Monday, April 6, 2020

Modelling CN SW9 & SW1200 Switchers - Part 1

As stated, I've been in self isolation since early March and it will continue up until early May according to Quebec provincial government. It provided me with more free time even if I still work from home. I recently discussed about modelling in difficult time and this new project is a study case of what can be done with less than perfect models, parts, supplies and paint. I better times, many parts would have been sourced from hobby shops and online stores. Unfortunately, shipping times from Ontario to Quebec are now about 2 weeks and stocks are depleting at a fast pace. This can no longer be considered a viable option which is why I've decided to do as much as I can myself in the old fashion way.

CN 7034 as handpainted about 20 years ago and damaged by storage.

The new project started when rearranging my ever growing collection of motive power and rolling stock in new storage cabinets in the hobby room. I discovered an old pair of Athearn Blue Box SW7 once bought in the late 1990s with the goal of kitbashing Chemin de fer Charlevoix iconic SW1200RS. However, as you can surmise, I was a teenager and when I compared the prototype pictures (which were extremely scarce) to the models, I quicky concluded it was far beyond my skills. Also, at that time I already had a Proto 2000 locomotive and I was absolutely dejected by the atrocious running qualities of my new Athearn locomotives. Later, I thought about using the drive and trucks to create QRL&PCo electric steeple cabs. The idea was simple: find Roundhouse boxcab shells and bash them. I had a hard time finding the shell (pre-Ebay era) and couldn't order MDC's 3-in-1 kits featuring the shell. Thus, the project died.

CN 7007 was never completed and lettering wasn't applied.

Later, I simply repainted the switchers with in a CN livery, assigning them number 7007 and 7034. I recall my choice was based on a Microscale decal sheet... I simply used numbers that were close together on the sheet, limiting the number of parts to piece together! You see I'm lazy!

Shoddy craftmanship: I simply glued the lift bar on the pilot, without eyelets.

However for this project, I'll keep these numbers because they have been part of my roster for so long and both offer different challenges. CN 7007 was a SW9 while CN 7034 was a SW1200. One will be painted in the early all black CN noodle scheme and the other one will have the later all-orange cab scheme. Interestingly enough, both locomotives had different sets of handrails, their air horn and bell location differed too. Better, they both had the classic CN spark arrestors.

CN 7007 in classic "wet noodle" scheme (credit: Gord  Hilderman, cnrphotos.com)

I'm well aware these blue box kits have serious limitations, but given I have them and most parts required to bashed them into decent models, I'll do it. It is both practice and amusement, but also a way to improve my skills, including soldering brass parts which I never did before. Also, I'll upgrade various parts, including the stanchions.My goal here isn't to make a funny half-baked project, but really to see, with my actual skills, how far I can go to improve outdated tooling to the best level I can using limited resources. This is the old fashion way: if it doesn't exist, do it.

CN 7034 with modified paint scheme (credit: Jack Smith, rrpicturearchives.net)

The Athearn shell isn't half bad, but it has big issues due both to tooling and the fact it is based on a SW7: the front radiator grill isn't right, the door arrangement on the hood doesn't match, the headlight are far too small, the cab windows are out of scale, the running board skirts are correct, etc. Name it, you have a endless amount of work on your plate. However, with some exception, these can be addressed. At this point, I will only point out, I'll accept the cab windows are wrong, that doors on the hood aren't correct and that headlights are somewhat dubious. Everything else will be improved though.

CN 7007 shell after a dip in 90% alcohol and a bath of SuperClean.

The first step was to stripe the paint. Alcohol and SuperClean did a great job on 7007, but for some reason, a layer of Floquil CN orange acted as a primer on 7034. Don't ask me why I brushed painted a thick coat of orange under a black model back then, I can't recall, but it was a weird choice to make. Floquil don't stripe easily, so I used my air eraser and baking soda. After one hour, a lot was gone, but orange paint was still there around the details. I knew it would look atrocious when repainted. Then, I decided to applied some Testor Universal Enamel Thinner with a stiff brush and scrub the surface. The paint lifted in a matter of a few seconds! Armed with this new knowledge, striping the paint only took a few minutes and I ended up with two clean undecorated shells.

CN 7034 before scrubbing with enamel thinner.


It was time to think about a kitbashing and detailing strategy, which will be covered in future parts to be published here.

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