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  • Modeling Boston & Maine's FTs

    by Mark E. Sharp

    Model photos by the author

    B&M 4211 A&B pull into Old Fort on the Northern Virginia Model Railroaders' Western North Carolina Railroad on a courtesy visit.
    Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 24

    I've recently shifted my railroad modeling focus to the Northeastern United States. Thus, when Stewart released their FT, I had to have a set in Boston & Maine colors. I liked the Stewart model so much that, as soon as it was released, I stripped a demonstrator unit, primed its black plastic gray, and went from there.

    FTs on the Boston & Maine

    By now, most train enthusiasts know that the Electro-Motive Corporation revolutionized rail transport in this country when it introduced its FT diesel in November of 1939. EMC sent its demonstrator set to the Boston & Maine in September of 1940. The B&M had a very important job waiting for the diesels: pulling trains through the Hoosac Tunnel. The Hoosac Tunnel is located in the Berkshire Hills just east of North Adams, Massachusetts. It opened in 1875 as the world's longest, measuring 4.75 miles from portal to portal . Hoosac gave the B&M an advantage over its rival, the Boston & Albany, since it crossed the Berkshires at a point 600' lower than B&A track. Although the tunnel was ventilated, steam locomotives had major problems with it. The B&M electrified the tunnel in 1911 and used boxcabs to haul steam locomotives, with fires banked, and their trains through. As you can imagine, the process was time consuming, inefficient and expensive.

    The EMC demonstrators pulled their first B&M Boston-to-Mechanicville freight through the Hoosac on September 5, 1940. The diesels hauled nearly 70% more tonnage through the tunnel than the railroad's 4-8-2 Mountain class steam locomotives. Interestingly, although the FTs appeared to be made to solve the Hoosac problem, the B&M did not place any orders for them until June of 1941.

    Unit 4210 in its original paint. Note that there is no herald on the nose and that the air horn faces forward over the fireman's side of the cab. Date and location of photo unknown.
    Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 25

    When the United States entered World War II in December of 1941, industrial production in this country changed dramatically. The War Production Board, not EMC, determined how many FTs would be built and who would get them. The B&M was to play a substantial role in America's war transportation effort, and it desperately needed new motive power. Thus, with WPB approval, B&M received its first FTs, units 4200 and 4201, in September of 1943, three years after the locomotives had shown their ability to conquer Hoosac. The B&M received 22 more FT AB sets throughout 1943 and 1944.

    The B&M FTs came in a beautiful maroon-and-black paint scheme with yellow striping. Similar schemes, although in different colors, appeared on Lehigh Valley and Denver & Rio Grande Western units. As delivered, the stripes came to a point at the front of the nose, with "Boston and Maine" lettering appearing in bunting on the sides. By the early 1950s, B&M had removed the bunting and placed a circular "Minuteman" herald on the nose.

    The A-B-B-A FT configuration produced 5,400 horsepower. The B&M often found that to be excessive, although the A-B combination, at 2,700 hp, sometimes was not enough. Since the FT "booster" units had a drawbar at one end and a coupler at the other, the FTs could not be run A-B-B. Thus, the B&M often ran an FT A-B set with a 1,350-hp F2. Since the FT's design made it difficult to upgrade, the B&M traded theirs back to EMD in 1956 and 1957 on a new order of GP9s. Although it lasted only 14 years on the B&M, the FT led the road out of the steam era and conquered the Hoosac. If you want more information about the B&M units, see Diesel Era's book, The Revolutionary Diesel, EMC's FT, and Jim Shaughnessy's article, "The Diesel that Tamed Hoosac "in the December 1989 issue of Railfan & Railroad.

    This view of 4210 only shows four of the seven bulbs in the headlamp, a feature Stewart and I chose not to model. By the mid 1950s, the FTs sported additional grabirons on the nose and over the cab windshields. It also appears that the steam generating equipment on 4210 has been removed. Date and location unknown.
    Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 26

    Stewart's Fabulous FT

    Stewart Hobbies' FT, long in coming, was worth the wait. Before them, you could have an FT only if you bought brass or placed a Cary shell on a substantially modified Athearn chassis. The Stewart model is really a wonder. Its drive system, as we have come to expect from Stewart, is the best in the world. The model is ready for DCC operation, and even includes marker lights which glow green when the locomotive is going forward and red when it is in reverse. Stewart has just released their B&M FT set and it is beautiful. However, if you want a set specific to the B&M, start with an undecorated unit, which comes with parts to model virtually every phase of FT production.

    There are a couple of things worth noting. The "chicken wire" grilles are recessed on the model although they were flush on the prototype. This is disappointing since the Stewart F units were produced with the flush grilles. On the prototype, the horn over the engineer's side of the cab faced to the rear while on the Stewart units it faces front. This can be easily remedied. The small number boards appear to be sized to hold three numerals. Although this may be fine for many railroads, I had to model unit 4211 to fit the decals on the boards. Finally, the FT sideframes, of the early sloped Blomberg type, are not quite as arched as I would like. Keep in mind, however, that these are all minor problems which would not deter me from buying more FTs.

    Preparing the Shell

    The cooling coils and roof detail.
    Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 27

    I started by drilling .018 holes (#77 bit) for all the grabirons and lift rings. I then drilled holes for the windshield wipers and pilot and booster hoses with a #74 bit. I scraped off a couple of ribs on the rear of the booster unit, then drilled a hole for and mounted a Details West backup light. Finally, I cut a piece of .010 styrene to an approximate scale size of 1' x 2' for the front numberplate.

    As do all commercially produced cab unit shells, the Stewart FT has mold parting lines. I removed these by sanding with 400grit paper. I then filled in the depressions over the front windows with putty and sanded these as well. I then polished the sanded areas with 1500-grit paper. You can find this paper at an auto parts store if your hobby shop does not carry it.

    Paint and Decals

    Boston & Maine's maroon is usually the subject of controversy. Stewart, Proto 2000 and Athearn have produced models in this color in recent years. All seem to favor a very brown maroon, virtually identical to the Erie Lackawanna color. I've studied photos of many B&M units and the color seems to have faded to a redder hue. I experimented with a number of color combinations before settling on a formula of five parts MODELflex Deep Red, five parts MODELflex Milwaukee Maroon, and two parts MODELflex Pennsy Maroon. Once I had painted the maroon, I masked the shells and painted the pilots, side skins, rear and roof black. To give the grilles some depth, I masked them as shown in Photos 1 and 2 and sprayed a black wash of Floquil Engine Black and Diosol, mixed 1:4.

    American Limited has produced a new set of diaphragms specifically to connect these models. The diaphragms require you to drill a couple of holes in the rear of each shell, using a template supplied by American Limited as a guide. This was relatively easy, and I installed them without much problem. When you connect the models using the short drawbar supplied in the Stewart kit, you get a perfect fit. I also installed American Limited's diaphragm from set 9910 for the "rear" of the booster unit. Decaling the numberboards was difficult.

    As I stated above, the boards will not easily accommodate four numerals. I cut a piece of black decal stock to size and installed it on the board. I then put on the 4211 numerals, squeezing them together as best as possible. I could not have decaled unit 4208. Otherwise, decaling was routine, but you'll need to add kickplates and reflective numbers from Microscale's 87-793 set and a builder's plate from set MC-4056.

    Microscale's set 87-909 for B&M cab units is perfect for these locomotives. If you want the as-delivered paint scheme, with the side bunting, use Microscale set 87-885.

    The speed recorder belongs on the front journal of the truck under the engineer's side of the A unit. It is held in place under the shell with a DA 2206 eyebolt.
    Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 28 Model Railroading - February 1999 - Page 29

    A detail unique to B&M FTs was the cooling coils located above the right front (engineer's side) of both the A and the B unit. Remember that the A and B units are coupled "back to back" so the cooling coils on the B unit are thus placed over the right "front" side which is at the left rear of the two locomotive set and faces the rest of the train. I created these coils, and their covers, by cutting four pieces of .030 styrene to an approximate scale 5' for each unit. First, I glued the pieces lengthwise into two pairs. Then I drilled .033 holes on each end and connected the two pairs by inserting the wires into each end. Finally, I bent some of the wire to form curves on each end. The result is shown in Photo 3.

    Chassis and Sideframes

    I drilled .018 holes in the air-brake cylinders for rigging and then drilled .021 holes in the "front" side of each sideframe for sand lines. I then mounted a DA eyebolt on the engineer's sid e of the chassis to accept the speed recorder cable. I installed the DA speed recorder as shown in Photo 4. I also placed black decal stripes in the depressions in the window glass for support struts, as shown in Photo 5. I p l aced a white index card behind the glass to better show the struts.

    Final Details and Weathering

    After I had decaled the locomotives, hand painted all of the grabirons, brake rig ging, sand lines, MU hoses and lift rings black and installed them. I also installed the front reflective numberplate with Walthers Goo at this time. I then weathered the truck sideframes, pilots, and lower portions of the shells with a wash of 50/50 Floquil Rail Brown/SP Lettering Gray mixed 1:4 with Diosol. I weathered the sides and roofs with a wash of Lettering Gray and Diosol mixed 1:4

    After weathering, I installed the windshield wipers, glass and backup-light lens. This project was a lot of fun and gave me the FTs I've wanted for so long. I hope you'll give it a try soon.

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