Model photos by W. Terry Stuart
In 1969, the Penn Central began a program of overhauling its aging switcher fleet. In that effort, many NW2s, SW7s and SW9s were upgraded to 1,200-hp and renumbered into the PC system. Thus, PC 8677 became PC 9171, the road number it retained when Penn Central evolved into Conrail. In the upgrading program, the class was altered from NW2 to NW2u. The upgrading involved the installation of larger fuel tanks, headlight replacement, roller bearings and MU capability.
The Kato HO NW2 is an excellent starting point for this conversion to a Penn Central/Conrail NW2u. This article will outline the methods by which a modeler can convert the Kato switcher to one of these interesting, although not necessarily "colorful" units.
Well begin by replacing the Kato cab. You'll need two Cannon & Company 1503 "early" switcher cabs to make this modification. The reason is that both sides of CR 9171s cab contain battery boxes. Follow Cannons instructions and glue the cab to the frame and body, but leave off the roof for now.
The Kato model comes with molded-on footboards, which had been outlawed by the time the 9171 saw service on Conrail. Evergreen Scale Models .015 styrene sheet was used to fabricate new ends (see photos). You'll need to drill and file out the openings as well as notch the top edge of this piece to accommodate the coupler installation. Holes for the MU hoses and air hose were also drilled, then all of the grabs, lift bars and the horn were installed.
When built by EMD, NW2s were equipped with single headlights, which are replicated on the Kato model. In their 1969 upgrading program, Penn Central replaced these large, older headlights with twin sealed-beam units. Detail Associates makes this modification an easy task with their 1012 Dual Headlight Conversion Plate. Well install the headlight lenses later.
A new fuel tank was created using Evergreen .020 sheet styrene and Precision Scale 31722 Cooling Coils. Use the photographs accompanying this article to aid you in fabricating your tank.
The one alteration I did not make was to change the truck sideframes to the prototypically correct roller bearings. My reason is simply that doing so involves quite a bit of work, and I didnt build CR 9171 as a contest model. Nonetheless, it can be done! Train Station Products has the part. Its their 732-24 Athearn AAR Switcher w/Roller Bearings.
Now its time to paint and decal your switcher. For fans of Penn Central and early Conrail this presents little challenge, since the color of choice is black. Ill leave the selection of paint manufacturer up to you. Likewise, the decaling of this model requires only minimal skills. I especially like Accu+cals, and Microscale offers very nice renditions of the Penn Central numbers, the small PC logo and the "CR" needed.
If you look very carefully at Joe Jacks prototype photo of the firemans side of CR 9171, you'll be able to see the paint-out of the original "Penn Central" lettering as well as the PC "two-worms-in-love" logo. The same effect exists on the engineers side, but the bleed-through is not as pronounced. Many articles have appeared in the model press on techniques for creating this effect. If you desire both a truly accurate as well as visually interesting model, you'll want to achieve this effect with your painting and decaling efforts.
Note that the step edges and the handrails adjacent to the stairways are white. One very subtle but impressive effect is to suggest "dirt" on these handrails simply by not completely covering the black base coat on the handrails with your white paint.
Kato supplies a cab interior as well as window glass for the switchers cab. Even though we've substituted a Cannon & Company cab, the Kato glass can still be used. Now is the time to add any additional cab interior details you may desire, then glue the roof atop the cab. Now is also the appropriate time to install MV's LS22 headlight lenses.
I was unable to locate appropriate MU stands from traditional sources, but I had a Life-Like Proto 2000 GP20 on hand. The MU stands from the GP20 were used for CR 9171. The top receptacle should be removed, and one MU stand mounted on each of the switcher's end platforms.
Now were ready to install the Kadee® couplers. But first you'll need to cut the tip off of the Kato coupler pocket in order to clear your new pilot end. Next, make up a Kadee #33 coupler with a Kadee #5 draft gear box and centering spring. After gluing the box together, cut off the "ears" and file the sides of the Kadee box so it will fit inside the Kato coupler box.
And thats it, except for weathering, which I'll leave to you. As you can see, I chose to weather mine fairly heavily. You now have only to install the body of your NW2u on the frame and coupler assembly and you're ready to enjoy many hours of switching with this newest member of your motive power fleet.