Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Victor and the Vanquished

Last month, I finished up a couple of GP38's for the railroad. As I wrapped up the project, it occurred to me that this was the first time in over 25 years that I had worked on a GP38. The new units are intend to supplement/replace the older ones, so's here's a little history on the victor and the vanquished.

I bought two Atlas GP38's at a train show in Cleveland in 1984 along with a Life Like GP38-2 and two Athearn GP9's. I had always intended to have a fleet of GP38's and GP38-2's for the railroad, and this seemed like to the perfect time to start. The Atlas units had the correct width hood, and with some detail modifications, they would make great additions to the budding fleet. I finished the first one in 1984 and the second one in 1987 (I think). I removed all of the detail from pilots and added parts from Details West and Details Associates, carved off all of the grab irons and replaced them with wire grabs, re-built the brake wheel location and step, and replaced the plastic handrails and stanchions with brass wire and Athearn metal stanchions. The photos below show the old unit next to one of the new Atlas units.

Over the years I added different decoders to the older Atlas units. They never ran very well and were extremely noisy. I'm sure they could have been tuned to run a little better, but once newer products came out with better motors and detail, I decided to relegate these units to dummies. Therefore, the motors and gears were removed. The photo below shows 2001 in service with two of the most recent units purchased by the railroad, U30B 3553 and 3558.

Unfortunately, 2015 will have to be relegated to the display case. When I modified the frame to accommodate the new brake wheel housing, it was bent in such a way that I can't mount a coupler on the  front of the locomotive at the correct height. And at some point in the future- once some additional units are on the roster- the 2001 will join it as the incorrect fuel tank has always bothered me.

The photo below shows a close-up of 2016. The unit was weathered using washes of tube artist's acrylics thinned with Microscale's Micro Sol. Some weathering powders were also added.

A neat trick that I picked up from Rodney on the Rust Bucket forum is to use a pencil to simulate the worn tread on the walkways. Rubbing the side of a pencil along the grating really simulates the bare metal edges where the paint has been worn off.

The photos below show 2016 and 2013 at SJ Cabin at the east end of Hollister Yard.

As you can see from the shot above, both of these units came decorated for Seaboard System- the stripes are visible on the noses. I thought the factory paint was thin enough that it wouldn't show. Note to self- strip the units next time. There's also a detail missing from the pilots. It's a bit surprising given the level of detail on these models. If you look at the photos of the old Atlas unit you'll find it pretty quickly. I may go back and add it later along with some sanding lines on the trucks. I rushed a bit to get these units completed for the last operating session, and little things like this occur every time I rush a project.

The photo below shows 2016 in its regular assignment, paired up with SD35 2505 as power for the Elkwater Branch Roustabout.

Both of the GP38's have Soundtraxx Tsunami decoders, high base speakers and LED's installed. The SD35 was the regular power on the Elkwater Branch previously, and it didn't have sound. With the addition of 2016 to the consist, all of the trains on the layout now have sound units in the consists.

I'm still working on the pair of F7's that will take over the Sand Fork Shifter at some point. Now that the most recent operating session is complete, I have time to work on some other projects such as these units. But I'm not going to get caught up again in rushing to get something completed for a session. It's a lot more fun to work on whatever you feel like versus what you think should be completed for the next session.


  1. Tom I was looking at the photos on this subject again and in the 2nd photo in the background it looks like there is a CWE bay-window caboose. Is that correct and if true what is the story on that? Thanks, Andrew

  2. Andrew,

    Yes- that's a bay window caboose in the background. I built it back in the early 1980's using an Athearn bay window caboose as the starting point. It was heavily modified and was/is intended to represent the newest class of caboose on the railroad. The decals don't look very good as I was struggling at that point in my modeling to get a good gloss finish. But responding to your question has made me think that maybe I'll strip it and repaint it. I've also thought about adding a few more bay window cabooses using some of the recent Walthers kits.


  3. Sounds great Tom. I look forward to seeing the new and improved model when it's done plus the new bay windows when you put them out on the railroad. God Bless,Andrew

  4. Engines looks great. What is the font used for the lettering on the long hoods of the engine?

  5. Thanks, Justin. The large "CWE" on the long hoods originally came from Champ Block Gothic 1/2" alphabet sets. Later on, I had Rail Graphics make up some custom decals that would work for all of the locomotives and rolling stock. The intent of the design was to mimic the look and feel of the large "NW" that was used by the Norfolk and Western back in the 1970's.

  6. You locomotive paint scheme is outstanding. What is your scheme colors?