The Atlantic Coast Line was known for its multi-engine lash-ups of F-units on most of their mainline freight trains during the 1950's and early 1960's. Although the ACL rostered over a hundred GP7's, the F's were the primary power on through freights over the system. ACL purchased FT's, F2's, F3/5's and F7's. The dual-service FP7 was also found on the Coast Line. ACL's first F units were 24 FT A-B sets purchased in the early 1940's, and these were followed by 12 F2 A-B sets in 1946. The F3's (F5) came to the roster in 1948 with the purchase of twelve A-B sets. The first F7's arrived in 1950, beginning with unit 348 and eventually reaching No. 423 in 1951. Twelve F7B's (Nos. 392B-403B) were also acquired in 1951. Finally, the ACL F7 roster was expanded by six units in 1951, with the acquisition of former Charleston & Western Carolina Nos. 900-905. These became ACL Nos. 424-429.
Photographic research on ACL F7's indicates all units except Nos. 396-423 and B-units 396B-403B had the older, fabricated side grills. The engines noted above had the newer, Farr grill. I decided to model one unit of each grill style. Athearn's F7A and B were the basis for these models.
I first removed the following molded details from the Athearn shells: number boards, steam generator detail, lift rings, dynamic brake fan, cab roof overhang, boiler water fill hatches, side skirts (except for the fuel filler), and all fans and exhaust stacks. I also sanded all seam lines smooth.
The window shape was corrected by first filing the corners square, and then fitting a piece of .02" styrene into the opening and cementing it in place. After this plug dried, the windshield openings were reshaped using drawings and photos as guides.
The opening in the roof where the fan/stack panel had been was filled with a piece of .04" styrene. This more closely resembles the prototype's flat and recessed fan panel. New 1/2" x 1/2" fan panels were cut from .01" styrene. These were glued to Details West No. CF-142 fans and installed using the prototype drawing for location. New stacks (Detail Associates No. 2401) were glued between the fans.
The holes for the original air horns were plugged with styrene scrap and sanded smooth. Any gaps around these plugs and the fan panels were filled with body putty and wet-sanded.
Next, all holes for the lift rings and grabirons were laid out and drilled. This includes the set of grabs on the right side of the nose and on the ends of both the A and B units. Prototype photos were used for determining location. The grabirons were glued in place with ACC cement, and nut-boltwasher castings were cut and placed above the grabirons. The L-shaped grabs on the roofs were made from .015" brass wire. The step behind the pilot was made from a long Athearn handrail stanchion with a styrene cross member cemented in place. Brass .015" wire was used to make the nose door and roof grabirons. The position of the nose door itself was drawn on the cab using the prototype drawing for a guide. The door outline was scribed with the back of an X-Acto blade. Lift rings (Detail Associates No. 2206) were added next.
The A-unit air vent was made from scrap styrene appropriately shaped and sized. A No. 157 Details West firecracker radio antenna and a Detail Associates brass M-5 air horn were added next.
Painting and final details
Both locomotives first received a coat of Floquil Primer. After it dried, the shells were inspected for sanding marks or gaps. Any gaps were filled and wet-sanded.
Both units were painted black, using the following formula: Eight parts Floquil Engine Black were mixed with two parts Floquil Reefer White. This blend was then mixed half and half with a 60 percent thinner-40 percent crystal-coat combination.
The yellow striping was cut from Virnex yellow decal sheet stock. A 12"-wide stripe was applied along the bottom edge of the locomotives. This stripe begins at the bottom edge of the batten strip. A two-inch stripe was located just under the rivet band beneath the portholes. This stripe extends around the nose, ending at the edge of the nose door on the A-unit. All stripes stop at the rear corners of the A-unit and at both ends of the B-unit.
The Atlantic Coast Line road name, nose herald and radio-equipped decals were from Champ set No. EH-174. The decal scrap box yielded some three-inch black numbers; Herald King SCL six-inch numbers were used on the B-unit. The three-inch letter "C" used by ACL to designate units equipped with EMD 567-series VC, AC or C engines was also added - see the photos for location. Silver unit numbers were applied to the end of the A-unit and both ends of the B-unit. After the decals dried, the body shells were washed to remove any decal setting fluid. After drying, the bodies were sprayed with a dull coat finish.
The Detail Associates grill panels were applied using a rather unusual method. I first placed a piece of Scotch double-stick tape on a piece of glass. I then pressed the grills onto the tape. With the grill and tape still on the glass, I trimmed the tape around the grill and removed the excess. The grill and tape were then removed from the glass and pressed into position on the body.
Next, I fabricated handrails and uncoupling levers from .015" brass wire and installed them. M.u. hoses followed. All were brush-painted black.
|ATLANTIC COAST LINE
|1. F7 No. 317 was a locomotive less engine, trucks and generator. These were installed by ACL at Tampa to replace FT No. 317 which was wrecked. F7 317 was also wrecked and rebuilt to F9 317. It became SCL No. 317.
2. F7 No. 417 rebuilt to F9 417. It became SCL No. 309
3. F7's 424-429 are ex-Charleston & Western Carolina Nos. 900-905. They became SCL 408-413.
|4. ACL Nos.||SCL Nos.|
Window glass was made from .015" acetate sanded to a snug fit in the window openings. The porthole glass and the glass for the front headlight were made from acetate with a paper punch. They were sanded to drop into the porthole and headlight openings nearly flush. This hides the body wall thickness. Before installing the headlight glass, I sanded Detail Associates No. 1012 dual headlight conversion plates to fit inside the headlight openings. These conversion plates were painted silver, and headlight jewels were glued into place with ACC. On the top plate, the jewel is clear, the lower one red. Both jewels are clear on the lower plate.
Because the body skirts were removed to correct the appearance of the fuel tank, the underframe required modifications. I used a hack saw to cut a slot along the bottom of the frame. This provided a gap between the frame and the fuel tank/battery box. The battery-box covers from the discarded skirts were glued to the battery boxes with ACC.
Wire from grain-of-wheat bulbs became the sanding hoses. Holes were drilled in the truck side frame and the hoses glued in place. I then made holes in the frame above each sand hose and inserted the free ends of the hoses into them. The hoses were cut about 3/4" longer than necessary to allow for truck swing which would not pull them out of the frame. A Detail Associates speed recorder (No. 2807) was added to the front axle of the lead truck on the 391 (left side only).
The tabs and locking lugs on the frame were lost when I cut the slot and removed the skirts. To prevent the underframe from being inserted too far, and to keep the bodies level, I glued styrene strips inside the shells.
My method for mounting the Kadee No. 7 couplers is illustrated in the accompanying diagram. It may be necessary to remove a small portion of the styrene mounting block to allow the rear power truck to rotate freely.
At this time, the motor and drive train were reassembled on the frame. The finished bodies were installed, and Atlantic Coast Line F7A 391 and F7B 399B were ready to roll.