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  • B&M 800 Class SW8

    by Richard Waite - sketches by Ralph Mazzeo

    B&M's SW8 in HO as modeled by the author. - Photo by John Longo.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1978 - Page 6 width= Prototype Modeler - August 1978 - Page 7 width=

       During the early years of diesel power almost all locomotives built were intended for switching service; these early efforts evolved into the distinctive switcher's of today, each manufacturer's product having its own characteristics. Practically from the beginning and until just recently, EMD (formerly EMC) has used the same basic carbody, frame, and running gear and, fortunately for the modeler, Athearn's "SW1500" (actually an SW7) incorporates characteristics that serve as a basis for modeling almost all of the various switcher types EMD has produced over the years.

       This article will describe how to make one of the more common (approximately 305 units) but seldom modeled types: the SW8. Several railroads have owned them and any appropriate details may be added or removed as needed in each particular case. The Boston & Main has eight of these units numbered 800 through 807 which are all very similar; the 807 will be the focus of this article.

    Step 1 - Paint Removal

       If paint stripping is necessary; several methods work well. Commercial stripping mixes are available, however, ordinary brake fluid works as well and costs considerably less. Usually, soaking the body overnight after removing the window glass and headlight lens is enough to loosen the paint. Wash off all brake fluid with a stiff brush and detergent, making sure to get the inside as well because any residue could seep out and later ruin a new paint job. After rinsing throughly, leave the body to air dry.

    Step 2 - Body Modifications

       Remove the letterboard vents as the first modification to the body; this row of small louvers at the top of the hood sides is best removed by a fine jewelers file followed with 400-grit wet-or-dry emery paper. Cover the surrounding detail with masking tape so as to prevent damage from errant filing or sanding strokes. With the B&M model, the yellow side stripe will cover up this letterboard area and hide a fair amount of "goofs" resulting from problem areas in completly removing the vents.)

    The class engine, No. 800, with the years of service showing and a trip to the paint shop a little overdue. - Photo by the author.

    The 803 with much of its yellow undercoat reflecting its years of road/yard duty on the B&M's routes north of Boston. - Photo by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1978 - Page 8 width=

       Next, remove the bell and the ridges around all handrail holes and fill all holes with body putty, with the exception of the lower holes on the pilots, the bottom of the cab side, and those beside the cab door. File, sand smooth, then remove the horn and file off the mounting boss. Also, smooth off any casting or mold lines that may be present (this varies from model to model). Finally, remove both front and rear headlight housings (it is not necessary to fill in these holes as they will be covered by the castings) and remove the rear exhaust stack, file, and sand smooth.

    Step 3 - Body Additions

       Once all unwanted detail has been removed, start adding the appropriate details. First, drill all necessary holes for the rail supports (.020") and seven evenly spaced holes for the side railings (see Figure 1 for dimensions). Drill these holes completely through the walkway. The three end rail supports should be evenly spaced (see Figure 2). Holes for the hood side, pilot, and top grab irons should be drilled next (.016", see Figures 3 and 4); the grab irons and railings will be installed later. Finally, drill .018" holes for the coupler lift bar supports and .013" holes for the end grab irons (see Figure 8). These will be installed later.

       SW8's have two more rows of lower vents than the Athearn model and there are several ways to add them. One method is to make a suitable hole and add vents cut from an extra shell. This is difficult to do and often leaves a gap which is hard to cover up. An alternate method, which is much easier and looks reasonably good, is to make new vents from styrene. To do this, select a mill file which has teeth the same distance apart as the louvers and cut a piece of .010" styrene (.005" if available) approximately 1" x 1/2". Clamp the styrene in a vise against the face of the file, tighten the vise enough to emboss the styrene with the pattern of the file. A little practice will result in an evenly distributed pattern, cut to the proper depth. Trim the styrene to the dimensions in Figure 5 and cement in place.

       Next, install the new headlights. Detail Associates has castings that are suitable but require some filling with body putty for a built-in contour-look. The rear light is a simple replacement job.

    The 804 also nearing time for a trip to the paint shop. These locos have been doing yeoman work since their arrival on the B&M. - Photo by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1978 - Page 9 width=

       Drill holes for the bell and the number boards, following the directions on the package, and install both. Make a spark arrestor from styrene (see Figure 6) and cement it in place.

       Finally, make a horn mounting bracket from styrene or wood (see Figure 7) and assemble the horn according to instructions. Drill an appropriate hole in the bracket and cement the horn to it. Do not attach the horn assembly to the body at this time.

       This completes the body modifications except for the grab irons, railing, air hoses, and lift bars, which will all be installed later.

    Step 4 - Painting and Decaling

       Most modelers paint and decal as the last step, but it is often easier to do these tasks before adding the railings and grab irons. Although care must be taken not to mar the new paint when adding these details, a neater overall job results.

       Before painting, wash the body in warm water with a mild detergent and rinse in cold running water; make sure all soap spots are removed. Dry as quickly as possible to prevent foreign substances from spotting the surface using a hair dryer or setting the model on top of the furnace in the winter time.

       Next, prime the body (it's a good idea to paint the body and cab separately as they are easier to handle when apart). The Boston & Maine sprayed their units with Dulux Gold as an undercoat and on advice of the manufacturer, a primer of Accu-Paint Dulux Gold BX-22 results in the proper finished shade of maroon when applied over the gold. After the prime coat is throughly dry, apply Accu-Paint B&M Engine Maroon BX-36 over the entire body. When this has dired, mask off the maroon areas using the diagram in the decal set as a guide and apply Accu-Paint Stencil Black BX-2 or Floquil Engine Black RR10 (if two different types of Accu-Paint are available, the newer type will have "AP" as the number prefix. Although the colors of the two types match, the finishes do not: One dries to a semi-gloss and the other is considerably duller. Stay with one type to ensure a uniform finish).

       Decaling is next and if the AP series Accu-Paint with its semi-gloss finish is used, the model is ready. If not, apply a semi-gloss or gloss clear coat as a base for the decals. Accu-Cal decal set HI-SW12B (D112) is the proper one for this engine, but there are actually enough decals included in the set to do several types of switchers; be sure to use the correct one for the SW8. Accu-Set BX500 setting solution will leave plenty of time to line things up; heralds and numbers should present no problems. Accu-Paint matches the colors in the decals as touch up, if necessary, can correct "goofs." After the decals dry, wash off all remnants of setting solution and finger prints. Dry the model throughly and overspray with dull or gloss.

    This view of the 807 clearly shows how the author captured the prototype appearance in the model. - Photo by John Longo.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1978 - Page 10 width=

       Because the frame shows when the body is mounted, paint it flat black after removing all mechanical components. Again, when the frame is dry, wash and overspray. Boston & Maine switchers, for the most part, had silver truck side frames when new that quickly peeled off or became covered with grime. If the "new" look is desired, paint the side frames (Testor's silver, when applied with a brush gives an "almost-but-not-quite" new appearance; the paint doesn't cover well when brushed and the black that shows through gives the desired result).

    Step 5 - Handrails and Grabirons

       The grab irons (Northeast or Quality Craft) should be painted black and installed on the side of the hood. The L shaped grab for the roof of the hood is made from .020" wire (see Figure 4), painted black, and installed. The grabs over the footboards are from .016" wire and were painted various colors on different engines. (The B&M doesn't seem to be consistant as to what units got which colors: Number 807 has them painted black, but white, and yellow has also been spotted. Install and add a drop of cement to the back to hold them in place. When the cement is dry, snip off as much of the ends as possible.

    B&M's 805 appears in pretty good form with it's paint just worn in the area of it's lettering. - Photo by the author.

    B&M's 807, the prototype for the model in this article, is typical of the units in the 800 Class still in service. The wear and tear of its years of service are reflected in it's worn and faded paint scheme and it's not-too-often trips to the wash rack. These units have more than justified their initial purchase. - Photo by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1978 - Page 11 width=

       The long grab rails at the top of the hood are installed next (stock Athearn units can be used or new ones can be made from .020" wire). As before, paint black before installing.

       The side walkway railings, added next, are perhaps the most important as far as distinguishing this model from the normal stock Athearn unit. Extra care in this area will result in a model that will really stand out, and although it appears difficult, it is not and is well worth the effort. First, cut 14 pieces, 7 per side, of .020" wire approximately 1" long. Smooth off end so they are flat and file a blunt point on the other end. Next, insert the 14 supports in the pre-drilled holes along the walkway, pushing them all in to the same depth, approximately 13/16". Now, cut two more straight pieces of wire about 6" long and form to the shape of the top rail, test fitting as you go. If the holes have been drilled properly, the stanchions should all be parallel and at right angles to the walkway the same distance from the edge. Small adjustments can be made if necessary by bending carefully, and the top railing may be fit in place so that everything lines up. Either epoxy or solder the railing to the stanchions as soon as all adjustments have been made. Make and final adjustments and clean up any excess solder. Snip off the ends protruding below the walkway and file smooth. Clean the railing with a pipe cleaner dipped in Dio-Sol, being careful not to get any on the paint. Paint the railing and stanchions black, except the front section which should be Dulux Gold (see Figure 1), and repeat the operation for the other side.

       Now, install the cab handrails, windows, and attach the cab to the hood. The cab may not fit tightly on the hood and may have to be cemented together rather than depending on the locking tabs. The hand rails are stock Athearn, as are the inside step handrails, and are painted Dulux Gold before installation. The final work in volves the end platforms which are recommended to be done only one at a sitting.

       First, form the coupler lift bar from .0 13" wire (see Figure 8) and slip the Detail Associates lift rings over the wire and install the whole assembly; paintblack. Next, cut 6 (3 per end) .020" pieces of wire 1 1/2" long and bend them as in Figure 2 so that the long sections are all the same length. Test fit into the three holes drilled in the front edge of the platform and file the stanchions so they are exactly the same height when installed. Cut another piece of .020" wire approximately 4" long and form this piece as in Figure 2; test fit. When satisfied that all is correct, solder or epoxy to the three stanchions. Now cut one more piece of wire for the bottom cross-bar and attach to the stanchions, then clean the assembly and paint black with white end sections. Finally, drill a .035 hole and cement the air hose in place, repeating the operation for the other end.

    B&M's 805 appears in pretty good form with it's paint just worn in the area of it's lettering. - Photo by the author.

    B&M's 807, the prototype for the model in this article, is typical of the units in the 800 Class still in service. The wear and tear of its years of service are reflected in it's worn and faded paint scheme and it's not-too-often trips to the wash rack. These units have more than justified their initial purchase. - Photo by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1978 - Page 12 width=

    STEP 6 - FINAL ASSEMBLY

       Now, attach the horn assembly to the front of the cab covering up the hole left from the original horn and cement the lens to the light assembly. Make up a lens for the number boards and carefully mount them; mount the completed body on the chassis and test run. If all has gone according to plan, your switching crew should have a new unit that will last them many years.

    PARTS LIST - B&M SW8
    Quantity  Description
    1 Each  Athearn SW 1500
    1 Set  Details West No. 136 Number Board Set
    1 Set  Details West No. 128 Bell Set
    1 Set  Detail Associates No. HD-1011 Headlight Set
    1 Set  Detail Associates No. LR-1101 Lift Rings
    1 Each  Detail Associates No. HR-1601 3-Chime Horn
    1 Set  Cal-Scale No. 277 Air Hose Set
    3 Each  Northeastern No. 852 Grab Irons (or Quality Craft No. 145)
    1 Set  Accu-Cal Decal Set No. H1-SW12B (new number is 0112)
    1 Bottle  Accu-Paint Dulux Gold BX-22 (new number is AP-22)
    1 Bottle  Accu-Paint Engine Maroon BX-36 (new number is AP-36)
    1 Bottle  Accu-Paint Stencil Black BX-2 (new number AP-2)
    1 Bottle  Accu-Set Decal Setting Solution BX-500 (or similar)
    24 Inches  .020" brass or piano wire
    6 Inches .016" brass or piano wire
    12 Inches  .013" brass or piano wire
         .010" scrap styrene
         .020" scrap styrene

    Article Details

    • Original Author Richard Waite
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date August 1987

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2 comments
  • Peter Terwilliger/Parksville Station
    Peter Terwilliger/Parksville Station Isn't Athearn's SW-1500 one of those "fat" hood models? Amazing how luck we have it today!
    September 21, 2012
  • David Lotz
    David Lotz Yes...that is the problem with posting these older articles...however, many of the techniques shared are still viable modeling today. We just have better models to start with!!
    September 21, 2012