NYC 3036


NYC 3036 (Lima, November 1940) is a member of the L3b class of modern fast-freight 4-8-2 “Mohawk” locomotives.  While L3a dual-service locomotives were being delivered by ALCo, the Railroad obtained twenty five of these very similar freight-only engines.  Ten locomotives were manufactured by ALCo (3025-3034) and fifteen were constructed by Lima (3035-3049).

The Lima L3b’s differ visually from L3a’s primarily at the front end.  An Elesco feedwater mixing drum was placed on top of the smokebox, semi-sunk-in with a smooth fairing.  L3a’s had a Worthington 5-1/2 SA feedwater heater in the same place.  The coupler was not droppable as on the passenger style pilot found on the L3a and there were freight footboards mounted.


They did not have brakes on the pilot truck (this was generally a passenger locomotive specialty).  The Lima diamond builders plates, below, were factory applied on this MTH model.


Unlike the L3a’s, which had provision but never had them installed, the L3b’s received a booster mounted on the trailing truck (note the long downward pipe directly below the cab number).


Like my L3a models, this model is from MTH circa 2009.  Well made in die cast metal (locomotive and tender) there is fairly fine detail and not much more was added by me.

I bought it new from the train shop many years ago, but it was a bit banged up with a bent front stirrup on the tender and it looked as though it was opened up for repair.  I did not notice until recently, but no matter, as I dove right in.

Locomotive Alterations:


  • All notable molding witness lines removed; unpainted plastic detail parts soda blasted on boiler, running boards, and frame.
  • Wheel faces painted.
  • Brake shoes removed from pilot truck (it appears that MTH made the trucks the same for all their versions).
  • Trucks soda blasted and painted.
  • Tender close coupled to locomotive with new brass drawbar; locomotive deck plate trimmed to fit.


  • Ash pan built-up from .060” styrene sheet; this also conceals the toy-like coil spring suspension above the trailing truck.
  • Sergent coupler added to pilot.
  • Air signal line removed.
  • Traction tire driver replaced with the optional all-metal one included with the model.  In doing this an additional 4-1/2 ounces of weight was added inside the boiler (in spite of die cast metal construction, the all-metal four-coupled drivers are slippery).
  • The all-metal driver was dismantled and the gear squared to the axle using NWSL Aligner and their Sensi-Press.  This is standard practice for me now since the previous two Mohawks had a cyclical hesitation at very, very slow speeds and doing this solved it.
  • Gear box dismantled, cleaned, and reassembled with Nano Grease.  10-Wt Nano Oil applied to driver journal bearing boxes.
  • A rectangular hole was cut into the rear cab sheet below the deck plate for the tender wiring.
  • Existing road numbers soda blasted off and new numbering applied on side of cab (Microscale set #87-78).  Factory “L3b” class lettering retained.
  • Road number added to headlight side and front number boards.
  • Factory installed crew removed.

Tender Alterations:

  • Wall under tender deck plate removed for wiring and connector clearance.  This was done with Dremel moto-tool and cut-off wheel, then a ballnose cutter, and finally a hand file for finishing.
  • Deck plate shortened for needed clearance due to close coupling.
  • All notable molding witness lines removed; unpainted plastic detail parts soda blasted.
  • Rear ladder moved to engineer’s side (per NYC practice, an MTH error).
  • Custom Finishing Models brass coal pusher installed at rear of coal bin.  MTH missed this major appliance.
  • Handle (.010” wire) added to water hatch.
  • Steam line at rear removed.


  • Wheel faces painted.
  • Trucks soda blasted and painted.
  • ATS receiver (a custom 3D printed part designed by me) added to leading truck, trailing wheel, engineer’s side.
  • Sergent Type E coupler installed.
  • Existing road number soda blasted off and new numbering and capacity data applied on rear of tank (Microscale set #87-78); factory “NEW YORK CENTRAL” lettering retained.
  • Woodland Scenics Mine Run coal sprinkled over the existing MTH load.

DCC Alterations:

  • Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 Steam decoder replaces MTH DCS system.
  • Soundtraxx 2-pin connectors between tender and locomotive for track pick-up and motor wiring.
  • Miniatronics 2-pin connector between tender and locomotive and between frame and boiler shell for headlight (kept the as-built LED).  Had to replace the LED in the tender as it was faulty.
  • Kept the dual MTH speakers, but removed the enclosure top – the die cast tender chassis and shell provides a nice solid sound box and removal of the enclosure provides more room for the locomotive/tender wiring (the speakers are, unfortunately, factory mounted at the locomotive end of the tender causing a restriction).
  • New locomotive wiring (motor, pick-ups, headlight).


  • Painted and weathered per usual procedure (see CATEGORY: TECH – LOCOMOTIVES Weathering Steam Locomotives).


The decoder settings were quickly applied using JMRI DecoderPro – I copied an L3a locomotive file.  The main sound choices selected were: Heavy Steam 2 (a nice sharp exhaust bark), Nathan 5-Chime whistle (unlike the L4 Mohawks, the L3’s did not get passenger 6-chime whistles), heavy brass bell (medium-slow), dual dynamos, dual cross-compound air pumps, and power reverse.  The chuff rate was very easy to set (one CV for adjusting to the driver diameter, the rest is taken care of via BEMF).  I like having the overall system sound level down to about 40-50 (256 is the max).


Out of interest I weighed this model and it came in at ~37oz!

In testing, there was an intermittent clicking sound coming from the valve motion.  One benefit of painting all this is being able to see worn paint where any interference is.  There was an interference between the main rod and the lower crosshead on the engineer’s side.  This was confirmed by observing the locomotive in motion.  Slightly bending outward the lower crosshead bar corrected this.

I thought I had solved the problem of running this large four-coupled locomotive type with close-coupled long tenders over six wheel trucks.  When testing 3036, however, I noticed some interference with the locomotive deck plate hinges and the tender deck.  The 42″ curves at the engine terminal side are “tight” for this model, close-coupled (as my vanity will only allow).  To ensure better operation, particularly if reversing through a turnout or curve, I filed a pair of small notches in the tender deck plate for hinge clearance.  Having done that successfully, I retrofitted this modification to my other two Mohawks.

This caused some extra work in dismantling, filing, painting, sealing and weathering the tenders again.  I try to carry forward alterations as soon as possible since we operate regularly.  It’s better to build in better reliability if one can.


This locomotive, too, sounds great and runs excellently.  Very happy.