45-ton 45 – Modified Switcher

45-ton 45

My HO scale Bachmann GE 45-ton switcher is mostly stock.  The paint scheme is one of several generic schemes that were offered at the time I bought it.  I liked the yellow best because it looked like some other 45-ton locomotives that I’d seen in photos.

My model is freelanced but typical of small locomotives that are used as industrial switchers.  I used some Microscale stencil-style alphabet decals to put the number “45” on the side.  This is not particularly imaginative.  However, several of the real 45-ton switchers that I found in photos were numbered “45”.  In that sense it is realistic.  A more practical consideration was that I didn’t have any other locomotives numbered 45 and so there was no conflict with DCC addresses.

The locomotive came with a basic non-sound DCC decoder already installed.  There was an empty mount for a small 10 mm round speaker under the cab in the air reservoir area.

The model ran well but I really wanted it to have sound.  I was also unhappy with the lights.  Bachmann seems to favor using plastic light pipes to carry light to the headlight lenses in their models.  I didn’t like the way they looked.  They were also too dim.

I opened up the model and got rid of the factory electronics.  I substituted a Loksound Select Micro decoder.  I used a 4 ohm 10 mm speaker in the factory mount.  Loksound Select decoders can use any speaker from 4 to 16 ohms.  Using a 4 ohm load gives better volume and seems to give better bass response even when the speaker is small.

The headlights are warm white surface-mount LEDs that shine through fiber optic lenses.  They are very bright and look much better than the originals.  While I was at it, I put another surface mount LED in a Details West beacon casting and mounted that on the roof.

On the outside I added a Details West firecracker antenna and single-chime horn.  The decoder has a great single-chime horn sound.  Since I model the 1990s, I also removed the footboards.  I smoothed out the area where the footboards had been and added some nut-bolt-washer castings using photos of full-sized 45-ton switchers as a reference.  I touched up the paint in that area with flat black.

This is one locomotive that I did not attempt to speed match to the rest of my fleet.  This little switcher runs too slowly to keep up with road engines.  The low speeds are great for switching.  Locomotives like this seem to operate by themselves most of the time anyway.  I’m not sure if the prototype 45-ton GE switchers even have MU capability.

I used an airbrush to apply some road dust on the lower surfaces.  Body panel seams were accentuated with powders.  I also used powders to apply some very light rust streaks and to dirty the exhaust stacks.  I wanted the model to look like a working engine, not a rustbucket.

With the new lights, beacon, sound, and working side rods this little locomotive has become a favorite.

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