More home-built hybrid Lionel locomotives
Build your own dual-cab O gauge locomotive
Published: September 5, 2006
|As a child, I saw a drawing in a 1950s Lionel instruction manual showing a boy holding a pair of F3 diesels. I mistakenly thought the two A units coupled back-to-back were one twin-cab locomotive. And I wanted that locomotive, even after I discovered that Lionel never made it.|
Though it would be many years before I would start freely cutting and pasting locomotives, the seeds of three-rail kitbashing had been planted.
When kitbashing, I start with derelict locomotives and freight cars. I don't try to duplicate a specific prototype down to the last rivet. Rather, I try to achieve a more general likeness of a certain locomotive, real or imagined. Here are samples of what I've done.
|1 - At first bash|
In 1993, for my first kitbashing project, I chose to fulfill my childhood dream. I started with a battery-damaged and well-worn pair of Santa Fe no. 2343 F3s that I would ultimately transform into a freelanced Chicago & North Western 16-wheel centipede-type engine.
First I figured out where to cut and splice two F-unit bodies so that the seam would be easy to fill and camouflage. The resulting shell has three cooling fans in the middle of the roof and one fan and one exhaust stack farther toward each cab end.
The wheel arrangement, which can be technically described as B-2-2-B (two powered and two unpowered F3 trucks), certainly makes the locomotive stand out. I constructed a mock-up frame of basswood and mounted the trucks and two horizontal motors to check for clearance and operational problems. I included a single three-position E-unit and an operating horn.
It took months of nightly work sessions to complete, but the result now proudly sits in a display case.
|2 - No average Joe|
Aided by my experience in cutting and splicing F3 bodies, my second project was a "Little Joe" type engine, complete with a challenging running gear. I customized the frame and then cut the bodies to fit before proceeding to the real fun.
The real Little Joe had a 24-wheel (2-D-D-2) arrangement, but because Lionel never made a four-axle powered truck (and one wouldn't fit on typical toy train curves anyway), I decided to compromise with three-axle powered trucks as part of a 20-wheel (2-C-C-2) running gear.
For each powered truck, I used two vertical Lionel motors and four F3 power trucks, cutting one power truck in half and mating it to another power truck so that the drive gears meshed and powered all three axles. I cut and epoxied the side frames together to fit. The two end trucks are unpowered.
Finally, I removed a large roof section from the spliced body just behind each cab so that I could install a low-profile roof using sheet plastic. I then placed two Lionel interurban pantographs, cooling grids, and other details on the new roof.
|3- Kitbashed cabooses|
For my third project, I looked to the other end of the train - the caboose. I felt I had to have two customized units, one short and one long.
I figure that most Lionel collectors, such as myself, have more SP-type cabooses in their possession than they'd like. So I decided to use two broken and battered ones to make a long caboose with a centered cupola and a bobber type caboose.
In order to create the undercarriage for the short caboose, I cut a Lionel plastic Timken type truck in half and elongated it by adding plastic scraps between the two halves.
|4 - 44-ton weight loss|
I'm not sure if I can call my fifth project a kitbashing job. Technically, it is, though all that I wanted to do is shorten an existing Lionel model to make it look more like the real thing.
When Lionel issued its version of the GE 44-ton switcher, it turned out much too long and wide. I removed about one inch from the center of each hood section and about 5/8 of an inch from each truck's length. The hoods are still too wide, but I wasn't about to fool with that dimension since the extra width accommodates Lionel's original postwar motor.
However, I did substitute a Lionel single-axle drive motor and power truck for the original dual-axle drive. I kept the original three-position E unit.
|5 - GPF3 or a FGP7?|
I once read an article about a cab unit similar to an F3 and another engine similar engine to a GP7 that were reconstructed into one locomotive in Mexico after both fell victim to wrecks. It sounded like a natural for my next kitbashing project.
I used a GP7 frame with its entire original running gear and equipment. I cut off the railing from the frame's cab end then soldered a strip of metal to the frame to match the contour of the F3 nose. In place of the GP7 pilot and I coupler, I substituted the corresponding F3 parts.
To splice together these distinctly different bodies, I made the cut just at the point where the GP7 rear cab wall starts, leaving the cab's rear windows intact. Then I attached the F3 cab to those windows. The F3 cab was about 1/8 of an inch shorter than the GP7's, so I added some filler material and finished off the seam by sanding.
Given the origin of the unique prototype, I painted and lettered the model in mid-1970s Ferrocarril del Pacifico green and yellow.