tsunami's. But these units won't be available until next summer. Then I remembered the old Athearn SD9, which I believe they called an SD7, that I had built years ago. I wondered if the discrepancies in the hood widths would be obvious, so I got the old unit out and placed it next to the Proto unit. Not bad, not bad at all. So I decided to add sound to the Athearn unit, which will be a dummy, and pair it up with the Proto unit. But before jumping in and making some major changes to the appearance of the old Athearn unit, I thought I would document the first two diesels I built for my free-lanced Chesapeake, Wheeling and Erie.

The first loco to receive Chesapeake, Wheeling & Erie paint was an Athearn GP7. This engine began life as a stock dummy unit decorated for the SOO, and it's be modified many times over the years. The unit is in the as-delivered paint scheme with the Central Belt logo on the side and small "CW&E" initials in the upper corner of the short hood.

When I first built this unit, I planned to have all-weather windows on all of my diesels. That changed after I had seen numerous photos of coal hauling railroad diesels and none of them had these types of windows. This unit was also numbered in the 4000 series at some point, in Railroad Roman font, but there was no rhyme or reason to the system. Once I decided on a numbering system for the diesel fleet that would more closely reflect each unit's horsepower, I went back and changed the numbering. This unit was completed sometime around 1980.

The second diesel is the Athearn SD9 mentioned above. This unit was completed shortly after the GP7 and hasn't been changed much since. It's still numbered in the original numbering system, and at some point it lost one of its all-weather windows.

Those of you who are familiar with Eric Brooman's Utah Belt will quickly see the influence of his work on both the paint scheme and the railroad name. It wasn't until a few years after these units were built that I decided on the more modern scheme with the large CWE letters on the side and the "Central Belt" logo on the front. Note also that I hadn't decided on the practice of mounting the bells on the long hoods at this point. This unit was also completed around 1980.

In addition to the sound decoder, I plan to re-number this unit in the 1750 series, update the weathering, and add headlights to either end. With any luck, whoever gets the Big Chimney Roustabout at the next op session will find two SD9's on the point and some sound for a change.


  1. Was there a reason or prototype for having the red light on both ends of the GP-7 above the dual sealed beam headlight? Also, as someone who owns a pair of old Athearn SD-9s and GP-7s, is there any worth in practicing on such an archaic model when better ones are available from Proto-2000? I would use it partly as detail practice, but also as possible freelanced railroad/detailing and RPM practice

    1. I know I copied the red light from some prototype example, but I can't remember which one- way too long ago! The old Blue Box locos are so dated now that I would only use them for practice. There are just too many nicer alternatives available at reasonable prices.