Modelers tend to select a favorite railroad with at least one of the following considerations: geographic location of modeler's residence, type of locomotives operated by the railroad or the paint scheme(s) employed by the company. All three applied to my modeling of the New York Central.
Having spent so many years living in Cleveland, Ohio, it would have been difficult not to notice the role NYC played in the city's growth and development. The Central's old black/gray/white lightning-striped scheme was certainly attractive, if not easily duplicated on a model. With NYC's major locomotive shops having been located at Collinwood on Cleveland's east side1, and the road's famous four-track New York-Chicago boulevard passing through town, how could one resist such temptation?
In the days of steam, Central employed electric locomotives to jocky passenger trains from the main line into Cleveland's Terminal Tower station, avoiding clogging the skies with coal smoke from belching steam locomotives. However, when NYC made the switch to diesel power, the electric motors were sent east to work the Harmon-Grand Central run in New York City. Several GP9's became the replacements for the "motors." Like other NYC power of the time, these Geeps were decorated in the catchy black and gray scheme, trimmed with white pinstripes, but unlike other Central Geeps, these units assigned to CUT were lettered CLEVELAND UNION TERMINAL along the flanks of the long hood rather than the standard NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM of other Central subsidiary railroads.
I've always been fascinated with CUT, so I couldn't put off having one of those locomotives for my HO scale roster. Prototype photos in Al Staufer and Ed May's book NEW YORK CENTRAL'S LATER POWER 1910-1968 showed the "A" side and DIESEL LOCOMOTIVES OF THE NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM by Edson, Vail and Smith portrayed the "B" side (page 97).
With photos at hand the next step was to acquire a suitable HO GP9 locomotive. You can use the Athearn GP9 (actually a GP7, but you can easily sand off the louvers below the cab and radiator shutters to make it a GP9), or if you are a stickler for scale-width hoods2, you can do what I did: splice an AHM GP18 hood to the Athearn GP9 walkway. Before getting too deeply into this kitbash, it should be noted the new East Coast Models HO scale GP9 should be available in the near future. Using their model is probably the best way to pursue this project, but for those of you who may want to try the AHM/Athearn method (which by the way also makes a beautiful GP18), I'll summarize the steps. Otherwise, if you plan to use a stock Athearn GP9 or the forthcoming East Coast Models Geep, you can skip the next section.
Athearn + AHM to make a realistic GP9
I began by carefully cutting the hoods, cab and battery boxes from the Athearn walkways. This was done with a great deal of care so as not to damage the walkways and battery box doors, all of which would be needed. Luckily, the AHM shell (which is not molded to the walkway as on Athearn carbodies) sits on the Athearn walkway without falling through the opening that results from hood removal, catching just enough walkway to be cemented in place. Incidentally, use Athearn's upgraded GP9 kit with the new "narrow" motor; or, if you are using an older Athearn Geep assembly, you'll have to replace the motor, of course, with the new version. Also worthy of note is that Protopower West offers a powerful and smooth-operating modified Athearn chassis that would work just fine.
With the "new" body shell ready for detailing, the first step is to snap off the AHM cab roof and sand the entire hood roof flat - removing fans, exhaust stacks, sand hatches and even the roof panels. When the hood tops have been satisfactorily smoothed, replace the cab roof, cementing it in place. Conveniently, the AHM body shell does not have dynamic brake blisters which saves a lot of time and fuss that otherwise would have been spent removing them. New panels were cut from .010" sheet styrene (see the April 1984 MAINLINE MODELER, page 49, for panel sizes) and the proper assortment of commercial detail parts were cemented in place (see photos). These included lift rings, fans, sand filler hatches, air tanks and steam-generator rooftop equipment.
I added several details around the sides of the new body shell: a Details West brake ratchet at the right side end of the long hood; grabs, headlights and marker lamps (NOTE: The grabs and brake ratchet are best left off until the paint and decal work are complete).
The grilles at the air intake and radiator screen openings on the AHM shell are not right for a GP9 (though they'll do just fine for a GP18). Detail Associates etched brass "chicken wire" grilles intended for use on F3's were cut - with sharp scissors - and laid in place on top of the AHM grille openings, then cemented in place with liquid cement... a nice touch! Some louvers on the sides of the long hood have to be added. Louvers are now available from Cary Locomotive Works; these can be cemented in place. Slots were drilled and filed to shape along the bottom of the fuel tank skirting just below the walkways.
With the body shell ready for paint, attention was then directed to the chassis. The major change was to enlarge the fuel tank, which was accomplished by wrapping it with sheet brass or styrene (see the January-February PM, page 32, for how this is done), then capping the end where the air reservoirs were intended to be located on the standard model. Depending upon how much detail you want, various commercial details can be added at this point such as speed recorder drive/cable assembly, sanding lines and even the pipes that connect the brake cylinders.
BILL OF MATERIALS
See text for discussion of the various shells that can be
No. 5813 NYC/New York Central System
No. 87124 whiite 1" and 2" stripes
Painting the model
Originally I had intended to use Microscale decals produced for New York Central covered wagons, but a few glances at the Geep photos disspelled that notion. The lightning bolts on the Geep are considerably narrower than those applied to the cab-type locomotives and have only four white pinstripes at each end rather than five. The 16-inch gray band is centered top to bottom on the hoods with the end sections - also 16 inches wide - 9 inches lower. The white pin striping is 2 inches wide with the end applications equally spaced.
The Cleveland Union Terminal name is applied with white scale 5"-high letters above the gray band. The locomotive number is white 8" numerals centered just below the cab windows with 1" classification numbers below them. The safety striping on the ends is composed of 2" white stripes separated by 3" spacings. All railings and grabs are painted yellow.
Once I acquired all the paints and decals that would be needed, the next task was to spray (with Accu-paint No. 45 New York Central Light Gray) the areas of the locomotive body shell where the gray band was to be applied. Next, I developed a mask by making a template of .015" styrene from Evergreen Products. The template should be used to first trace, then cut the masking tape to the proper shape. This method maintains consistency in all stripes, and the template can be flipped for the "mirror image" stripes on the other side of the locomotive. Lay two strips of masking tape - about 10 inches long - on glass, and use the template to trace the lightning bolts on them. Draw the nose stripes first, then carefully cut them out with a sharp hobby knife and straight edge. Apply them to the body shell, then draw and cut the remainder of the stripe masking and apply to the sides of the hood.
Now paint the shell with Accu-paint No. 2 Stencil Black. Remembering that lacquer dries from the outside in and that finger prints are rather hard to conceal, I resisted the temptation to remove the tape until the following day. You should do likewise. Once the masking has been removed, give the entire locomotive body shell a coat of Accu-paint No. 103 Gloss Finish, and allow that another day to harden.
The application of the white pinstriping was a real chore. I used Microscale set No. 87-124, with each stripe individually cut and layed in place. With the pinstriping complete, Accu-cals set No. 5813 furnished the remaining decals needed. When all decals had set, I applied Hobsco Solvaset and left it to dry overnight.
The time had arrived to give the locomotive some local character. Cleveland back in the 1950's and 1960's was still flexing its industrial muscles, with steel, automobile and machine tool industries most dominant. Locomotives and rolling stock regularly operating through the "flats" (the industrial area of the Cuyahoga Valley at Cleveland) all showed the tell-tale effects of industrial pollution with liberal coatings of red-oxide dust. Other "grayish" pollutants also left their mark.
I gave special attention to the body filters over the radiators, roof fans and air intakes. Diesel engines consume great amounts of "fresh" air over a period of time, hence contaminants in the air are drawn to the fans and filters where accumulation of dust soon becomes evident. These areas are almost always dirtier than the rest of the carbody. Various mixtures of Floquil Dust, Boxcar Red and Grime were diluted to about 80 percent lacquer thinner and applied in repeated applications until the desired buildup of "dirt" was achieved. The walkways were treated in much the same way as were all louvers on the hood sides.
The pilot facings were weathered only lightly since vertical surfaces drain away the effects of weathering (whereas horizontal surfaces accumulate them). But there are usually streaks of grime directly above the rails where dirt has been thrown from other locomotives and coupled cars.
Turning to the chassis, I sprayed the fuel tank from the bottom with light grime and added a trace of rust from the water fill with a 3xO brush and orange-brown water colors. If the color didn't look just right, I removed any mistakes with a damp cloth and tried again until I achieved the desired effect. Fuel spillage was simulated by allowing thinned gloss black paint to run down the side of the area below the filler; diesel fuel doesn't experience the same surface tension as does water, and will spread out and down. Older spills will attract dust and grime quickly and become dull.
I dry-brushed "rust " color as highlights to such items as springs, spring hangers, journals, brakes and adjusters. Diluted India ink applied around the axle journals will lay in the crevices and resemble oily residue. Last, I sprayed the trucks with a thinned road grime color - a light dirty gray-covering the entire truck, but not so much so as to obscure the rust and oily grime. The frame was then sprayed with the same light road grime.
I then let the locomotive set for a couple days before declaring the project complete. Why? To gain a fresh perspective and perhaps catch something I may have overlooked. Though essentially satisfied, I once again decided to highlight certain areas with rust, to places where air pipes enter the roof top and where one section of the carbody joins another. Again, I used water colors (so the paint could be wiped away if it didn't look right). Once satisfied, the body shell was oversprayed with a mixture of Testors Dullcote Lacquer, Floquil Dust and Flat Finish, and about 60-70 percent lacquer thinner to "fix" all the water colors. Window glass, number boards, headlight and marker lenses completed the project.
1Collinwood shops were closed by Conrail in the early 1980's and operations shifted to Altoona, Pa.
2Motors in Athearn's original line of hood locomotives were of a size requiring the hoods on the car body shells to be of slightly greater width than prototype. Recently. Athearn upgraded their motor design, introducing the "flat side" narrow motor that permitted new Athearn locomotive models (such as the SD40-2) to feature scale-width hoods. Although any Athearn hood unit can be upgraded with the new motor, only the original-width shells are available for models Athearn brought out prior to the SD40-2, such as the GP9/7, GP35 and SD45.