Not quite La Grange in November 1939 – my EMC 103/103A is seen under final assembly (below).  They’re almost ready: first section of 103 (on the right) only needs glass installed. The portal glass was masked for painting with tacky putty.  There are some definitions moulded in the glass for internal body structural members and these were painted in the interior colour – Testors Model Master acrylic RAF Sky Type ’S’. The toothpick and piece of .030”x.080” strip styrene were used to form the putty and make the straight edges respectively. Next, the diaphragms were mounted on both sections.  On … Continue reading EMC 103/103A ROLLOUT


A big part of this build was to see if I could paint the wave striping and nose logo using masks, as opposed to using decals.  I previously had much trouble getting the stripe decals to conform with the sharply raised boarding ladders and rivet strip details.  I had, however, an advantage in knowing that the decals would fit.  If I had not known that, I would have decal’d an unpainted plastic first section shell to see how they are sized.  My plan was to mask and paint the stripes and nose logo using the decals as patterns. Here’s how … Continue reading EMC 103/103A PAINTING PT2


Going back some years ago when I built my first EMC 103 (only as the 2700 hp locomotive) I used the full decal striping from the Microscale set (87-613).  I had a very difficult time getting the decals to conform over the boarding ladders and rivet strips without deforming.  After much fussing around, I got what I thought was a respectable result for the time.  However, I did wonder what sort of outcome would be had in painting the striping instead of using the decals.  I was about to find out…. All four car bodies were mounted on blocks for … Continue reading EMC 103/103A PAINTING PT1

EMC 103/103A DCC PT2

Looking more like the ghosts of O&W power past, EMC 103/103A is on the Fillmore programming track… Right out of the bag the locomotives ran very well.  I did notice, however, the speaker in the second section was overpowering (louder than the one in the first section).  So I modified the speaker enclosure in each second section by removing the extension ring, making them the same half-height as the speaker in the rear of the first sections.  The result was balanced sound from both sections. Next, I used my Broadway Limited Imports Address Changer to program the addresses: finally settling … Continue reading EMC 103/103A DCC PT2


The Broadway Limited Imports Address Changer has made the typically cumbersome (in my experience) programming of decoder addresses so easy.  It is very worthwhile, especially so for a layout with lots of locomotives like an engine terminal. In the past it was a frustrating experience every time I tried to program a locomotive with a four-digit DCC address.  Even with a power booster, I found that I had the most success working out the math for doing the long-form way.  A tedious and time consuming procedure that wasn’t always successful, especially if I did the calculation wrong. Now, the Address … Continue reading ADDRESS CHANGER

EMC 103/103A DCC PT1

I labelled each chassis with the respective road numbers for ease of identification.  The DCC install is pretty simple…. The motor wiring was redone with orange and grey 32 Gauge wires from NCE.  These connections were reinforced with my usual application of liquid connector coating.  A small drop of 10 weight Nano oil was applied to the motor shaft bearings.  Then the motor assembly was installed in the chassis, the trucks mounted, the universal shaft/worm gear (with an application of Nano Grease) and truck retainers snapped on. Following this I soldered a 1/4 Watt 680 Ohm resistor directly to the … Continue reading EMC 103/103A DCC PT1


Before taking the chassis apart I first checked to see how the Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 PNP decoder would fit.  It is easily accommodated inside where the Stewart board was, even locating into the two pins on top of motor mounts.  I also had a look around to see if there was enough clearance for all of the wire connections.  This was good too.  My last diesel DCC decoder install (some years ago) was using a QSI unit.  It had a large capacitor (a drum about .20” diameter x .30” long) dangling from wires.  The Tsunami 2 does not have this … Continue reading EMC 103/103A CHASSIS


As mentioned in Part 1 of the Couplers posting, the standard-length Sergent Type E couplers are too short for coupling the second sections together (back-to-back) when American Limited diaphragms are mounted.  I imagine the same problem is encountered when using standard-length Kadee couplers, although I did not try them. Fortunately, Sergent Engineering offers extended-length couplers: in .100” and .130” sizes.  I ordered one set of each; there are six couplers in each set.  They need to be assembled.  My previous orders have been for factory-assembled standard-length couplers (and I see that they are no longer offer this option). This will … Continue reading EMC 103/103A COUPLERS PT2


One of the goals in this build of EMC 103/103A is to successfully operate Sergent Couplers, where diaphragms interfere with using the usual coupling/uncoupling tool.  Sergent offers a special tool (more to follow below) for aligning/opening-jaws/uncoupling for diaphragm-equipped passenger cars. When I built my original 2700 hp Demonstrator and NYC 1600/2400 I was not concerned about the back-to-back coupling of the second sections to make an A-B-B-A configuration, as these were intended to be A-B sets.  At that time my standard coupler was the Kadee #158 “scale” coupler with the trip pin/glad hand snipped off.  I had no trouble coupling … Continue reading EMC 103/103A COUPLERS PT1


The Stewart trucks were dismantled for cleaning, painting, weathering, and lubrication.  I find that the Stewart FT was well thought out when designed, however, the sideframe mounting pegs are quite weak and prone to breakage.  This happens in the thin sections shown in the picture below. Therefore, I avoid touching the sideframes and I have some spares in case an accident happens.  These parts are currently available from the Bowser retail website.  There is some assembly required to the sideframes by adding a hanger and the two brake cylinders.  These simply press into holes provided. I assembled all of the … Continue reading EMC 103/103A TRUCKS


As I was mulling over the Pullman Green issue, I came to the conclusion that it might be a good idea to pursue the lead offered in the Paint Shop article of Model Railroader (November 1989).  It stated that this color was adopted by the Great Northern as the green in their Empire Builder scheme.  After all, there are color photographs available of locomotives in this post-war livery. Another bit of info, right under my nose, is the color of a Stewart model of a Great Northern first section I happen to have for my future ATSF 104 A-B-B-B build.  … Continue reading EMC 103/103A COLORS PT2


Here are some more resources that I have on The Model F Demonstrator: 1941 LOCOMOTIVE CYCLOPEDIA – this mega-volume has a rather small but interesting section on EMD, and some general info on the Model F (with EMD colour art pull-outs).  What I like most is that it is representative of the times.  We see how others saw locomotives and their appliances, especially the latest in steam, back then.  A very interesting and large last section is provided on locomotive backshops and the modern engine terminal.  Not a book to take to bed with you though 🙂 CLASSIC TRAINS SPECIAL: … Continue reading EMC 103/103A RESOURCES PT3


The following pictures show the modifications and details added to make the somewhat unique 103/103A Demonstrator.  The carbodies are primer’d with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer “L”.  It goes on very fine and was of great help to see any imperfections particularly where I had removed the vertical rivet strips.  It also helped balance the base color for the very light Imitation Gold color; three body shells are moulded in black and the fourth is in light grey. I did try to remove the moulded side air-intake grills and replace them with Detail Associates etched parts.  While these look neat, they … Continue reading EMC 103/103A CARBODIES


One distinction of the demonstrator’s construction was its carbody rivet strip arrangement.  The rivet strips on the sidewalls near the four portholes are different than on subsequent production models.  Fortunately I found this change to be very doable, although great care was needed. In the photo below, the vertical rivet strips marked with a blue arrow had to be removed.  The red arrow points to a yellow line that represents a rivet strip that must be added. I carefully removed the lower strips first with a Micromark chisel (Micromark), taking little material with each left and right pass (it is … Continue reading EMC 103/103A RIVET STRIPS


One of the things I anticipated as a challenge to my build of EMC 103/103A was creating the diaphragms between the first and second sections.  Actually, this turned out to be quite easy. The Model F Demonstrator, like most Model F’s produced afterward, had a semi-permanent drawbar attaching the cab and booster power sections.  This item was not easily removed and was work for the railroad backshop.  The passageway between the two sections was covered with a one-piece canvass diaphragm. American Limited produces a very nice diaphragm set for the Stewart FT.  However, the diaphragm supplied that goes between the … Continue reading EMC 103/103A DIAPHRAGMS


I made up basic cab interiors for EMC 103/103A, just in case someone looks in there!  Having even a very rudimentary interior helps as I feel it completes the model just a bit more.  With the Stewart FT there is a limitation with regard to the floor height to clear the drive mechanism, so a faithfully prototypical interior is not possible. As it was a rather involved process in cutting and fitting the parts to fit inside the Stewart cab, I tackled this first after stripping the paint off the body shells.  In addition, since I have two more future … Continue reading EMC 103/103A CAB INTERIOR


Since its completion, I always felt that my 2700 hp Model F Demonstrator 103 was too olive.  The picture above accentuates this probably in the extreme.  Under normal lighting conditions, that would be in my train room, it looks darker and less olive.  The model was painted Polly Scale Empire Builder Green and the stripes are from the Microscale set (#87-613). For my new 5400 hp EMC 103/103A, I have been paying closer attention to the colors.  My main reference, aside from one period color photo in Classic Trains Spring 2015 (this photo shows quite a dark green although the … Continue reading EMC 103/103A COLORS PT1


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 … Continue reading EMC 103/103A MODELS


Here are some more resources I have…. Trains in Transition (Lucius Beebe, Appleton-Century, 1941) has a page (p.87 “THIS TRAIN SOLD THE BILL OF GOODS”) devoted to 103/103A.  There’s not a lot of info, just a paragraph below an R. H. Kindig photograph.  The significance of this locomotive is not lost on the author with respect to the number already ordered by the Santa Fe.  However, I do love how Mr Beebe opines “…steam has a sentimental appeal to all railroaders, and, in fact, to almost everyone…”. I had obtained FT Demonstrator decals from Microscale (#87-613) when I first modeled … Continue reading EMC 103/103A RESOURCES PT2


There is not a whole lot of info available on the EMD FT, errr Model F, let alone specifically on the 103/103A Demonstrator.  I have collected bits and pieces over time. The most info I have is found in the book, The Revolutionary Diesel: EMC’s FT (Diesel Era, 1996, softbound 130 pages). I find this a very informative and entertaining read.  I have re-read it numerous times and it never gets old.  EMC 103/103A is covered, although not as much as I would like.  Then all of the FT users (many written by their respective historical society) are covered alphabetically … Continue reading EMC 103/103A RESOURCES PT1


Whenever I see a train these days, like all of us, I stop and look.  While I take an interest in the railroading around me, I really have no interest in modeling it.  With the exception of the mid 1920’s to mid 1930’s, I have no interest to model anything but what I do now – 1938 to 1945, with a keen interest in the years 1940 and 1941.  Much was happening then; streamlined passenger trains, fast freight trains, large “super-power” steam locomotives, and the coming of the diesel-electric. I’m not a good model railroader or railfan.  I couldn’t tell the difference … Continue reading EMC 103/103A INTRODUCTION


Here’s an old trick for making fine plastic rod.  It is very easy to do.  Take a piece of the runner (or often called a sprue) from a polystyrene plastic model kit.  The sprue is what holds the parts making the kit “tree”. To take the clunky thick sprue diameter and turn it into finer useable stock, simply cut a length and hold it over a flame (a candle works best) while rotating, as below… …as it gets soft, it will droop down… …then stretch it by pulling on both ends… Presto!  One can make many different diameters by varying … Continue reading STRETCHING SPRUE


Here’s a handy tool that isn’t talked much about – the tapered reamer.  It is great for opening up holes.  While using an No 11 X-ACTO blade is an easy way to bore out a hole in, say, polystyrene, as the hole gets bigger it becomes less round and then becomes a jagged mess.  The reamer pictured above will do diameters from 1/8″ to 1/2″.  It makes very round holes by simply turning it clockwise.  The more it cuts, the bigger the hole gets. The hole created will have the same taper as the reamer.  To counter this, I insert … Continue reading TAPERED REAMER


This is officially the 100th post on my blog.  There were 2-3 that I have deleted along the way, I don’t know how many exactly, but the counter says this is #100 and we’ll go with that. My thanks to you for tuning in…I hope that you have found it worthwhile. I really didn’t think I would make it this far.  I’m not a computer guy: I don’t Tweet, never use Facebook, couldn’t say what an Instagram is.  Some may say, and maybe rightly so, that I am not very “social” given that I have turned the comments feature off … Continue reading THE CENTURY


I have had the most success in stripping the factory applied paint from models by using Easy-Off oven cleaner. I always ensure that I apply it in a well ventilated area and use a rubber glove to protect my hand that holds the model.  Very simply, I apply the Easy-Off as per instructions (meaning I shake the bottle well) and apply it very liberally.  In the picture above, we see the plastic container where the well-soaked body shell (a Stewart model) rests.  I leave it like this for about 3/4 of an hour.  Then, with my glove on because this … Continue reading STRIPPING PAINT


As a blogger it would be way too easy to complain about a disappointing purchase or experience.  No negativity here though.  It is important for me to salute those who go beyond what is requested and give a little, and often, a lot more.  There are two guys who have given exceptionally good service when responding to my questions. The first is Rich from Digitrax.  Sorry, I do not know your last name, but you have always answered my questions very quickly.  In fact, the service/support I get from Digitrax is the BEST of anything I’ve ever purchased (homes, automobiles, … Continue reading MY THANKS


Operating allows us to find inadequacies within our scheme.  One such inadequacy was found on the passenger/express car switching side of the layout. In my previous switch lists I had failed to show in what order, direction-wise, the cars needed to be made up for taking them from the passenger car service building or REA platforms to the passenger platforms (staging).  As seen below, the new switch lists indicate the direction (east/west) and order.  This also helps me staging the cars properly because they are stored away in boxes. Also, as originally intended, the switching on the passenger/express car side is … Continue reading REVISED SWITCHLISTS

NYC 3004

This is a model of a modern New York Central 4-8-2 Mohawk, Class L3a (Alco, Oct 1940).  The L3a class was 25 strong and all were built by Alco (as opposed to subsequent L3 and L4 classes).  The locomotives of this sub-class were dual-purpose: designed for both passenger and fast freight operations.  While not having the top speed of a class J3a Super Hudson, the L3a had more power and better acceleration, useful on heavy passenger trains with many stops and starts.  These modern Mohawks (the L1 originals were first introduced into service in 1916 and followed-up post-war by the … Continue reading NYC 3004


So I finally have a follow-up to my earlier posting of 9 July where I was about to release an NYC L3a 4-8-2 Mohawk locomotive for service at Fillmore.  Just at the last moment I discovered a cyclical hesitation in the driving mechanism at very, very slow speed.  In that post (LOCOMOTIVE TUNING PT1), I went through all the checks I made to diagnose the trouble.  I concluded that one or more of the drivers might be out-of-quarter, and so I went about obtaining the tools and knowledge to check this – see category TECH – TOOLS: SENSIPRESS+, QUARTERER 2, … Continue reading LOCOMOTIVE TUNING PT2

LOST RAILROADS OF WESTERN NEW YORK Vol 1: Lehigh Valley at Buffalo

I just finished re-reading Lost Railroads of Western New York, Volume 1: The Lehigh Valley at Buffalo.  This is the first of three excellent books in this series (thus far) from Stephan M. Koenig. This book covers the following in b&w pictures, concise text, diagrams, and maps: A history of the Lehigh Valley in the Western New York area.  Well written and not overwhelmed with minutia. The City Branch and Lehigh Valley Terminal – the passenger station and freight house in downtown Buffalo and the line from there to sub-urban Dingens Street Terminal.  Lots of fine pictures of station and … Continue reading LOST RAILROADS OF WESTERN NEW YORK Vol 1: Lehigh Valley at Buffalo