It is my preference to use the Stewart (Bowser) FT, already 20 years since its first issue. Intermountain also offers a more recent FT with finer detail. My experience with two samples from that company were disappointing, so I’ll stick with the trusty Stewarts.
A look at the Bowser website shows that, unfortunately, the Stewart FT is no longer offered. I did get a very fast e-mail reply from Mr English about a year ago stating that they may bring them back in the future. There are parts available though, but no body shells. I have noticed that these models can come practically entirely assembled (glass and most detail parts installed) or with all the parts to be modeller-installed on decorated bodies (as this post lead photo shows). I prefer the latter.
I found my models on ebay. They are brand new in boxes and were very reasonably priced; I went ahead and ordered FT’s for future Winter projects. I plan to do AT&SF #104 factory delivered as A-B-B-B in November 1941 and also NYO&W #601A/601B as-delivered in May 1945. I also have some leftover Stewart FT parts from that earlier EMC 2700 hp Demonstrator build and from an NYC FT which I no longer have.
I will install the new Tsunami 2 PNP EMD 567 decoder in the first section with a speaker in the rear of that car body and another in the second section. The 567 decoder offers many options for configuring a locomotive’s sound characteristics, one of which is a dual 567 prime mover (for E-Units). Since my first and second sections will never be separated, this works out well because I can use the dual 567 in the same way in the Model F. Therefore, I can get away with one decoder per locomotive.
I will also provide all-wheel pick-up as per an Andy Sperandeo article in Model Railroader (“DCC sound for a Stewart F unit” January 2010). This is very easy to do and requires a quick-connector between the sections (as does the speaker wiring). I had all-wheel pick-ups in my NYC FT; it never stalled even on some less-than-perfect Free-mo track work. An LED will be provided for each headlight. A very basic cab interior will be built; there are limitations to the cab floor depth due to the height of the drive mechanism.
Of course, some real fun will be had in detailing the car bodies, including back-dating the side batons (“rivet strips”) near the four port holes. The 103/103A had some unique details that were different than production FT’s and I will point these out in posts as they come up. I will try to do my best to make as faithful a model as practicable. However, there are some things that will not be totally correct:
- The Stewart models have FT production-sized wheels at 40”. 103/103A had 36”.
- The wheel sets are RP-25 (not scale width).
- I believe that the side door toward the rear of the car body was wider on 103/103A than on production models. I am not certain of this; I do not have enough info or a photo. In any case, I don’t think I could make the alteration as crisp as it needs to be to match the rest of the model, so I won’t make any adjustments there.
- The MU cables will not be connected between car bodies.
- I may not have the multi-bulb headlight made in an acceptable manner and will use the kit’s single beam light. I can always retro-fit this later.
Some challenges that loom ahead without any certain solutions now:
- Obtaining an acceptable color-match for the “Pullman Green” and “Imitation Gold”. This varies with lighting conditions of course. I will make samples of colors I feel are close. In the end, probably, I just have to get something I will be happy with.
- Painting the Imitation Gold stripes including the wave on the nose of the locomotive. It is very likely I will paint the GM logo on the nose door as well (what did I get myself into?).
- Making canvass diaphragms between the first and second sections. Model F/FT’s with drawbar connections did not have conventional diaphragms. They didn’t have crew end doors either!
- I will try to get Sergent couplers to work with the diaphragms. There is a wand for this, but in some limited testing I was not successful in making them work easily on my Heavyweight passenger cars. Why this is important? During ops it would be good to separate the two locomotives so that they can be accommodated on my turntables (and also possible Free-mo ops in the future).
FT Tidbit: Demonstrator 103/103A was numbered after its EMC serial numbers 1030 and 1031. When these two locomotives emerged from the factory, they had those numbers in the nose number boards. Very shortly after that, the numbers were changed to 103 and 103A, perhaps to show how a railroad would number this 5400 hp locomotive set for service. This is interesting in another respect: long before I knew this, I wondered how I was going to program the locomotive address 103A in the decoder? I concluded that I would program the locomotives as 1030 & 1031!