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F40PH #338

F40PH #338

What Amtrak roster could ever be complete without a model of one of the 200-plus workaday F40PH diesels build by EMD? For twenty years, these units represented the face of Amtrak, and could be found in any number of situations - from racing up and down the Northeast Corridor with Metroliner trainsets to trekking across the country with one of Amtrak's long-distance trains. The F40PHs were built in three distinct phases, with minor variations among those. The first group (200-229) sported a rear-mounted fuel tank and P5 air horn, while the second group (230-328) carried a foward-mounted fuel tank and the brighter-sounding K5LA horn. The third group (329-409) were very similar to the second, but were built with Q-fans and some other different details. The fourth group (410-415) consisted of units purchased from GO Transit, and resemble the second group but with some unique details.

The unit I chose to model, 338, is part of the Phase 3 group and was commonly seen running on various East Coast routes. It may have been assigned to Albany-Rensselaer, NY at one time, which makes it an excellent choice for my modeling purposes. Some prototype photos show it with lettering applied too far back on the sides, which looked very distinctive but was simply a mistake by an Amtrak paint crew. I decided to represent the 338 around the middle of its lifetime, when it was just another member of a strong and reliable Amtrak workforce.

Part of the reason for my choice of roadnumber was that Walthers sells an F40PH numbed 338, and the paintwork on this model is slightly better than on their other Amtrak F40PHs. However, the logo on the nose of the unit was still incorrect, so I carefully applied a piece of decal striping over the logo and added a replacement from Microscale. I also used Polly Scale's E-Z Lift Off solution to remove the printed-on side and rear numbers, then replaced them with custom-printed decals to renumber the unit as 338. Those lettering changes alone made a significant difference, but many other details needed to be added to enhance the realism. I began with the most important task of replacing the radiator fans with Q-fans from Detail Associates (hard to find now). After cutting out the molded- on fans and a rectangular section of the fan hatch, I made a new recessed hatch from styrene, including the distinctive triangular extensions. After adding the Q-fans, I also replaced the dynamic brake fan with a taller one, also from DA. Next I began drilling for the countless grab irons, which were fortunately all pre-formed wire parts from Detail Associates, as well as the many lift rings on the roof. I also added sand filler hatches, a new K5LA air horn and windshield wipers. The molded-on anticlimber was incorrect, so I replaced it with a thin strip of .005" styrene, and I also added appropriate details to the pilot. There are still a few more details to be added, including a cab air conditioner, plus fuel fittings and other underbody piping.

I touched up the factory paint as needed where I had added detail parts, using Floquil Old Silver to match the base coat, along with SP Scarlet and Conrail Blue to match the stripes. I also added a touch of realism by going over the side grilles with a thin wash of black paint, which settled into the grilles to add depth and simulate weathering. After the remainder of the detailing is complete, I intend to add more weathering, since the F40PHs were never truly clean while in service.

The 338 was the first of my models to be equipped with DCC and wired up for realistic lighting. I simply spliced an NCE D13SRP decoder into the motor and pickup circuitry, then added a golden-white LED in place of the original headlight bulb. The illumination from this is intense and focused, just like it should be, and it looks fantastic in a darkened room. Later, I added operating strobe lights on the roof using 2mm bright-white LEDs that I purchased on eBay. These have the right bluish tint for a strobe light, and are the correct diameter for the Star strobes that the F40PHs wore in the early-to-mid 1990s. I simply roughed up their outer surfaces, slipped on a piece of reamed-out 3/32" styrene tube to represent the base of the strobe housings, and press-fit them into holes drilled in the cab roof. One is programmed as a single-pulse strobe light while the other is a double-pulse, which simulates the out-of-sync flash rates on the prototype.

Click photos to enlarge
338 sits under the new bus depot that was being constructed over South Station in Boston, covering most of the platforms in darkness. 1994
Right side view of the model 338. 1/16/06
The other side of the 338. 1/16/06
Front view, showing new anticlimber and other details. 1/16/06
Overhead view, showing the new fans and other roof detail. 1/16/06