Volume 6 No. 1, Fairbanks-Morse Cinder Conveyor

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 6 No. 1, December 3, 2017

Fairbanks-Morse Cinder Conveyor

by Chris Rooney

Many Chesapeake and Ohio fans are especially drawn to both the operations and the structures at Hinton, West Virginia. In addition to the obvious coaling tower and the many smaller service structures, the Fairbanks-Morse cinder conveyer really stands out. A cinder conveyer is an interesting structure typical of steam engine facilities before and during the transition era. Steam locomotives dumped the cinders and ashes from their ash pans into a large bucket at the bottom of an ash pit. A hoist house at the top of the structure conveys the bucket out of the pit and up the structure along the sloping guides, where the bucket waits for a hopper car or gondola into which to dump its contents.

William E. Simonton of Virginia happens to be a skilled architectural and mechanical draftsman who has become the go-to source for many items of interest to Chesapeake and Ohio fans, especially the structures at Hinton. Mr. Simonton makes these available on his Shapeways site as 3D printed structures under the shop name ClimaxShop, Hinton (https://www.shapeways.com/product/2PLTQY48Q/s-fairbanks-morse-cinder-conveyor-1-track-2-0?optionId=58728647). These are produced primarily in HO, but Mr. Simonton allowed me to prevail on him to produce both the single and double track versions of the F-M cinder conveyers in S. (He also produces a standard C&O tool house in S and the gables standard to the C&O’s iconic Quinnemont cabin and Marlinton type station in S.)

Right out of the box this entire structure is printed in one piece. It has only to be washed with a mild solvent to remove any residual printing support wax and painted. For this purpose I used VM Naphtha and then painted with quality fast-drying flat black enamel. Reproduction of details is excellent, with the spaces between the spokes of sheaves fully evident, for example, and every piece and plate on the prototype is reproduced. There are inherent limitations to 3D printing though. These mainly occur in large flat surfaces that may show tiny steps or ridges as they are printed. These are not objectionable on the model I purchased and, once weathered, hardly noticeable.

Figure 2 –

Of course the units are not rigged with the cables that raise and lower the bucket, which is printed in the raised position to be visible and to support the somewhat frail superstructure. Therein lies the rub, because the available pictures and drawings do not do justice to the cabling. Fortunately, using a series of photos and the drawings in the F-M catalogue, we were able to work out the cabling which was continuously wound on a drum in the hoist house. As an assist, I will show here how I believe the cabling was arranged in a series of photos with overlays.

The first order of business is to detach the weight with sheave from the front tie bar, as it will go on the main left rear “I-beam” column of the structure when facing the three windows (Figure 5) in the hoist house. See Figure 4.

Figure 3 –

My first rigging step was to attach the draw line, made from clear 15-pound nylon fishing line, from the hoist house front wall slit through the platform and into the indent in the top bucket drawbar. See red lines in Figure 3.

The second step is to attach the orange return line to the bottom bucket drawbar and then run it to the middle, slightly canted, pulley, the leftmost of the three P’s in Figure 4.

Figure 4 –

Next I attached the weight and sheave to the I-beam in approximately the position shown in Figure 2 when the bucket is raised, so then when it is lowered this counterweight keeps tension on the cables. I glued it so that the 15-pound line could be pulled taught and glued into the sheave grooves.

Now it’s time to rig the return line that goes over the rightmost pulley in Figure 4 and across the front of the structure to the slightly canted pulley on the right and then descends into the ash pit on pulleys along the pit’s right wall. See Figure 5.

Figure 5 –

Mr. Simonton also supplies the exact dimensional pits for single and double tracks on his Shapeways site. However, my tracks had long been installed and were slightly off the proper centers to use his pits. I fashioned my own from scrap wood for the frame (Figure 3) and walks, and a formed metal bin between the rails over the bucket. Fine mesh screen was added on each side of the bin between the rails to simulate inward sloping pit extensions with a grating covering them. A typical railing and grate rakes were positioned opposite the structure. The prototype photo shows typical steam piping, lighting and tools found in these areas.

One word of caution is in order: the recommended Frosted Ultra Detail material takes acrylic and even fast-drying lacquer well and is easily glued with ACC. However, it is somewhat more brittle, for example, than styrene, I have taken special precaution not to permanently fix this model to the base because of its more fragile construction and because it is at the front of the layout.

Learn more about Hinton at the C&O Historical Society site at www.hinton.cohs.org.

Volume 5 No. 2, Passenger Car Diaphragms

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 5 No. 2, July 9, 2015

Passenger Car Diaphragms

by Dick Karnes

Once upon a time I had a large stash of MHP S scale diaphragms. But over the years I’ve gradually become dissatisfied with their appearance. Primarily, the bellows are too bulky. And I have to remove the alignment tabs on the striker plate (easy, I admit). But I kept using them until I ran out of them.

These days I make my own diaphragms for heavyweight passenger cars. [Download the complete article including templates and set-by-step instructions on making your own passenger car diaphragms.]

Note: To ensure the templates print at the correct scale, print the file at 100% and make sure ‘scale to fit’ is deselected in your print options.

Volume 5 No. 1, Interior Detail For Your AM Heavyweight Pullmans

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 5 No. 1, January 12, 2015

Interior Detail For
Your AM Heavyweight Pullmans

by Dick Karnes

I’ve had an unlettered American Models/NASG two-tone grey heavyweight Pullman 10-1-2 car sitting idle for several years. Recently I decided to finally get this guy lettered. So I began looking at the car. I also decided to put an interior in this car (and maybe others too), so I bought a few Palace Car Co. (www.palacecarco.com) S scale interior detail kits (Item No. 9702) for 10-1-2 cars. Palace’s S scale interior kits arose from an NASG project to bring new products to market. One of the results is these interior kits, as well as ordinary coach seats, that continue to appear in Palace’s regular line of products.

There are a few things you need to know before starting this project. The cardstock Palace interior flooring was designed for the American Models (AM) heavyweight Pullman cars, but the rest of the kit is not. (If it had been, it would have been unusable with other brands, like SouthWind brass models.) The cardstock flooring is marked with notches required to clear the glass-positioning prongs inside the AM carbody. The interiors are to be assembled by gluing the components to the car-floor cardstock. If you intend these assemblies to fit brass cars, they drop in without alteration. For the AM cars, although notching the floor for the AM prongs allows these interior assemblies to slip right into the AM carbody, the roof molding will not fit because of the substantial thickness of the window glass. You therefore have two surgical choices – either remove outer portions of every partition and seat, or remove the “glass” portions of the AM roof molding. I chose the latter method.

(photo 1)

The first task is to remove the car’s roof. There are two screws, one on each end of the floor just behind the coupler boxes (Photo 1). Removing these releases the roof with its integral clear window “glass.” (The first production run of AM Pullmans is different. There are no roof-retention screws. Instead, the locking tabs visible next to the car sides when you turn the car upside down must be poked and prodded to get the one-piece roof and side glass off.)

(photo 2a)
(photo 2b)

Looking into the carbody, you will see the several glass-positioning prongs along bottom of each side (Photo 2a). Remove them by grabbing them with pliers and twisting back and forth. Any portion of a prong that remains can be removed with a Dremel grinding bit. Photo 2b shows the result. Then cut the entire window glass portions away from the AM roof, leaving the vestibule glass intact as well as a 1/8″ flange just beneath the edges of the roof (Photo 3). These flanges are necessary to fit inside the tops of the car sides, thereby maintaining alignment of the reinstalled roof.

(photo 3)

If you need to letter or stripe the carbody, now is the time to do it, before you install the new window material. Reason: Overspraying with clear flat, highly recommended after applying decals or transfers will cloud the window material.

(photo 4)

After lettering and overspraying, cut strips of clear .005″ styrene to replace the AM glass and glue them inside the car (Photo 4). Use liquid plastic cement applied with a No. 0 artist’s brush along the edges of the “glass.” Capillary action will draw the glue in from the edges.

(photo 5)

Now to the Palace kit. If your car will be illuminated, you should paint your seats, bulkheads, and partitions first. If not illuminated (like mine), leaving the interior components unpainted will make them more visible through the windows. Once assembled, you will have a complete interior consisting of floor, seats, partitions, and bulkheads. If you are doing the 10-1-2 car, there will be two components (Photo 5); the 12-1 interior kit builds up as a single unit. These interior inserts will fit into the carbody without alteration. Slip them in place. You may have to lightly flex the sides apart for them to drop in.

(photo 6)

However, the tops of the bulkheads will still not fit into the underside of the roof. Using a side-cutting nipper, cut notches in the outer top edges of the partitions, just wide enough to clear the roof flanges (Photo 6). About 1/8″ or so wide should be sufficient. Test-fit the roof after you trim the first couple of partitions, then adjust your cuts to suit. Photo 7 shows the unlettered unglazed car with the interior and the roof temporarily set in place. If you like, you can install window shades randomly before reattaching the roof (Photo 4). For this, I used single strips of colored paper cut to suit, then Scotch-taped them in place before screwing the roof in place. Photo 8 shows a peek into the finished car.

(photo 7)
(photo 8)

(Note: If your car is from an early production run, you will have to glue the roof in place when you’re done, or else come up with your own method for mechanically securing it so it can be removed in the future.)

I learned a couple of lessons on this project:

  • Installing shades everywhere makes the presence of the interior detailing quite subtle, providing only the suggestion that there is something in there.
  • Interior detailing is much more obvious without shades and glass.

My recommendations: Glaze the windows. The slight obscuring of the interior is far outweighed by the effect of glass that reflects some light. Install shades but don’t go overboard; apply them to only a few windows.

Volume 4 No. 3, Building Osgood-Bradley “American Flyer” Passenger Cars

Volume 4 No. 3, July 17, 2015

Building Osgood-Bradley “American Flyer” Passenger Cars

by Dick Karnes
with Bud Rindfleisch, Lehigh Valley Consultant
Photos and drawings by the Author except as Noted


Per the “Railway Classics” website, “In 1934, the New Haven engaged the services of noted industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague, who collaborated with Pullman designers to develop a light weight car design for a new fleet of cars that would allow the railroad to improve schedules, reduce maintenance costs and to reduce the growing costs of fuel.  The first 50-car order was for 92-seat coaches delivered in December of 1937.  Utilizing Cor-Ten steel and weighing in at 100,000 pounds (17 tons less than comparable contemporary cars), these cars featured a tubular cross-section design that was aerodynamically clean with full skirts and windows that were flush to the sides.  Vestibules were located at both ends of the cars to facilitate fast loading and unloading.  So successful was this design, the New Haven would eventually purchase 205 of these cars in both ten-window (84-passenger) and eleven-window (92-passenger) versions.”

Pullman Standard’s Osgood Bradley plant in Worcester, Massachusetts built over 270 lightweight passenger cars of this design, known as "American Flyer" style cars, named after the O scale S gauge American Flyer train sets that contained shorty models of this prototype.

In addition to the New Haven, the following roads received these cars:

  • Bangor and Aroostook (84 passengers)
  • Boston & Maine (84)
  • Kansas City Southern (76)
  • Lehigh Valley (92)
  • St. Louis Southwestern (76)
  • Seaboard Air Line (76)
  • Southern Pacific (76), transferred from SWW

Figure 1 –

Figure 1 shows a New Haven coach, the prototype for the American Flyer model.

The LV cars had squared-off roof ends.  All the others had rounded roof ends.  The New Haven had by far the largest fleet, and they underwent many modifications, including having the center mullion in each window pair removed to accommodate large single glass panes.  Some roads had cars with different window variations than the ones shown in this article (e.g., New Haven buffet cars, SAL combines, BAR buffet-lounge-chair).  The BAR and B&M cars had plain-bearing trucks, as did some of the others.  But most had roller-bearing trucks.  All the LV cars eventually received roller-bearing trucks.


Many of us have old American Flyer “New Haven” coach bodies in our scrap boxes.  These little seven-paired-window ten-inch carbodies are still very common at swap meets.  Now and then we see these converted into ten- and eleven-window full scale length cars.  However, to our knowledge, no one has done an article on how to do this.

We’re presenting this project in stages.  First we’ll tell you how to create a credible version of one of these cars with the barest minimum of effort.  Then we’ll go into steps that will make your car increasingly accurate.  The simplest conversions are the 84- and 96-passenger carbody splices.  Then we’ll cover making the Lehigh Valley squared-off ends.  Finally we’ll go into adding rivets, flush window panes, diaphragms, and accurate trucks and underbody.

Simple Conversion

Converting these cars to scale involves, as a minimum, cutting up the carbodies, smoothing the cut edges, joining the bodies, puttying and smoothing the joints, painting and lettering the result, and adding a wood floor, center sill, bolsters, steps, and your choice of four-wheel passenger trucks.

Figure 2 –

The AF carbodies have seven paired windows plus one single window at each end, next to the door.  The easiest conversion is the 10-window 84-passenger car, which requires cutting three cars to get two.  Because there is an extra 21st paired window in the three cars, you can afford to make pretty rough cuts with enough extra material (an eighth of an inch or so) to square off and sand for a good splice.  If you want the 11-window 92-passenger version, you’ll need three carbodies to make one 11-window and one 10-window car, or five carbodies to make three 11-window cars.

Follow Figure 2 (10-window 84-passenger) or Figure 3 (11-window 92-passenger) to plan your cuts.  If you want the 76-passenger version, follow Figure 4.  The one double window at the 76-passenger car end, separated from the others by a single window, are for, shall we say, “more luxurious” restrooms.  Mark your cuts with the help of a square and a pencil or pen.  Wrap a strip of masking tape over the roof such that one edge of the tape coincides with the location of your marked line.  Use a hand-held razor saw to make your cuts as thin as possible.  Other saws will be faster, but they remove far too much material.

Figure 3 –

Figure 4 –

Resist the urge to mark your cuts cut midway between window pairs.  Cutting along the edges of windows will leave you with less filling and sanding in the skinny space between windows.

Clean up the cut edges of your carbodies.  400-grit emery paper atop a smooth surface like a glass mirror tile will assure that your cuts remain square as you move your cut edge across the emery paper.  Remove as little material as possible; you will rely on plastic putty to fill any gaps.  Now we’re going to begin gluing.  Use a solvent-style cement like Plastruct Pro-Weld, applied with a No. 0 artist’s natural-bristle paintbrush to parts pre-positioned together.  (By all means AVOID thickened adhesive product such as those that come in a tube.)  Placing the cement-laden brush at the edge of mating surfaces will cause the cement to be drawn into the joint by capillary action.

Glue two strips of half-inch-wide .030" styrene to the inside of each side of the longest body segment.  Then place a metal level (or other straight object, e.g., a section of 1×2) on your flat surface.  Position the mating body segments on your surface right side up with one side against the level.  Determine which side of the mating bodies makes first contact.  This is the side you will glue together first.  Place the two segments with that side down, bottom edges against the level, and glue the strip on that side to the second body segment.  Now flip this partial assembly over and glue the strip on the other side.  If there are additional body segments to add (e.g., for the 76-passenger version), repeat these steps.  You should now have a perfectly aligned carbody.

Where the segments actually butt against each other with no gaps, apply some plastic cement to the joint(s) from the inside, and let dry thoroughly.  Now fill in the joint gaps on the sides and roof with a good-quality plastic putty like Squadron Green.  Don’t mound it on!  Smooth off the putty with a scrap of styrene before it begins to dry.  Let the putty dry thoroughly, then apply a second coat and let it dry for 24 hours.  Now sand the joints with 400-grit emery paper until perfectly smooth.

Figure 5a –

Figure 5b –

Decide whether you want to add diaphragms to the car ends.  If you do, you will need to remove the molded-on diaphragms from the plastic carbody.  Slice each one off with your razor saw along the vertical line shown in the Lehigh Valley Figure 8a cutting diagram, leaving about 1/32" projecting beyond the car end.  Make diaphragm bellows out of accordion-folded typing paper.  Use the cut-off diaphragm as a pattern for a cardstock or styrene faceplate.  Figure 5 contains full-size patterns for the bellows (courtesy of SouthWind Models) and a faceplate.

Figure 6 –

Figure 7 –

Now you can cut a floor 1-3/4" inches wide out of 1/8" thick basswood stock or .080" styrene sheet.  Make it long enough to fit in the carbody.  With a 1/8" diameter Dremel cylindrical milling cutter or a round rat-tail file, cut semicircular notches out of the floor where each interior carbody reinforcement post is located.  Cement short lengths of Plastruct angle, an inch or so long, between each of these posts to position the floor within the carbody (see Figure 6).  Drill the floor through the angles in two places on each side for round-head screws of your choice to attach the floor to the carbody.  Thread the holes on the angles by running the screws into them, or cut threads using the proper size tap.  Ream the holes in the floor with a drill large enough to clear the screw threads.

Mark the four corners of the floor to position No. 02449 passenger-car steps by BTS and glue the steps in place.  Make two body bolsters from wood or styrene as shown in Figure 7.  Mark their locations on the floor so as to place the truck screw holes 2-1/4 inches in from the car ends, and glue them in place.  Finally, cut two lengths of ¼" Plastruct or Evergreen channel and glue them between the bolsters to form a center sill.

Figure 8a –

Figure 8b –

Figure 8c –

At this point, decide whether you want to replace the cast-on vestibule handrails with wire handrails.  If you do, carve off the cast-on handrails with a No. 18 X-acto chisel-end blade or equivalent.  Drill #76 holes for new handrails, and form them from .020" steel wire.  The prototype handrails are bent over at 90 degrees toward the door openings.  You may also wish to add a drop grab iron to the bottom of each side of each car end.

Paint and letter the carbody, then glue strips of 010" clear styrene window material behind the windows.  You may wish to frost the lavatory windows by lightly sanding the window material.  These are the two single windows (one on each side) beneath the small round roof vents.  Paint the underbody and steps, and install trucks and couplers of your choice.  Screw the floor to the carbody.  Now your new car is ready for revenue service.

But there’s a lot more that can be done.

Window Arrangement Variations

Some of the less common car styles omit certain windows.  New Haven 53-seat grill cars are essentially ten-window cars that are missing center paired windows no. 4, 5, and 6.  The BAR buffet-lounge-chair has a blank space in lieu of one of the usual single windows at the non-restroom end of each car side.  Removing windows is easy.  Carve off the window frames, fill the openings with .060" styrene plugs cemented in place, apply Squadron Green plastic putty, and smooth the surface after the putty has dried.


As delivered, the prototype cars have full skirts, as do the AF carbodies.  Owning railroads subsequently cut the skirts out in the vicinity of the trucks; others went completely skirtless.  Best advice here is to check prototype photos of your favorite cars before deciding whether and how to modify your car’s skirts.  A good Internet reference is http://www.railwayclassics.com/amflyer.htm.

Lehigh Valley Roof Ends

If you’re doing the Lehigh Valley car (see drawing), you will need two carbodies for every completed car because of all the roof material required to make the squared-off roof ends.  To modify the roof ends, cut off each roof end to a point slightly inboard of where the rounded portion begins.  See Figures 8a and 8b.  Use the upper edge of the car side to guide your horizontal cuts.  Now cut a replacement chunk from your spare roof the same length as the piece you removed.  Place a shim cut from a piece of .030" styrene about three inches wide against the cut in the carbody roof, put the new roof chunk atop the carbody end, and push it against the .030" shim (Figure 8c).  Now mark the contour of the car end on the bottom of the end of this chunk.  Remove the shim, cut the tapers on the end of the roof chunk, and smooth the cuts.

Figure 9 –

Make two roof end caps.  Using the straight end of this roof chunk as a pattern, trace the roof contour onto the edge of a rectangular piece of .030-inch styrene and cut to that contour (Figure 9).  Mark and score the backsides of two of the end caps to match the two locations where the three flat surfaces of the tapered end of the roof chunk meet.  Now glue the two short roof chunks in place on the ends of the carbody, bend the end caps along the score lines, and cement the end caps in place with the score lines on the backside.  Use plastic putty as necessary to hide the joints, and finish-sand the rooftop at each end.

Figure 10 –

Figure 11 –

Figure 10 shows Bud Rindfleisch’s completed LV car; a close-up appears in Figure 11.  Bud has enlarged the door windows to more closely match the prototype.

Window Panes

Figure 12 –

Figure 13 –

Figure 14 –

For window glass, you can apply clear styrene strips on the inside of the car behind the window openings.  Fellow modeler Vic Roseman used green-tinted styrene strips on his New Haven cars (see Figures 12 and 13).  The authors had precise-fitting transparent green styrene window panes custom-manufactured by Laser Horizons (Figure 14).  Any reader can get these from Laser Horizons because proprietor Dennis Sauters is now set up to make them.  Call, mention “American Flyer New Haven passenger car” windows, describe what you want, and get a price.  Then send enough styrene window material to Laser Horizons along with your payment.  We sent green-tinted clear styrene from Rix Products.  Laser Horizons can also supply opaque semi-clear styrene single-pane lavatory windows if requested.

The Laser Horizons windows fit flush with the outside surface of the car.  You may need to dress some edges of the panes to get them to fit.  Slight finger pressure should be all that’s needed to push them in place, although you should use an adhesive for permanency.  Microscale’s Krystal Clear, applied from the inside of the carbody with a knife tip, works well.


Vic Roseman has built several of these cars in the ten-window New Haven configuration.  He chose to add rivet strips that extend from the bottom of a side, over the roof, end down the opposite side.  These strips, obvious on Vic’s models (Figure 13), are very subtle on the prototype.  The primary advantage of using them on the model would be to save time and effort hiding body joints.  Vic impressed his rivets on .010" styrene.  You can emboss your rivets with a pounce wheel, running it against a straightedge over a sheet of .010" styrene, then cut out strips that contain the rivets and glue them to the carbody.

Steps, Floor, Underbody

Figure 15 –

Figure 16a –

Figure 16b –

The BTS steps, while nicely done and a great time saver, are not quite correct for these cars.  Bud fabricated accurate steps by making a step-assembly jig like the one in Figure 15.  The top image of Figure 16 shows one of the .015" styrene step sides in the jig.  After placing styrene angle stock in the center portion of the jig and gluing them to the first side and to each other, place the second step side in the jig (bottom image) and glue it in place.  Be sparing with your cement, and remove the assembly from the jig before any portion of it has a chance to glue itself to the jig.

Now make the floor described at the end of “Simplest Conversions.”  Insert the floor into the carbody and cement the step assemblies to the floor.

Figure 17 –

It’s difficult to discern the type and locations of the underbody components from the prototype photos, and many of them show different arrangements.  My best information source is a photo of the bottom of an HO model by Rapido, from which I’ve deduced the arrangement that follows (Figure 17).  The minimum array of components would be a generator, two battery boxes, air-conditioning (A/C) unit, two air tanks, a water tank, and a passenger-car brake system.  The two battery boxes are opposite each other, close to one truck.  The A/C unit is at the center of one side.  The two air tanks are on the side opposite the A/C unit.  The brake system components are mounted between the battery box and the air tanks.  The water tank is on the same side as the air tanks, and the generator is behind the water tank.  The brake system components are from BTS; the rest of these components can be purchased from The Supply Car.


Figure 18 –

Figure 19 –

Palace Car Co. has S scale seats for streamlined cars, Part No. 5031, 36 seats for $15, 100 for $36.  Figure 18 shows these being installed on a car floor.  The floor tiling beneath the seats was produced on a computer using Microsoft EXCEL.  The tile pattern was printed on photo paper with an inkjet printer, then glued to the floor shim.  Note the notches, needed to clear the reinforcing posts inside the carbody.  Figure 19 shows the seats inside a completed car.


Figure 20 –

For most of these cars, the AF roof details, sparse as they are, will suffice.  Bud replaced these on his LV car with modified Walthers O scale vents, no longer available.  (Keil Line makes a wide variety of O scale vents from which appropriate ones might be selected.)  Some of these cars have a hinged rectangular access hatch over the center aisle at the restroom end; others do not.  The LV cars are exceptions – they have one hatch at the non-restroom end.  The hatch is six feet long by five feet wide, and can be represented by a 1-1/8"x 15/16" rectangle of .030" styrene sheet glued to the roof, then surrounded by eight rail spikes in the locations shown in Figure 20.


Figure 21 –

Some trucks for these cars have friction bearings, while most have roller bearings.  Neither version of these trucks is commercially available, but credible ones can be bashed from readily-available trucks.  The friction-bearing trucks are best represented by starting with American Models 4-wheel heavyweight passenger trucks.  The primary difference is that the prototype trucks are cast with integral journal pedestals, whereas the American Models trucks represent bolted-on pedestals.  With a No. 11 X-acto blade and fine jeweler’s files, remove all definition of the distinction between the bolt-on journal pedestals and the truck frame.  Figure 21 shows the result.

Figure 22 –

For the roller-bearing trucks, start with American Models older streamlined trucks, the ones that came with the older full-length smooth-side streamlined passenger cars.  (AM has these in stock again.)  Grind and carve away the spring nearest the center of the sideframe from each grouping of two springs.  Also remove all the small surface appurtenances from the center of the sideframe.  See Figure 22.  Now we have to sacrifice a pair of AM 4-wheel heavyweight passenger trucks in order to get the leaf spring molding that goes in the center of each of our modified truck sideframes.  From the rear of the heavyweight sideframe, use a Dremel toothed cutter to slice through the plastic at the top and the bottom of the leaf spring molding.  Once freed, carve and file the top and bottom of the leaf spring molding sufficiently to fit between the top and bottom portions of the modified truck frame.  Then cement one leaf spring in the center of each sideframe.  Your trucks should now look like the center image in Figure 22.

Both of the AM truck types are molded in Delrin®, which is slippery and tough, but soft.  Carving Delrin® is best done by carefully shaving off successive thin chips.  Trying to remove large chunks at a time just gets the knife blade stuck in the plastic.  Filing is also difficult unless done slowly and with pressure.

Both the friction- and roller-bearing prototype trucks have combination brake cylinders/slack adjusters mounted at the top center of each side of each truck.  Train Station Products HO part No. 444, “passenger car brake cylinder/slack adjuster,” will do nicely here.  There is a left and a right one of these, two pair to a package.  When installed, the cylinder pistons should point to the car ends while the triangular projections on the slack adjusters point upward.  Drill a No. 67 hole at the top center of the sideframe, put a tiny drop of super glue over the hole, and push the cylinder’s mounting pin into the hole.  The bottom image in Figure 22 shows the roller bearing truck with these cylinders attached.


A full view of one of Vic Roseman’s skirtless New Haven cars appears in Figure 12.  Figure 19 shows a complete view of the New Haven car I built some 40 years ago, upgraded according to some of the suggestions in this article.  It now sports flush window panes, seats, and the correct trucks.  The diaphragms are old MHP products, no longer manufactured, with one corrugation removed from each diaphragm.  Bud’s LV car (Figure 10) also has modified MHP diaphragms.  Each of these models was built using techniques described in this article.  We hope we’ve inspired you to try them yourself!

Volume 3 No. 2, CNR Montreal Locomotive Works FPA-2 #6706

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 3 No. 2, August 11, 2014

Canadian National Railway
Montreal Locomotive Works
FPA-2 #6706
(Road Class MPA-16a)

by Dick Karnes

The Prototype

In 1955, under license from the American Locomotive Company (Alco), Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) built six FPA-2 diesel locomotives and six matching FPB-2 units for hauling CNR passenger trains. These locomotives were essentially FA-2 diesels with the addition of a steam generator. The Canadian units also had features for cold-weather operation, most obviously winterization hatches.

Ditch lights were added later; the units did not have these when built. (See black-and-white MLW builder’s photos). I modeled the as-built configuration, as my layout is circa 1955. The paint job is also per the original, with green handrails and black kickplates. (Note the differences between the builder’s photos [B&W] and the later color photo.)

The Model

The loco started out as a lot of “stuff,” primarily a powered AM FP-7 chassis, an American Models Alco FA shell from a swap meet that some inexperienced modeler had severely damaged while trying to add a second headlight opening, and a bag of SouthWind Alco FA/FB detailing parts.

I referred quite often to James Whatley’s article on converting an HO FA-2 to a CNR FPA-4 in the January 2013 Railroad Model Craftsman. I relied heavily on this article for suggestions on how and what to do to create my loco. A chat with Andy Malette confirmed that the rear features and color of the FPA-2 and FPA-4 were identical.

Superstructure (see unpainted model photos)

I did a lot of work on the carbody. The unpainted model photos pretty much highlight what I did. All the brass parts were from the SouthWind FA/FB detailing kit. Handrails above the coupler lift bars, and the lift bars themselves, are formed from .020″ steel wire. The cab awning is a piece of styrene sheet. The stainless-steel Farr Grilles are a Des Plaines Hobbies product, intended for EMD units. I narrowed them with a coarse bastard file in order to fit the FPA-2 grille areas.

I filled in the rear of the pilot (on both sides) with .060″ styrene to achieve the correct prototype contour. I also filled in the second headlight hole in the nose with .060″ styrene and faired it in with Squadron Green plastic body filler. You can see more of the green stuff used to repair dings on other parts of the carbody.

The winterization hatch as well as the flat platform “thingy” were built up of layers of styrene sheet, files, sanded, and filled to achieve the correct contours according to the RMC article. The larger of the two vents over the train heat boiler (rear of roof) is an O scale trolley car pole retriever. The smaller vent is an S scale coach lavatory vent. The grab at the left rear of the roof is another piece of formed .020″ steel wire.

Lift rings and wipers are from the SouthWind FA/FB detailing kit. The diaphragm striker plate and the modified horn cluster are from an Overland E-unit parts pack. With the exception of the Pacific Rail Shops ladder, the rest of the rear-end details are from the SouthWind FA/FB detailing kit.

The front coupler in the unfinished photos, a San Juan Car Co. “Evolution” coupler, was replaced after painting. Both couplers are now Kadee #808s.

Chassis (see unpainted model photos)

I replaced the AM Blomberg sideframes with SouthWind AAR Type B sideframes built from parts in the SouthWind FA/FB detailing kit. The fuel tank is built up of styrene sheet overlaid on the AM chassis’s underfloor fuel tank. The various bolts and clean-out plugs are from the SouthWind FA/FB detailing kit. The fuel level indicator on the left side of the tank was made from a brass relief valve from a SouthWind A-B brake set plus a length of brass wire. The fuel pipes on the front left of the tank are simply formed brass rod. The side steps are from the original FA carbody shell.


I used the color prototype photo as a guide for painting and lettering. All paint is Scale Coat, airbrushed. The first coat is CNR yellow, no longer available in the US. I sent the completed body shell to Andy Malette, who sprayed the entire carbody with the correct CNR yellow. When I got it back, the masking began. Next came CNR green, which I had, thanks to the NASG’s CNR Pullman Car remediation program of some years ago. I masked the yellow, including the striping, and oversprayed the green.
Then I masked again for the black, including the thin one-inch black stripes that divide the green from the yellow along the bottom of the carbody.

After peeling off the masking tape and letting the paint cure for a week, I began decaling. I had a lot of striping left over from the NASG remediation program, so I used the stripes of yellow bordered with black to finish the black stripe wherever yellow meets green. Curves in the stripes were achieved by repeated applications of decal solvent accompanied with teasing the stripe segments with a No. 11 X-acto blade. Some of the black striping done by masking was rather ragged, so the decal stripes were overlaid on these to clean up the look. The sharpest curves were not outlined with these leftover passenger-car stripes (but see next paragraph).

The lettering and herald came from a Black Cat decal set for CNR diesel units. Also, portions of the black “O” in “National” were cut and fitted to the sharply curved color boundaries.
Finally, the handrails were all repainted by hand with CNR green, per the color prototype photo. A cardstock mask behind each handrail served to protect the carbody color from paintbrush mishaps. Then the entire body shell was given an overspray of Floquil “Flat Finish.”

Clear plastic windows, lenses, and number board decals were applied last; the number boards were then hand-brushed with clear nail polish.

The chassis was next. I masked the couplers as well as everything above the floor, then painted the entire chassis with a spray can of Floquil Grimy Black. Then I removed the truck cover plate/sideframe assemblies, separately painted the wheels, and cleaned the treads with lacquer thinner.

Parts Breakdown

Scratchbuilt Parts:
Fuel Tank
Big square thing on roof
Winterization hatch
Cab awnings
Various hand grabs
Front coupler lift bars
Stock Commercial Parts:
Truck sideframes (kit)
Door handles
Rear handgrabs
Cooling coils
Back-up light fixture
Fuel tank cleanout plugs
Rear coupler lift bars and hangers
Roof lift rings (“U”s)
Rear end lift rings
Flag stanchions
Bolt heads
Fuel tank clean-out plugs
Windshield wipers
Lav vent
Hose cocks and gladhands
Overland diaphragm striker plate
Kadee #808 couplers
American Models clear plastic sprue (windows etc.)
Pacific Rail Shops ladder
MV lenses (back-up light, classification lights)
Black Cat decals
Clouser trolley pole retriever
NCE DCC decoder
Modified Commercial Parts:
Overland horn cluster
BTS relief valve
Des Plaines Farr grilles
American Models:
Powered FP-7 chassis
Carbody molding
ACC (super glue)
Brass rod
Squadron Green plastic body filler
Sheet styrene
Liquid plastic cement
Steel music wire
Electrical wire
Wire insulation (for hoses)

Volume 2 No. 4, American Models 4-6-2 Conversion

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 2 No. 4, July 31, 2013

American Models 4-6-2 Converted
to a Southern Pacific P-10

by Bob Hogan

Photos by the Author except as noted

The arrival of American Models’ new Pacific was greeted with great enthusiasm.  For most people, just the production of the first new S scale steam locomotive in a generation was enough to get excited about.

However, for those of us who have been superdetailing American Models’ Geep and FP-7 diesels over the years saw even greater kitbashing opportunities with the new Pacific model.  I knew I had to have one of these fine running locomotives, but as a modeler of western railroading, I was not certain how best to modify the Pacific for my favorite prototype.  The answer came with the July 1997 issue of Mainline Modeler, which had an article on the Southern Pacific P-10 Class Pacifics complete with 3/16″ scale plans.

Modeled after USRA Pacific

The American Models 4-6-2 is modeled after the USRA heavy Pacific.  Their B&O version is intended to approximate the P-7 “President” series, numbers 5300-5319, delivered in 1927 by Baldwin.  Jeff Madden did a fine job of discussing the history of these B&O engines in the December 1997 NASG Dispatch.  The article includes plans for both the “as-built” and “as-modified in 1930” versions.  Jeff’s article should be sufficient to motivate any B&O modeler to try modifying the engine to any of several specific prototype locomotives.  Most of these projects require only minor changes involving adding castings and minor detail revisions to produce a specific engine.

This project covers the process of making major modifications to the American Models Pacific to create a reasonable model of the Southern Pacific P-10.  I selected the Southern Railway version of the AM 4-6-2 as a starting point because it came with the six-wheel tender trucks needed for the SP conversion.  I must confess it took considerable courage to begin the disassembly of the good-looking stock model.

Once begun, however, the process was far easer than I imagined, and the results were worth the effort.

I closely followed the photos and excellent plans by Al Armitage in the Mainline Modeler article.  The overall dimensions and boiler/cab shapes were very close to the Espee locomotive.  By using a combination of S and HO scale castings, I was able to produce a good approximation of the prototype P-10.  The same methods I used for the Southern Pacific P-10 modifications can be used to convert the American Models 4-6-2 into prototypes for most roads using locomotives based on the USRA heavy Pacific.

The History

Southern Pacific’s P-10s were the last new 4-6-2s received by the Pacific Lines of Espee.  They were the direct descendents of the highly successful P-8 Class (#2461-2475).  A total of 14 P-10s were delivered by Baldwin in October 1923 #2478-2483) and April 1924 (#2484-2491).  Like the P-8s, the P-10 class engines were designed to provide power for Southern Pacific’s long haul name passenger trains like the Overland Limited, Pacific Limited and Fast Mail.  They were able to make the 536-mile run between Salt Lake City and Sparks, Nevada without the customary engine change at Carlin.  They were able to do this hauling 11 heavyweight cars (weighing 875 tons) over a 1.5% grade, eliminating the many helper districts on the Overland Route.

The new P-10s were nearly identical to the successful P-8 class.  They weighed 300,000 lbs.  Eight of these locomotives eventually received the Espee “skyline” casing, inspired by the GS Class “Daylight” 4-8-4s.  Three (#2484, 2485, 2486) were rebuilt, streamlined and painted in Daylight colors for service on the new “San Joaquin Daylight” in 1941.  Like all steam locomotives, each P-10 developed its own identity as various modifications were made over the years, including the removal of air tanks and the Delta booster engines and the addition of air horns for commute service.

As the larger Mountain and Daylight locomotives took over the name trains in the late 1930s, the P-10s were relegated to secondary passenger and freight service.  They worked right up to the end of steam on the Espee, sprinting Harriman suburban cars in commute service between San Francisco and San Jose on weekdays and racing long freights up and down the California central valley on weekends.

The first of the P-10s to be scrapped was #2478 in January 1954.  The last was cut up in Los Angeles, #2487, in July 1959 … nearly three years after the Espee dropped the last fires of regular steam service.  One P-10 (#2479) was saved for display along with two P-8s.  The #2479 has been on static display for many years at the San Jose fairgrounds.  One of the P-8s (#2472) has been restored to active steam service after many years of display in San Mateo and is currently stored and operated for special events on the Niles Canyon Railway at Sunol, CA.  The second (#2467) was restored to operation for Rail Fair at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, CA by the Pacific Locomotive Association.  It is currently out of service and displayed inside the roundhouse at the museum after suffering a blown cylinder head.  The #2479, like its older sisters, is now also receiving serious restoration efforts with the hope that it too may steam again.

The Conversion


The most difficult step in the entire project was the first:  Beginning the process of cutting away all of the detail from the stock boiler casting.  I used a motor tool with several; cutting bits to remove all of the detail from the boiler shell, including the two domes, stack, running boards, piping, tanks and power reverse.  When this task was accomplished, I spent several hours filing the boiler smooth with both a large flat file and smaller jeweler’s files.  The cavity created by removing the sand dome was filled with Squadron Green putty, as were all handrail and marker light holes.

Once the boiler shell was smooth, the re-assembly process could begin.  This was the fun part!  The difficult part of this process was the measuring and cutting of the new running boards from sheet brass.  I began by making cardstock patterns to ensure the running boards would match the contours of the boiler.  The motor tool with a cutting disc was then used to make the rough cut in the brass stock.  I then filed these pieces to achieve a tight final fit.  Brass wire pins were soldered to the finished running boards to fasten them on the boiler.  Holes were drilled in the boiler shell for the running boards and the wire pins on the running boards were inserted into these holes.  The completed assembly was glued in place with ACC (cyanoacrylate cement).  This method has proven to be very strong and has held up well with prolonged use.

Next I formed and soldered brass wire to brass strapping material to create the sets of air piping for both sides of the locomotive.  The brass strapping supports were then soldered to the undersides of the new running boards.  The larger replacement castings were added next, including the stack, domes, injector, lubricator and turret.  Boiler bands were constructed from .10 x 1/16″ styrene strip and added to the boiler with ACC.

Boiler side detail was added by applying the three air tanks, air pump, feedwater heater and power reverse with ACC.  Cast piping for the feedwater system, injector, check valve and booster engine piping was soldered to the appropriate brass castings, pinned with brass wire and ACC where required.  Lastly, the smaller details were ACC’d to the boiler including washout plugs, blowdowns, boiler steps, sander valves/piping, regulators, stanchions/handrails, indicator boards, marker lamps, five chime whistle and bell.


The large switch inside the cab was removed, along with the factory plug system.  This allowed me to add a styrene firebox extender to cover the flywheel and provide a platform onto which I could add the appropriate cab detail.  I used Cal-Scale HO castings for the throttle, air brake stand, oil valve, reverse quadrant and gages.  Actual glass windows and Arttista figures were added after painting.

Pilot and Running Gear

The PBL Sunbeam headlight was cut from its base and remounted on a River Raisin headlight bracket.  This assembly was then ACC’d to the boiler front along with the new stanchions and hand rails.

A full width step assembly was constructed from styrene and ACC’d to the pilot platform along with air and steam lines.  Handrail stanchions and brass wire were used to construct the coupler lift bar and this was added, together with a Kadee #5 coupler, to the pilot.  River Raisin makes a complete brass pilot assembly using the Espee’s unique pressed-pilot and this assembly has now been installed on my P-10.

The crosshead was modified to resemble the correct Walschaert valve gear and a lower crosshead guide added to complete the illusion.  Precision plastic locomotive brake hangers and shoes were added to the back two sets of drivers and a brake shoe assembly was fabricated using brass wire and Precision plastic brake shoes to the pilot truck.


The prototype P-10s carried large four-hatch Vanderbilt tenders.  Having no desire to fabricate one of these complicated monsters from scratch, I obtained a four-hatch C-100 tender from SouthWind Models and equipped with the six-wheel trucks from the original American Models tender.  The still larger C-120 tender was imported in brass by River Raisin and is also an appropriate tender for the P-10.

Because I use a PFM sound system, I removed the American Models chuff and smoke feature from my model.  The tender was then rewired with a new connector plug to replace the original oversize switch and plug arrangement.

The Finished Model

The locomotive was airbrushed with Accu-Paint black and weathered with various Floquil colors to resemble an engine after moderate use.  Numbered 2484, the model is intended to represent the prototype during 1940 when it was equipped with a working Delta booster truck and feedwater system (prior to streamlining).  The resulting model provides the unique image of the prototype Southern Pacific P-10, yet retains the fine running qualities of the original American Models Pacific.  I hope this conversion example provides an incentive for others to try their hand at creating their favorite USRA-style heavy Pacific, be it the easier B&O super detailing project (see Brooks Stover’s article elsewhere on this website) or a major conversion to something like Union Pacific’s massive 2900 or 3100 Pacifics.

On The Layout

About the photos…

All the model photos were taken by the author.  They represent the various stages of construction described in the text, as well as the finished model.  The prototype photos were, we think, taken by William Raia.

The model photos show a shorter-than-prototype three-hatch tender that has since been replaced by the proper four-hatch tender from SouthWind Models, refitted with the same American Models trucks described in the text.

Plans courtesy of Mainline Modeler magazine.

Bill of Materials

1 PBL-004 Five chime whistle
1 PBL-017 Pop valve cluster
1 PBL-49 Westinghouse cross compound airpump
2 PBL-62 Handrail stanchions (8″)
3 PBL-63 Handrail stanchions (6″)
1 PBL-075 Pyle generator
1 PBL-82 Westinghouse triple valve
1 PBL-84 Westinghouse air pump governor
1 PBL-87 Boiler steps, top brackets
1 PBL-88 Boiler step
1 PBL-100 Bullseye lubricator
1 PBL-101 Nathan injectors
1 PBL-105 Sander valves
1 PBL-148 Equalizing tank
1 PBL-153 Smokestack
1 PBL-173 Sunbeam headlight
1 PBL-423 Bell with bracket
1 PBL K-36 Steam dome
1 PBL K-36 Sand dome
1 PBL Power reverse
1 BTS-3008 Marker lamps
2 Cal-Scale 190-451 Water tanks
1 Cal-Scale BO-308 Blow off cocks/plugs
1 Cal-Scale HL-741 Headlight bracket
1 Cal-Scale BH-367 Air brake stand
1 Cal-Scale BH-370 Throttle
1 Cal-Scale BH-372 Gauge assortment
1 Cal-Scale BH-373 Reverse quadrant
1 Cary CV-132 Boiler check valves
2 Cary SP-104 Booster steam pipes
2 Cary SP-192 Booster steam pipes
1 Cary SP-214 Steam pipes
1 Cary SP-222 Steam pipes
1 Cary SP-237 Elesco water pipes
1 Precision Scale 3-1106 Steam turret
1 Precision Scale HO-0337 Worthington feedwater pump
1 Precision Scale HO-3390 Injector plumbing
1 Precision Scale S Washout plugs
1 Precision Scale S Train indicator boards
1 Precision Scale HO Brake hanger with shoes
2 MV Products L-230 Headlight lenses
1 Arttista 701 Engineer
1 Arttista 702 Fireman

Volume 1 No. 11, Converting the American Models GP-9 to a GP-7

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 11, May 21, 2012

Converting the American Models GP-9 to a GP-7

by Robert Frascella

The American Models GP-9 is a fine starting point toward creating a very nice GP-7. Historically the GP-7 predated the GP-9 with the first production models introduced in 1949. Aside from EMD’s less popular BL-1 and BL-2 models it was the manufacturer’s first successful road switcher with 2,729 units produced and originally purchased by more than 50 railroads.

For the S Scale modeler interested in modeling the GP-7 few options exist. American Flyer produced a GP-7, but converting this particular model to scale would be a significant challenge because the only usable feature would be the body shell and the shell itself is a crude representation of the EMD car body. Sunset Models imported an S Scale brass version in the 1980s. Outwardly the models were quite nice but those modelers that purchased the units have complained about mechanical problems.

By contrast, the American Models GP-9 is a relatively smooth running locomotive that has for the most part been accurately modeled in S Scale. So it would be only natural that their GP-9 would make a fine starting point for modeling the GP-7. In addition, a few years ago Des Plaines Hobbies produced a GP-7 long hood specifically intended to convert the American Models (AM) GP-9 in to an accurate GP-7. I purchased the long hood and related parts a few years ago and decided to give it a try recently.

The Prototype

The prototype for my GP-7 conversion is PRR 8551, which was a very unique version of EMD’s first road switcher. The Pennsylvania Railroad purchased 66 GP-7s and only three were ordered with roof mounted air tanks. PRR nos. 8551, 8552 and 8553 were passenger units equipped with steam boilers and the space in front of the fuel tank, where the air tanks would normally be mounted, was occupied by a cab signal equipment box. Of the thousands of hood units order by the Pennsy, only these three have roof-mounted air tanks. I model the PRR’s Elmira Branch in the mid-1950s and 8551 and sister unit 8552 were frequent visitors on the branch. They mostly handled freight assignments when they weren’t handling the remnant of passenger service from Canandaigua to Williamsport.

The Model

The techniques that I’ve use for building the GP-7 can be applied to any prototype and thanks to suppliers such as Des Plaines Hobbies (DPH) and Bill’s Train Shop (BTS) just about any version of the GP-7 can be modeled in S Scale. I’ve included a parts list at the end of this article, but the most important item that you’ll need is the GP-7 long hood conversion kit from DPH. This is a beautifully reproduced plastic casting that is designed to replace the AM GP-9 long hood. You could also purchase the DPH short hood as well, but there is really nothing wrong with the AM short hood. I chose to replace mine with the DPH version because I like the detail of the hood doors which were flush like the prototype instead of the raised door panels on the AM version.

The DPH GP-7 long hood represents a Phase I GP-7 car body with 86” high engine access doors. There are subtle differences in the door height arrangement in the various phases. Chances are that if you’re building one of the later phase units no one would notice difference in door heights particularly on a non-dynamic brake unit. The real PRR 8551 is actually a Phase III GP-7.

An excellent article along with plans for the EMD GP-7 appears in the October 1982 issue of Mainline Modeler (long out-of-print but back issues can be found on-line). The plans are drawn in 3/16ths in scale and are accurately drawn.

The first order of business is removing the long hood from the GP-9 body shell (and the short hood if you go that route). This is where an extreme amount of care needs to be exercised because you don’t want to mar the surface of the portion of the Geep body that must remain. Before making any cuts remove the cab body section and completely cover all walkway surfaces with masking tape. I cut the long hood from the GP-9 with an X-acto™ no. 13 micro saw blade in an X-acto™ knife holder and made the cut flush with the top surface of the walkway. The DPH hood is designed to sit on top of the walkway so after making the cut sand any remnants of the old hood flush with the walkway tops. Pay particular attention as to how the DPH shell fits around the raised portions of the walkway as additional vertical cuts are needed in those areas to properly seat the new long hood.

Once the new long hood is in place the remainder of the details can be installed. Regardless of which version of the GP-7 you build, the roof top cooling fans need to be installed. All GP-7s had four cooling fans – two above the rear radiator section and two above the generator area. These are available from BTS, or alternately, you can use HO cooling fans from Details West. As it turns out, 48”dia. HO fans are very close to 36” dia. fans in S Scale. The conversion kit does not include exhaust stacks, but brass stack castings are also available from BTS. I added lift rings using Northeastern Models eye pins which are a bit oversized but they look much better than the HO equivalent. On my version of the GP-7 I installed the roof mounted air tanks, Pennsy antenna wire conduits, steam generator details, and a three chime air horn. If you’re modeling a dynamic brake version of the GP-7 you can use the AM GP-9 dynamic brake components without modification, otherwise your roof details are complete.

One thing lacking from the DPH long hood components is the raised marker light assembly. I fabricated mine from a piece of 1/8”- O.D Evergreen plastic tubing cut on an angle and glued in place. I then filled in with putty adjacent to the tubing to provide a smooth taper to the car body. I chose not to illuminate the number boards so I mounted strips of 0.02” styrene behind the openings. This created too deep a recess and I then added another piece of 0.02” styrene to fill the recess and bring the number board surface closer to the face of the car body. DPH produces a set of air intake screens that mount on the sides of the long hood below the cooling fans. The AM intakes will work fine but the DPH screens are see through and have much nicer detail. I also added grab irons fabricated from 0.015” dia. brass wire to the ends of both hoods. The DPH hood ends are pre-drilled to ease the installation of the grab irons. To complete the long hood I added a BTS lever-type hand brake casting.

One important detail that distinguishes the GP-7 from the GP-9 is the set of louvers located on the battery box door below the cab window. All GP-7s had these louvers while the GP-9 did not. Fortunately, plastic louvers are available from DPH. They come on an injected molded sheet and must be cut out individually. They are very thin in cross-section but I chose to make them even thinner by sanding the back side of each louver until they resulting thickness was about 0.005” thick. Even with that, the edge of the louver material is still visible, but the end result is certainly not objectionable.

The prototype GP-7 was offered with two different fuel tank options. A combined fuel/water tank was provided for passenger Geeps and a fuel only tank was available for freight units. The AM model featured the passenger version. The cross-section profile of the two tanks is noticeably different. The passenger tank is more rectangular in cross-section and the freight version is more rounded on the bottom. I used the AM tank which is approximately 6-scale inches too short meaning it rides too high above the rails. I extended the sides of the tank by adding 0.08” strips to compensate for the difference and added a spacer under the mounting tab. If you’re modeling the freight version, I recommend using the AM fuel tank from their GP-35. This has the correct cross-section, but may need to be shortened to the proper length.

Another area on the AM body shell that definitely needs improvement is the pilot/coupler mounting area. The AM pilot has a large opening where the coupler mounting tab from the frame protrudes through the pilot opening. This opening is extra large because the AM GP-9 is designed to accommodate the American Flyer coupler used on the hi-rail version of the model. I chose to body mount the scale couplers in lieu of using the frame mounted tabs. In order to do so, you must cut off the die cast frame extensions and build up the area behind the pilot and beneath the end platform to accept the scale coupler. The pilot opening was altered with styrene strips following the plans in Mainline Modeler in an effort narrow the opening and create a draft gear box to mount the coupler.

The GP-7 had distinctive handrails stanchions that were not used on subsequent EMD road switchers. I used the early GP-7 handrail stanchions which were originally available as brass castings from DPH, but are no longer listed on their web site. Fortunately, they are available from BTS as part no. 02066. The stanchions are very delicate but well worth the effort in completing the finished model. I used 0.015” wire for the handrails. Though the handrail stanchions are located at the same locations on both the GP-9 and the GP-7, the mounting hole on the AM GP-9 are too large for the mounting pins on the brass handrail stanchion castings. I filled the AM holes with 0.035” styrene rod and drilled new holes in the correct diameter.

Most GP-7s were ordered with multiple unit capabilities, so adding the MU cables and MU stands are a necessary feature. BTS offers different versions of the MU stands and MU hoses though most early Geeps were ordered with high MU stands. Other pilot details worth considering are drop steps at the end platforms to enable worker passage between units when MU’d together; coupler pin lift bars; pilot steps; a front grab bar, and a small section of chain spanning the end handrail opening above the drop step.

The AM GP-9 corner step wells are not accurately represented on the body casting. The tread portion of each step is too short. I chose to modify the steps so that each tread was closer to the scale dimension. To do so, I removed the riser from each step and applied a new 10” wide tread as an overlay to the old tread. For this I used a strip of 0.01” styrene and perforated each tread using a no.72 drill bit to represent the pattern on the prototype. Once these were glued in place, I added new risers made from strips of styrene.

Since I went through the effort to keep my crews safe by perforating the ends steps, it is only natural that I would want to have a non-skid surface on the walkways. To achieve this I used the new tread plate texture made specifically for S Scale Geeps by Archer Fine Transfers. The texture is applied in a manner similar to applying decals and once set resembles a metal surface with small raised dimples just like the prototype.

I painted the body shell with Scalecoat™’s PRR Brunswick Green. I didn’t prime any of the surfaces because I applied a dark color, but if you’re using a lighter color, I would definitely recommend priming all surfaces before painting. The Scalecoat™ finish creates a glossy enough surface so that decals can be applied without applying a gloss coat. I painted the window frames silver to represent the aluminum frames found on the prototype.

I have not solved the headlight lens issue yet as no commercially available clear plastic lenses are available as inserts for the dual headlight castings. Recently I found some clear plastic rod that is close to the diameter of the opening, but as of this writing I have not installed them.

I installed DCC with sound and mounted the speaker in the short hood above the gear tower. The space is rather tight, but I used a rectangular speaker with enclosure and mounted it to the gear tower support by fabricating a bracket from styrene and securing it to the tower with short 2-56 machine screws after drilling and tapping the tower support.

PRR 8551 is now ready for service for just about any assignment from hauling passengers to helper service to everything in between. Truly a General Purpose locomotive as EMD had intended.

Parts List

American Models
Undecorated GP-9

#SSA160 – GP-7 Long Hood Kit
#SSA164 – GP Short Hood Kit (optional)
#SSA123 – GP-7/9 Grills
#SSA122 – EMD GP/F/FP Louvers
# 64-45 – PRR Single Stripe Diesel Decals

#02057 – Pilot Steps
#02002 – Air Horn
#02004 – Exhaust Stacks
#02062 – Drop Steps
#02065 – MU Stands, Early
#02302 – Air Hoses, Flexible
#02015 – 36” Cap-Top Cooling Fans
#02055 – Torpedo Tube Tanks and Pipes
#02058 – Hand Brake
#02066 – Handrail Posts, Early GP
#02012 – Steam Generator

Details West
#CF-143 HO 48” Cooling Fans (alternate cooling fan source)

Archer Fine Transfers
GP-7/9 deck tread plate transfers

Northeastern Scale Models
Eye Pins

Various sizes of Evergreen Styrene, brass wire, plastic cement and paint

Volume 1 No. 8, Modeling Cut Bars

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 1 No. 8, April 4, 2012

S Scale Uncoupling Bars
Locomotives and Freight Cars

by Edwin Kirstatter


Commonly called “cut bars” by railroaders, uncoupling levers are not included in most S scale kits and some ready-to-run models. Many brass cars include them, although sometimes they must be attached by the modeler. For our cars, we often have to make our own.

There are two basic types: top- operated and bottom-operated. Older couplers were uncoupled by pulling the locking pin up. The newer types use a rotary motion, below the coupler body, to lift the locking device. Additionally, there are several variations within the top-operated type.

Making cut bars really isn’t very hard; here’s how I do it.


To build these bars I use .016″ (26 gage) brass wire. The wire I use comes on a spool and needs to be straightened. It’s very hard and breaks easily when making 90 degree bends, so I anneal the wire to make it soft. A match will do the job, although a small torch or cigarette lighter will work better. Be careful, since too much heat will melt this small wire. Straight wire of half hard brass, phosphor bronze or iron would work better. Music wire will also work, but your bends must be right the first time, as you cannot straighten it without breaking. Tichy Train Group has .015″ phosphor bronze straight wire that works very nicely.

Bottom-Operating Cut Bars

The bottom-operating type is the easest to make, as it only requires one pivot point near the left edge of the car below the poling pocket or where it would have been. First, if there is no place on your model to mount that outer pivot, you need to add a mounting plate made from plastic or metal. Drill a hole in it for the eye bolt and cement or solder in place. Now you can make a bar from .016″ wire. Bend a loop in the end of the wire to fit around one of the Kadee coupler box mounting screws. Then bend the wire toward the trip pin and finally to the left and upward at an angle going toward the eye bolt. Fish the wire through the eye bolt and secure the looped end with one of the mounting screws. Bend the brakeman’s handle down and cut off at 15 scale inches.

Top-Operating Cut Bars

To make the top-operating bar for the “A end” (the car end opposite the brakewheel end), start by bending a small loop at the end of a piece of wire. This simulates where a link, which would have gone down to a prototype coupler’s lifting pin, would be attached. The link will not be represented, as we can’t operate Kadees using these. Now, measure the distance from your coupler’s knuckle pivot pin back to the end of the car. Using this dimension, make a 90 degree bend to the left, keeping your loop horizontal. Now measure from coupler center to the near left edge of the car. If your model has a poling pocket, you will measure to just inside of it. With this dimension, bend your wire down 90 degrees. This will form the handle the brakeman grabs to lift the bar and uncouple the car. Reference the illustrations and prototype photographs included with this article to further understand these bends. Cut the wire off a scale 15″ below the bend. You have now formed your cut bar.

You need two pivot points for this bar, one at each end. For these I use Detail Associates #2206 HO Eye Bolts, or lift rings as they are sometimes called. Mark the car end and drill for these. One will be in the center of the car end just above the end sill. The other will be at the left edge where the bar drops down. String the two eyebolts onto the bar; then press their shanks into the holes you drilled. The shanks of the Eye Bolts are slightly smaller than a #80 drill. Cement them in place with Super Glue, Pliobond or Walthers Goo. You have now completed the A end of the car.

The cut bar on the “B end,” or brake wheel end, is a little different. At the B end, the uncoupling bar passes over or around the handbrake staff. You will have to make a little bulge in the bar at this place to clear the brake staff.

Carmer Coupler Lifting Levers

There is another type of top-operated uncoupling bar called a Carmer coupler lifting lever. You will find these on many older cars and especially on the Pennsylvania Railroad. This type has a pivot at about the mid point from car side to coupler. The Carmer coupler lifting lever requires the brakeman to push down rather than lift up. This lever is more difficult to make. I cut the basic shape from .015″ sheet brass. Standard Railway Supply made an etched brass version that is usable and may still be found.

Steam Locomotive Cut Bars

The cut levers used on steam locomotives and diesels are different from those used on cars and the levers used on diesel locomotives differ from those on steamers. The steam loco type, used on both the engine and the tender buffer beam, is a long bar going from one side to the other supported by four cast stanchions, one at each end and two in the middle. The cut bar could be lifted from either side but the brakeman had to lift the whole thing. These cut levers were heavy. Make them from .025″ wire.

Diesel Locomotive Cut Bars

The Diesel locomotive type can also be lifted from either side; however, it differs in that the brakeman is only lifting half of the lever. An independent loop in the center, on which the lifting links slide, is lifted by either side’s lifting lever. Four mounting rings are required to support these three separate pieces. I make them from .020″ brass wire.

Since the original publication of this article, S Scale modeler Pieter Roos submitted additional examples of cut bars on S Scale rolling stock. His examples can be viewed in the gallery below. –editor