Athearn FP7 Kitbash
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This is one of those projects that just sort of happened. I had wanted an FP7 for a very long time. Of all the first generation diesels the F and E units have always had a special place in my heart. Perhaps that is because I had the opportunity to see them on a daily basis growing up near Montreal West station. Atlas produced an FP7 back in the 80s but being much younger then, I never had the opportunity to buy one. Now that I had a renewed interest in the hobby, I looked into buying a used one or one imported from Roco by ER Models. The price was still prohibitive. So I dug through my scrap box and found a few old Athearn F7 shells and started looking into what was needed to hack and slash a couple of F7s into an FP7.
The article I followed was in Model Railroader in April 1972 there was also an article in Railroad Model Craftsman in October 1978. I did not follow the article to the letter as the cuts required in that article were not as easy as the path that I choose. I made one cut on the Athearn shell forward of the exhaust stack and on the other shell, I cut through the dynamic brake fan. By removing the remaining fan detail on these two halves when joined, the unit has the extra panel between the dynamic brake panel and the exhaust and fan panel.
I glued a large sheet of medium sand paper to a flat surface and began sanding the joint to the final line by holding the body in my hand and rubbing it over the flat surface. When dry fitting showed that I was close I stopped. Using plastic cement I carefully glued the two halves together. I then puttied the top and sides and sanded to remove any trace of a joint. The most difficult area was the grills. I could have used commercial grill material but to avoid increased cost, I filled in the grills completely at the area of the joint. Using small jewelers files, an exacto knife and a dental pick I carefully cleared the grooves. Initial painting indicated that the line would be visible but once I brushed on the silver metallic paint to simulate the prototypes unpainted stainless steel, the thickness of the paint made the joint disappear. Needless to say I was quite pleased with this!
The shell I choose had the dual headlight and the lower one had to be filled in. I glued a small piece of thin styrene from behind and filled the hole with regular autobody putty. At first I tried Tamiya body putty but found I was having problems with shrinking so I went out to the garage and dug out a 10 year old tube of body putty from Canadian Tire. To my pleasant surprise it worked like a charm.
With the shell complete and awaiting paint, I turned my attention to lengthening the frame. The article I had explained how to do this by cutting the frame and then drilling and tapping to accept small screws and using a piece of brass to extend the frame. I chose a different method. I cut the frame as indicated behind the first truck mount. Then I mounted the two frame halves into the completed shell. This way I knew the frame would be held in alignment by the shell. I cut two pieces of brass channel and mixed up some two part epoxy. I glued the brass onto the frame halves and clamped with some clothespins. I have to admit the first time I made a mistake and had to remove the brass channel. I can attest to the strength of the glue, because it was no easy task removing the brass channel. With the mistake fixed, and the channel glued back in the frame is as strong as ever.
I have no layout at present so pulling power was not a prime concern. I removed the worm gear from the front truck so only the rear truck is powered. By using drive line parts from an Athearn SD40-2 you can have the front truck powered as well. Eventually I plan to repower the unit with a Proto Power West drive but until then it looks good on the shelf.
Next came the job of painting and lettering. I chose unit #4062 because it was designated as a freight unit and did not have the auxiliary water tank mounted under the frame. This saved me from buying a Miniatures By Eric part or scratch building the water tank. I painted the entire shell Modelflex CP grey. I made a template out of styrene to match the angles and curves for the stripes and using that I can cut exact masks from tape. Once all the masks were on, I sprayed Modelflex CP Maroon. I find this maroon to be a bit dark but weathering can lighten it. I used microscale decals without spraying a gloss coat first. I find that if I apply Microscale Microset to the shell before laying the decal on, the slight roughness of the paint does not matter. I over coated the decals with Floquil flat and I am quite pleased with the finish.
The moral to this story is not to be afraid to test the limits of your modeling skill. There is no trickery involved with this model. Just take your time and work slowly and excellent results will be yours.