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PC: FL9 kitbash overview

Bob Holzweiss writes:

>      Great explanation of how to paint and decal.  How about a brief
> discussion on your kitbash method for the FL9?

Hmmm.... Where to start?

Plans.  I wrote a letter to EMD in LaGrange Ill, and asked them for
dimensional drawings for the FL9.  A couple weeks later a 9x12 manilla
envelope appeared from EMD with a copy of the blueprints!  Way cool.
So, now that I had the dimensions right from the source, the rest was up to

Remember, this was back in 1984/1985, 7 or 8 years before Overland's FL9,
and about 10 years before Stewart/Kato F units. (Even if Overland released
their FL9 then, I wouldn't have been able to buy it on a college kid's
savings...)  So, kitbash was the way to go. Starting points were limited to
Athearn's F7, Atlas's FP7 and then the "toy train" makers.  Upon careful
examination, I decided to try the Bachmann F9 shells as my starting
point. The Athearn & Atlas shells, although better detailed, would require
more modifications to get things where I wanted them to be than the

I also managed to find a pile of the Bachmann F9 shells at a swap meet for
next to nothing.  :^)  Once they are stripped of thier heavy coat of paint,
there's a fairly decent shell to be worked with.  They certainly don't hold
up to today's tooling, but this was over ten years ago.

The FL9 is a stretched version of the F9;  8 feet give or take a bit.
I don't have my references here, so all dimensions are going to be
approximate.  If I remember properly, there's 4 feet extra between the
dynamic brake fan and the exhaust fans, and 4 feet extra betwen the exhaust
fans and the steam generator exhausts.  I used Detail Associates' stainless
steel F unit screens for my models, and used putty and sandpaper to fill
and conceal the splices.  Once the shell was completed, I added the usual
details; grabs, lift rings, wipers, lenses etc.  

The running gear was a different story.  I purchased two Athearn SD9 locos
and one pair of Athearn EMD GP truck mechanisms.  I also picked up a set of
the Trackside Parts 8' wheelbase Flexicoil switcher sideframes.  These were
cut in half and lengthened by 1 foot.  Lots of epoxy, putty and filing here
to get the splice to look right.  These sideframes were applied to the two
GP trucks.  In later years, I have heard that the Athearn SD sideframes
could be cut and spliced to do the same thing, allowing one to make the 9'
wheelbase Flexicoil truck from styrene, rather than white metal.  These
sideframes were not yet available when I built these models.

Now for the tricky part.  The underframe was modified on a mill to remove
the "front" truck's bolster.  Just lop it off completely.  I then
fabricated two new bolsters using a GP underframe as a guideline.  These
bolsters were designed to support the frame at the proper height based on
the different dimensions of the GP truck.  They were atteched the the SD9
underframe with 0-80 screws from the top.  The GP trucks can now be
attached and powered via the usual Athearn U joints and spline shaft. Yes,
the drive shaft angle is rather severe for the front truck while the rear
truck's drive line is a relatively straight shot.  However, I haven't
found this to be a problem.  I was more concerned that the gear ratios
between the two trucks would be different.  They were the same.

Cement styrene blocks to the inside sides of the shell at the appropriate
depth to provide mounting pads to attach the underframe to.  Drill holes
for 0-80 screws through the metal underframe and tap threads into the
styrene pads.

Final modifications to the underframe included cutting down the SD9 fuel
tank to the proper length and profile, adding all of the underframe details
such as air tanks, electrical equipment boxes and other junk.  The third
rail pickup supports and equipment were scratchbuilt from styrene and

Oh yeah, don't forget to add the Details West Hanckock air chime over the
center windshield post.

Since I completed these two FL9's, I have upgraded the old cast metal
sideframe three axle Flexicoil trucks to the newer plastic sideframe
version. Some of the detail has been refined a bit as well.  The Bachmann
shell origins are the only drawbacks of this particular locomotive.
However, when on the layout, these shortfalls are not readily apparent.
Even when these two Frankendiesels are placed next to my Overland FL9, the
differences are not objectionable.  Apparent yes, but not horrendus.

If I were to do the kitbash today, I would probably start with a Stewart F9
shell, or possibly graft a good looking F unit nose onto an appropriately
modified Highliners B unit.  Since Kato released the SD40 and SD45, there
is now a Kato drive kitbash solution for the FL9 as well.

In a perfect world, The Highliners A units would probably be the best
choice.  I still see the ads for these...someday...

Gene Fusco        | (970) 223-5100 x9404   Gene.Fusco -AT- Symbios.com   KB0ZMZ
S/W Development   |   Why do I take pictures of trains?
Symbios Inc.      |   Because they're too big to take home.
Fort Collins CO.  |                                                

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