Jan 082014
 
Roof line detail and right side of my HO scale GP10 project.  Most of the small detail parts have been added.  Wiring is complete.  The engine is pretty much ready for decals.

Roof line detail and right side of my HO scale GP10 project. Most of the small detail parts have been added. Wiring is complete. The engine is pretty much ready for decals.

In the introductory post on my GP10 project, I noted that I’d like this project done by October 31.   I didn’t mention what year.  It is well past the date which I originally targeted for completion of this project.  However, those of you that know me know the two little reasons (Twin A and Twin B) for my lack of progress.  The twins are fine and their brother, 2 1/2, is doing fine.  Our life is getting back to the ‘new’ normal.

Any case, I took these pictures on October 6, 2013 and have made progress since then, but I wanted to let you know what has happened with this project leading up to October 6th.

I finished installing most of the detail parts that don’t interfere with masking.  Parts I left off for the time being are the lower grab irons and three pane all-weather window.  Another big task was to install the DCC decoder.   I did a hardwired installation, as this Atlas unit predates DCC ready standards by many years.  I chose a DH163 for its ability to produce rear and forward lights on F0 and a (simulated) rotary beacon on the cab top.  Street price for a Dh163 is about $30.00.

The rotary beacon is functional.  It is lit by the green wire from the Digitrax DH163 installed under the long hood.

The rotary beacon is functional. It is lit by the green wire from the Digitrax DH163 installed under the long hood.

The hardwired installation isn’t at all hard.  Just time consuming.  I removed the factory “board”.  I wired the red wire to the right pickup, black to the left.   An orange and gray wire each to the motor.  I used the white and yellow wires for forward and reverse headlights and the green wire to power the fink light.  I used the blue wire as common for all the wires.  I used Miniatronics 1.5v, 30mA bulbs in all applications here, mainly for their physical dimensions.  I’m always biased toward using LEDs, but in this case, it made sense to use these incandescent bulbs.   The main issue was making sure all those bulbs would be easy to put back into place after painting.

Then it was off to the paint shop, where I shot a coat of BN green (Polly-S) on the body and frame.  I masked using 3M blue painter’s tape and then painted Polly-S engine black on the rest of the model.

A bunch of post-paint work was needed to get the cab to fit down over the main shell and frame correctly.  Remember that this model has been modified, so things didn’t quite fit as expected.    After several permutations of assembly and disassembly and minimal cursing, I got the engine to fit together presentably and functionally.

 

Sep 042013
 

I’m working on a new project a few minutes at a time in the Dakotabranch back shop.

Like the Nose Job project I shared with you this spring, this new unit is based on an old Japan-built HO scale Atlas GP7.

The windshield is a part from DesPlaines Hobbies.

The windshield is a part from DesPlaines Hobbies.

Unlike the TCWR project which has no prototype, this one will be based as closely to BN’s GP10 fleet as is reasonable.
I’ve chosen to use an Atlas unit for this project, mainly for the reliable operation that Atlas diesels are known for.   Also, the handrail stanchions and castings resemble the originals found on the former GN and NP GP7’s that were rebuilt into GP10 units by BN in the 1970’s.

A number of shortcomings exist with the GP7 in using it for a Burlington Northern GP10.  Most notable is the high short hood.  I took my experience from the TCWR project and applied it to this one.    Using a slightly different method, I’m happy with the early results.

The air filter is a details west part, while the winterization hatch is from Cal-Scale.   I could not find a proper very square hatch with a round hole in the top for the fan.

The air filter is a details west part, while the winterization hatch is from Cal-Scale. I could not find a proper very square hatch with a round hole in the top for the fan.

Options exist for addressing this issue, listed from somewhat reasonable to insane:

  • Use Proto 2000 chassis and drive components, with a GP20 fuel tank and air reservoirs.  I’ve owned Proto geeps in the past and know how they run.   I’m not putting a bunch of time into build a GP10 shell to put on a crappy chassis.
  • Mill the Atlas GP7 frame to accept a Proto GP20 fuel tank
  • Re-cast the frame entirely, with a corrected fuel and air tank arrangement

I’ve decided not to do anything about the situation with the fuel and air tanks.   If anybody has a better idea, I’d like to hear about it.

So, as of this writing my progress:

  • Completely disassembled trucks, motor and transmission, and shell
  • Chopped the nose and assmbled or fabricated cab parts: two-piece windshield from DesPlaines Hobbies,   numberboards and headlights, cut from an Athearn Dash-2 cab, filed to profile.
  • Ground off ALL the cast-on detail on the front and rear pilots.
  • Installed 3-cluster MU hoses
  • Installed an anti-climber on the front pilot (is an anti-climber on an early geep bad-ass or what?)
  • Fit a BN GP10 specific air filter housing to the roof.
  • Shaved off grab iron and eyebolt cast-on details and replaced them with #78 holes for wire versions of the same.
  • Removed the previous owner’s decals.  (sorry, I’m a fan of western railroads)

Next steps:

I've ground off all the molded on detail on both pilots and begun replacing it with new super detail parts.

I’ve ground off all the molded on detail on both pilots and begun replacing it with new super detail parts.

  • Install more pilot detail – wire cut levers,couplers
  • Install eyebolts on roof, as appropriate
  • Wash the shell and bare frame to prepare for paint
  • Treat handrails with plastic paint adhesion promoter
  • paint the frame sidesill, handrails and most of the shell green.

All of this work is very slow right now, because I have little time to spare for this project, given my current situation.  But I hope by October 31, I’ll have a finished product.

Apr 232013
 

Here are a few snapshots of the TCWR 409 on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad.  I plan to weather this unit later on this week.

The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

DSC_4350

TCWR 409 rounds a bend on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad.  The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 rounds a bend on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad. The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 on the Willow Creek trestle on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad.  The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 on the Willow Creek trestle on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad. The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 on the Willow Creek trestle on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad.  The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 on the Willow Creek trestle on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad. The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

 

Apr 212013
 
I removed the wheelsets in order to weather them and make sure they were in proper gauge.

I removed the wheelsets in order to weather them and make sure they were in proper gauge.

This Atlas GP7 is basically a unit built for Atlas by Kato in Japan.  It was probably built in the early or mid-1980s.  This predates DCC by many years, so special care is needed to install a DCC decoder in this engine.  Fortunately, Kato has made the job quite easy by the way the engine was originally manufactured.  Here’s how to install a Digitrax DH123 in one of these nice-running units:

I began by disassembling the trucks.  This step technically isn’t necessary for DCC installation, but I find it a good best practice for the running quality of the engine and appearance.  I made sure all wheelsets were properly in gauge (they were not) and painted the outside faces of each wheel with Polly-S roof brown.   This gives the appearance of a dirty, rusty wheel.  I reassembled the trucks and moved on.

I cut the power leads from each truck near the copper wire that runs along the top of the gray plastic board inside the engine.  I soldered the red wire to the engineers side wheels and the black wire to the fireman’s side wheels.  Then I soldered the gray and orange wires to the motor.  I later had to flip these around because I found the engine ran backwards.  No extra work is needed to isolate the motor here because the leads from the trucks now go through the decoder.  Unlike in Athearn and Proto2000 units, the frame in these GP7 units does not conduct electricity, so the motor is already isolated.

Installed on my Atlas GP7 with a Digitrax DH123 decoder.

Installed on my Atlas GP7 with a Digitrax DH123 decoder.

I then shortened the blue wire and split it into two wires, one for the rear headlight and one for the front.  I soldered in 1/4 watt 390ohm resistors to the yellow and white wires.  In series, I soldered in two Miniatronics 1.5 volt 30mA 1.2mm incandescent bulbs.  I still like incandescent bulbs in model railroad applications much better than LEDs.    Before doing so, I checked the length of the decoder wire to see that I didn’t have too much excess wire to interfere with the shell fitting over the mechanism.

All that soldered together, I inserted the bulbs into the headlight assemblies.   I secured them with globs of poster putty, which I consider to be God’s gift to us DCC installing model railroaders! Also, I secured all my solder joints with heat shrink tubing, which I also consider to be a great asset to the hobby!

I used poster putty on the front and rear headlight assemblies to ensure that the bulbs stay where they are supposed to be.

I used poster putty on the front and rear headlight assemblies to ensure that the bulbs stay where they are supposed to be.

I replaced the shell, but then realized that there was a glow coming from inside the shell.  This turned out to be the factory bulb on top of the Kato board, which had somehow survived being placed on DCC current without a resistor.  Not wanting the risk of it overheating nor its unsightly appearance, I removed it and replaced the shell one last time.

A test run on my layout revealed that the wheels needed cleaning (because of the earlier paint step, mostly), so I cleaned the wheels up with acetone, applied with a q-tip.  I have a DC powered wire brush at my bench to make the engine run while placed on a foam pad, wheels pointed up for easy cleaning.

The unit runs beautifully now and the lights look nice.

Apr 212013
 

Work continues on my Atlas GP7 chop-nose project.  I’ve painted the nose and cab front of engine Polly-S Railbox yellow.   Then I masked that color off and painted the cab sides and rear and the long hood and handrails Polly-S Rock Island Maroon.

The maroon airbrushes on quite flat, so before beginning decals, I applied Micro-Gloss to the entire model before applying any decals.   This is to help prevent the decal film from being visible in places where it is not wanted.    I also painted the air horn and Details Associates all-weather window before applying them to the model.

Mar 272013
 

DSC_4265Now that I am free of one big Progressive Rail project, I am free to pursue other interests in the hobby.  Tonight, I installed eye bolts (Details Associates) in the holes I drilled in the top of the long hood.   Places to drill were previously denoted by “bumps” that represented the eyebolts molded on the shell.   The older Japan-made Atlas/Kato GP7 had molded on grabs.  This is an example of such, so I shaved them off and drilled holes for Details Associates wire grab irons.

Stay tuned for a future post when I remove the 3M blue painters tape and reveal what colors this unit will be.

Mar 142013
 

Yes, I’ve been thinking about getting a nose job.   Those model railroaders reading this know that decent chop-nosed first generation EMD diesels are in short supply in the HO scale market.  The crux of the problem is that EMD built almost no  GP7 or GP9 locomotives with low short hoods.  DSC_4119 So modelers are left to fend for themselves or use out of date models that don’t look good or run particularly well.

So, I took my first shot at a chop nose this weekend.   I’ve got some body work left to do.   But I thought I’d give you a first look.  Here is my chopped Atlas GP7 in HO scale.  For the front of the cab, I just used the front of an Athearn GP38-2 cab.   I shaved the cab front off and filed it down to match the early EMD round roof contour.

Eventually, I want to build myself a pair of BN GP10 locomotives.  These will be non-dynamic shells, so this one is just practice.