Photographs by the author unless otherwise indicated
The Southern Railway usually doesn't come in very high on many ALCOphile's list of favorite railroads, but ALCO was one of Southern Railways favorite steam locomotive builders and early-on was a favored supplier of diesel yard switchers. However, due to War Production Board restrictions, ALCO was relegated to continue steam locomotive and diesel switcher production for the duration while their arch rival EMC got the nod to continue production of cab unit diesels. Accordingly, the Southern acquired a large fleet of FTs during the war and decided to stick with the same design by purchasing an even larger fleet of F3s after the war.
But ALCO wasn't about to give up and in 1946 introduced their FA and PA series of cab diesels and the 1,500-hp RS2 road switcher design - basically an FA in a smaller box. Southern was enamored enough with the road switcher concept to purchase 36 RS2 units in 1948-49. When the higher horsepower (1,600-hp) RS3 was introduced in 1950, Southern began adding them to the fleet, eventually reaching a total of 99 units by 1953. RS3s were put into use throughout the system in all types of service throughout the 1950s and 1960s. With the merger of the Central of Georgia and Interstate railroads in the early 1960s came even more RS3s. After the RS2s were traded in on GP35s in 1965 (yes, those were RS2 trucks under the GP35s), the Southern began to consolidate the remaining RS3s into the Carolina Division where they worked out the remainder of their careers. Mass retirements began in 1974 with most occurring in 1976, the last year they were used on the Southern.
There were only minor external differences among the RS3s, and they changed little over their 20-25 year careers. All of those originally purchased by the Southern appear to have been Phase I body styles with no dynamic brakes. A total of 43 were purchased with steam generators. In 1949 Southern had adopted the green and imitation aluminum paint scheme for freight as well as passenger units, so all RS3s arrived in the new colors, however, most stayed in this scheme for less than a decade. In 1958 Southern went back to the black and imitation aluminum scheme with metallic gold lettering and striping - the paint scheme the RS3s would retire in.
Southern used their RS3s in all types of service, often in pure sets of two to four units depending on train length. It was not at all unusual to see them in yard switching duties where the fast throttle response of ALCOs has always been appreciated. As the years wore on it became more common to see mixed sets of RS3s, GP7s, and F units since MUing wasn't a problem. During the waning years of the 1960s and early 1970s the Carolinas became ALCO territory as the remaining RS3s were consolidated there. Theres no way that anyone modeling a Southeastern railroad in the 1950s through the mid-1970s can get by without a couple of these great locomotives on their roster.
Modeling Southerns RS3s is a relatively easy project - Atlas, Model Die Casting (MDC) and Stewart all offer Phase I body styles. In my opinion, the Atlas unit is better running and has nicer handrails, and since it was recently rerun, should be easy to find. MDC repowered their model in the mid 90s, and has been releasing decorated units in many new paint schemes. Stewarts version hasn't been available lately and due to production priorities probably wont be for awhile. Another factor that made modeling these units so attractive is Microscale decal set 87-878, which is designed specifically for the green and imitation aluminum scheme that I painted two models in. The really nice feature about these decals is the imitation aluminum band with integral Dulux Gold stripe, making this a one color paint job and eliminating the need for masking.
The two units I chose to model are very similar, one in the early 1950s configuration and the other in the mid-1950s. Lets start with the early version then Ill go over the additional changes for the mid-1950s version later. One compromise I did make was the exhaust stack - when new they were aligned along the long axis of the hood on the left side but were moved to the mid-hood position when the air-cooled turbocharger was replaced with a water-cooled version. This change was usually made early in the life of these locomotives since the air-cooled version was totally inadequate.
I started with two stripped Atlas RS3s and began by carving off all the cast-on grabs and lift rings. The latest run of the Atlas units comes with separate metal grabs, but the mounting holes are not correctly placed and look too unprototypical to me - I'd replace them with brass ones and redo the mounting holes. Although Custom Finishing (CF) offers curved grabs for ALCO units, I never have been able to find them so I bent mine from .015 brass. Hold off on installing the top grabs on each end since they have to be mounted after the upper Dulux Gold decal stripe is applied. The lift rings are Detail Associates (DA) 1106, but they also can be easily fashioned from brass wire.
One spotting feature common to Southern RS3s is the bell, Cal-Scale (CS) 322, located behind the exhaust stack. Incidentally, these were also typically applied to Southerns ALCO S1, S2 and S4 switchers. I mounted mine in the most common configuration, but you may see photographs with it mounted crosswise or even near the front of the hood. Like most ALCO RS3s, Southerns had a distinctive marker lamp on each corner of the hood adjacent to the numberboard - a CS 208 is the closest you'll find to the real thing.
Final modifications to the body include drilling holes next to the cab windows for the cab wind deflectors and gluing on the sunshades. One useful trick Ive found with the wind deflectors is to glue only the upper eyebolts in place, and install the others after painting when you install the deflector itself.
There were almost always two wind deflectors on the engineers side of the cab, but sometimes only one was applied to the firemans side - here's where pictures of both sides of your favorite locomotive will come in handy.
Lets start with the cutting. Using whatever knife, file or saw you prefer, remove the recessed area at the top of the fuel tank including the fuel filler, but not the sight glass. This modification is necessary to accommodate the oil after-cooler and relocation of the fuel filler, plus it gives added depth and realism to the fuel tank. Reattach the fuel-tank casting, trim the CF 152 cooling coil and glue it to the fuel tank on the engineers side only. Replace the fuelfiller nozzles with those from a DA 3102 set - note that on the firemans side it goes in the same location as previously but on the engineers side it has to be relocated to the rear of the tank.
One interesting detail that is seldom modeled on ALCO units is the hand-brake chain and its guide - this goes on both rear trucks. I used a small length of Builders in Scale 250 chain with a DA 2206 eyebolt attached to each end. I drilled a #77 hole in the underside of the chassis and another in the end of the brake actuator rod and glued the chain in place. The brake chain guide was formed from a scrap of styrene and glued in place under the walkway. The speed recorder is a DA 2807 with the cable inserted into a #68 hole drilled into the underside of the chassis.
The pilots are pretty straightforward, just carve off the cast-on coupler lift bar and drill mounting holes for the DA 2206 eyebolts used to mount the replacement 2205 lift bar. Also drill mounting holes for the DA 1508 and 6206 air hoses. All of these parts have to be mounted after application of the barricade stripe decal. The drop step is a DA 1408 that I spray painted separately and glued into the opening in the end railings. Most Southern RS3s had the long drop step, but I have seen at least one photograph of a unit with the shorter version - again, refer to a prototype photograph. As a final step drill out and open up the pockets in each pilot to tuck the ends of the MU air hoses in.
When new the RS3s had two singlechime horns seated on the hood fore and aft of the cab. These horns were later replaced with a single Nathan M3. On the mid-1950s model I filled the holes in the hood where the horns were mounted with putty and sanded them smooth. Beginning in the mid1950s, the Southern used Nathan M3 horns with two chimes forward and one facing the rear on every RS3 Ive seen a photograph of. These were mounted on a bracket on the top front of the cab (remember the long hood is forward). Its easy to make a bracket using styrene, but in this case I used a CS 400 set and a Details West (DW) 186 air horn. Next I added a DW 157 firecracker antenna centered on the cab roof.
Another addition was the ATS pickup shoe, equipment box and generator. The pickup shoe, a CF 229, was placed on the rear journal of the front right truck, and a length of wire from a micro-bulb was used for the cable. You may need to file a little off the bottom of the ATS shoe, since it often hangs too low and wont clear the top of the rails when going through switches, etc. The cable from the ATS shoe is glued in behind the casting and then inserted into a #68 hole I drilled in the chassis as was done for the speedometer cable. The ATS generator, made from a scrap of styrene, and the equipment box, a DW 170, were placed on the right side of the hood just in front of the cab. Naturally, these were added after painting and decaling were complete.
Heres the part I used to dread - painting and masking, and then more painting followed by decals. Now thanks to Microscale, all you have to do is paint the cab and hood Southern Green and the walkway, chassis and trucks Engine Black. You also should hand paint the exhaust stack silver, the fuel fillers and sight glass red, and then get out the decals. The Microscale set contains the imitation aluminum bands with the Dulux Gold stripe along the top side. Microscales imitation aluminum is a perfect match for the original, but the Dulux Gold is a bit too pale for my liking - I wish they'd go back to the color on their 87-86 decal set. I was most impressed with the fact that when applied over the dark green paint, the imitation aluminum band was still the same color - thats opaque!
The most tedious part of completing the decaling job is that single Dulux Gold stripe around the top of the hood and those tiny white numerals on the numberboards, which have to be applied individually on most units. Otherwise the roadname, number and herald go on and snuggle down so tight that its almost impossible to tell its a decal. One minor problem with the decal set is that Microscale failed to include slightly smaller numerals for the ends of the short hoods. Although the numerals on the end of the long hood were 9" tall, on the short end they were only 3". One option is to use the numerals from the 87-879 cab unit set.
Once all the decals are on and all those detail parts you've been holding back have been glued into place, its time for weathering. As you can see from the photographs, weathering can vary from nearly nothing to a really heavy coat of grime and rust. Because ALCOs tend to put out a lot of sooty black exhaust, I hit the top of the hood and cab with straight Engine Black, especially around the stack, and various intake and exhaust grilles. Switching to a thinner mixture of black and brown, I worked it into the trucks, around the fuel tank, and various areas around the body and pilot. For rust I drybrushed on a little Milwaukee Brown. Depending on how dirty I want the locomotive to look, I vary the mixture of Dullcote and Glosscote in the final finish. On the trucks, walkway, pilot and parts of the hood I used straight Dullcote for a really sooty look. If you're modeling the Southern Railway in the 1950s, at the very least you're going to need a pair of these beautiful green ALCOs to fill out your fleet. And since Microscale has made it so easy, you can put together a whole fleet in record time.