Seattle & North Coast F7A #101: Update 4

The nose of SNCT F7A #101 with grabs and pilot steps.

My posts recently have been very Railflyer/second gen EMD oriented, so it’s about time I made a note of my progress on SNCT F7A #101. Not a lot has been done, but some of the major hurdles have now been cleared.

The engineers side has a unique stirrup for access to the nose ladder.

First new thing, is the addition of the nose grab irons. They’re BLMA .008” drop grab irons, which are nice, though they’ve now been eclipsed by Railflyers offering, which are closer to the scale 17” length of the prototype. I am going to use a Railflyer ladder grab for the edge of the nose, as well as Railflyer photo-etch nut-bolt-washer details. I’m still waiting to receive those though.

A view of the conductors side, notice how the steps were attached to the shell on the opposite side.

I also added the pilot steps to each side of the plow, and the stirrup step to provide access to the nose grabs. These parts were all scratchbuilt from Cannon & Company fret and brass treadplate. If you look closely you’ll notice that the pilot steps have a diamond plate pattern. The stirrup step is actually in it’s second iteration. The first one I built looked dead-on for the prototype, but interferred with the Athearn trucks swing (grumble), so I had to narrow the step somewhat. It doesn’t look as good, but it does the trick, and the locomotive will be able to take right curves. If I ever figure out how to convert a Genesis truck to scale width, I may be able to redo the stirrup.

Top view of the milled Athearn frame.

The next phase of the project involved finding someone to mill the Athearn chassis so that I could use Hi-Tech battery boxes and hanger brackets on a scratchbuilt frame. Fortunately, a milling service was offered by a member of the Diesel Detailers forum, and I was able to get this done for a very reasonable price. It was well done too, every cut is precisely to spec.

Bottom view of the frame.

I based my design on David Hussey’s Santa Fe F units. Essentially, .08” has been milled off the bottom and a cavity that is wide enough to allow the motor to lie on its side has been carved out. Because milling the bottom off the frame removed the fuel tank cavity where the motor had been attached, it was necessary to remount it on its side.

The motor will now rest on it’s side.

Here you can see how the motor will fit in the chassis. If you’re curious, or want to see exactly what was done, the plans I drew up are available in PDF form here: Next I’m going to start building the frame, and will continue adding more of the little details to the shell.


11 Replies to “Seattle & North Coast F7A #101: Update 4”

  1. Chris,
    I’ve been following up with your efforts as they’re posted, really neat stuff!
    I’m an HO scale modeler myself, with an interest in the BN/GN/NP and the Milwaukee in the Northwest. The SNCT is a particular favorite of mine; The past few years I’ve been going up to Seattle every winter for a vacation and to see friends, and I’ve always taken a few days for myself in Port Angeles. I’ve done quite a bit of hiking around and sleuthing after the old SNCT R-o-W (in the rain, of course). I have the location of most of the old line nailed down from PA to about Discovery Bay, my goal this winter is to chase it down from there into Port Townsend. What a cool railroad…
    Regarding the Highliners shell, years back (1998? I was still in HS) I saw an ad about the Highliners A-unit in some magazine, the B unit shell had been out for a long time at that point. Anyway, I was real jazzed when I saw that ad, and the guys at my LHS said that Paul Lubliner had been talking about doing the A for years but nothing had ever been released. So I wrote Paul a letter. Three weeks later my mother called me down to the kitchen, “There’s some guy named Paul on the phone for you?!”. I ended up having a real nice chat with the guy. A few years later, the shell kit was actually released and shortly after Athearn started making them. I built one up as BN F9A 842, on a Stewart chassis, I still have the model and it holds up OK considering I was 17 when I built it. Every time I look at it, your article or anything else “Highliners” I think of a nice guy named Paul who took time out of his day to call some teenage modeler and BS about F-units.
    I just picked up a new Athearn Genesis chassis, the new one that goes under the “modernized” units, it has a seperate fuel tank, etc. It’s not as nice as your customized frame but between that spare chassis and your article, I’m really getting the itch to build another Highliners shell.
    Best of luck with your efforts and nice work!
    Alex M.

  2. Hi Alex,

    Kudo’s to you on writing that letter. It’s pretty neat to discover how willing many manufacturers are to speak with those of us in the hobby. I too remember seeing that ad for the A unit and being excited about it, though at the time I wasn’t thinking much about the SNCT. They’re just such great kits, and so well done that I would probably have to build one even if I didn’t have a prototype.

    How’s the relief and detail on that new Athearn chassis? That’s the route I was planning on taking until I discovered the much more anal-retentive method I am attempting now. I’ve seen some pictures, but none with the shell removed.

    I have yet to explore the SNCT grade between Tukeys and Discovery bay as well. I know the area between Port Townsend and Tukeys fairly well as my high school cross country team used to train on a good portion of it. Beyond Tukeys though, a lot of the neighboring landowners seem to have landscaped over the roadbed as soon as the rails came up, so it seems to be a bit more difficult to follow the trail there than it is elsewhere. There are a few roads along the bay that I’ve yet to check out though, hopefully there is still some evidence of the SNCT down there.

    As you may or may not know, the transfer span/former wye at PT is currently being removed as part of an environmental cleanup campaign to rid Puget Sound of creosote pilings. It’s sad to see it go, but I’m all for restoring the Sound to a more natural state, so at least it’s being done for a good reason. Hopefully you were able to get some photo’s in past years when you’ve been there.

    Thanks for the comments, and good luck if you start a new Highliners unit!

    – Chris

  3. If you want I can take some photos of each and (attempt) to e-mail them to you.
    Athearn made 4 primary changes to the frame to accomodate the new “modernised” Genesis F’s. The nose area of the frame casting has been cut back and streamlined, I guess to accomodate additional details sticking through the shell. The rear of the frame has also been opened up to make room for a speaker on sound-equipped units. Concurrent to this they have also changed the way the shell attaches to the frame: Instead of plastic clips on the side of the body (anchored to the porthole windows in the shell), the shell now sits on two tiny metal tabs up front, and is secured by two screws through the frame into a plastic block below the back door. In my opinion this is a much better system. The frame itself is a little wider now since the clear plastic clip inserts are gone.
    The biggest change is around the fuel tank area. The large, solid casting on the old drive has been replaced with two much smaller square castings. The fuel tank consists of a plastic tank with two separate plastic hanger bracket details, which screws to the frame (no more sticky tape!). The regular 1200 gallon tank is nicely proportioned and the 1500 gallon extended tank has some good filler details. There is a little more relief above and behind each tank, not a whole lot but every bit counts.
    The battery box is now a separate detailed casting and includes an air tank in the middle and etched metal grates on the bottom of the boxes. There is a nice big open slot between the batt boxes and the fuel tank, partially to accomodate the tank hanger bracket detail. The batt box doors are separate and glued on when there is no skirt at all.
    I have mixed feelings about the Genesis F’s. The new modernised units are a nice advancement but, well… as one modeler commented on a forum I read (I’m paraphrasing), It’s not that I think the Genesis F’s are bad, I just think I can do better. However, the new drive and frame is much appreciated. Short of building a mega-detailed proto-87 frame like you’re doing, the new drive is THE way to go when building Highliners F’s. I have amassed a fleet of Genesis F’s — a few will be “runners’, I’ve re-detailed a few, but mostly, I want them for the drives. Not sure what I’ll do with the shells — strip ’em and re-use them, sell ’em on Ebay, who knows.
    RE the old SNCT, I think I have a few photos of the old wye at PT. Agreed, it’s a neat artifact but I can’t object to its removal. BTW, I never saw Sequim before the SNCT was removed and 101 was realigned — it still find it incredible how hard it can be to find the grade east of the Dungeness through town. I gather the town has really grown up quickly in the intervening years.

    1. Hi Alex,

      Sorry it took my so long to get back to you. Things have been a bit hectic the last few months, but are settling down now. I made a map of the SNCT route through Sequim which I will post here someday, but I could send it to you if you’re interested. Most of the grade is completely gone, and some of it is on private property now.

      – Chris

  4. Chris,

    If you want to post info about me in regards to the millwork I did for you, that is fine with me. I caught a picture Tom Murray took of your detailed frame, and you need to update your blog with some photos to demonstrate WHY you went to the trouble of having the frame milled.
    I think you’ll get many people jaws hitting the floor with the details you have added.

    Keep up the nice work. I am looking forward to seeing this one complete (someday:-)


    1. Hi Brian, yes I know… the blog has fallen by the wayside a bit. I’ll be adding some photo’s over the next few weeks as time allows. Actually, I’ll have access to an indoor paint booth fairly soon and hope to get the locomotive painted and decal-ed so it’ll be ready to display at the W. Springfield show.

      BTW, I’ve got the other two frames I’m going to use for SNCT 102 and 103. I may be sending those your way shortly (assuming you’re still willing to mill them).

      – Chris

  5. >BTW, I’ve got the other two frames I’m going to use for SNCT 102 and 103. I may be sending those your way shortly (assuming you’re still willing to mill them).<

    Sure, anytime!:-)


  6. Interesting stuff you guys. Just stumbled upon this site. Chris, that bit about laying he motor over on it’s side for a see through between the bottom of the frame and the fuel tanks; I begged the previous owners at Athearn to let me do exactly that for the modernized drive. ‘Twasn’t permitted! The late Leo Munson and I worked out the screw type mounting, which I am very pleased about. I always wanted this design concept over the Kato clip style with the initial design. But again, (or should I see earlier) I was over-ruled and had to do as directed. Something else will shortly be in the works regarding the F’s. PKL

  7. Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. It’s unfortunate that Athearn didn’t choose to mount the F unit motor in it’s side. Had they done so I would have been a lot more likely to purchase the SNCT units that were released recently. I’m glad to hear it was at least considered though.

    I’ll be interested to see what’s to come regarding the F’s. Hopefully the drives sans shell will be available again at some point too, they are pretty difficult to find these days.

    – Chris

  8. Hi Chris,

    SORRY that I didn’t get to respond to this sooner.

    Several times I had a face to face with the then president of Athearn (prior to it’s sale to Horizon Hobby) regarding this specific point. That was about 6-7 years ago when the F Unit drive received a ground up make-over. That was when the shell to chassis attachment was converted to screws. I did strongly advocated rotating the motor 90 degrees along the shaft axis to separate the fuel tanks so when skirtless, there would be “daylight” visible under the frame when viewed from the side.

    The truth is simply this; there wasn’t sufficient money allocated to also do a new tool for the required differing plastic motor mount to permit this rotation. It was that simple. Believe me, I wish it would have been so!

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