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Modeling CB&Q GP30 974 step by step.

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Follow along as Jim details and paints some Burlington history.

Greetings fellow modelers. I hope you are all enjoying your holiday with some time off and maybe even working on some of those model projects. I have seen a good many threads in the forums of late with questions such as, "What is better, acrylic or enamel?", "Why does this Modelflex dry so fast?" and others. I thought I would drag out a thread I did awhile back that may help some of you on the joys of prototype modeling.

Back in June of 2006, when I was working as Brand Manager of the Floquil line of paints at The Testor Corporation, I started a thread on painting and detailing an Atlas N scale GP30 for a show Testor used to sponsor, Galesburg Railroad Days. The GP30 was known as the Tribute locomotive. Rather than get into details here, you can read about the prototypes past in the following article. It's a long one and originally took about two weeks to compose, so pull up a comfortable chair and a cup of coffee!

Building a CB&Q GP30

Due to many requests, I have taken photo's of my procedure on how I have painted one of my locomotives. A little background, I was taught the world of custom painting from Alan Belcher who once owned Concord Car Shops, an excellent hobby shop down the road from me in NH. My first locomotive was an Athern Blue dip B&M F-7. Alan painted it for me and I decaled it. I started painting with the airbrush soon after in 1992 and started N scale custom paint in 1994. Since 1999 I have done N scale exclusivley and got bit by the detailing bug. I don't do as many N-Trak shows anymore, so now most of my locomotives are fully detailed and prototype specific. After painting, my number one hobby is railroad books as they offer the information I need for painting. I was hired by Testor in 2000 and started as a Customer Service/Tech person, then in October 2001 went into Marketing working with Wal-Mart, making instruction sheets for many of the die-cast car models and working on merchandise racks. In late 2002 I started having more influence with both the Pactra RC and Floquil RR lines and in 2005 I became Category Manager of both lines. That means I literally do both RC and trains! Now onto the painting!

Galesburg Connection

Each year Galesburg IL is host to one of the biggest train shows in America, since 1977 The BN, now BNSF sponsered a Railroad Days. The town would have carnivals and train related displays downtown. In the early 1990's, Harry Grossman (TB member Littlegiant) started hosting a model train show at Carl Sandburg College. Long story short, the show was a huge success. Bill Selleck and myself usally have a display set up in the library and this year will be no different, except rather than paint up another BNSF engine I thought I would pay homage to the "Q"

Bill Selleck has been building an exact N scale Galesburg station as it appered in the years before Amtrak. Unfortunately this station no longer stands, replaced with a smaller albiet "Q" style station. While looking through pictures of Galesburg past I came on some art that depicted the 100th anniversary of the Q. The picture shows an early American 4-4-0 next to I believe a Burlington O5 next to the shovel nose Zepher next to an E unit and lastly a then new GP30 in the then new Chinese red and gray paint scheme. I have always loved the EMD GP30 and with the Burlingtons colors it looked sharp, #974 the one in the artwork begged to be modeled.


The Atlas shell with prototype specific details installed.

I started this project with a shell I've had for a while, it is from the Atlas/Kato model in N. When Kato molded this shell, they must have had the Q in mind as everything on the body matched. All I had to do was shave off the details and add BLMA grabs, MU hoses, cut levers and JnJ lift rings and cab shades.

Airbrushing acrylics

With the main detail parts added it was off to the most important step for a good paint job. I washed the shell in a solution of warm water and liquid dish soap, let it soak for a bit, then rinse the shel in Cold Water. Let the shell air dry completely before going on the next step. The next step is important only if you have metal and brass detail parts. The body was also a real dark gray and I wanted to better replicate the CB&Q colors. To keep the detail parts from losing paint I used Floquil #F330009 Aero Light Gray Primer. Although this is a spray can, the nozzles we use in the newer Floquil sprays have a much finer spray head and can be used on N scale items without any loss of detail. The Primer is an enamel, so spray in a dry enviorment, humidity can affect enamels and ruin your model with bubbles. At extreme humidity levels, enamel paint will foam. I gave the shell a few light passes and left it in my workshop for 24 hours to cure. This is important! Floquil enamels will "Dry" in 10 minutes or so, but they require 24 hours to "Cure". If you rush and spray other coats over the enamel during its cure time, you may get bubbles in your finish. You can't see it, but when an enamel cures, it develops a skin, the skin is microscopically porous and alows the solvents to escape and evaporate. After a minimum of 24 hours you can go onto the next step.

Now I'm ready for the first color coat. The CB&Q colors after 1958 were a light gray and Chinese red. Polly Scale does not offer these colors (yet ) so a bit of research was required. The gray was easy, as it was a standard light gray without geen or blue tones un like say a D&H gray which has shades of green in it. For the gray I used Polly Scale #F414116 Reefer Gray. The Burlington red was a bright vibrant red, almost pure red, but as they aged the color ranged from red to almost orange. I wanted a happy medium, for an aged unit I would use Polly Scale #F414183 SP Scarlet, but since the GP30 in the phot was relatively new, I choose #F414128 Caboose Red, which is pure red but not as bright as #F404091 Signal red.

I find it easy to hold the shell for painting by using a cheap foam brush that you can pick up at any home improvement store. The foam holds the shell snug without deforming it and the wooden handle allows me to hold the shell and easily reach every angle with the airbrush. Set your compressor at 16-18 PSI under load. If your using an Aztek, use the White nozzle #9341C. If you are using another brand of airbrush, use a #3 needle as acrylics require a wide flow to go through. Stir, don't shake the Caboose Red, I use the handle of a small detail paint brush. Shaking will not mix the paints resin, solvents and pigments together, so stir until you see no more globs on your stiring stick. Mix your paint with Polly Scale #F546008 Airbrush thinner. The Polly Scale Thinner is manily alcohol base but has a reducer in it to help the flow of paint. Mix the Caboose Red 75% paint to 25% thinner and stir. I use a color cup and literally just dump paint in and add a bit of thinner, its like cooking. When you start measure everything, after a while you know how much the recipe needs. I have used eye droppers or syringes in the past, I still use the syringe so I can drop in a few drops of thinner. With your compressor, airbrush and paint ready make a few light passes on to your shell. Hold the brush 3 inches away from the model and move at a smooth steady pace. Build up the coats, don't cover it on the first pass! If you do develop a run, acrylics are easy to fix. If you are using a dual stage airbrush, perform what I call the Moses trick. Hold the trigger all the way back and lightly hold down the trigger. This will give you more air than paint. Spray the run in the direction of the bottom of the shell and spray the run like a welder welds a bead. The excess dry air will dry the area behind the run and the small amount of paint will help the run roll off the shell. When dry, Polly Scale levels and you will have a hard time seeing where the run was. With the red done your shell should look like this...

First color coat applied, allow the paint to cure before the next step.

Normally I would paint the light color first then the dark, such as orange then green on a BNSF engine. However the gray colors although lighter will cover the darkest of colors. Considering the scheme here, lets make it easy on ourselves. Notice however I tried to keep the red on the sides only.

Polly Scale acrylics dry relatively fast, but for best adhesion allow at least a couple of hours before masking. You can use a hairdryer to help the process, basically a warm, dry air helps acrylics cure up. I usally play it safe and waith until the next day. In this case, I sprayed the red on Saturday the 2nd. On Sunday the 3rd I was ready for masking. I have used a lot of masking mediums through the years, but I learned of this product from an armor modeler. Tamiya makes this low tack masking that has an increadible sharp edge to it. You can further the sharpe edge by purchasing the holder/applicator seen in the picture below. No prep work is neccesary with the tape, just pull, cut and apply. Using my CB&Q book as a guide I placed the tape just below the real grills and followed a nice even pace around the shell. Notice I left the cab on for the first step. Since the color seperation is on the cab, I left the cab on to get part of the sides even with the hood. Once this was done, I carefully cut the tape between the cab and the hood and lifted the cab free. I now had a guide to continue the color seperation around the cab. Tamiya tape is somewhat flexiable, so use your photographs as aguid to get your color seperation line even, you don't want the line to go up or down hill. Most of the time you can use the hinge doors as a guide like I did here.

With the color line established, cover the other areas you do not want painted gray.

Inexpensive foam brushes work well for holders, text has details.

Now I have the cab and the hood in the spary booth ready for the gray color. Notice on the cab I have made a tab of masking, this will help remove the masking later when you have to work fast. I leave a bit of excess masking loose, then with tweezers, I loop the masking onto itself to creat a pull tab. Testor sells a set of locking tweezers under the Model Master name, part number 50632C. These work great for holding small parts for painting. On the right you can see the foam brush I talked about earlier. I'm not too concerned with covering the inside cab area of the hood as this will be painted gray later.

Set up your compressor, airbrush and paint. Remember, 16-18 PSI, wide flow nozzle or needle, 25% thinner to 75% paint and your ready to paint! When I paint a second color with a mask, I spray at the lowest PSI possiable, in this case 16. This keeps the overspary down to a minimum and makes the paint smooth. Also spray away from the mask, this makes a much sharper line as the paint will not build up and seep under the masking. If you look closely you will see I burnished the edge of the masking all the way around so that it would conform to the doors, hinges etc. This can be done with a blunt toothpick, don't rub too hard, just enough to snug down. I sprayed a few light passes on the sides first then went to the top, one pass down the length of each side, then one pass cross way, front and back to get all those fans and exhaust stack completely painted. Do enough passes to build up to a good coverage, but don't go to heavy, otherwise you'll create a "paint bridge" between the color and your masking. This will lift the paint you just sprayed. I have a rule in my shop: If you think it needs one more pass, stop!

The next step is also important for a nice sharp line, removing the mask. This can make or break all your hard work, so you must work fast and carefully. As soon as you put down your airbrush start removing the mask. Make sure your hands are free of paint and use a pair of non-locking tweezers to grab the tab you made earlier. Start to pull, hold the dry part of the shell with clean fingers and pull the mask torwards the paint you just sprayed. If you pull the mask torwards the masked area, you risk getting a small amount of gray on your red. By pulling the mask towards the area you just painted, any paint that bridged itself on the mask will lift off and fall on the wet paint you just sprayed. Many times this paint will disolve back into itself and will never be seen again. This is the first reason why I do this step now. The second reason? Should you have to much paint on your mask and it drys, it will lift when pull the masking and give you a jagged edge. Carefully pull all the masking towards the area you just painted and dispose of the used masking, being carefull not to get any wet masking on the shell.

Now our shell should look like this........

Shell is now ready for gloss clear coat.

You should have a nice even and sharp line around your two colors. Notice the small bottle on the left, this leads us into the next phase of this project, decals. In order for our decals to look like they were painted on, they need a nice smooth surface. If you have ever decaled a model, sealed it with a flat clear and seen a frosty outline of your decal, you are seeing "silvering" If we colud shrink to a microscopic level and looked at the paint on our CB&Q GP30, we would see that the paint would be like a jagged moon scape. It make look smooth from a normal level, but it is really a rough finish. This is the nature of flat paints. Gloss paints when dry are a smooth finish. Here is an example. Lets say we have two gardens, one made with soft rich soil (our gloss) and theother made with small marble chips (our flat). Now lay a piece of clear plastic sheet, one on each garden. After a while you will see condinsation form on the inside of the plastic between the garden and the plastic sheet. Notice for the most part the condisation is even on the soil garden (gloss) and sporadic on the rock garden (Flat). We want the decal to be flat all over the surface so we don't want silvering or ghosting to appear so here we will add a clear gloss coat.

For this step I'm using Polly Scale Satin (semi gloss) #F404103. The Polly Scale Clears do not require any thinning, so just stir it up and set your compressor for? That is right, 16 - 18 PSI! I concentrate on the areas that will have decals for the next step. Just a few light passes and your done.

As a side note, I have had many people say that this additional step will add too much paint to an N scale model. Remember that the airbrush only lays down a fraction of amount of paint that a spray can or brush does, and as you can see no detail was lost. You can also add the clear gloss to your reciepe of color to avoid this step. Rather than doing the 74% paint to 25% thinner, use 50% paint, 45% clear gloss and 5% thinner.

Once you have sprayed the clear gloss, let it set at the minimum of a few hours, decals solvents can and will attack the surface of an uncured gloss coat, don't ask me how I know! Just play it safe and spray and let it sit overnight.


The next step is the decal process, here is what I have in my shop for the decal part.
  1. Small bowl to contain warm water.
  2. Paper towel on bench.
  3. Small cutting board.
  4. New #11 in an exacto knife
  5. #0 brush for decal application.
  6. Small tweezers for decal application.
  7. Decal solvent.
  8. Decals
  9. Our model.

A clean, organized bench will make the most of your decal time.

The locomotive was given a good gloss coat the night before, so we are ready. In most cases I will work, one side at a time. I use a small foam cradle made for N scale locomotives to keep the shell from moving around and it keeps the shell protected. First, with your book or photo for refrence in front of you, cut out your first decal. Cut this on your cutting board as this will help with the longevity of your blade. Depending on the decals you are using, you may have to cut as close to the image as possiable as some decals are one sheet of carrier film. Microscale however has us spoiled, but for numbers it is always a good idea to cut close. Now since I'm doing N scale, once I cut out the decal, I use my small tweezers to pick up the decal and dip it into the water for 10 seconds, then place the decal on on the paper towel for 30 seconds. Once the decal moves freely on the backing paper, pick up the decal carefully by the paper only, and place above the area where the decal will go. Dip your #0 brush in the water, and then dip it on the paper towel to remove excess water. With the brush, move the decal off the backing paper and onto the shell. If the decal is hard to move, you can float it with an application of water on your brush. Move it into position and carefully use the torn off piece of the paper towel to remove excess water. When you are happy with the location and the decal is still wet, use your #0 brush to aplly a dot of decal solvent. The decal sovent will mix with the water and dry. Two decals that constantly give modelers fits are large images on long hoods with all kinds of bumps, hinges and louvers and stripes. Here is what has worked for me since shep was a pup.

For large areas like slogans or names, in our case the word Burlington, we dip the decal in water and follow the steps above. Avoid the temptation to add solvent onto the hood, doing that will soften the decal prematurely and make it irregular. Slide the decal onto the hood and position. Use plenty of water to move the decal to where you want it. Dry up the excess water but keep it "wet", you want that water under the decal as your ally in the next step. Now when happy with position, apply a liberal amount of decal solvent, taking care not to move the decal, then walk away! Let the solvent do its thing, the solvent will mix with all that water under the decal and suck it down around all the irregularities. After the decal is dry, run a new #11 blade carefully between door lines and apply another coat of decal solvent.

For stripes, basically follow the same advice as given above. If you apply the decal solvent to the shell first the decal will be too soft and will break and bend and you will have a locomotive that looked like it was shoped on a Monday morning. Position, water, then decal solvent and walk away.


Now before I start decaling away, I usally start the first part of my handrails. I don't know how many times I have been asked this question at shows, "how did you get that paint to stick to your handrails?" Many of use, myself included just left them black for many years, problem is many railroads platforms are painted the same color as the primary paint scheme and the hand rails are painted and since the 1970's the endrails are painted a high visibility color like yellow or white. So we are left with this

Transforming bare delrin to prototype colors is illustrated here.

Ugly huh? You bet, but follow along and I'll show you what has worked for me since, well since shep was a pup! Poor dog has got to be collecting social security by now!

The first step in this process is the soaking process. Here to illustrate...

The next time you get dragged down to your local Megla-Mart, pick up a few items that will make your life more simple, remember Jim is lazy! First on the shopping list is the Ziploc or generic version of the plastic bowl. They have many uses in the work shop such as this. They are cheap and they last a while, I've had mine now for over a year and they have that nifty snap tight cover. Now go over to the home health section and get a bottle of 91% rubbing alcohol. This too is cheap and if you use a lot like me, get the big size like pictured. Now when you get home, throw your handrails into the bowl, and fill the bowl with alcohol, snap the cover on and walk away. "how long do you soak it?" Well I typically soak it overnight, but longer will not hurt it. The material is made of Delrin. That is a good thing because it is flexable and will not break or bend. The bad thing is that it has a lot of mold release oil on it and it soaks it up. By soaking it, you let all the oils seep out. In this case, because I had so much in the shop, my handrails were in for two days.

Now that the handrails have soaked, let them out and let them air dry, it won't take long. While they are drying set up your airbrush for your first color, in this case a primer. Those handrails are black so they need a good neutral color so the colors match our shell. Atlas has been smart of late and started to do their undec stuff including the hand rails in gray, lets hope that trend continues. If your handrails are already gray, you can blissfully skip this step!

For all my undercoats I use Polly Scale #F414134, Undercoat Light Gray. This step is important! You must use acrylics for the handrails, why you ask? Because unlike enamels or lacquers, acrylics stay flexable when cured. Airbush your handrails with the set up steps I've drilled in your head by now. To make things easy for myself I have used the locking tweezers to hold the handrails. Just make sure the tweezers don't cover an area that needs paint. There is usally a "bridge" where the cab goes that works real well for this purpose. After we have sprayed the undercoat light gray, our handrails should look like this.....

Ok now we need our first color coat, in this case red. I again used Polly Scale Caboose Red #F414128, mixed up and ready the same way I do all my paint. Since the Polly Scale Undercoat Light Gray is dry and we won't be doing any masking, we can go onto the red. After painting the red, our hand rails should look like this...

Now for the final step, no pun intended. The CB&Q handrails were all black, this was a few years befor we saw the high vis handrail ends. I used Polly Scale #F414290 Engine Black for the handrails. Now there is no easy way around this, your going to have to use a hand brush. I use a Model Master #0 brush and dip the brush in the paint. Don't load up the brush too much or eles you will have paint drip down on the foot board. Just load it up enough to get a nice line of color on the handrails. Move in one direction. I usally paint each individual stantion, front, sides then back, then the hand rails. This is usally when the radio in the shop is turned off and I play Mozart! Relax, take your time. If you do drip paint where it doesn't belong, use a cheap model brush dipped in water to fix it, dab the area with a paper towel and you should be good. The Q's front platform also had a bit of white, rather than decal this I painted this Polly Scale #F414113 Reefer White. The white will need a few applications because of its opacity. I painted the fron, then the back and alternated between both ends three times until it matched my white decal on the frame. Now our Handrails look like this...


It is now time to cover everybodys favorite topic numberboards. Again this is a detail that can make or break a good model. I have heard of people struggling with this process for years, so pull up a chair and see if what I do helps you.

First gather up the supplies you will need, your numberboards, decals, a good sharp knife, small tweezers, decal solution and a hood type magnifiying set of eye glasses. I'm only 32 so so far, my eyes are good enough that I do not need magnification, but I know those days are coming when I'll need one!

To start off I choose the Micro Scale Number board decal sheet seen here will include numberboards for both EMD and GE locomotives and will fit most N Atlas, Life-Like and Kato engines. You might as well make it easy on yourself! Now use the same technique I used earlier but skip the paper towel part, instead with your small tweezers, place the numberboard still on its backing paper on the numberboard. Use the tweezers to see if the decal will move freely off the decal backing paper and slowly push the paper out from underneath so the decal sits on the clear part of the numberboard. The decal backing paper will slide like a tomatoe when you bite into your favorite Bumstead sandwich! Once the decal is centered, apply just a drop of decal solution on the decal, and repeat for the final three number boards. Monitor the numberboards and re-apply decal solvent as needed, the CB&Q needed three applications.

Give the numberboards a while to dry, I left mine overnight but you can easily do this next step in a few hours. Now the fun part! The decal sheet that Microscale has made for the CB&Q engines or motors as the Q called them, do not have the numbers I need all together. Sometimes I get lucky when doing an engine like the B&M Geep 9 I did, the numberboard decals were available together. Our Tribute locomotive that took place in those historic activities that day in 1964 was #974. I start by using the exact same process as the numberboard sequence above. I started by applying the "7" first, this allowed me to center the number. I started with the front numberboards, then the rear and by the time I was done with the 7's, the next number could be applied as the 7's were dry enough not to move. I used the tweezers to center and move the numbers as the brush was to big and has too much surface area. Be carefull with the tweezers however as it can rip the decal if too much preasure is used to move them about. When happy with placement, apply just a drop of decal solvent.

Now for the final step. I have had many comments on my numberboards, they look like plexiglass. Well on the prototype that is exactly what they are. A big piece of plastic that has the numbers masked on and sprayed black or white or even red, the masking is taken off and a contrasting white or black is applied over it, much like painting a lexan slot car or RC body. That Polycarbonate or plexiglass remains somewhat glossy. To better replicate this I use Polly Scale #F404100 Gloss Finish for a new unit and F404103 Satin Finish for an older unit. Since our CB&Q is somewhat new in our time period, I went with the F404100 Gloss. Stir up the gloss and use a #0 brush to dip it in the gloss. Now just make one pass onto each numberboard and allow it to dry overnight. That is it! This is another good place to use those locking tweezers rather than hold it in your fingers, only to drop it on your orange shag carpet!

Cab Details

When painting our locomotives, it is the little things that make our custom paint endevours look great. The interior of the locomotives are usally overlooked, so. I started painting the inside of my cab and hood when I started seeing the same colors inside as out when I took photo's of my locomotives. Most locomotives were delivered from the factory with an enamel light gray finish on the inside, some were a light green so if you can, check your prototype refrence. For the Gray, I have found Milwaukee Road Gray #F414158 to be a good match. For this project I went a bit darker based on a photograph I found of a CB&Q GP30 with its door open. So why did EMD, Alco and GE to name a few paint the inside of their locomotives light gray or green? Were those colors on sale at Sears? Did someone like those colors? Or did Polly Scale have an inside source with the manufactuers?

None of the above, it was done for purely a maintenance reason. Anyone who has done electrical work knows how hard it is to see componants with a dark backround. White has too much contrast, but light gray or green are easy on the eyes in most shades of light.

I carefully applied the Reefer Gray #F414116 to the inside of the cab and the small section of the hood that the cab sits on. Go slowly here as a mis-guided bristtle can mar the outside finish. I applied two coats to even the color out. With the process complete, it should look something like this.

I wanted to give this locomotive an engineer for a few reasons, it looks good in a yard scene, on the front of a train and the non-modelers really like to see the little man in there! For the first part we need to modify our cab. I carefully cut the center section of the window on the engineers side. Next I used the glass insert that will put glass on the engineer side. In order for "Vern" our engineer to look out on the line we need to remove the center glass. I scored the center section just below window and snaped it off as you can see here.

With the window cut, I then filed a section so that Vern would sit flush against the inside of the cab. Vern had to cut down a little so as to clear the long hood tab. With every thing ready ready I was ready for some final assembly. I was originally going to use a MV lens to replicate the CB&Q red upper light, but as fate would have it, it did not fit right and I lost it in the shops BN green carpet, Doh! I instead used Polly Scale #F404091 Signal Red. I think I'm going to change this tonight to Model Master Acryl Clear Red #4630 as this replicates marking lights really well and is semi transparent. The Signal Red was too solid for my liking. I installed the numberboard and front window assembly, followed by the side window assemblies, the glued Vern in with some instant CyA. Vern looked happy with his new home.

It is also good to note I only removed the middle section of window, dont just cut the "glass" in three pieces and glue the front and rear quarter windows. That plastic tab helps keep the cab nice and tight against the frame.

Now onto the windshield wipers, a personal favorite of mine.

For this step I used the wipers from the JnJ diesel detail set. Note the two sizes, the larger for the door windows and cab and the shorter for the main windscreen. Here I use a cutting board, a set of Model Master Micro Shear Photo Etch Trimmers, #50688C, a post it note, small tweezers and some thick CyA. I also used a file from the Model Master line #50630C. You can use a #11 blade to free the parts, just be careful as you can bend the parts. Early on I drilled #80 holes in the cab for the windshield wipers. With the long blades cut, cleaned with a file, I picked up the part with my tweezers and dipped the end into a small pool of CyA that I put on the post it note, the carefully placed the wiper in its home. The thick CyA will hold better because it will fill any gaps in the hole that was drilled. I did not drill holes above the windscreen because in the past, even a #80 drill would deform the area due to the tight clearance between the numberboard and window. For this locomotive I simple cut the smaller blades out and used my eye to find the middle. The end that would normally go into the hole fits snuggly into the area between the windows weather striping and numberboard. Another trick I like to do is to hold the blade part of the wiper with a small set of plyers and carefully bend the wiper arm to give a more realistic look. I checked the pictures of my GP30 and while the windscreen wipers remained perpendicular with the arms, the cab wipers were articulated so that the wiper always went straight back and forth. I glued these last two in and called it a night.

Finished cab. Small details like this make a model look like the prototype.

So here is our completed cab ready to go on the frame and body. Vern looks good up there, he needs a bit of touch up but we'll let him rest a day. Other than touching up the gyra light, the cab is done!

Trucks and MU's

With Vern in his home, the cab on the body it was now time to turn our attention to the trucks. I'm surprised how many of my earlier locomotives had stock black trucks and fuel tanks. It was not until around 2002 that I started painting those componants as the Atlas GP38's in undec were completely undec, thank you Atlas! I have also started doing some basic details on my trucks that only takes a few minutes but makes a real difference. Lets take a look at the picture below.

A pin vise helps give realistic looks to our trucks.

Here is the lead truck for our CB&Q GP30. The speed recorder off to the left has been assembled and is ready for the install. The first step is to sand off the rear journal and to drill a #76 hole for the speed recorder. This is where pictures of the prototype come in handy. On the CB&Q GP30's, the recorder was on the engineers side. This is common, but some locomotives have the recorder on the firemans side. Once the hole is drilled and and the journal is sanded, we have six other holes to drill. These are dimples on the truck frame, to make them more realistic per the prototype simple use the picture above as a guide and drill the holes on each side of the trucks. Work slowly as the trucks are made of Delrin and you want a nice clean hole. When you are finished with all the drilling on the lead truck, apply the speed recorder with a drop of thick CyA. Make sure the cable is perpendicular to the frame (horizontal), it will make a 45 degree angle up and into the body later on. With the trucks finished (don't forget the trailing truck), drop both trucks and fuel tank in your solution of alcohol we used for the handrails. We'll let them soak overnight and paint them tomorrow.

I usally apply my MU hoses and air hoses last, that way I can detail them a bit. I drilled the #80 holes for the MU's before the locomotive went to the paint booth. Craig of BLMA has produced a set of MU hoses that are absolutley the best I have seen and are the easist to install. No I do not work for him. I have used many other manufactuers MU hoses and they tend to be harder to install and only look like a four pieces of wire. The BLMA MU's are flat brass, but have the quick disconects and plumbing detail, plus all you need to drill is one #80 hole per MU set! These are new and you can find them here Now we could just paint these black, but a look at the prototype and we see that even the simple MU's were multiple colors. Let's take a look at what we need for this next step.

First we have the MU's, the Precision Craft air hoses, my favorite tools the locking tweezers, and Polly Scale paint. Start by dipping those brass MU's into your solution of alcohol, air dry and use a small brush to start painting the MU's and air hoses. Remove the MU's and air hoses from the parts frame or sprue with a hobby knife. I started by sticking the MU's into the locking tweezer as seen above. Start by painting the MU frame (the part that looks like a piece of metal with four hoses conected) with Polly Scale Caboose Red #F414128. Paint the air hoses Caboose Red at this time as well. Because of the nature of what we are painting, you may want to re-apply the paint a second time for good coverage. The paint dries fast on brass, so start with the first and move to MU #2,3,4 then repeat the process with 1 and so on. Next Paint the hoses themselves Engine Black #414290. Now carefully paint the ends of the MU hoses (quick connects) and end of the air hose Santa Fe Silver #F414143. With this all painted, carefully bend the tab as Craig shows in his instructions for the MU. With our post it note and a bit of thick CyA, dip the tab in the CyA and apply it to the hole that was drilled in the frame. Next drill a #76 hole on the right hand side of the coupler facing front, dip the air hose into the thick CyA and mount.

So with our MU's and air hoses painted and mounted, the frame should look like this.

Front of locomotive showing MU's and air hose attached and detailed.

This better illustrates the process above as far as location and colors. The foam cradle also helps as a third hand in this situation. I did some research on the CB&Q red gyra light and the lens used was as clear as I thought, so I kept the lens the Signal Red color and added a drop of Gloss Clear #F404100.

When painting black in scale use Engine Black for newer locomotives and a Grimey Black for older locomotives.

As you can see in the picture, the Tank and Trucks are still in the black plastic. After a night in the alchol tank, they were ready for paint. The parts where painted an overall Engine Black #F414290. Engine black is really a very dark gray and as a result shows the detail of the trucks really well as it gives a scale effect. Next was to give the trucks a light weathering. Even though this unit was washed and cleaned for the photograph in 1964, items like the trucks and the roof would still have some dust and soot. I used #F414311 Earth, and shot it through my Aztek at 16 psi. This gave me a lot of control and I was able to feather the earth onto the tops of the trucks and fuel tank were dust would settle.

Lastly I mixed up a mixture of 60% Steam Power Black #F414110 Steam Power Black with 40% Rust #F414323 and lightly shot the mixture onto the roof of the locomotive at 16 psi to represent the exhaust soot per prototype photgraphs. With the last bit of items painted, I detailed the grabs and cut levers by painting the Engine Black #F414290, again per the photographs I had. I assembled the trucks and fuel tank on the frame, then installed the nose light and finally the body to the frame. Only one thing left to do.

Couplers and final assembly

With #974 done, it was time to install the Micro-Trains #1015 couplers. Again this is a detail that is often overlooked, so lets see how we can make these essential parts look more realistic.

Small locking tweezers are useful when painting N scale couplers.

Start by using my favorite tool, the locking tweezers. With the couplers in the tweezers, start by applying a small amount of Engine Black #F414290. Just enough to cover the part, don't get so much paint on the coupler to foul up the operation. Next dry brush Rust #F414323 on the front of the coupler. This represnts the new rust, each time these couplers couple and uncouple they wear and rust. Dry brush the rust by dipping the brush into the paint and dab it onto a paper towel until it is almost dry, then dab the front of the coupler. Next I used the same steps with Roof Brown #F414275 and apply this color around the sides of the coupler to represent older oxidation. Now mount the couplers and we are done.

Earning its keep

#974 pulls a 40' CB&Q boxcar past a grade crossing.

Overhead shot of completed Motor as the "Q" called them.

Forward shot showing details added, cut lever, MU's and air hose.

So there you have it folks, a detailed proto specific, locomotive in N scale. While I don't run this on N-Trak or T-Trak modules, it will look nice on my 2X4 show layout that JTW is building for the upcomming 2007 season. Who knows, maybe it will be on display once again at the 2007 Galesburg RR Days. If you have any questions, please feel free to PM me. Until next time,

High Greens!

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  1. Flash Blackman's Avatar
    Thanks, again, Jim. I had to go over the part about gloss for decals. I am really glad this blog is still here. Also, I am impressed by all of your topics. I am going to have to read all of these!


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