Over the last few days, I've been redetailing a pair of junker Athearn SW7 I once painted back in 2000 if my memory serves me well. These locomotives were purchased in 1998 with the goal of replicating CFC SW1200RS. After closer inspection, it was evident the conversion would be too complicated to handle for me as a teenager. Thus, I dropped the project. Circa 1999, I thought I could use the drives and slap a kitbashed Roundhouse boxcab shell to create a QRL&PCo steeple cab. Not a bad idea if you ask me. But at that time, finding boxcab shells was hard and I didn't have access to Ebay or other flea markets/train shows to find the part. Thus, I whimsically painted them in CN colors, handbrushing Floquil paint and decalling them with Microscale CN switcher lettering. The drives were horrible and at the end of the day, I simply boxed them with no intent to ever use them. One was CN 7007, a SW9 and the other CN 7034, a SW1200. Back then, I had very little knowledge about variations among SW-type locomotives.
But now, with self-isolation being the norm, businesses shutting down and postal service running at a snail pace, these botched locomotives gain a new value: they are excellent to provide hours of meaningful occupation. The goal itself isn't to build winning-contest models, but try my best to capture the essence of a SW9 and SW1200. Starting with Blue Box Athearn models mean a lot of compromises have to be dealt with. The question isn't about creating a perfect replica but rather what elements must absolutely be addressed and which can be accepted as is. At this point, we are entering artistic license territory. We are dealing with a completely different beast.
For the sake of entertainment, I've posted my process on Facebook so it could provide a meaningful diversion to many people while enticing others to start doing actual modelling. Many well-meaning posters pointed out I should purchase better detail parts, replace the cab or buy other stuff so my model would be perfect. While I perfectly understand their point of view, I feel they completely miss was is my goal by projecting their own standards on my work. Honestly, I don't care that much. It can provide an interesting exchange and I take it for that.
However, I feel many are completely oblivious about what's going on with the world nowadays. From an economical standpoint, investing so much in these locomotives make no sense. I feel it is an utter waste of money to buy so many detail parts for a cheap and inaccurate shell. The total amount would far offset the cost of a correct model at this point. Buying a Walthers SW1200 with sound and DCC would be a better choice at this point. Should I be out there purchasing new models when my weekly revenues are cut in half and our dollar is taking a serious plunge back to what it was back in the late 1990s?
For this reason, and given the actual world conditions, I don't feel it is a logical choice to start purchasing various detail parts at premium price, from dozen of sources and wait for weeks, if not months to get them. My goal is to have fun and make sure I keep myself occupied during confinement. Until a week ago, I had absolutely no interest in modelling a pair of CN SWs. I do with what I have on hand, recycling extra parts, salvaging broken details and parts myself. Crafting details by myself is a good way to get better with my tools, lean skills and become a better modeller. Anybody can slap dozen of commercial parts on a model with glue. Shaping doors, handles, exhaust, fuel filler cap and such other things is much more rewarding, even if the result won't be as slick as a thin wall Cannon & Co cab (discontinued), a Rapido shell (pricy) or any other option available on the market.
And let's not fool ourselves. With RTR becoming the norm in the hobby, hunting detail down parts is getting harder and harder. Detail Associates is a semi-inexistant entity which most useful parts are never in production at the right time, Cannon & Co. too, Detail West is getting scarce too and others aren't better. Basic commodities such as eyelets are selfom produced... Try to find them (not in plastic or photoetched), good luck! Canadian hobby shops (real location and online) have long depleted their stock and purchasing detail parts from the US is a sad joke. As I posted on Facebook, buying a set of KV Models SW grilles would cost be $51! At that price, I can find a neat Proto 2000 SW900 and repaint it! Worst, these grilles aren't correct for a SW1200 with horizontal louver, so I'm back to scratchbuilding! Who in his right mind would take such a decision.
Worst, Canada Post is paralyzed by the large influx of mail and parcel. I've ordered PSC stanchions from Ontario for this project 10 days ago. Didn't receive anything yet and generally, it take 2 days. Should I rely on such delay when my goal is to keep me occupied? No. So back to the basic, do it yourself!
So let's face it, you change only a few parameters in how the world is run, and what was the best option 2 or 3 weeks ago has now become impossible. As much as possible, I try to source parts from other canadian modellers via the various market pages on Facebook. Not perfect, but together, we can help each other improving our modelling without going broke. Shipping delays are still there though. On a positive note, I've found modelling older CN SW9 and SW1200 is quite interesting. A lot of variation within the fleet. We often only think about the cool SW1200RS with all their Canadian-style details, but the rest of the fleet isn't boring at all!