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  • Rock Island C-415 in HO

    Page 47: The 418 rests at Blue Island, Illinois. This view shows the "A" end and the right hand side detail. Photo by Don Heiberger.

    Page 48: This photo shows the end details close up before painting. Photo by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 47 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 48


    One of the best buys today on the model locomotive market is the life-Like C-415. The unit has been priced as low as $3.99 from the various big eastern discount hobby houses and with a little study, work, and modeling skill the Life-Like unit can be turned into an excellent model. For my purposes I chose a Rock Island unit, but the methods described could also be used to model the Burlington Northern or Southern Pacific units.

    The Rock Island received ten C-415's built in September of 1966 and numbered 415 to 424. The first five have a split windshield while numbers 420-424 have a one-piece windshield as does the Life Like model. The Rock Island units also came with a medium height cab as did the SP&S/BN units.

    Changing the Life-Like unit into a Rock Island C-415 is best accomplished by dividing the project into three sections. After the usual disassembly and brake fluid bath - paint removal process, the body, frame, and truck modifications can be made.


    To simplify describing the various changes made to the body and frame, the long nose or front has been designated the "A" end and the short hood becomes the "B" end.

    You will notice a fan on the roof of the "A" end; this fan was unique to the Alco demonstrator unit, subsequently sold to Hammersley Iron Ore Pty. of Australia in June of 1968. For some reason, the draftsman for Life-Like included it on the model. As the cooling vents are also included on the sides, just below the fan, remove the fan completely using a file and sandpaper. Fill any nicks with putty and then give it a final sanding with 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper. A trick I've learned while working with plastic is to paint over a reworked area. Floquil's Zinc Chromate primer works nicely and after brushing it on and letting it dry, any scratches, hi-spots, or lo-spots will clearly show up. These can be fixed with more doses of putty, paint, and 400 grit sand paper. Now, immediately to the rear of the extinct fan is an engine room vent and a rather horrible looking grid running the length of it. Cut this grid off at the Photo by the author top of the supports and file/sand the supports until they are a scale three inches high. A new plate is then fabricated from 1/32" styrene and cemented in place.

    On the roof of the B end there is a crude walkway over the radiators. Remove it and clean the opening in the radiators with a small file. Using three styrene strips, cement new supports for the walk way on both end and the middle. The opening in the radiators is filled with four shutters cut from 1/32" styrene spaced accordingly. My roofwalk replacement was cut from a beautiful piece of HO scale freight car roofwalk available from Photo Engravers, Inc. and cemented in place using 5-minute epoxy. Screen may be substituted for the engraved roofwalk, however, if you cannot locate the engraved material.

    Page 49: Close up shot of end detail after painting. Rivet detail could either be improved or left off completely, depending on the modelers preference. After making the impressions in the plastic with a rivet tool, the cement ate holes through the thin styrene at the rivets and distorted the detail. Photo by the author.

    Page 50: Close up shot of the "B" end. Reworked trucks show the addition of the open journal boxes and the roller bearings. Changes to the roof detail should also be noted. Photo by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 49 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 50

    Now for the cab and cab roof. As mentioned earlier, the Rock Island units have the medium height cab. (In researching this model, no reference could be found as to what the actual medium and short height dimensions are: only the Monogahela Connecting No. 701 came with the short height cab.) Naturally, the LifeLike model comes with a Southern Pacific cab. Using the model, photographs, a scale ruler, and math the medium height cab was determined to be 8'-9" high which proportions out rather nice. This means that 1'-3" will have to be removed from the area of the cab directly below the windows. Taking extra time and caution in performing this next step will save effort spent in sanding, puttying, and painting later on; so be careful.

    Slightly below the side windows, mark out a line and measure 1'-3" down. Mark out this second line making sure the two lines are parallel with the top and bottom of the cab. With a fine tooth razor saw, cut on the "above" side of the lower line down to just through the in side of the cab. (Your cut will be as deep as the plastic is thick.) Turn the body up right and with a blade absolutely vertical cut down on the inside of the cab until the first cut has been met. The cab side should now be free of the body. Lying this piece flat, cut on the "below" side of the upper line thereby removing the 1'-3". Repeat this procedure on the other side. When finished, clean up the cuts on both the cab and the pieces containing the windows. When satisfied the pieces will fit back onto the cab squarely, cement them in place. While drying, take the roof and begin enlarging the end windows back to their original size. A fine wood rasp, used with caution, enabled the windows to be enlarged squarely without too much trouble. At this point it must be decided whether the one piece windshield unit is to be modeled (as the Life-Like model comes), or split the windshield by adding the extra frame member with styrene. The exhaust stack and supports must also be shortened to allow the roof to meet the new cab height. Also, the exhaust stack opening in the roof was enlarged to follow the Rock Island prototype. Now, work your way around the cab roof supports filing them down until the roof piece sits squarely on the cab. When you are satisfied the windows are the right size and everything "looks right," cement the roof to the cab. Fill the cut lines with putty and also the cab-roof line. You will also notice an extra window on each side of the cab which the Rock Island units do not have. Make a styrene plug, cement in, and fill around the edges with putty. Finally, remove the cab vent louvers from the battery boxes and fill in the mounting lug holes. Remember to snap off the mounting lugs on the frame or they could push your plugs out when mounting the cab to the frame. When all the putty is dry, begin filing and sanding being careful to avoid the batter box detail. When smooth, give the complete reworked cab area the paint test and all evidence of the changes should have dis of these parts. The body should now be washed in a mild detergent, left to dry, appeared.

    Page 51: Close up shot of the "A" end. Note the improvement in the hand rails and the area around the coupler pocket. The modifications made to the frame vastly improve the model from its "out of the box" form. Photo by the author.

    Page 52: Side view of the completed model showing the new fuel tank and open journals on the roller bearing trucks. Photo by the author.

    Side view of the completed model showing the new air reservoirs and fuel tank detail. Note the addition of the jack pads and engineers running light below the corner of the battery box. These two seldom modeled details were made out of styrene and add a great deal to the final appearance of the locomotive. Photo by the author.

    Page 53: This photo of the "B" end of Number 415 shows left hand side detail. Photographer unknown, from the collection of the author.
    Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 51 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 52 Prototype Modeler - October 1978 - Page 53

    Now the final detail can be added. You will notice that the cab entrance doors have been conveniently left off the Life Like model. On thin styrene, lay out two doors 6'-0" by 1'-6". Also, measure and lay out the windows, then cut and cement the doors in place. The door handle and latch ay be simulated with two small slivers of styrene. Remove the cast on hand grabs, then locate, drill, and replace then with fine wire grabs such as those from Detail Associates. The train classification lights and the end walkway safety lights were drilled out to be filled in after painting with Micro-Scale "Krystal-Kleer". The Cal-Scale Bell and Utah Pacific Horn (remove two horns of the cluster with a jewelers saw) were located, drilled, and cemented in place and Detail Associates all-weather cab window extensions were added. Both were used, however, correct Rock Island practice would have been one on the engineer's side of the cab only. The new cab heater vents were made by taking the thin styrene sheet, placing it over the edge of a good sized flat file and bashing the styrene sheet with a small ball-peen hammer until the ridges of the file leave their impression. Next, cut the vent 1'-0" wide by 6" high and cement it in place; the two required are located under the cab windows. Refer to the photographs for the location of these parts. The body should now be washed in a mild detergent, left to dry, and primed.


    The work performed here will make or break your model. Begin by snapping off the doors in place. The door handle and the world's worst handrails and using latch may be simulated with two small what is left on the frame as a guide, locate slivers of styrene. Remove the cast on and drill out the new handrail post holes hand grabs, then locate, drill, and replace using a No. 75 drill bit. Finish removing them with fine wire grabs such as those the remains of the old handrail posts by from Detail Associates. The train class filing smooth.

    Cut or file away the shroud from around the ends (the area surrounding the coupler hole) and clean the remaining end piece by file or sandpaper. From 3/32" styrene sheet make and cement four plugs to fit in the notched corners of the steps. Also, make one large plug to fill in the end. The outside surface should be flush and the shape of the end rectangular. Cut to shape a piece of 1/16" styrene sheet and cement over the face of the end. This piece should measure a scale 3'-9" high by 8'-6" long. From 1/64" styrene, measure out a piece 3'-9" high by 8'-6" long. Locate the center and notch out a scale 2'-6" by 0'-3" for the top of the the end. Rivet detail may be added into this piece if desired. Work from the photos for detail and repeat the procedure for the other end. When dry, locate the coupler pocket opening and cut it out. The shape of the opening tapers from the top of the pocket down. From small scraps of 1/32" styrene build up the end steps, signal hose boxes, and pilot; study the photos for location of detail. Fabricate the coupler lift bar and hand grab from wire. The MU box was made from styrene and a Detail Associates MU receptacle. Again, refer to the photos for location. Finally, make the drop step out of styrene.

    Begin reworking the fuel tank by narrowing it to 6'-9". During the process the side with the two phony are tanks are cemented back with the tanks facing inside. The tank must then be lengthened so it measures 11'-0 ". This is done by adding on styrene. The new air tanks are fabricated from Plastruct, the straps from styrene. After cementing in place, the piping is added using brass wire. Fuel gauges are also made from styrene and located directly below the filler. From 9/16" diameter brass pipe, cut the length required for the rounded portion of the tank. (Side opposite to the air reservoirs). Now, carefully split the pipe lengthwise, clean up, and cement to the fuel tank using 5-minute epoxy. When dry, cut two styrene end plates and epoxy into place. On the "A" end of the rounded portion of the tank, cement the second fuel gauge. Now locate the filler spouts, notch the frame, and cement in place. The spouts are small finishing nails cut short and bent. The jack pads, running lights, and Kar-Trak plate were fabricated from styrene and cemented in place.

    The new hand rail posts are staples which have been cut to length a scale 3-'9" high, then cemented into the holes drilled previously. On the ends, the small, half size brace is bent and cemented in place. The center posts for each end should be a full 4'-0" high. (See photos for detail.) The handrails are formed from Detail Associates 1" iron pipe (.015" brass wire). After cementing the ends into the frame, begin soldering the wire to each post top. Don't worry about excess solder; this can easily be cleaned with a Dremel cutting disc or carefully filed off. Work your way around the model being careful to keep the handrail parallel to the frame.


    The trucks available with the Life-Like model are far superior, detail-wise to those of the original ATT version. If you are working with the ATT C-415, then use Athearn U28B sideframes. To rework the Life-Like trucks, file or sand off the stamped-on numbers just above the center bolster. Notice that the model has enclosed bearings while the Rock Island unit has open bearings; to correct this, drill out the enclosed bearings being careful to remove only the bearing covers and, from your junk box, retrieve a pair of Athearn's plastic roller bearing freight trucks. With a jewelers saw, carefully cut out the roller bearing mechanism, clean up with a file, and cement into your holes using 5-minute epoxy. The hole will be bigger than the roller bearing so let the bearing float in the epoxy keeping it centered and flush until the epoxy sets. I was also going to replace the brake cylinders but then decided against it for economic reasons. Utah Pacific has a nice replacement part but eight would be required meaning I'd have more tied up in the brake cylinders than in the original model. My second choice, Athearn part number 5 3008. the brake set from the 54' Pullman-Standard covered hopper - was not really available; so rather than delay the project any longer, I completed it without replacing the cylinders.

    Locate wheel slip detector on the axle, drill out, and mount the Utah Pacific wheel slip recorder.


    The model was pried, then painted with SCalecoat Caboose Red and Reefer Yellow; the underframe and trucks are sprayed with Floquil Grimy Black. The white trim, Floquil Reefer White, is hand brushed on.

    Champion decals are used for "Rock Island". To facilitate spacing, each letter is cut out and individually applied. The numbers and white stripes are also Champ, but to supplement the rather meager Champion decal set, a Walthers Kar-Trak label was added. Accucal's numbers were used for the number boards and Micro-Scale Alco builder plate was added.


    While working on the model, the brake wheel stand was omitted from the "B" end. This absence was noticed after the enlargement of my C415 was made to accompany this article. Utah Pacific makes a nice hand brake while the stand itself can be made from styrene.

    Windows were added using MicroScale The model was primed, then painted Kristal-Kleer. This is the first time this with Scalecoat Caboose Red and Reefer product was used for windows so large and the results were well worthwhile. Finally, windshield wipers were formed from wire - painted aluminum, and cemented in place.

    This completes the reworking of the Life-Like C415. While the original model had a respectable body and trucks, but a not-so-great frame, it need not be written off as unworthy of adding to your motive collection. Several evenings or a couple of good weekends and the end result is indistinguishable from what you started with.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Richard Yaremko
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date October 1978

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