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Since the beginning of the year, I have been working on adding another locomotive to my shortline fleet. After much thinking and deliberation, I decided to model a proto-lanced South Omaha Terminal GP9. This blog post will go through all the major steps of this locomotive project:
Follow along with these next posts!
After finishing up my Rail Car America Alco C415 last year (https://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/36663), I decided that my South Omaha shortline could use a second locomotive, similar to the prototype. This would help me on the layout because I would like to have a backup in case I have an op session coming up and one locomotive needs some maintenance, or in case something happens to the locomotive that I am using during the op session, then I have at least one more to put in service right away without making the operators wait for me to fix something.
The question is, what kind of locomotive should I go with? I model the early 1990s and back then, RailCar America, which also provided switching service to nearby customers under the name Brandon Railroad, had four locomotives in their fleet: the C415, an S1 from the South Omaha Terminal, an S3 painted in Brandon, and a relatively new NW2 painted for Brandon. The C415 was painted for Brandon at about this time, but I want to keep it RailCar America as I like that name better. The Alco S1 and S3 locomotives were beginning to get phased out and didn't seem like good candidates to be used on my industrial spur day in and day out, so I passed on those. The NW2 seemed interesting, but I thought that I could use something with a little more power, since I have more customers on my spur than the real Brandon had back then. So I decided to craft my own locomotive for the fleet.
I thought about going with something like an Alco RS11 to match the C415, but I thought I would try to follow the Brandon practice better and go with an EMD unit that would be similar to the NW2, just with more power. Looking through old Trains magazines from back then (in particular the 1987 motive power survey in the November 1987 issue), the most popular shortline diesel at the time was the GP9. Before I came to this conclusion, I thought about where the Brandon would most likely get a locomotive for my industrial spur. In my slightly altered history, the South Omaha Terminal still exists instead of the Brandon Railway and is partly owned by RailCar America (the car shop in South Omaha) and SPSF, which has trackage rights into Omaha from Kansas City and uses the SOT as their switch agent in Omaha. So I wanted the SOT to have a locomotive from the SPSF. My first idea was the CF7, although these were all off the ATSF/SPSF roster by 1986, and the SOT would get this locomotive right around 1989, so that would be tricky. The next idea was a GP7u, which were being retired in 1989. I would have went with that route, but I ended up getting a GP9 shell from Proto Power West/A Line instead of a GP7 shell (more on that later). So I decided to go with a former Southern Pacific GP9 for the locomotive. Again, this works out well because a lot of shortlines had them in the late 1980s, just like the NW2, and it provides more power. Then I decided that I would paint it up similar to the Brandon NW2 and also fashion the South Omaha Terminal logo to look like the Brandon logo.
Now that I am settled on the GP9 for the motive power, what would it look like? The Southern Pacific had so many different kinds of GP9s. This was definitely an excuse to buy some new books and I found this one the most helpful: "Southern Pacific Historic Diesels, Volume 7, Electro-Motive GP9 Locomotives," by Joseph A. Strapac. Then I zeroed in on my prototype: SP GP9 5788, built in April 1957. I like this one because in my era, it was SP 3778, painted in the SPSF kodachrome scheme, and it had a new air filter installed. I decided that the RailCar America car shops would chop the nose and remove the dynamic brake section. I also figured out that in the SPSF numbering scheme, the 3778 was due to become SPSF 1872, and I would keep that number since RCA/Brandon kept the same number from the previous owner.
Now that I have the background and history figured (sorry it is so long and detailed), on to the model building!
This article first appeared on model-railroad-hobbyist.com
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