This article is a discussion on detailing a locomotive for a hobbyist who desires uniqueness in a model but does not want to scratch build or kit bash. As modelers we are very fortunate to have a wide variety of high quality models available on the market. With a little bit of effort you can turn your mass produced out of the box model into a unique representation of the prototype.
Detailing a GP30
- Project Goal
- Prototype Influence
- Starting Model
- Truck Detail
- Pilot and Cab Detail
- Roof Detail
- Weathering Notes
Project Goal - My personal goal for this project was to create a unique model with a minimal investment of time and additional parts. I also wanted to stick with basic the modeling skills of cutting, gluing and drilling to keep this project within reach of an average modeler. Prototype photos are referenced as a guide but the scope of the project is to keep the modifications simple. I always chose realistic appearance over true prototype fidelity to keep the project simple.
Prototype Influence - The first step of this project was locating photos of Chessie GP30 locomotives to use as a reference. I looked at the photos for different details that did not exist on the model I purchased. Specifically I noticed that the horn placement on the roof of the model was different in several photographs, air and sanding lines were needed on the trucks and sunshades were present on nearly all photos I found of Chessie GP30 locomotives.
There are a lot of great resources available on the internet I looked at two specific sites for photos;
Dean Heacock's Chessie Archives
I also referenced the following text which is a "must have" for Chessie modelers. The book provides a concise background on the history of the GP30 and the rebuild program transforming the locomotives into the GP30M.
Chessie System: Diesel Locomotives, by Jerry Doyle, 1999, Walsorth Publishing ( ISBN: 1-883089-42-5 )
I am keeping the model fairly generic with regard to specific phase and detail. Why? I am focusing my collection around the late 1970's and through my research I believe #3044 was still in C&O blue during this time. So, instead of renumbering or repainting we will apply detail for the non-rebuilt GP30 specification noting that #3044 is actually painted in the Chessie livery of a GP30M. Given the large amount of data I found on the internet the next GP30 I build will might be more focused on the prototype.
Starting Model - We are starting with a Proto 2000 GP30 model. The manufacturer provided the GP in Chessie livery which is the model I chose to detail. Just to point out this model is an earlier run of the GP30 by Life Like not the 2006 release.
I used brass wire bent into shape representing the various air, sand and speed recorder hoses found on prototype trucks. The sanding hoses were added by drilling a hole in the brake clamp and inserting the wire. I secured the wire with CA (super glue). Holes were also drilled into the brake cylinders to accept the air hoses.
Installing the speed recorder required that I first shave off the bolt casting on the end of the journal. Using a sharp razor I shaved off the end detail to provide a nice flat surface to drill a hole. Test fit the detail part and use CA so secure the detail in the hole you drilled. I replaced the supplied wire with brass .012 wire, this is unnecessary if you like the kit supplied wire. I think the brass wire will be more durable but this is a modeler's choice.
A word about wire size and scale hoses. When you look at the wire thickness and translate it into "HO scale" size you will notice that the wire is over sized or too big compared to a real train. My philosophy when detailing is searching for what "looks right" but still easy to install. I am striving for the relationship of sand hoses appearing thicker than air hoses and speed recorder cables appearing to be thinner han air hoses. When we focus on the relationship of how hoses are different sizes in relation to one another we can cheat a bit and not have to fret as much about "scale" sizes. Why, because our eye tells us that the model "looks right" even though it is not "exactly right to scale size".
Pilot and Cab Modifications - I did minor modifications to the front pilot and cab. Most notably I shaved off the front steps on the pilot and sanded them smooth with a small file. I added a semi-scale coupler and cast metal air hose.
I added brass sunshades on both sides of the cab mounted just under the cast-on track. I installed the sunshades and painted them after they were affixed to the model. The final details are decals that I added to represent a builders plate and various warnings on the locomotive door.
Roof Detail - I removed the horn from the center of the cab roof and replaced it with two 3-Chime horns using the prototype as a guide for location. I also smashed the rear curved grab iron so I replaced it with .015 brass wire, bent to fit and affixed with CA.
I did a bit of advanced modeling by carving out the built-in fan detail and replacing it with etched metal parts. This was the most difficult and challenging aspect of the model but well worth the results. Replacing the fan detail required a sharp hobby knife and careful placement of CA to secure the metal parts. Looking at the model, the fans are fantastic, I recommend you take your time and try this technique.
The in-depth article on fan detailing is linked here:
Proto 2000 GP30 Fan Detailing
Weathering Notes - The very first step was to paint all of the details we added with Polly Scale C&O Enchantment Blue. You will notice that the paint is not an exact match, not really even close, but that does not matter once we start weathering.
I picked up the following color and weathering techniques from Jim Six during one of his online clinics focusing on the NYC GP7. I thought Jim's techniques looked great and could be applied to any diesel representing a well maintained locomotive that is in service. The GP30 is the test bed and here is what I tried;
Overall Grime - I airbrushed a mixture of; Modelflex Sand, Modelflex Grimy Black, and Modelflex Railroad Tie Brown straight down on top of the model. I only wanted to hit the roof, hood, and walkways with the spray. If you accidentally hit the sides you can use a q-tip in thinner to wipe the color away. I do not remember the exact mix of colors ( I apologize ) but I was looking for a grayish/grime look to blend in the fans and other details to the rest of the model.
Roof Exhaust - I then airbrushed a thin mix of Modelflex Engine Black around the locomotive stack. I feathered the black color towards the rear of the locomotive to simulate wind blowing the exhaust soot.
Running Gear - I mixed up a cocktail of Modelflex Sand and Modelflex Weathered Black and airbrushed a light coat over all the running gear. I wanted the color to be darker than the Overall Grime we sprayed earlier so when mixing the paint I was a little heavy on the Black. After an overall spray, I concentrated the sand mix near the wheels and journals where the sand hoses are located.
Journal Oil - I brushed on a thinned mix of Glossy Black across the journals to represent leaking oil. I varied the mix on each journal so the application did not look too uniform.
Journal Ends - I lightly dry brushed a little rust on the journal ends using Modelflex Rail Brown. I also added a little rust streak from the cast in holes on the truck side frames.
Fuel Tank - I slobbered thinned Modelflex Engine Black down the sides of the fuel tank on both sides of the locomotive. This effectively simulates fuel spillage which was very common in photos. The contrast of the grime on the running gear and spillage is very effective.
Couplers - Couplers are generally quite rusty and can are noticeable from the rest of the locomotive. I dry brushed Roof Brown and then highlighted the couplers with a dry brush of Rail Brown.
Dull Coating - As a final step to protect the model I applied several coats of Floquil Flat Finish thinned 40% using Floquil thinner according to the instructions on the bottle. For the first time I used an airbrush to apply the dull finish and it looks great. I have always been an advocate of dull coating out of a spray can but applying the final finish with an airbrush has really impressed me. When applying the final finish several thin passes with the airbrush are much better than one heavy coating.
Conclusion - I was very happy with the results and I received many compliments from attendees at this year's Trainfest in Milwaukee where the model was used during operations. I learned a lot working on this project and I was especially pleased with the fan detail and light weathering. I encourage you to expand on the article above or try some of the techniques for the first time yourself. You may be surprised at the results.
- Mark N. Goedert