CP SW1200RS Project: Interior Colour

This is a story about the value of sharing the progress of your work with a community of modellers.  On June 21, I posted a couple of shots of my progress on these models, which prompted Dan Dell’Unto to offer this feedback:

Sharp units! You may want to look into the interior cab colour though – when repainted into action red, CP was repainting the cabs with a beige interior colour (often seen in many of the interior shots of FP7/9′s posted on the interwebs).

As well, the datasheets for the GM SW units (DS8, 9,12) show the as-delivered (maroon & grey) interior colour as being “Suede grey enamel” rather than green that many 1st generation units had.

A short while later, Dan sent me this image of the interior of a CP RS18u.

CP RS18u interior.  Dan Dell'Unto

CP RS18u interior. Dan Dell’Unto

This was good information for me because I was guessing about the interior colour of these switchers, but there was still a gap in my knowledge.  While Dan’s photo clearly shows the interior of a CP unit, it’s not an SW1200RS, and it’s an MLW product, not GMD.  Furthermore, this is probably not the builder’s paint because the locomotive was extensively rebuilt by CP.  Regradless, Dan’s information was very helpful in pointing out an area where I could improve the accuracy of my model.

A plea to some friends at the WRMRC for interior shots of an SW1200RS prompted my friend Justin to offer a link to this photo:

CP SW1200RS interior, taken on the GRR by Carson Weibe, date unknown.  From Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society website http://www.solrswat.ca/1%20Action/Action%20Past.htm

CP SW1200RS interior, taken on the GRR by Carson Wiebe, date unknown. From Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society website http://www.solrswat.ca/1%20Action/Action%20Past.htm

The shot was one a series of images taken by Carson Wiebe, presumably during a cab ride on the Grand River Railway.  The locomotive is confirmed to be an SW1200RS by the road number stencilled on the ceiling above the engineer’s head.  Also, having read George W. Roth’s book, I knew that these locomotives were staples on the GRR.

I was initially disappointed because someone had shifted the tint on the image, and it didn’t look like I was going to be able to definitively conclude whether the colour was grey or green.  I know very little about digital photo processing, but I naively assumed that if someone shifted the tint on the image, I could go into iPhoto and shift it back.  Here’s the result of my dumb luck:

My beautiful picture

I don’t know how close this is to the original tint, but the engineer’s skin tone looks about right.  Before I changed the tint on the original photo, I would have guessed that the engineer’s shirt was white.   I was surprised to see it come up as yellow.   I’m also not sure of the colour balance on my iMac computer screen, but in my processed version of the photo, compare the colour of the throttle stand with the colour of the wall ahead and to the right of the engineer.  Proximity and lighting can significantly change the shade of the grey I’m trying to match.

I’m not going to get too worked up about finer points.  I’m just pointing it out because lighting always affects our perception of colour.   Armed with this new information, I’m going back to the models to repaint their interiors with a colour that looks good to my eyes.  Stay tuned for some new photos of the models with an interior colour that probably represents a more accurate colour match, thanks to the collaborative efforts a number of different people.

CP SW1200RS in HO scale


I’ve been working on a pair of what I consider to be the quintessentially Canadian diesel road switcher from the ’60s through the ’80s.  The SW1200RS was developed by General Motors Diesel Division (GMDD) to provide a light weight locomotive that could do double duty as a road locomotive and yard switcher.  It was based upon the SW1200 switcher, which was the latest iteration in a long line of highly successful yard switchers by EMD (and its Canadian subsidiary GMDD in London).  The most obvious alterations to the basic platform made to the switcher include larger number boards and more sophisticated flexicoil trucks, which made it possible to operate at higher speeds.   Between 1958 and 1960, CP took delivery of over 70 of these locomotives, and put them to use across the system.


During the 1970s, the period we’re modelling on the WRMRC, CP kept a small fleet of them in Sudbury, so we need to have them represented on the WRMRC to effectively depict the range of motive power in use at the time.  We have a limited range of options for models in HO.


Twenty-five or thirty years ago, Juneco offered a kit consisting of white metal castings that could be added to the Athearn blue-box switcher that was erroneously marketed as an “SW-1500.”  This kit was welcomed by Canadian modellers, and many people used it to convert an Athearn switcher, myself included.  Shown in the photo above, the Juneco parts kit is best characterized as being aligned with quality of the Athearn model switcher that it was designed to modify.  The obvious drawbacks include the fact that the Athearn switcher itself has an out-of-scale hood, and the Juneco parts are a bit crude by current standards.  These models are not suitable for use on the club layout, so I had to look elsewhere.

Overland offered a beautiful brass import of a CP SW1200RS.  My limited experience with brass models has been universally disappointing.  While the detail and finish on new brass is always impressive, I’ve never owned a brass model that runs well.  I know there must be good runners out there, but I simply don’t have the means to find them.  A poorly running model is worth very little to me as I intend to operate everything I own.  The price of building up a pair of roadswitchers from the Overland model would be beyond what I’m able to muster for my hobby.  For me, at least, brass imports are not an option at this point.


True Line Trains has announced and taken reservations for their HO model, which they initially scheduled for delivery in the summer of 2013.  These promise to be impressive, and I’ve put money down to reserve two copies of my own.  There are probably at least eight more reserved by other members of the WRMRC.  I haven’t heard a peep from TLT about their progress toward bringing these to market.  I’m hoping they can meet their original 2013 target.

As I wait patiently for my deposit to be converted into models, I’ve decided to check out the only other option for having an SW1200RS in HO scale.  The long-discontinued resin kit from the defunct operation called called Point 1 Models builds up into a nice model, if you can find them. The kit itself consists of a large resin casting of the locomotive body, cab, and walkways.  It has smaller castings for the pilot and steps, the roof, fuel tanks, interior, and flexicoil truck sideframes.  There are also some nicely executed etchings for the finer parts like grills, steps, and stanchions.  I found two kits and got to work right away.

By far the most challenging and time consuming part of building one of these kits is the modifications to either an Athearn or Proto 2000 switcher drive so that the finished shell fits over the drive.  Despite the fact that the instructions supplied with the kit downplay the complexity of the frame modifications, this step can be daunting, and is made even more demanding by the conversion of the truck sideframes.

I’m about three-quarters through the build at this point, so I’ll go back through my photos and come up with a series of posts to chronicle this build to the best of my recollection.


Ore Cars Step 17 – Action Red

I shot all of the cars with a coat of True Line Trains CP Action Red and moved them from my work bench to the club.  The rest of the work will take place there, so I’m going to store them in the Crean Hill Mine scene while they’re being finished.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAObviously, the scene is still very much a work in progress.  Back in September, I started a series of posts that give an overview of this part of the layout (all of those posts are under the “Copper Cliff” category on the side bar).  I managed to connect the spur track that comes off the Webbwood Subdivision at the Victoria Mine Switch some time ago.  The spur comes off the Webbwood at the far east end of the shelf with the Nairn scene, just above this shelf.  Jurgen started to work on the loader and then got sidetracked by dozens of other projects, but these shots give a bit of an overview of what’s happening there, and how these ore cars fit into the operation.

Ore Cars Step 16 – Wire grabs

The last step in the assembly of these ore cars takes place on the ends, and is another very finicky part of the project.  Both ends of the car have an angled grab iron in the bottom right corner, and at the same corner there are two grabs that wrap around from the end to the side of the car.  Because the floor on these cars is rather high, and because workers had to walk to the end of the car to manually open the doors in the floor, a pair of U-shaped safety bars extend down from the last cross rib.  There is also a handrail from the sides into the centre of the car.  And, of course, there is a coupler lift bar at each end.  Some of that detail is visible in this shot by Jurgen Kleylein.

Here ares some shots of the first model I finished.

IMG_1464 IMG_1465 IMG_1466 IMG_1467 IMG_1468 IMG_1469 IMG_1471

I put this first car together late one evening, and then took a closer look at a number of photos of these cars on the Canadian Freight Car Gallery site, only to discover that the configuration of end grabs on these cars varies a bit.  The photos show the cars after they’ve been reconfigured to work with a rotary dumper, and by that time some of them might have had repairs and modifications to the grabs as well.  The kit has dimples for the grab iron locations as you see in my photos, which are probably accurate for the car or cars that the kit was modelled after, but does not represent the car in its as-built condition.

All of the corner grabs have to bent by hand, so I built a jig and used .012″ brass wire for these. I found it too difficult to work with steel wire, but your mileage may vary. This step in the process involved many evenings of patient bending and fitting using my home-made jig, a variety of small metal brakes and pliers, and the help of a magnifying visor.

The car in the photos above is going to stay in the configuration its in.   It will have to represent a car that had some damage and was quickly repaired at the Sudbury car shops.  I’ll get a detailed shot of one of cars with the as-built grab irons and post it later.

The next step is pretty simple: paint.

I had promised to post a photo of the “as-built” end grab irons.  Here it is…