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  • Modeling Burlington's SD-9s in HO from Athearn Kits

    Coming up on the Belmont Road Crossing at Downers Grove, Illinois, in March of 1973 is BN 6143 (ex-CB&Q 341) still in her Burlington colors on the point with two repainted units following and Burlington units bringing up the rear. Gib Allbach photo.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 6 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 7

    by Jim Sandrin

    When Athearn introduced their SD-9 model, much was done to help Burlington modelers in achieving a convincing roster as this was the most numerous single model on the system. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), Athearn patterns their model after Southern Pacific prototypes and a bit of modification is required to obtain a pro per Q "feel" or look to the model.

    In the following article, modifications will be described to alter the Athearn kits and change them into CB&Q SD-9 replicas.


    According to theDiesel Spotter's Guide, 471 SD-9's were built for United States railroads. The Burlington and subsidiary Colorado & Southern acquired the second largest fleet, after the SP, with a total of 103 units. The SD9's were purchased in 5 groups as follows:

    CB&Q; 325-344, March, 1954
    CB&Q; 345-374, June-October, 1955
    CB&Q; 430-459, December, 1956, to March, 1957
    C&S; 820-830, December, 1956, to March, 1957
    C&S; 831-842, April, 1959

    All Q units were renumbered in 1970 to BN 6127-6206; the C&S units still carry their original numbers but are now painted BN green and carry the BN logo. All of the Q units and C&S 820-830 were built with the original SD-9 carbody having four 36" fans over the radiator area. C&S 831-842 were built with the late SD-9 carbody having two 48" fans over the radiators, a slightly taller cab and nose, and omitting the battery boxes on the walkway behind the cab. (The parts list has those items required for a model of C&S 831-842 included, but this article will concentrate on the original carbody.)

    The Q units, while used system-wide, were found primarily on coal trains in Southern Illinois and in the Northwest pool between Lincoln, Nebraska, and Laurel, Montana while the C&S units were used on all home trackage from Wyoming to Texas (on the FW&D). Since major work on the C&S units was commonly done at Lincoln or West Burlington, Iowa, it was not uncommon to find C&S units mixed with Q power on the west end of the system while being ferried to or from the shops.

    The delivery of General Electric U25C's, U28's, and EMD GP40's in the mid-60's allowed the SD-9's to be downgraded from hotshots to secondary freights and locals. During that period, the cab windows of many of the units lost their sun shades and wind screens and had all-weather windows installed in their place for use in switching service. Nearly all Q units were so equipped by 1970. To protect the right of way from sparks, which may result from carbon build-up in older units running at low speeds, most of the units, C&S included, got spark arrestors during the same period.

    Page 8 top: CB& Q 326 in black paint at Denver, Colorado, in May of 1964. The rectangular box located against the second radiator panel is the compressor air filter. HoI Wagner photo.

    Page 8 bottom: HoI Wagner photo. Q and C&S Train 30 is lead by Q 346 in this January, 1964, view.

    Page 9: CB& Q 329 at Denver, Colorado, in May, 1964. The units equipped with steam generators had the water filler on the front tank and was equipped with extra signal hoses next to the standard brake hoses on the ends. Hol Wagner photo.

    Model and photo by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 8 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 9

    In 1968, Nebraska passed a law requiring locomotives operating within the state on a regular basis to be equipped with rotary beacons on the cab roofs for added visibility. As a result, SD-9's assigned to Lincoln were equipped with "Cullen" style beacons mounted in the center of the cab roof (see Table I for a listing of those units which are known to be so equipped). All of the units came equipped with Mars signal lights. Burlington 325-374, 430-439, and C&S 820-830, being equipped with dual cab controls for bidirectional operation, had Mars lights mounted above the standard headlights on each end. Q 440-459 and C&S 831-842 had only one control stand and had the signal lights only at the front end. (Q 440-459 were classed as 'SD-9s' to distinguish them from dual control units, the "s" standing for single control stand).

    Originally, many of the Q 325-374 series and C&S 820-830 series were equipped with steam generators; they handled

    many of the secondary passenger runs and occasionally helped out on the main line runs in cold weather. Many of the units still have the steam generators in place for added ballast, but as o f late 1969 only 333, 335-338, 346, and 348 had operational boilers for passenger service.

    Those units that had steam generators were equipped with one water tank and a 1,200 gallon fuel tank mounted between the trucks. The 400 series units only had one rear tank for fuel (see Table I for a breakdown of those 300 series units which were freight only and thus had two 1,200 gallon fuel tanks). One note: C&S 831842 were the only SD-9's on the system with the air breather pipe on the fuel tank (the 500-5 15 series SD24's had them too).


    Some basic skills are needed for working with styrene models. This is a good model to start on since the modifications to the Athearn model are fairly simple. If you haven't done much modeling in plastic before, I suggest you read Al Armitage's Styrene Fabrication sold by Kemtron and Micro-Scale's Modelers Manual. This second booklet is a treatise on all aspects of plastic modeling and though aimed at air craft modelers makes an excellent reference manual. The current availability of these two books is unknown but they are probably available through your local hobby shop or from one of the larger mail order establishments.

    Page 10: CB&Q 334 a t Denver, Colorado, in March of 1970. The arrangement of steam generator details are shown on the short hood. Note that the radio antenna has been moved to accommodate the steam generator exhaust stack. Also notice that the Q 325-344 series had two ladders and roof mounted grab irons on the nose; later orders did not. Jim Sandrin photo.

    Page 11: C&S 821 at Denver, Colorado, in August of 1977. The unit has lost its Mars light though the bracket remains. Its "firecracker" radio antenna has been replaced with a blade type and a rotary beacon has been added to the cab roof. The majority of the C&S units had the circular vent on the cab roof as shown here. Jim Sandrin photo.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 10 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 11

    It is recommended to start with an un painted shell and first off wash it in hot water with a little detergent added. This will remove some of the static electricity and the mold release agent left on from the factory. Scrubbing the shell with an old tooth brush and some kitchen cleanser, such as Ajax, will dull the plastic slightly and make sanding a bit easier as detail is better seen. Rinse the shell in hot water with a little detergent after all sanding is completed.

    Single-edge razor blades and X-Acto No. 17 blades are the most useful tools for removing material from the shell. No. 400 or No. 500 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper is used to wet sand the reworked areas and to remove all tool marks.

    One special tool that helps is made from a 3/64" drill bit which was ground down to a chisel shape. This is very handy for removing material in close quarters such as removing the end ladders and pre serving the round inspection hatches on the nose and rear.

    For assembly, Testor's liquid cement for styrene-to-styrene joints is good. PIastruct's Plastic-Weld is very good for styrene -to-plexiglass (or ABS) joints as when fabricating the all-weather window boxes for this model. Buy a good quality camel's hair brush, either 00 or 000, for applying the cement. This may seem like a rather expensive way to apply cement, but no other method is superior for neatness and controlling the flow of cement onto the model.


    The following cast-on details should be removed from the nose: vents and radio antenna on the roof and grab irons on the end. The end ladders should be removed to make painting and lettering simpler; take care to preserve the kick plates and circular inspection plates while removing the ladders.

    Remove the square base of the horn on the cab roof and fill the hole with putty. If your unit is to have all-weather windows, remove all detail from the side of the cab, leaving only the windows themselves intact.

    Page 12: C&S 837 is also shown here in Denver, Colorado, on a hot August day in 1977. This is a late model SD-9 with the 48" fans and a raised cab. This unit has also lost its spark arrestor exhaust stacks but has gained a rotary beacon on the cab roof. Note the round vent on the cab roof ahead of the rotating beacon. Jim Sandrin photo.

    Page 13: "Front" details are shown in this photo, taken in Denver, Colorado, in May of 1969. Notice the "Mars" headlight under the warning light and dual sets of MU receptacles on either side of the coupler. Both features are unique to C&S power. Hol Wagner photo.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 12 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 13

    Remove all cast-on lift rings from the roof and radiator areas. The front-most fan of the radiator area is removed so that a winterization hatch can be installed in its place.

    If you are modeling a unit from the mid-60's to 1970 period, the exhaust stacks should be removed so spark arrestors can be installed.

    The cast-on headlights should be filed smooth since they will be replaced by a bracket with a headlight and Mars light on it.

    The cast-on rectangles of plastic above the foot boards should be cut back to the face of the pilot so that a smooth surface is left.

    Refer to Figure 6 for holes to be drilled in the pilot. Use a No. 74 drill for the MU hoses, a No. 70 for the uncoupling lever and air hose, and a No. 77 drill for the grabirons.

    The couplers are body-mounted and the pilot openings filled with .030 styrene; that thickness is also used for the top of the coupler pocket. The piece for the top of the coupler pocket is 3'' wide and 48" long and, once fastened in place, should be drilled so that a Kadee 5&10 coupler box can be attached to it.

    The pockets that hold the MU hoses are made from.0 10" styrene and the small pointed pilot was built-up from .010" styrene using photos as a guide for proper shape.

    Make the ladders for the ends accord ing to Figure 1; they can be made from styrene with stretched plastic sprue for rungs or, if preferred, plastic ladders by Con-Cor or some brass ladder stock. Don't install the ladders at this time.

    The winterization hatch was made from laminating styrene according to the dimensions in Figure 2. The top lamination was .010" styrene cut out so that Con-Cor aluminum screen could be cemented in place to set flush. The frame around the opening was made from .025 mm styrene. Rather than build one up, a shortened hatch from an Athearn GP7 could be used.

    Make the headlight brackets from .010" styrene according to Figure 3; once cemented in place, this rather fragile look ing piece is quite strong. Place the Mars light and whichever headlight needed on the bracket before attaching the bracket to the shell.

    Use a cyanoacrylate adhesive to fasten the spark arrestors in place.

    Thin styrene may be used to back up the holes in the battery boxes and the holes filled with body putty. Flat tooth picks are very handy for working the putty into the limited space. When dry, use fine jeweler's files and sandpaper to smooth and shape the putty. Using No. 500 or 600 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper, wet-sand the reworked areas to remove all tool marks and scratches. (This should be done in all areas where material is removed or putty applied to insure a smooth surface.)

    If you're modeling a freight-only unit, fill the two front-most notches in the frame with plastic and putty. If modeling a unit with a steam generator, fill only the first notch since the second one is used for the water filler valve.

    Check Figure 4 and drill the roof for the various details which must be added. On the nose, the lift rings are located in the corners of the panel opposite from the way Athearn has cast them. If your unit has a steam generator, use the dimensions in the Details West package (SG 118) for placing the various parts. Note that the radio antenna is relocated if steam generator equipment is present. See Table I for units which had the roof-mounted rotary beacons. If a rotary beacon is used, make a 12" square base from .030" styrene and cement it in the center of the roof. Make a piece of conduit from some .010" wire and run it back 20" from the beacon base along the center of the roof and insert it into the roof.

    Install the remaining lift rings in the same locations as the original Athearn cast-on ones. The original order of units, Q 325-344, use the eyelet type of lift ring on the sides of the radiator; the rest of the units used the flat tab-type on the sides of the radiator.

    The location of horns in Figure 4 is for the single-bell Wabco-style horn. The closest available style is on the Model Power E-7. Unfortunately, it is cast in a vinyl plastic and paint just won't stick to it!. I ended up making copies from brass.

    The two-bell-style horn is the Leslie Supertyfon S2 made by Detail Associates. The two styles of horn may be used separately or mixed indiscrimanently; the only way to be sure is to check photos of the specific unit being modeled.

    The same applies for the cab roof vent. The position is shown in Figure 4, but photos of specific units should be checked since a minority of these units had this vent. Detail Associates VT-1901 or Details West No. 121 are correct for this piece.

    If sunshades are required, they may be made from.010" styrene or commercial ones used and installed now.

    A very good all-weather window can be made from plexiglass. Use Figure 5 and cut a .100" thick piece of plexiglass to size. Overlay this block with styrene strips to represent the window frames. It is easier to install these strips slightly over size and trim to final size when dry; use Plastic-Weld by Plastruct to secure styrene to plexiglass. After the window frames are dry and trimmed to proper size, mask the window areas, either with thin strips of tape or liquid masking material, and spray the piece black. When the paint dries, peel off the masking material, and the all-weather window is complete. Set it aside until after the unit is painted and then position it as shown in Figure 5.

    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 14 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 15

    The louver underneath the radiator can be removed if desired: several of the Q units actually had one louver at this location on the right side and two louvers, next to each other, on the left side. Originally, many of the units also had retangular filters on the left side of the radiator compartment. This filter and the extra louvers served as additional air intakes for the air compressor.

    Install a rectangular MU receptacle on each end as indicated in Figure 7. This comes from Detail Associates MU-1507.

    The "firecracker" style antenna was made from brass rod; but one can be used from Details West.

    The grabirons for the nose and roof are shown in Figure 8. Make a jog to in sure uniformity in your grabirons; the one shown in Figure 8 will work for any style of grabirons. Make a 900 bend in a wire and insert it in the hole directly in line with the notch on the edge. Bend the wire over the edge through the notch, making a 900 bend. This will give the basic "U" shape. Turn the end which was in the notch and place it in the other hole on the jig; bend the ends to a right angle on the back of the jog and then cut the ends to length. and the grabirons are finished.

    The front used the large "drop" type grabirons above the number boards. On the rear, use a standard 16" wide grabiron between the classification lights and head lights (see photos for guidance).

    Make handrails from .020" brass wire according to the sketches in Figure 8; it may be helpful to make templates for the handrails from .030" or .040" styrene. Note that the Burlington didn't use drop steps on the pilots of its locomotives, so the end hand railings were one piece with out the gap in the middle as on most other roads. Use Kemtron handrail posts on models of Q 325-344. Use the Athearn handrail posts on all other units.

    Use Figure 9 for making your uncoupling levers. Kemtron X-657, small lifting rings were used as the guides for these levers.


    Disassemble the mechanism and remove all parts from the frame. Since the pilots were closed up for body-mounted couplers, remove the cast-on coupler pockets from the frame. I cut through the end cross piece and removed in completely. I also removed the mounting lugs on the frame. Since the holes in the shell were previously filled, you must come up with some way of attaching the body shell to the frame. I used the technique used by Tom Vanden Bosch in the October, 1977, issue of Prototype Modeler.

    Page 16: Model and photo by the author.

    Page 17: Hol Wagner photo.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 16 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 17

    Remove all cast-on detail from the fuel tanks using fine files and sandpaper. If a 300 or 800 series unit is being modeled, cut a slot between the tanks so they appear separated. If a 400 series unit is being done, remove the forward tank. I used a mill attachment in a Unimat for this but it can be accomplished with some coarse files and patience.

    I felt the tanks lacked the bulk of the prototypes, so I built them up with laminated .020" styrene sheet and fixed them in place with cyanoacrylate adhesive. .010" styrene was used for the ends, being careful to leave a very slight flange around the tank. See Figure 6 for the placement of gauges and fillers on the tanks. These pieces were made from .015" styrene sheet and plastic sprue. A Details West fuel filler valve can also be used here.

    The Athearn tanks are okay for 300 and 800 series units. I made new tanks from plastic rod and styrene strips for my 400 series unit, since that was easier than filling and filing the back of the Athearn parts; see Figure 6 for piping. A bell mounted at the rear of the tanks in the center completes the frame.

    Page 18: CB&Q No. 370 at Laurel, MT, in March of 1970. This was the final appearance of No. 370. Note the addition of the all weather window boxes and the Cullen style rotary flasher since 1968. Vince Porreca photo.

    Page 19: BN 6165 at Letan, NE, on March 31, 1971. Hol Wagner photo.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 18 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 19

    Page 20: MV Products Nos. LS 22, 24, and 220 lenses were used in the headlights and classification lights. Model and photo by the author. Q 361 at Denver, CO, in November, 1968. This was a one-of-a-kind paint job with an all white frame and access doors and black, rather than red, pilots and steps. Hol Wagner photo.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 20 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 21

    Page 20: MV Products Nos. LS 22, 24, and 220 lenses were used in the headlights and classification lights. Model and photo by the author. Q 361 at Denver, CO, in November, 1968. This was a one-of-a-kind paint job with an all white frame and access doors and black, rather than red, pilots and steps. Hol Wagner photo.

    The truck frames all have indentations between the axles. These should be drilled out for improved appearance. All units have a speed recorder mounted on the right front truck frame on the rear journal. Drill the journal and mount a Utah Pacific speed recorder with some cyanoacrylate adhesive. All the SD-9's equipped with dual cab controls had two control stands, so mount a speed recorder on the left front frame on the center axle. Use some insulation from a grain-of-wheat bulb to represent the recorder cable from the journal to the frame. That completes the undercarriage.


    Wash all parts in hot water with deter gent and air dry; give all parts a coat of light grey primer and check for any blemishes missed before. The grey will make them very easy to see. Correct any problems and give another light primer coat; this step really helps in eliminating imperfections in the finished model and makes final painting simpler. It's easier to cover a grey base coat than black plastic.

    See Table I for a guide to the paint schemes worn by the locomotives. The table gives a run down of the appearance of each unit as of the BN merger on March 2,1970.

    All units, except C&S 831-842, were delivered in black and grey, with red and grey end stripes, and red and yellow separation stripes and sill striping. C&S 828 was the first unit to wear the red and grey paint scheme. It was repainted in that scheme following wreck rebuilding by EMD in March,1959. C&S 831-842 were delivered the following month and all subsequent orders and repaints got the red and grey paint scheme.

    Even though the first power with all white frames appeared in 1965, when repainting units the red scheme with the 5" white sill stripe was used up until late 1968. As a result, relatively few older units received all-white frames or, in the case of the SD-9's, white access doors below the walkways. Apparently, only one unit, Q 361, painted in Denver, Colorado, in November, 1968, received the red scheme with all-white access doors and black pilots.

    See Table III for the paints to use on your unit. All handrails,ladders, uncoupling levers and grabirons, except for the grabirons on the roof, were painted black. The underbody and trucks were also painted black. Units in the original black paint scheme had the fuel gauges painted yellow. All detail on the roof was grey, including the grabirons; the only exceptions were the spark arrestors which were black.

    After the unit has been painted and lettered, use a very small amount of cyanoacrylate adhesive and attach the end ladders and the all-weather windows (if desired). Apply some light weathering along the underframe and trucks and around the pilots; your unit is ready for work.

    I want to thank the following people for their help in preparing this article by providing photographs, information, or suggestions: F. Hol Wagner, Jr., John E. Tudek, Vince Porreca, R. Bruce Black, A. J. Holck, William A. Raia, Gerald Edgar, Phil Dahl, and T. J. Shanks.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Jim Sandrin
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date December 1978

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  • Scott Olson likes this
  • Scott Olson
    Scott Olson Gee, is Karl in the picture since that is exaclty where and when he worked.
    December 27, 2011
  • Larry Doub
    Larry Doub I wonder Sometimes if he didn't. Jump out of the cabs n snap some pics, lol, he has an anazing collection of pics for sure
    December 28, 2011