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How to Weather First Generation Diesel Switchers

March 17, 2011

Weathering your early diesel switchers can be a fun activity, and one that may take some research to get right. The examples seen here show them in their last stages of life on the Western Pacific, before they were sold to short lines or scrapped in the early 1970’s. Thankfully, there are a few decent color photos for the Baldwin VO1000’s and a few for the ALCo S1’s.

Obviously you probably won’t be weathering these exact locomotives, so I’ll provide some examples of “typical” weathering you might find on a Diesel switcher in the late 1940’s through the late 1970’s. Below is an illustration of how a typical switcher (in this case an ALCo S1) is weathered after a few years of service.

1. Dirt, Dust and Grime will always be heavier on the flat surface of the long hood. The combination of the soot accumulating from the diesel’s prime mover and the fact that switchers are rarely washed means this could get pretty filthy. Also on older switchers the sheet metal above the prime mover could be rusty and heat-burned from the engine block overheating on hot summer days.

2. The exhaust stacks and the immediate areas around them will most often be covered in soot. This is from the incomplete combustion that most of the older diesels had, throwing good amounts of black carbonic soot out the stack and not much further. The stack itself may be oxidized from heat burn.

3. The hood area closest to the stacks will be sooty, unlike on road units where the soot may be more evenly distributed parallel with the hood because of faster movement. On a switcher that spends most of its life idling in place or at slow speeds, the soot will deposit itself heaviest perpendicular to the hood, and sometimes down the sides.

4. The thin sheet metal that comprises the roof of many locomotives is first to rust and always gets a nice coating of grime. The entire roof may rust uniformly like on this Baldwin S12, or in spotty patterns with rust pits starting along weld seams or rivet lines and moving across the roof.

5. Windows can be dirty too, especially in dusty yards, and often times the windows not regularly used by the engineer for visibility (re: most of the left side windows) will be dirty or only somewhat clean. This varies by road, and the pride that the locomotive crews have in their equipment.

6. Walkways are an important and often used feature on switchers. The tread patterns often get the paint polished off them as heavy work boots rub the paint off the steel. this creates a polished path of steel shine and a grimy dull rust everywhere else that isn’t constantly treaded on by the switch or brakeman. On the long hood, oil can leak onto the deck from the prime mover creating pools nestled up against the side of the hood, especially dripping out the bottom of the side access doors. Also, they can be faded from whatever color they were originally by the harsh sun.

7. The fuel tank also gets dirty, very dirty. Heavy mud and dirt gets kicked up by the wheels on the ends of the tank facing the trucks. On the side, it’s generally pretty dusty, with a shiny wet streak below the fuel filler cap. With time the diesel fuel may take the paint off this location and expose the steel.

8. The trucks are the most complex bit of weathering on the diesel. The older locomotives with friction (solid) bearings will have really greasy oily journal boxes with heavy mud stuck around the grease where dirt builds up. The springs and metal sideframes are usually painted and they’ll chip and begin to rust. It’s all then covered in an even coat of dark brown road grime to even out the weathering.
Western Pacific ALCo S1 HO scale
WP Alco Switcher S1
Baldwin VO1000 Western Pacific HO Stewart

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 2, 2011 2:58 pm

    Great article on weathering. Thanks.

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