MODIFYING LGB'S 2015, 2017, AND 2020 LOCOMOTIVES, PART 1 FROM SWITCHER TO ROAD ENGINE
BY DEAN LOWE
LGB'S FIRST ATTEMPT at offering an American type locomotive was the 2017D. It was simply their existing European 2015D with a diamond stack, a box-type oil-burning headlight, and a western style "cowcatcher". The result was a locomotive sufficiently passable in appearance to please European hobbyists and to arouse the interest of an expanding American market.
As helpful as those additions may be, the 2017 still looks very European. I hope to show how you may modify the model to create a reasonably convincing, freelance American locomotive.
THE VENERABLE NUMBER 40
Rio Grande Southern Number 40 was my first LGB locomotive and the first of a long line of projects I have kitbashed or built from scratch. It has been a "guinea pig" for many trial and error attempts. I used it to learn how to mount detail parts, add cab curtains and sunshades, extend a pilot deck to accommodate a lead truck, and achieve a variety of painting and weathering techniques.
Before I began work on the model I studied every photo of small American locomotives I could find. That helped me choose what to change and what to leave alone. I liked the appearance of the extended pilot deck so I decided to turn the 0-4-0 into a 2-4-0. I also wanted to use the existing boiler and change only a few details. The European looking cab needed the most work so that's where we'll start.
AMERICANIZING THE CAB
First I removed the cab/sidetank assembly from the boiler and the backhead from inside the cab. I sawed the two sidetanks off the front of the cab and made a new cab front from a piece of .020-inch thick styrene sheet. I cut an opening to clear the boiler, filed the original cab front completely smooth, and re-cut the front windows into a more typically American rectangular shape. Then I glued on the new cab front.
I left the side windows alone but did punch rivet detail into new styrene side panels and glued them across the side door opening. The cab shades are .020-inch thick styrene with supports of .040 brass rod. Since the locomotive was to resemble a small switcher, I cut out the entire rear wall. Then I replaced the roof vent with a styrene frame and lid. I have since discovered the coal bunker lid from the discarded side tank makes a very nice vent lid.
I added a few Trackside Details castings to the backhead and glued it in place inside the cab. I painted everything with two coats of Floquil Engine Black. Finally, I glued .020-inch thick clear styrene "glass" into the windows.
The biggest change to the boiler involved the domes. I sawed off both existing domes, smoothed the boiler with a file, and turned a steam dome from brass. Then I discovered Trackside Details. The line included sand and steam domes specifically for the 2015/2017/2020 engines. So Number 40 has a hand-machined steam dome and a Trackside Details cast brass sand dome. Subsequent 2017s I built have both domes from Trackside Details and that has saved me a lot of time.
I located the sand dome so it would completely cover the hole in the top of the boiler. The steam dome I had made was a little too small. I used Squadron Green plastic filler putty to plug the gaps. Other fillers, such as J-B Weld from your auto parts store, also work well.
After I glued on the domes I turned my attention to the stack. I wanted to replace the diamond stack with a straight stack since, by the 1920s, most coal burning locomotives used straight stacks. First I simply replaced the 2017 stack with the straight stack from a 2015. Later, when I machined the brass replacement LGB Mogul stacks for Trackside Details, I adapted one to fit my 2017.
I mounted a Trackside Details bell, whistle, generator, and headlight to the boiler. Then I added pop valves to the steam dome. Removing the sidetanks revealed a hole on either side of the boiler. I moved the air compressor from the front of the right sidetank to the hole in the right side of the boiler. A Trackside Details TD-55 washout plug fit perfectly into the hole on the left side.
I removed the two plastic covers from either side of the smokebox. That left two more holes and I covered them with Trackside's round Baldwin builder's plates. Then I mounted a pair of Trackside's TD-20 marker lights, drilled each to accept a Walthers' 12-volt grain-of-wheat bulb, and connected the wires to those for the smoke generator.
The handrails are .046-inch diameter brass rod with Trackside Details stanchions. I finished the boiler modifications by drilling a hole on each side of the smokebox for deck braces.
THE RUNNING BOARDS AND FRAME
The frame holds the motor block and serves as the platform for the running boards, cab, and boiler. Two large gaps remained between the upper and lower running boards when I removed the side tanks. I glued a piece of .040-inch thick styrene over each. When I moved the air compressor, it left another hole on the surface of the right-hand running board and, on the left, two more holes appeared when I removed a European detail, possibly a generator. I covered the hole on the right with a Trackside rerail frog. On the left side, I simply coiled some miniature chain over the hole and held it in place with a couple of drops of glue. Trackside's tool box would work well there, too, but I had already used a larger tool box closer to the cab.
THE PILOT DECK
I supported the deck with the pilot beam and mount that came with the locomotive. I cut the "cowcatcher" from the pilot beam, scribed wood grain into the beam with a razor saw, and epoxied it into its original mounting hole but extending farther out. I glued a piece of styrene tread plate on top and built up a front step from styrene sheet and Plastruct 1/8-inch angle. I mounted a coupler under the deck and, on top, a lift bar I bent from .046-inch diameter brass rod. Remember the deck brace holes I drilled through the smokebox? I flattened one end of a pair of .062-inch diameter brass rods and pinned each flat end to each hole in the smokebox, then inserted the other end through holes in the pilot deck.
THE PILOT TRUCK
I fabricated the lead truck frame by bending a triangular piece of .050-inch thick sheet brass as in Figure 1. I turned a pair of wheels from brass and pressed them onto an axle passing through the vertical tabs on the frame. I found the pivot point by trial and error. At first it was ahead of the nut holding the smokestack in place but that proved too short on tight curves. I added weight but the truck still tended to derail.
Finally, I soldered an extension to the truck frame. It moved the pivot to just behind the nut securing the stack. That seems the correct length because the model has now logged many hours of running time with no derailments.
The pivot is nothing more than a Number 4 sheet metal screw running through a hole in the truck frame and into the motor block casing. If the screw is no longer than 3/8-inch it will cause no problems inside the mechanism. If you locate the proper pivot point, the pilot truck will need no weight or springs.
I have seen 2017 pilot trucks using the lead or trailing wheels from LGB 2070 or 2080 locomotives. They seem to work fine but, in my opinion, those wheels look too large for an engine as small as the 2017.
The tender requires much less work than the locomotive. The 2015/2017 tender has only two axles. If you want to use the motor, you have few options. I like the idea of the extra motor. Since my engine is a freelance model, the two axle configuration is of little concern. Moreover, by adding two pounds of weight, the engine/tender combination gains exceptional pulling power.
For details, I turned an air tank from brass and mounted it on 1/8- x 1/4-inch styrene strips. I formed air pipes from .062-inch diameter brass rod. Then I installed 12 volt bulbs into a pair of marker lights and wired them to the power leads inside the body. I replaced the LGB hook/loop with a USA Trains coupler, removed the coal load, and spray painted the entire tender with Floquil Engine Black. I brush painted the side boards next to the coal load with Floquil Roof Brown, then I cemented the coal load back into place.
PAINT AND WEATHERING
I sprayed the boiler, frame, and pilot deck with Floquil Engine Black and brush painted the smokebox and stack with Floquil Old Silver. I used a dry transfer for the Rio Grande Southern because I liked the sunrise herald. Then I sealed the paint and lettering with two coats of Testor's Dullcote.
Now for my first attempt at weathering. I knew the spray from a can would be too heavy to produce the result I wanted so I bought an airbrush and a selection of Floquil weathering colors: Mud, Dirt, Grime, Dust, Rust, and Earth. As soon as I applied a light overspray of the first color, Rust, I knew I had found the perfect finishing touch. I planned to weather all my future models, too.
I misted on Rust, Mud, Grime, and Dirt where they seemed applicable, then airbrushed Engine Black onto the smokebox and stack to represent soot. I brushed the drivers and rods with Polly-S Oily Black. It is a water-base acrylic paint and tends to build up unevenly so it really looks like the grease, oil, and dirt a locomotive in heavy use might acquire.
Time passed. When I decided to add cab curtains to my Moguls I used the 2017 to perfect the technique. I thought the best way to represent canvas would be with cloth. Scraps from an old bed sheet proved to have the right appearance so I cut some pieces to size, glued them to the cab and roof, and tied them back with a piece of thread. I also rolled and tied a piece for the back flap and glued it to the roof. Finally, I brush painted the curtains with Floquil Foundation. It is a good color for dirty canvas.
Over the years, my little 2-4-0 has been a lot of fun. It also has been a most cooperative "guinea pig". The best thing about working on LGB's 2015/2017 engines is that you can come up with a very nice model without the worry of "cutting up" an expensive Mogul!
THE DEL ORO PACIFIC VERSION
I built Del Oro Pacific Number 3 more recently to pull a string of short, Sierra-type coaches on the Del Oro Pacific modular railroad. It differs in three main areas from the RGS version.
First, it has no pilot truck (because I had to build the model quickly). I may add the pilot truck later.
Second, and the biggest difference, is the cab. Number 3 uses a wood side cab by Charlie Schlosser. He produced those cabs completely from styrene in limited numbers. In my opinion, Charlie's cabs are artful in their design and construction. The cab alone provided a reason for building Number 3. I had to have something featuring one of Charlie's cabs! [We showed Charlie's track cleaning car in the April/May 1992 issue and his locomotives and passenger coaches in August/September 1992. In the next issue, we will show how Charlie modified a 2017 into an American style 0-4-0 side tank switcher.-Ed.]
Finally, Number 3 uses real coal in the tender instead of LGB's plastic coal load/side board casting. I prefer to use real coal loads on my models. It is very easy: Fill the shallow cavity in the tender with small chunks of coal and glue them in place with a 50-50 mixture of white glue and water. [A drop of dish washing detergent may help the glue mixture to penetrate more easily.-Ed.] I find the result pleasing because it looks more realistic, reduces the height of the tender and, correspondingly, makes it appear a little longer.
I painted the engine and tender Del Oro Pacific dark green, the "unofficial" club color, and lettered it with dry transfers.
I added the usual two pounds of lead to the tender. The engine has no trouble pulling ten coaches around Del Oro's layout.