Wednesday, September 19, 2018

LLPX GP15-1 - Part 1

Back to some Hedley Junction stuff after (almost) completing my room cleaning up and collection reorganization. That brings me to the point of having correct motive power for the modern CFC and funnily enough, it seems the first locomotives to hit our rails will be the last ones we witnessed on the prototype.

LLPX GP15-1s pulling the last freight train on Murray Bay Subdivision (credit: Jérôme Langlois-Lavoie)

LLPX GP15-1s were the last regular motive power used on CFC from circa 2002 until 2011 when they pulled the last freight train to ever grace the rails of Murray Bay Subdivision.

A typical motive power consist between circa 2006 (credit: Jérôme Langlois-Lavoie)

They were plain, ugly, dirty and were devoid of any redeeming (visual) qualities (look for yourself) to the point nobody cared about them. Being on lease and never painted with the road scheme, their patched Conrail ancestry only made them more miserable and soulless . However, life is a strange thing and a decade later, nostalgia and love for industrial grime make them much more interesting from a modelling perspective than I could have thought back then. But I'll be honest here, it's my first time modelling locomotives I basically don't like and it's... weird.

Dirt and grime were a common sight on GP15-1s (credit: Jérôme Langlois-Lavoie)

Their brutish appearance speaks about their power, the dirt about their hardworking qualities and brutish look about their utilitarian purpose. Thus, earlier this year when we firmly decided to accept the layout story was about the CFC, a pair of Athearn Genesis GP15-1 were acquired. They were virtually identical to the LLPX on CFC albeit a few modifications done later to fit the road's particular needs. I thought to myself "here's an easy project; install a Loksound decoder, add rock lights, move the horn, slap some paint patches and here we go." I was so wrong.

My experience with Athearn locomotives is limited. I used to hate their bluebox coffee grinder as a teenager and never embarked in the Genesis line because their models didn't suit my modelling choices. But now I'm stuck with them on this project. Out of the box, the locomotives look gorgeous, full of nice crisp details... and then things start to literally fall apart. These locomotives are engineered to be broken... and not opened. These locomotives have not been yet operated and the amount of things to repair or glue back in place is alarming. Add to that we had to replace every grain of wheat light bulbs. As for the shell, taking it apart is quite an exploit. I'm surprised I've succeed without trashing everything.

Original electronics stripped down before rewiring.

My point is that given the complexity of nowadays models and their intricate (thought obsolete) electronic components calls for locomotives that can be disassembled easily to perform standard maintenance or upgrade task. I certainly salute how Athearn reinvented themselves since the 2000s, but given many other manufacturers make equally complex models that can be disassembled and are sturdy enough to survive getting out of the box, this isn't an excuse.

That said, Louis-Marie is actually in the process of installing Loksound decoders, keep alives and various lights in these units. I'm also working on a way to implement sound in them too. Only God knows how much I hate working with electronics but there is no easy way out.

Rewiring and new decoder installed ready for testing.

But all things aren't bad about this project and at least it's back on track after staying in limbo for months. The funny thing is I bought RTR locomotives and ended up disassembling them! I was reluctant at first, but it was the best way to modify, detail, repaint and install complex electronics without destroying the models and resorting complicating masking tape contraptions.

Most lettering was removed with a Paasche air eraser and baking soda.

The first step was to do some soda blasting and fine wet sanding to take care of the ugly Operation Lifesaver Conrail paint scheme.

Wet sanding took care of the rest.

Some little details were removed or simply relocated like the horns and nose grabirons. Side bells on the long hood were also added. They are Miniature by Eric modified C630 bells. Sometimes, you've got to do with what you have on hand. I also replaced the flimsy stock Sinclair antennas with brass ones. Sometimes, you've got to do with what you have on hand.

New side bell and horns relocated.

Otherwise, the locomotives are in the paint shop and relettering should happen in a matter of days. Rock lights on both ends will be added later when I'll get them.

While similar in aspect each GP15-1 LLPX paint scheme varied in details.

I certainly hope to do these locomotives justice because they will be our main power for quite a while due to some missing part issues with Rapido's undecorated SW1200RS (to make a long story short, it is the last time I ever buy undecorated kit from them). Maybe they are ugly, but they are a useful requirement, just as it was on Chemin de fer Charlevoix. When paired with the old RS18u, they will look quite attractive I think!

Subtle paint scheme differences give both unit some character and distinction.

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