We all have a small collection that has nothing to do with our main layout.  These models just make us feel good when we see them even though they are hardly, if ever, operated.  One part of my collection is the EMC/EMD E6 Cabinet, pictured below.


These are all Broadway Limited Imports models of the higher quality finish offered beginning in 2012, I believe.  I have a rule to put some control over my model railroad spending: I only buy locomotives and rolling stock from the years 1937 to 1945.  This is reflected in the mostly U.S. pre-war (1940-41) as-delivered E6 locomotives in the collection (the one that isn’t, is described below).

I recently decided that the two non-powered B-Units in the collection really ought to be powered.  Excess?  Especially for models that do not even run on a layout???  Maybe….probably……well yes, but I had that thought and it bugged me until I did something about it.

The units in question were the first B-Unit LA-5 of the Union Pacific “City of Los Angeles” locomotive set (cabinet, third from top) and the B-unit of Santa Fe #12 (as found in the Super Chief/El Captain power pool, fourth from top).  These models were offered by BLI as powered A-Units with non-powered B-Units (the last UP “City” B-Unit LA-6 was sold as a separate powered model).


Now, how to power these units?  To make the upgrade as easy as possible and as compatible to the other already-powered units in each set, I trolled eBay for suitable models.  However, I am very lucky to come across new Undecorated BLI E6 B-Units still for sale at Trainworld (Trainworld), for US $169.99 each – a great deal, I think, for a powered model with factory DCC & Sound.  In addition, there would be a small supply of spare detail parts to have on hand – I replaced a missing side window on B&O 63 (cabinet, second from top).  Below is a picture of the undecorated/unpainted model chassis.  An undecorated E7 B-unit would work too, as well as an E8/E9 model – the insides are all the same.


All I had to do was to swap out the truck side frames and fuel tank.  Here’s how it went:

I have to handle these models very carefully as there are many delicate separately-applied details.  The lifting rings on the roof, the step-ups hanging from the sides, and tiny little foot ledges at the doorways are particularly vulnerable to a klutz like me.  Using a soft foam locomotive cradle and a flat sheet was mandatory.

First I started with the unpowered unit.  To lift the body off the chassis, the couplers had to be removed as they are “trapped” between the body end and the nice cut lever detail.  Removing the screw did not allow the coupler box to be removed – it is snapped in place (when re-assembling, I removed the snap undercuts so that the boxes can be more easily dismounted).  With the boxes loose but securely retained to the chassis, I managed to pull the couplers out of their boxes except for the last one which I just snipped off (below, the Undecorated models come with couplers, so I had extra).


There are four snaps that hold the body shell to the chassis, I released these with tooth picks in the locations shown and lifted the chassis out of the body…


…the fuel tank is a snap-off, snap-on affair…


…the trucks are retained with a typical clip design….


…and the side frames dismantle in a common way found in other makes of diesel locomotives using snap latches found on the bottom frame.


I kept the three parts on the right (two side frames minus the brass pick-up inserts, and the bottom frame) for the powered unit.

Before starting to dismantle the Undecorated powered chassis, I took photos with my iPhone just in case I got screwed up when re-assembling the chassis.  I first removed the wiring (four quick-connectors) from the DCC decoder board.  The two track power pick-up connectors are similar so I used a red Sharpie marker to identify one and a blue marker for the speaker connector…


…then removed the decoder by undoing four screws…


…next, I removed the large plastic tray that retains the speakers to get access to the truck retaining clips…


…a clip is removed and the worm gear as well…


…with the truck removed, it is dismantled as before and I kept the main gear box and power pick-ups with integral wires (noting their position).


The truck is re-assembled with the painted parts in reverse order and then installed in the chassis…


…and the same process is done to the other truck.  The speaker tray is installed and then the decoder board.  Pretty easy when working carefully.

The chassis is next tested as-is using the default DCC Address 03.  Success!  I programmed the decoder with address 1215 using my BLI Address Changer.  The “City of Los Angeles” locomotive set was “numbered” LA-4/LA-5/LA-6; there’s no letter option for DCC addresses, so I converted the “L” as 12 (twelfth letter in the alphabet), the “A” as 1 and added the numbers 4 thru 6 as appropriate.  Thus the second CoLA B-Unit, LA-5, is 1215.  Similarly, and quite typically for the era, my Santa Fe A-Unit was numbered 12 and the B-Unit was numbered 12A, so I programmed them 12 and 121 respectively.


So is this Excessive???  Did I need to do this?????  Of all things, did I need to fully power an A-B-B set???????   Why of course I did 🙂  I have yet to feel any guilt or remorse.  If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know about it, but for now……..

June 7th 1943, it’s the Santa Fe engine terminal in Chicago (ok, I know this looks a lot like Fillmore, but this’ll go better if you just play along).  Santa Fe 12/12A is home from another fast run with the Super Chief.


I believe that this model is representative of an 11-Class (EMC E3/E6) some months after initial delivery.


In the book “Early Diesel Daze 1935-1953” (John McCall, The Chief Way Reference Series, Kachina Press, Page 125), there is a photo of A-Unit ATSF 14 “in early 1942” with a small number board centred high above the windshields – the locomotives were not as-delivered with these.  There is also a visor over the headlight (confirming the time to early in the war).  I believe that there would also be a bell on the roof.

In the Classic Trains magazine Special Issue No 6 “Railroads and World War II” (2007, page 88), there is a great color photo of ATSF 15 and a sister in 1944, without the visor.  The sister has the nose number boards painted out, a later modification.  So my model, below, is after the headlight visor was removed and before the number boards were blanked (it should have that roof-mounted bell, however).


There is a nice photo, again, of ATSF 14 “Fast Fourteen” on the turntable in Chicago in “Early Diesel Daze 1935-1953” (page 127), so the following operation is entirely prototypical…

As the 12-spot nears the turntable, she halts to uncouple the B-Unit 12A…


… 12 proceeds onto the turntable while 12A trails behind…


…our A-Unit takes a spin…


… then halts on the coach yard lead…


…12A then has her turn (sorry)…


…and re-mates with 12…


Now, could I do this without powering that B-Unit????  Good fun.