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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Locomotives | PRR RS-1
Construction: Adding Details


The basic body and chassis assembly work is now done. The kit comes with a handful of details that need to be added to the model. I am also going to be studying my prototype photos to see if there are any other details that I can fabricate and add. The approach I am trying to take in installing these details is to work from as close to the engine's body, out. That way I am able to easily reach the details and drill holes without other details being in the way. This first photo shows the fuel line U-shaped pipe. I don't know what its purpose is, but from looking at the prototype photos, it looks like the left side of the pipe goes through the walkway and into the fuel tank. The kit comes with the U-shaped pipe. I found a matching diameter florist metal wire and cut a small piece of it off. I used my rail nippers to get a nice, clean, straight cut, and then superglued it to the lip of the fuel tank part in the back, after I had glued the kit part first (to get them to line up with each other).

Installing the brake wheel on the short end of the engine is fairly straightforward. I drilled a hole using a #57 drill bit, and glued it in place with superglue.

Next, I wanted to add the poling pockets. For some reason those are not cast into the end plates of the pilots. I had never built poling pockets, so I asked the S-scale Yahoo group for advice and followed their instructions. I used 3/32" styrene tubing. The inner diameter of the tubing I have was quite small, so I first used a power drill with a 1/16" drill bit to hollow out the opening. I then cut small pieces of the tubing off using the NWSL Chopper. I glued, using styrene glue, those pieces to a section of 0.010" styrene, as shown in the photo. My experience was to prepare about triple the number you need (4 per engine or car), because not all come out usable. After the glue dried, I filed them down to where they had about the right height. I then filled some of them with 5-minute epoxy and some of them with superglue. What you want is a concave, "bowl" type of shape inside the tube piece. It is easy to pour in too much glue, which is why a good number of them are useless.

I then cut the poling pockets loose from the styrene sheet. I settled on cutting a square tight against the tubing. The prototype photos I have show that the poling pockets are mounted on a square plate, so the styrene sheet is justified. I then superglued them to the ends of the pilots. This is my first attempt at scratch-building poling pockets, and I have a ways to go to perfect them.

Here is a photo of an Alco S2 I took at the Houston Railroad Museum showing its poling pockets.

I glued the smoke stack with 5-minute epoxy in its position on top of the long hood. The only thing to note here is that the stack sits off to the side and its bottom is angled. You'll want to turn it around so that its bottom angle matches up with the roof angle. One thing I noticed later on is that it was difficult to install the airhorn to the cab once I had the smoke stack in place, so you may want to reverse these steps depending on how you install the airhorn.

The kit comes with a brass single-horn airhorn and a triple-horn airhorn. The parts are cast such that there is a mounting pin perpendicular to the airhorn, which would indicate that the installation is intended for being mounted on the cab roof or on top of the long hood. Some prototype railroads started putting the airhorn on the cab roof for increased sound reach in later years. Studying the prototype model I am following, I realized that the single-horn airhorn was mounted horizontally into the front cab wall. I therefore had to cut off the mounting pin, clean up that area, drill a hole in the center of the cab wall (making sure that the horn would clear the front edge of the cab roof), and glue it into place. The back of the airhorn part does seem to have a mounting pin (or it could be part of the horn itself). Either way, I used a #59 drill bit to prepare the hole in the cab. As stated above, because I needed to get a drill bit horizontally into the cab front wall, the smoke stack was in the way. I drilled the hole at a slight angle and had to fiddle with the airhorn part to get it to be perpendicular to the cab wall when it was installed. I could have avoided that if I had waited with installing the smoke stack.

The kit comes with the door handles for the various doors on the sides of both the long and short hood. There are three problems here. First, my mistake was that I didn't notice that the hood sides have dimples in them indicating where the door handles are to be positioned. At least, I had done one side when I noticed them on the other side. By then it was too late, so I did the other side in the same manner I did the first side, so that my model was, at least, consistently wrong! The second issue is that, even though it looks like the kit comes with a lot of door handles, they are exactly the number that you need if you drill where the dimples are. These are very tiny parts and I lost two of them in the process. Because of my first mistake, I got away with not needing two of them, but you are going to want to be very careful here.

The third mistake is the same one that Dick Karnes mentions in his 1992 article, and that is that the short hood side panels have the vertical doors' hinges molded in on the wrong side. The hinges are molded in between the two doors when they should be molded on the left and right outside edges of the doors, with the door handles in between them. I put my door handles in between the two doors, but if you study it closely, you will, of course, see how silly that is.

Another photo taken by me at the Houston Railroad Museum shows two door handles in the foreground. I wish I had known the detail work I was going to do on my RS-1 kit ahead of time, because I would have taken better photos (the museum is a good hour and a half away from where I live, on the other side of Houston). If I am not mistaken, the door handles aren't actually attached to the doors, but are mounted in between the doors. In their horizontal position their width prevents the doors from opening up, but in their vertical position, both doors can be opened. You may notice in the photo that further below on the doors are a standard door knob that actually pulls the doors open. By the way, at this museum, the doors open to reveal the engines inside. It is my understanding that the engines are routinely fired up by the museum staff.

The next step is to install all the grab irons. I always dread this part of the project, because I don't have enough experience yet forming these things, and they are such a visible part of the model. I have simple, staple-shaped grab irons down now, but the vertical ends of the PRR engines had drop grab irons. I did the straightforward straight grab iron at the top of the long hood first. I used the wire that came in the kit. I then spent two evenings practicing, fabricating, installing, and removing drop grab irons. I finally found a system I could use that gave me reasonably close copies of each other. After I put them into the long hood, I studied my prototype photos again when I noticed that the second grab iron from the bottom actually wrapped around the body to the side of the hood. So I had to remove that one and form a new iron. Those are incredibly difficult to form right, because you are working from two angles. I spent one entire evening working on forming one (after several practice ones). I had the engine laying on its side. When I was done at the end of my modeling session, I was quite happy, until I put the engine upright. The grab iron was a good 1/4" away from the side hood! I removed it and shut down for the day. The next day I came back and formed the left one you see in the photo. What I did was used a round rasp file as the guide for forming the curve. The brass wire is one continuous piece from the side of the hood to the front of the hood. The bracket in the middle is just a small piece of brass wire that was glued on afterwards. To determine the right location as to where to make the 90-degree angle bends is just a matter of trial and error. I eventually got it and quit messing with it. I then formed the simple L-shaped center bracket, and installed it such that its short part of the "L" fit behind the grab iron. This took two evenings, but I think it is worth it. The next night I discovered that this complicated grab iron is actually on all four corners of the engine! It's amazing how much detail you see the longer you stare at prototype photos.

I have included a photo of the prototype Alco S2 engine that I photographed at the Houston Railroad Museum that shows the grab iron. As you can see it is a very complex curve that is formed at the 90-degree bends. Unfortunately, when I took this photo I didn't think about the grab iron below it, but you can barely see it in the lower-left corner of the photo where the grab iron curves around the body of the engine to end on the side of the hood.

By the way, here is a photo of my simple jig for getting these grab irons to be at least the same consistent and correct width. I measured the distance between the drilled-out dimples of the hoods. I then marked that same distance from the edge of a piece of plywood scrap. I drilled a deep hole in the plywood using the same drill bit as the one I used on the model. To form the grab irons, I used a pair of needlenose pliers to put one 90-degree bend at about 3/8 of an inch from one end. I inserted that bent end into the hole of the jig, and then used the end of the plywood to form the other 90-degree bend. That second bend won't be perfectly square, so I followed that up with finishing the bend with the needlenose pliers. The results were a consistent width. However, I could not come up with an effective way to extend this jig to allow me to create the drop portion of the grab irons (which was the reason for the piece of stripwood glued near the edge of the plywood).

I decided to tackle the lift rings next. I had already drilled the holes in the dimples located on the short and long hoods before assembly. I thought about how to form the lift rings for a while and realized that I could use a small-diameter tube of some sorts around which the brass wire of the lift rings could be bent. I found a brass tube that was very close to the right size. After forming the lift rings, I had to make sure that they all were set a consistent distance away from the hood. I used a thin piece of strip wood (shown in the photo) as my guide. I slipped it under the ring and then pressed down on the ring with a file until it sat directly on top of the wood, before gluing it in place with superglue. The prototype lift rights have a slight flatness to them on the top, but I decided to not worry about that for my model.

I installed the four lift rings in the long hood.

And here they are installed on the short hood.

On all the prototype photos of PRR RS-1 engines, I noticed this L-shaped block on top of the hood on the engineer's side next to the long hood grill. I have no idea what it is for, but it is so pronounced that I had to model it. I decided to use one of the left over body brackets from the kit that I didn't need. I filed and cut it down on all sides to where it looked like it was about the right proportion based on the photos I have. I attached it with 5-minute epoxy, because it is kind of exposed.

Another thing I noticed on the prototype engines was these little red lights on each end of the long and short hoods. I don't know if they are marker lights, "brake lights", or directional lights. Either way, they, too, are very pronounced, and being a "rivet-counter", I had to model them. I used very thin slices of 3/32 styrene tubing. I cut a bunch of them off using the NWSL Chopper II, because not all of them come out nice and straight.

I picked the nicest ones, eye-balled their approximate location, and attached them with superglue. I will probably fill them later with superglue and paint the center red.

I could not identify the remaining kit parts shown in the photo, so I e-mail Jeff Smith of Railmaster Hobbies. Part #3 is a stack that doesn't belong to the RS-1 project. He suspects that part #2 is a brake cylinder, but part #1 is unknown. If he e-mails me the answer, I will update this text. I have no idea where to place these, so I'm leaving them off for now.

The handrails took me several full days of work during the Christmas vacation. The kit comes with brass stanchions that have a mounting pin attached. The mounting pin is supposed to go into the hole drilled into the side of the walkway parts (you can see these clearly in the photo above). However, based on Dick Karnes' article, it appears that the odds of getting the handrails to come out looking nice and straight are very slim using this method. There are two variables at play here. One is the fact that the brass stanchions aren't straight in the kit. You have to bend them straight and this has an effect on where the eyelet hole near the top of the stanchion sits in the horizontal plane. Secondly, if the holes aren't drilled perfectly straight and even into the side of the walkway, then the mounting pins aren't going to be positioned in the correct horizontal plane either. And, that is assuming that the mounting pins are the exact distance away from the eyelet holes in the first place.
(external link: Tichy Train Group)

I thought about this for a while and decided that I would forego the mounting pin solution altogether. Leaving the stanchions on the sprue, I removed the mounting pins using an abrasive bit in the Dremel tool. I removed each stanchion from the sprue once its mounting pin was removed. Next I straightened out the brass stanchions as best I could using pliers. After they were all prepared, I measured the desired length of these stanchions to be 0.69", and cut them to that length.

The photo above shows the stanchions being fitted to some 0.025" phosphor bronze wire I'm using for the handrails. I bought the wire from Tichy Train Group, because I wanted something a bit thicker than the kit-supplied material for the grab irons, and the wire comes perfectly straight (the kit wire is curved to fit in the box, which is a pain to try to straighten out). Tichy's material comes in 8-inch lengths, which is not enough to make the entire handrail for the long hood sections out of one formed piece. Also, I will be scratch-building equipment in the future, so having a large amount of this size wire will come in handy. I also bought some other diameter wire while I was at it.

I used superglue to mount the stanchions in their relative positions against the sides of the walkway with the engine laying on its side. Superglue provides that instant grab to hold them in position. I then cut some styrene angles about 4 scale inches long and glued them against the stanchions and the sides of the walkway using 5-minute epoxy. This makes for a surprisingly strong connection. This out-of-focus photo shows them installed.

I did one section of the handrails (there are four, one short one and one long one on each side) at a time. After I gave the 5-minute epoxy enough time to cure, I set about forming the handrails. I was doing this in front of the TV and wasn't paying close attention to the shape of the prototype handrails. All went fine until I got to the last section, which for me was the one long section on the engineer's side that has the cab signal equipment box. Forming that handrail while the stanchions were already in place was impossible to do.
(external link: Evergreen Scale Models)

This was at the end of the day and I wasn't happy with the results. The handrails are such a visible part of the engine, so I decided to rip them all out and start over. This is how I found out that the glue-up solution mentioned above was quite strong, but it took quite some effort to snap the handrails loose from the engine. After that I removed any remaining glue residue and decided to sleep on the solution. One lesson I learned from this is that you should wait with applying superglue to the eyelet hole at the top of the brass stanchion and the handrail. If I had not done that I might have been able to save the brass stanchions and use them again.

The next day I did indeed wake up with a new solution. I decided to make the handrail stanchions out of styrene. I measured the brass stanchions and decided to use scale 2" x 4" styrene strips for the stanchions (Evergreen Scale Models part #7204). The styrene is a bit thicker than the brass stanchions, but it doesn't look too bad. The extra thickness is needed because styrene is simply not as sturdy as brass. Also, I decided to form the handrails first, inserting the styrene stanchions as I went along. That way there was no need for trying to bend the handrails while the stanchions were already glued to the engine. The photo above shows the first one I made. I decided to tackle a short hood section first. It is best to start with the easy one first so that as you gain experience, the most difficult one won't be such a chore. I built the styrene stanchions by cutting them to be a scale 3' 8" long. I then drilled a #69 hole near the top of the stanchion. Using a fine file, I gently shaped a curved top to the stanchion, which is what the kit's brass parts had. I then cut a bunch of a scale 6" angles using Evergreen Scale Models part #291. I placed the stanchion sideways on a piece of glass and used Testors' plastic cement to glue the angle to the very bottom of the stanchion. The glass makes sure that the two parts are even on the back (where they will be glued to the side of the walkway), yet the parts are easy to remove from the glass surface. The shape of the handrail was based on prototype photos. I usually use a permanent marker pen to locate the spots where a bend is to be made. The sharp bends are made using a pair of needlenose pliers, and the gentle curves are made by bending the wire around a tool handle or round file. The big advantage of the styrene over the kit-supplied brass stanchions is that the styrene is perfectly straight. If I am to build another kit like this, I would immediately go to using the styrene stanchions.

There is a bit of curvature in the photo, but here's a shot of the handrail, shown above, installed on the engine. To do the installation, I first superglued the small bent on the left side of the handrail to the cab (prototype photos show that the handrail is flattened and then bolted to the outside of the cab). Then, while carefully supporting the other end of the handrail, I superglue the other end of the wire to the back of the pilot steps. This is the most difficult step and almost requires three hands. However, the superglue sets in just a few seconds. After that the handrail can be let go. I then mix up a batch of 5-minute epoxy, put a dab right where the walkway holes were drilled and gently move the styrene stanchions in place. I press the part down into the glue and then use a small T-square to adjust the stanchion so that it is perfectly perpendicular to the walkway. I then walk away!

The long hood section was next. The added wrinkle to this one is the curve of the handrail near the cab, and how to mount the handrail to the top of the cab. I made the curve using the handle of a carving tool, which had just about the right diameter. The prototype has the handrail flattened and then bolted to the inside of the cab roof overhang. The kit's cab wall is too thick to make the handrail be glued to the inside of the cab wall. If you go that route, you would have to add another bend to the handrail that isn't prototypical. I finally decided to just cut the handrail right at the cab roof and then butt-joint it to the roof. Superglue makes the initial (and very weak) connection, but I later on re-enforce it with a dab of 5-minute epoxy on the back side (where it is less visible). The rest of the handrail was done identical to the short end. Remember that the angle plates are facing the front (long hood) of the engine.

It is now time to work on the other side of the engine. I have been working on a 1/2" piece of foam that I glued to a piece of Masonite board so that the engine doesn't lay on a hard surface while I'm working on it. However, the handrails are somewhat fragile. I decided to cut some pieces of foam and insert them between the handrails and the body to provide some counter force while the engine lays on its side.

The other side's short hood handrails were fairly straight-forward now that I had figured out how to make the gentle curve and how to attach the handrail to the cab.

Of course, that leaves one last handrail. This one is the most difficult one, because my prototype had a cab signal equipment box mounted near the cab, and the handrails went up that box. Forming the handrails was indeed challenging. Added to that, the one stanchion that sits atop the box has to be shortened and a different kind of angle has to be made for that one. I glued the handrail wires using superglue first, as mentioned above. However, the weight of the handrails was too much for the small contact surfaces. I found that a track gauge on top of the air intake louvers on the front of the engine was just the right height to support the handrails while I was working on the stanchions.

The thing to keep in mind, and as a note to myself, is that the sides of the walkway must be perfectly flat and perpendicular to the top of the walkway. I didn't do that, and some of my handrail stanchions lean a bit. I'll just chalk it up to wear-and-tear of the engine in use! Here are a couple of overall photos with the handrails installed (cab roof is just temporary).

The pilots have been eating my lunch, time-wise! Much like the side handrails, I couldn't do anything with the parts from the kit. I scratch-built a pilot handrail for the front pilot. I then proceeded with building the grab irons, uncoupler lever, and other details. After I let that sit for a few days, I decided I didn't like it at all. It was crooked and didn't look like the prototype. Then one day it dawned on me to make a scale drawing of the pilot handrail assembly, and then use that to shape the parts. Also, I had started to build a multiple-unit pilot for the short hood, but I didn't like how that came out either. I decided to rip them both off and build both of them the same way. This photo shows the main parts of the pilot handrail assembly formed from the scale drawing. The "V"-shaped parts were made from a thin strip of brass. A styrene H-column was used in the bottom of the V shape to represent the block used in the prototype.

This photo shows the front pilot with all the various details added. All were based on what I could make out from prototype photos. The uncoupler lever is attached via two eye-bolts (Tichy Train Group part #3037), so it is movable. The short hood pilot is identical.
(external link: part #3037)

The kit provides the four jack pads needed. Some filing and straightening out was required to have a good, tight fit.

On the long hood end the jack pads (one on each side) go immediately behind the third handrail stanchion. I used 5-minute epoxy glue to install them (lay the engine on its side to keep the part in place while the glue sets).

On the short hood end the jack pads are mounted a short distance away from the last handrail stanchion.

I bought a pair of cab shades from B.T.S. (part #02052). The company flags them as EMD cab shades, but they look just like the ones I see in the PRR RS-1 prototype photos. Installation is fairly straightforward. I had to straighten out the parts a bit. I used the roof to make sure the shades fit and were in the right position. Note that one of the protruding tabs of the shade is longer than the other. This matches up perfectly with the cab's side wall window. The back of the shades has a flat glue surface, so it is easy to get the shades to sit at the correct angle. I used 5-minute epoxy to glue them in position and then used a small plastic clothes pin to hold them in position while the glue set. You will want to install cab shades last, because the shades stick out from the side of the engine, and they would carry the brunt of the weight of the engine if you needed to put it on its side to install other details.
(external link: part #02052)

The engine is now ready for the paint shop. All the pre-paint details have been installed. Again, the roof is just loosely placed on the cab; it won't get glued down until the very end of the project.