California's Railroad to the U.S. 1861 - 1996

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Model Train Help EBook

Construction of the Cotton Belt B36-7B

(from a Rail Power Products bodyshell and Overland drive)

By Andrew Hauser ©

HO Scale model of SSW #7771 HO Scale model of SSW #7771

Using a new number 11 X-acto knife, I removed the low front hood by carefully scoring along the sides of front hood at the deck level. After the low hood was removed the remaining plastic was filed and then sanded flush with the rest of the deck. The most difficult part of this conversion was installing the Smokey Valley GE high short hood kit part #676-72 and the B-unit conversion kit part #676-73. The B-unit kit consists of two sidepieces and a single roof piece, the high short hood has a one-piece front with two sidepieces and a single piece roof. Installation of the B-Unit conversion was first. Each sidepiece was fit to the shell by filing a small amount of material from the remaining portion of the main hood; this will allow ample room to install both conversion kits. As the side pieces was fit into place they were attached with Plastruct Plastic Weld along the bottom and at the top with temporary supports until the roof pieces were installed. To add strength to the joints between the hood and the conversion kit sides six small reinforcing plates were made from styrene of various sizes and attached to the inside of shell at each of the joints. At this time a 5/16" x 1/8" cutout was made for the installation of a Details West Hand Brake (part #235-132). Styrene blocks were installed inside the battery boxes for attaching the chassis to the shell. The chassis was installed and the holes were drilled accept 1-72 mounting screws. The chassis was removed and the shell was tapped out for the 1-72 screws and the chassis was countersunk to hide the screw heads.



On both pilots working Overland Models GE coupler cut levers were installed in Detail Associates wire eye-bolts. In addition to the cut levers I added two grab irons to both sides of the coupler along with a Detail Associates GE style drop step. Also installed were Overland Models MU receptacles with the cable and dummy plug. After painting and weathering the pilots were finished by installing four (4) Detail Associates MU hoses on each side of the coupler.. The Kadee couplers were mounted on two 3/32" thick by 1/4" X 3/8" styrene pads that are glued behind the pilots. These were then drilled and tapped to receive a 2-56 screw. Thin shims were used to adjust the coupler height to match the Kadee Coupler Height gauge.


Both ends were detailed with Detail Associates grab irons mounted in #80 holes, locations for the grab irons were marked using a small needle held in a pin-vice. The top of each end has a Details West sand filler hatch. On the front of the unit a Details Associates dual headlight is mounted a third of the way down. The rear of the unit has a styrene block to hold the Detail Associates duel oscillating mars light, topped with a Utah Pacific Pyle nose light. The top of the hood is detailed with Utah Pacific GE lift rings, DA roof tabs and a Overland exhaust stack and silencer. The hand railing stanchions are from a Smokey Valley B-36 handrail kit and Detail Associates ¾ Brass Wire. Starting at the B-end the hand railings were bent to make a one piece side railing. Each stanchion is the soldered to the hand railing using a 30-watt soldering pencil.


The cast on detail on the Overland drive has retained with the following added. Detail West Air Filter set was installed after drilling out the castings to except Detail Associates Brass Wire. These were added by drilling holes in the underside of the frame and attached with 5-minute epoxy. Detail Associates brass wire was then installed and formed for the air lines. Added to both trucks is more ¾ Detail Associates Brass Wire formed to represent the brake cylinder piping. Added to the front truck on what would be the engineer side is a length of small chain for the hand brake. This chain is attached to the shell and to the brake cylinder arm with two Detail Associates eye-bolts.


The original unit started out a standard GE B-36-7 purchased new in January of 1980 (See SP Review Page 113). It was a little more then a year old when the unit was involved in a wreck at Moscow TX on the Lufkin Branch. This wreck completely destroyed the cab and electrical cabinet and damaged the front pilot ( see SP Review Page 53). The unit was sent to LA for repairs, and with B-unit conversion kit from GE she was released with out a cab (See SP Motive Power Pictorial 1987/88 Page 122). Thus becoming the only road B-unit on the modern SP/SSW system. This unit served many years in the general freight pool and was based out of Pine Bluff, AR as was all the GE units on the SP/SSW roster. After serving her time she was retired from active duty at Pine Bluff Arkansas in July of 1995 and became part of the Livingston Rebuild Center lease fleet. It has retained it's original number, 7771 and is painted in a dark gray and lease to the BNSF (See Diesel Era V8#6 November/December 1997 Page 9).

Finishing and lettering:

After detailing the six (6) major assemblies were all washed in a mixture of warm water and a dish liquid with a soft 1" wide paint brush. After washing all the pieces were rinsed in hot water and dried with a plow dryer set on low.

After drying the shell was primed using a 50/50 mixture of Floquil primer and thinner. This set aside and allowed to dry for about a week. At this time I also sprayed the lead frame, fuel tank and brass truck side frames with a 60/40 mixture of Floquil Zinc Chromate Primer and thinner. After drying for about a week the ends of the shell were sprayed with a 50/40/10 mixture of Floquil SP Scarlet Red, Thinner and Floquil glaze.

After all the pieces were allowed to dried for a week, the red ends were masked and all the parts were painted with a 50/40/10 mixture SP Lettering Gray, Thinner and Floquil Glaze. After a week of drying the shell was sprayed with a 50/50 mixture of Floquil glaze and thinner. Herald King decals were used for the hood name and unit number, Microscale decals were used for all the safety decals. After the decals had set the unit was washed in warm soap and water and sealed with a 50/50 mixture of Floquil Flat Finish and Thinner. The weathering was done with a mixture of weathering chalks, airbrush and dry brushing.

Scratch building:

The pocket for the hand brake was constructed from Evergreen Scale Models Strip Styrene. Two pieces of 1.5mm x 1.5mm styrene were used to form the walls. These were cut long and attached flush with the inside edge of the opening. Two additional pieces of this styrene were cut to fit in at the top and bottom of the opening. The backing was made from .010 thick Evergreen Styrene sheeting. All the hand railings were formed using Detail Associates ¾ Brass Wire. The coupler mounting pads and attachment pads for the shell were all made from 3/8" x 1/4" x 3/32" Sheeting. Also installed on top of the motor and wired into the right hand motor lead is a 6 diode system to balance out the speed of the unit with those other units in the consist. This system is used in cab equipped units to power the headlights and ditch lights.

This article © Andrew Hauser 1999.

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Monday, August 05, 2002