Friday, October 27, 2023

Refurbishing an IHC 2-6-0 - A 15 years Project

Refurbished IHC Southern Pacific 2-6-0

In 2007, I acquired an IHC 2-6-0 for a good price at Udisco in Montreal. It was painted for Southern Pacific lines, but I didn't care because it would be an excellent starting point to model QRL&PCo #22. My previous attempt with a MDC Prairie kit hadn't paid off and I felt the IHC Mogul would live up to my expectation. Having read the old mid-1990s Canadian Railway Modellers issue about converting one to a CNR prototype made me believe so.
Back at home, I started quickly to butcher the tender to conform to Omer Lavallée's drawings and pictures found in an old 1959 QRL&PCo historical brochure. It went well. It wasn't my first kitbash, but I was breaking new ground in terms of hacking a steam model.

Then, it was time to alter the locomotive proper. It's at this moment that big discrepancies started to appear. Wheels were to big and the wheelbase was much larger than the prototype. The boiler was too long and the cab somewhat wrong. It became quite evident that cutting down the boiler and fiddling with the drive could lead to a catastrophe. I thus accepted the discrepancies and decided they would be considered as modeller's license. Sure, I didn't like it because the silhouette was completely wrong. It was becoming clearer and clearer that QRL&PCo #22 was in fact an 0-6-0 with a pilot to make it track better on road duty.

That said, I soldiered on and started to modify the cab window to fit my prototype as best as I could. The results were OK and the model was soon covered with a coat of Krylon black primer. A picture was taken and the good old thing fell into the memory hole.

QRL&PCo #22 after it initial coat of primer.

A few years later, with more experience, I decided to revive the model. This time, it would be a CNR prototype. Or more exactly, a what if model, if #22 had been repainted in CNR colors as was supposed to happen back in 1952. I kept the tender as I had bashed it, then proceeded to correct the cab and finish the details. A neat coat of paint and decals concluded the saga and once again, a picture was shot. I then tried the loco on the club layout, found out the performance was poor due to not having be maintained nor breaked in and it went in its box a few minutes later. To be honest, I was never satisfied with this loco and its compromises...

CNR 429 was supposed to be QRL&PCo #22's new identity

Fast forward to 2023 and yet again, I'm digging that model out from the failed project purgatory. I kind of wanted to restore it as it should have been. Recalling it was based on a Southern Pacific prototype, I started to search for the locomotive it was supposed to replicate. SP Class M-4 seemed to be a good fit overall and I elected to restore the bashed model into it. After collecting a few historic and preservation pictures, I explored the possibility to add a  MDC shorty Vanderbilt tender. It was indeed very SP, but I felt improving the MDC tender I had would be a waste of time. I would keep the original tender and revert it back to SP appearance.

Restored tender with original oil and water hatches

For some reasons, I had keep several pieces I had cut from the tender more than 15 years ago and I was able to rebuild a decent oil bunker out of them. Styrene and Archer rivets completed the rest.

As for the locomotive, the biggest challenge was to rebuild the cab windows to specs. Styrene once again was used until a satisfactory appearance was restored. Unfortunately, during the original bashing project, I had cut and bashed the numberboards and they couldn't be reverted to their original appearance. They were replaced with correct SP brass ones.

Restored cab with correct size windows

My goal wasn't to make a superdetailed model, but rather to see how would the IHC Mogul look if it was painted and weathered with care. For this reason, I didn't add details that weren't on the original plastic shell. Sure, the bell and dynamo were brass parts I added during the earlier kitbashing project, but they were in the same place and had the same appearance. I also took care to rebuild the boiler handrails according to SP pratices.

Restored boiler with shiny brass replacement parts.

At some point, I was kind of surprised how the old IHC Mogul was finely tooled for its era. The original tooling was by PEMCO in the very early 1980s. The molded details were crisp, the backhead of the boiler was finely modelled, the part assembly was clever and generally speaking, it was certainly a good quality model back then. Sure, PEMCO powered their locomotives with motors hidden in the tender. That design decision would plague IHC steam models (which were inherited partially from PEMCO) until the company stopped existing. In the mogul case, PEMCO made the tender much longer than it was to install the motor and drive. This is why most modellers always consider this model quite silly. But after close examination of M-4 pictures, it's clear the tender is prototypical for SP, except its length. You don't need to rebuild it completely or use another tender. You just need to shorten it to prototypical length. Since IHC doesn't use tender drive, it's an easy modification.

I wouldn't say the IHC mogul is free of discrepancies compared to a real M-4, but it's certainly close enough to be a fun project to tackle. Painting and decalling the model was a breeze. I also experimented with preweathering the entire model prior to final assembly. It made application of fading, dirt and other weathering processes much easier. For example, I didn't have to care about covering the drive in paint while weathering  the firebox. This is an approach I have since used on a few other steamers and that makes my workflow faster and more enjoyable.

Once weathered, I had some fun taking pictures of my new SP M-4 outside on the diorama. It's certainly not a California setting, but sunlight brings forward the qualities of this budget model. I wouldn't recommend it to die hard SP fan, but has a funny quick modelling project, it certainly paid off! 


  1. Fascinating to see all the process done on this engine! I remember very well the first try, and I believe that it was awesome for me at that time!