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. 6, New York, Westchester & Boston

The S Scale Journal

The Online Journal of the S Scale SIG
Volume 2 No. 6, October 30, 2013

New York, Westchester & Boston

by Dick Karnesphotos by the author

First published in the July 2012 Railroad Model Craftsman. The S Scale SIG would like to thank Carstens Publishing Co. for generously allowing this reprint and supporting the S Scale community.

Givens And Druthers

The late John Armstrong is my layout-planning guru. I have read and re-read his “Layout Planning for Realistic Operation,” and I have taken his methods to heart. I particularly like his “givens and druthers” approach, in which you write down your “must haves” (givens) and “like to haves” (druthers). My givens and druthers were as follows:


  • Heavy electrics
  • Car float
  • 1955 era
  • Passenger operations (MU, local, express, milk)
  • NH, NYC trackage rights


  • Design for operation
  • Lots of hidden staging
  • Point-to-point
  • Optional continuous running
  • Stub-end terminal
  • Freight yard

Heavy Electrics and passenger equipment can be a problem in S, my chosen scale. The only commercial electric locomotives are the ready-to run American Models PRR GG1 and a New Zealand 3.5-foot gauge boxcab kit. Therefore, my electrics are a rather eclectic combination of kit-bashed and scratch-built. Most of my electric loco bodies were bashed from components like American Flyer caboose bodies and resectioned AF Alco PA shells. Some sit atop modified diesel chassis; other chassis are scratch-built. Most steamers are brass imports, but a few have been scratch-built of brass and detailed with S scale brass castings. A few more are “interesting” combinations of AF, Rex, imported brass, and scratch-built components. For our older readers, think Bill Schopp, frequent author of brass-bashed locos in 1950-60 era RMCs.

Ready-to-run S scale passenger equipment is currently limited to American Models 75-foot heavyweights and Budd Empire State Express shorties. The Supply Car offers a large variety of full-length streamlined Pullman and Budd kits. There have never been any MU cars offered. But I have been fortunate over the decades to acquire equipment as it was available. Mine includes 1950-era Super Scale heavyweights, a Dayton Models NYC gas-electric from the same era, plastic heavyweight and streamlined Pullmans from American Models, brass heavyweights from SouthWind Models, and a fleet of MU cars bashed from American Models and American Flyer passenger cars with Black Beetle power trucks. My freight-car fleet’s lineage is similarly varied.

I have a 12-foot by 46-foot space for the layout with two closet doors at one end and a wall with doorway separating the space roughly in half. There were no obstructions (wash tubs, furnaces, etc.). I didn’t want the complication of double-decking, so I was willing to sacrifice some mainline route-miles. I knew I wanted a stub-end terminal, a wye for reversing specific equipment, and no reversing loops per se. I also wanted a single hidden staging yard that could ingest and disgorge trains, and I wanted the visible portion of the layout to support interesting point-to-point operation. Alas, I had to give up the idea of a single staging yard with multiple entrances and exits because the resulting hidden turnouts and crossings were just too complex. Instead, I settled for two separate four-track staging yards. Also, given the size of my space and my desire for broad curves, I had to give up any notion of even an abbreviated engine terminal, so I opted to model only minimal servicing facilities—water column, ash pit, sand tower, and two ready tracks.

I dreamed up a layout schematic that involved two primary routes – a single-track line that crosses a double-track line. These two lines would join, share common trackage and a station through one town, then diverge, creating an “X”-shaped configuration overall. The double-track line would have catenary and the single-track line would not. Then I put my mind to adapting a prototype concept that fit my favorite area of America – Upstate New York and western New England.

New York, Westchester & Boston Gallery


I had always been fascinated by what might have been, had the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway, a heavy-electric road, actually met its goal of connecting New York City and Boston. The NYW&B, what there was of it when the New Haven bought it in the 1920s, was built to incredibly up-to-date standards for really heavy traffic demand. It’s anybody’s guess what it could have evolved into, but I decided to give it an alternate, successful history. I chose to model the NYW&B circa 1955. The real NYW&B was mostly dismantled by the New Haven; the remainder was incorporated into various New Haven routes. In my alternate history, the NYW&B was never bought out, but thrived. As a result, the New Haven is confined to the Long Island Sound and Atlantic coast, and the New York Central’s Boston & Albany division trackage terminates eastbound at Springfield, Massachusetts. The NYW&B has three divisions: 1.) The double-track electrified New Haven & Northern division from New Haven, Connecticut via Troy, New York, to Montreal; 2.) The New York & North Eastern division from New York City to Boston via Springfield; 3.) The Westchester Connecting Line from the Brooklyn waterfront to the NY&NE in Westchester County.

The New York Central has trackage rights over the NYW&B between Springfield and Boston, as does the New Haven from New Haven to Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut, where the NYW&B’s NH&N and NY&NE divisions cross each other. In addition, the NYW&B has trackage rights on the NYC from Troy to Springfield. New Haven and CNR passenger cars provide through service on New Haven-Troy-Montreal trains.

This concept gives me a rationale to host electric, steam, and diesel power. The NYW&B runs anthracite steam (camelbacks only) and electrics. The single-tracked NY&NE runs steam only, and the double-tracked NH&N nominally runs electric only. Exceptions are a lone boxcab diesel at the Port Hudson float yard, and the way freight that’s headed by a steam loco because it switches some industries beyond the wires. Additionally, the NYC from Troy to Springfield is electrified in order to power NYW&B trains between Troy and Boston.

The NYC and New Haven run whatever they want – NYC steam and diesels, and New Haven diesels and electrics.

Modeled Portion

I model the “X” configuration centered on Cornwall Bridge (CB), which hosts a through passenger station, a stub-end commuter terminal for MU cars, and the line’s motor shop for electric loco repairs.

Common trackage of the NH&N and NY&NE divisions runs from South Cornwall Junction (SC) to Springfield Junction (SJ). The road’s home office is located at SJ, where the lines to Montreal and Springfield diverge. Beyond these points each division is separate, and each terminates in its own staging yard. Troy Union Station serves passenger trains of the NYC, NH, CNR, and of course the NYW&B. There is also a freight yard at Troy as well as the minimal loco facilities mentioned before. A branch line to Port Hudson serves a float yard and barge operation on the Hudson River. There’s also a branch line from Cornwall Bridge to South Cornwall that serves several industries including a bulk fuel depot and a whey-processing plant.


These days, S scale standard-gauge trackage products are plentiful. We have vendors who provide flextrack in various rail heights, nos. 6 and 8 turnouts, and made-to-order items like crossings, three-ways, and slip switches. That said, trackwork is my favorite thing, so I have hand-built some 67 turnouts, five crossings, one double-slip switch, and nearly all the visible track. I have used commercial trackage only on the farthest tracks from view and in tunnels.

Although I am somewhat saddened that I have no more track to lay, I am still getting a kick out of completing my catenary. I get my catenary spans, column bases, and rain caps from Model Memories, and I scratchbuild my catenary bridges from old .172 steel rail. It’s always a challenge to fit catenary properly over complex trackwork, but I really enjoy puzzles, so this doesn’t bother me. At this point in time my catenary is about 80 percent complete. You can get a detailed look at how I build my catenary in the NMRA’s March 2009 issue of “Scale Rails” magazine (“Juice for Your Juice Jacks”).

Control System

When I began building this layout, I knew I wanted walk-around control. I had experimented with wireless CTC-16 on my previous layout, but abandoned it because it was prone to cross-channel interference. This time I opted for Aristo-Craft’s “Basic Train Engineer,” a wireless system that controls the track, not the trains. At the time, transmitter-receiver sets were available in four different frequencies, so I used two frequencies to control each of the two tracks on my double-track main line. I installed power routing all over the place, through the auxiliary contacts on my switch machines. This allowed the power to follow the train through whichever off-main route I chose. Troy Terminal, the float yard, the South Cornwall branch, and the NY&NE were separately controlled.

This all worked great, at first. But as I added and activated more trackage and route alternatives, operation required the addition of several selector switches. I discovered that if I didn’t operate my railroad at least a few times a week, I would forget how! Ergo, it was time to bite the bullet and convert to DCC.

I plunked down major $$ for a wireless NCE DCC system, including a power supply, command station, five handheld controllers and two antennae. I also purchased an array of secondary equipment like locomotive decoders, auto-reversers, and power-district controllers. But I never could have pulled the conversion off without the help of Roger Nulton. We had to undo all the power-routing wiring, install four power buses, and hundreds of feeder drops. We had to connect everything up with power on so as to monitor for potential short circuits, easily caused by connecting feeders to the wrong bus wire. When we were finished, I had two large boxes full of scrap wire.

But I have never looked back. I love it!

Milk Runs

I designed my NYW&B for operation, and it has lived up to that goal. It supports way freights, local passenger trains, interchange via two staging yards as well as a car float operation, and arrival and departure of long-distance freight and passenger trains. For open houses, the layout also supports continuous running with a choice of eight different trains.

A relatively complex set of operations centers on the dairy industry, which was still strongly rail-oriented in the Northeast in the mid-1950s. The southbound local passenger train stops at several milk platforms along the right-of-way where dairy farmers leave cans of raw milk. There are three such platforms actually on the layout, at Springfield Junction, North Cornwall, and South Cornwall. The cans are loaded into the train’s railway-owned milk reefer. At Putnam Hills, the milk reefer is dropped off at the Quaker Hills Creamery for processing. While there, the local picks up a dairy-company milk reefer filled with yesterday’s bottles of pasteurized milk and cream for retail trade distributors in New York City.

Later on, the northbound local stops at the creamery, drops off an empty dairy-company reefer, and picks up the railway-owned milk reefer, which is now loaded with empty cans to take back to the milk platforms along the route.

The way freight always picks up empty freshly-iced reefers at Thompson Ice. One is dropped at the creamery for loading cheese and ice cream. Another reefer, loaded with whey, is picked up at the creamery and trundled off to the Federal Whey plant at the end of the South Cornwall branch. While there, one or two reefers loaded with whey-based products are picked up. In other words, a single produce-laden reefer in a through freight from Boston can arrive at Troy Yard, be taken in a way freight to Ilzeb Wine & Produce at North Cornwall for off-loading, then taken to Thompson Ice for re-icing, then off to the Quaker Hills Creamery at Putnam Hills for loading. If its load is dairy products, it then goes back to Troy in yet another way freight, where it is reassigned to a manifest freight to Boston or New Haven or New York City. If its load is whey, it’s taken to the Federal Whey plant for off-loading, and remains there until loaded with whey products and then taken back to Troy, then on to its destination.

King Coal

As mentioned earlier, the NYW&B’s steamers all burn anthracite coal. The anthracite, from Pennsylvania, arrives on NYW&B property via hopper cars on the Port Hudson car float. These coal loads are trundled off to Troy Yard in the twice-daily transfer freight, where two are set aside for local delivery to retailers and the rest are coupled into through freights, to be taken to coaling station sites along the routes.

Typical Operating Sessions

We run with a four-to-one fast clock, so operating sessions take around three real hours. During this time, crews will have run two local passenger trains in opposite directions, stopping at milk platforms and Quaker Hills Creamery in addition to the station stops. Meanwhile, the Port Hudson boxcab has offloaded several cars from the car float into the float yard, assembled them into a transfer freight, delivered them to Troy, and picked up a half-dozen cars to take back to Port Hudson. And then there are the two trains that the way freight has encountered on its rounds – the Grand Isle Limited, with CNR, NYC, and New Haven equipment, speeding off to New Haven; and a through freight bound from Troy to New York City.


Today’s S scale is better than ever. Despite my eclectic motive power preferences, and my lengthy history that includes being at the right place and time to acquire what I wanted, there’s a large variety of currently-available ready-to-run plastic and brass equipment, trackage products, and structure kits that make it easy to do a lot in S. There’s also a lot of stuff in people’s shelves and drawers that they’ll never get to. So it pays to develop a network for trading/selling/buying purposes. Most of what I have is based on products that are currently produced or can still be found. To this end, the photo captions highlight the sources of the items in the scenes.