Friday, November 9, 2018

Southern Pacific F-units, Part 3

I have described in previous posts some of the background history of the huge fleet of Electro-Motive F units on the Southern Pacific. The railroad, including its T&NO and Cotton Belt subsidiaries, owned 573 F units, over 15 percent of all F units produced. I began with some info on the prototype (that first post was at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2014/02/southern-pacific-f-unit-diesels.html ). I followed up with a Part 2 post, describing my modeling of SP’s F3-Phase IV units (as railfans termed them), starting from Athearn F unit A and B models (that post is at this link: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2014/03/southern-pacific-f-units-modeling-f3.html ).
     (Incidentally, for background on the Phase designations of EMD F3 units, entirely a creation of railfans and diesel spotters, not EMD factory descriptions, you may benefit from the Wikipedia entry on this point, which is at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMD_F3 . Unofficial they may be, but these Phases are helpful identifiers of visual characteristics of these locomotives.)
     As it happened, the first five SP sets of F3 units were early Phase II, with high fan shrouds. The five sets of four units each, A-B-B-A, were sent off to the T&NO within two years of delivery, on account of their high-speed gearing, a bad combination with the steam helpers still in use.
     The remaining 15 sets of that first purchase were Phase III units, with low fans but still with the characteristic roof “slots” for dynamic brake heat exhaust, and “chicken wire” over the upper carbody openings. Four of those sets also were later sent to T&NO. Once renumbered in 1949, the remaining Pacific Lines group of 14 of these F3-Phase III units were mostly B units, 12 of the 14. I’ve long wanted to model one of them.
     There were at one time Highliner kits for B units like this, and luckily I stockpiled one, along with a set of the etched screens for the “chicken wire” over the openings. Here is the box, now brought onto the workbench to build this unit. (The Highliner dies were bought by Athearn, and now furnish the parts for their Genesis F units. But kits or dummy units are no longer sold by Athearn.)


     The design of these Highliner units is very clever. They are molded with all possible bracing in the upper carbody openings, and then a series of pieces is provided to fill in the areas that changed as EMD modified the design over a span of years. The same is true on the roof, where various fans or dynamic brake slots can be added. Here is the unmodified shell, out of the box.


     The kit directions then indicate which filler pieces to add in the upper carbody openings for each locomotive Phase. I decided to double-check this against an SP prototype photo. In Joe Strapac’s excellent series of books on Southern Pacific Historic Diesels, Volume 10 (Shade Tree Books, 2003) covers EMD freight F locomotives. Here is a Robert A. Smith photo, depicting one of the B units from the first SP order from EMD, that did remain on Pacific Lines. It is pictured at Colton on April 6, 1950.


     The appearance of the carbody openings here agreed exactly with the Highliner kit directions, so I went ahead and modified the openings accordingly. I also added the correct 36-inch fan base and the roof panel with slots for dynamic brakes. You can compare this state of the model with the prototype photo above.


     Next I will install the lift rings and etched fans on the unit roof, then paint it, with the “chicken wire” added after painting. All handrails will also be added after painting. These units had a stunningly simple paint scheme, all black with a Daylight Red frame stripe and no significant lettering other than the unit number. All that will be covered in a future post.
Tony Thompson

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