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  • Do-It-Yourself Diesels

    Even diesels can be detailed... Here's how to add more realism to your E-8 or PA-1 and build an E-8 "B" unit to boot.

    LEFT: The "before" (right) and "after" versions of the HO Scale Athern PA-1 diesel. "Open" look to louvers and detailed pilot are obvious changes as are separate handrails, couplers.
    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 18 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 19

    They don't look by it at first glance, but the diesel as much locomotives used America's railroads are "custom" motive power as any of the steam locomotives were. When the diesel first replaced the romantic steam engine, rail fans the world over cried out that now all the railroad's engines would look alike except for differences in color. As the use of the diesel developed and spread to every railroad, it was soon obvious that there would be almost as many variations on a particular model diesel as their were railroads that used them. Further, the diesel makers were quick to upgrade and alter their locomotives as they gained mileage and tonnage experience. Now, after over three decades of diesels on real railroads, the modeler has at least as wide a choice of prototypes to model as he does to draw upon from the days of steam. So far, only a few dozen of the various diesels are available as ready to-run brass or plastic models. It's up to the modeler to make many of the variations.

    It takes a bit of modeling experience to modify one of the brass imported diesel engine models. Much of the detail must be soldered on and metal is considerably more as compared to slight difficult to drill and file than plastic - to say nothing of the chance of ruining a $70 model damage on a $7 to $20 one. With just a bit of care and extra detail, the inexpensive plastic N, HO, or 0 scale diesels can be made to equal the appearance of the brass imports. We've chosen three of the more popular "covered wagon" or "first generation" style diesels to illustrate just what you can do to detail your model railroad's diesels; an E-8 "A" and "B" unit and the PA-1 "A" units.

    The photos show you how to substitute wire handrails and other details to make the Athern or ConCor model of the Alco PA-1 more like the real thing; how to fit a to modify the AHM E-8 "A" unit into the unavailable "B" unit without cab controls. All three of these are in HO scale, however, Atlas makes an N scale E-8 and ConCor N scale PA-1 that can be superdetailed in the same manner. The separate handrails and pilot details would, of course, apply to any of the plastic diesels far in any scale. The modifications are far more fun than work and, when completed with care, provide a truly custom model that has the potential of being a contest winner anywhere.


    PAGE 20 TOP LEFT: Flat black enamel (for plastics; like Pactra's "Flats") is thinned 50% with thinner, then brushed into the grillwork on sides and around the roof-mounted exhaust fan areas.

    PAGE 20 TOP RIGHT: Champion-brand or Walthers decals can be used to cover up the fuzzy edges of the silk-screened lettering on these pre-painted diesels. Decal stripes are used to add a crisp look at edges.

    PAGE 20 BOTTOM LEFT: Cal-Scale air hoses add a detail touch to pilot. Wide coupler gap was filled in with scrap plastic and a Kadee coupler glued to nose of diesel's body. Grab irons are bent .010" wires.

    PAGE 20 BOTTOM RIGHT: Use a sharp hobby knife to slice off the cast-on handrails. .010" wire handrails are glued into pre-drilled holes or holes can be melted in by pressing soldering iron against wire rail.

    PAGE 21 LEFT TOP: MHP diaphragms are sliced in half and glued to the rear door. Rear Kadee coupler is mounted to the engine's chassis. Grab irons, again, are .010" wire pressed in place.

    PAGE 21 RIGHT TOP: Kemtron air horns replace those furnished with kit for an extra detail touch. Black stripes on each side of nose's yellow band are Walther's decals.

    PAGE 21 LEFT BOTTOM: The same detail ideas used for the "A" unit can be used to superdetail Athern's HO scale "B" unit. Walthers decals were used in place of stock spray-painted markings and stripes.

    PAGE 21 RIGHT BOTTOM: This Southern Pacific Alco "A" unit has been equipped with a snowplow pilot to combat the Sierra Nevada's winters. Pilot could be fabricated from sheet plastic. SPRR photograph. 

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 20 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 21


    PAGE 22 RIGHT TOP: The nose of the majority of the E-8 diesels used by the Santa Fe differed from that on the AHM HO scale model. We substituted a new nose cut from Athern's EMD F-7 freight diesel (right).

    PAGE 22 LEFT TOP: With a  little extra effort, the AHM E-8 "A" unit can match this one rebuilt by AI Hetzel. "B" unit was made by chopping two 'dummy' "A" units since no ready-to-run is available.

    PAGE 22 LEFT BOTTOM: Use a razor saw to slice off the nose of the AHM E-8. Cut about 1/64" behind the rivet panel beside the doors. Keep cut absolutely parallel with molded-in panel lines. 

    PAGE 22 RIGHT BOTTOM: The nose of the Athern F-7 is sliced at the same point as that followed on the AHM E-8. Sand cut perfectly flat by rubbing against a piece of sandpaper glued to a glass plate.

    PAGE 23 LEFT: The Athern nose section is glued on the AHM E-8 body in place of the stock nose. Scraps of plastic will reinforce joint. Short pieces of plastic tubing are glued inside to mount a new Hobbytown chassis (an optional extra for more pulling power).

    PAGE 23 RIGHT TOP: Hobby town chassis mounts inside modified body with self-tapping screws. If stock chassis is retai ned, the modified body will reassemble in the normal manner.

    PAGE 23 RIGH BOTTOMT:The Hobbytown chassis features a more powerfu l American-made motor a nd a flywheel to smooth out the engine's performance.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 22 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 23


    PAGE 24 LEFT TOP: New nose (right) is more blunt, with crease across top of pilot, to match the style of the units most used on the Santa Fe.

    PAGE 24 RIGHT TOP: "B" unit diesels are exact mates to the "A" units except for the engineer's cab and controls. Cables and lines, on real engines, allow a single engineer to control several locomotives.

    PAGE 24 RIGHT BOTTOM: File both cut areas smooth and even, then join them and glue with plastic cement. Carefully test fit-both pieces and file to fit before gluing permanently together.

    The body of our "B" unit had to be resprayed silver and marked with Walther's decals to hide the joint between the two body pieces. Wire grab irons wil l be added next. 

    PAGE 24 LEFT BOTTOM: Two AHM HO scale E-8 "A" units (they can be "dummies"; without power) are needed to make the "B" unit. Cut the nose off one as outlined and slice the rear off the other at this point.

    PAGE 25 LEFt: The rounded front end of the AHM chassis must be sliced off to fit the shape of the now-square-ended "B" body. Similar steps can be followed to make an N scale Atlas-brand E-8 "B".

    PAGE 25 RIGHT: The stock horn-hook style couplers were pried away and Kadee automatic couplers and draft gear boxes glued in place at the ends of each truck. Use Kadee's jig to check heigt. The leftover cabs, from the two "A" units could be joined to make this fictious "conversion piece" diesel switcher.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 24 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 25


    Article Details

    • Original Author 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Source 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Publication Date Winter 1970

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