Santa Fe SD40-2 – Custom Blue Box

Santa Fe SD40-2 5111

This Santa Fe SD40-2 is one of my older Athearn “blue box” models that I built and then rebuilt.  The first time around I built the model as Santa Fe 5113.  That was a number of years ago.  Back then I didn’t take my builds as far.  The model still had the stock fans and lacked many of the details that I apply these days.

The older version of the model hadn’t ever really been finished.  I used to get distracted by other projects so that last 5% of a lot of builds never quite got done.  I’ve since learned that it’s better to completely finish one thing and then call it done before getting into something else.

My original intent was to rebuild the model as 5113 and bring it up to my current standards.  I did some research and found that by the 1990s Santa Fe had modified the access door on the fireman’s side of the short hood on many of these units.  5113 was one of those.  The Cannon part that I bought didn’t quite match the modified door.  Sister Santa Fe SD40-2 5111 still had the stock door.  I decided to model that unit instead.

Most of the time it’s easy to strip the factory paint off an Athearn “blue box” shell.  After 20 to 30 minutes in Scalecoat paint remover it will wash right off.  However my model of Santa Fe SD40-2 5111 didn’t have factory paint anymore.  I’d painted it with Floquil (unfortunately discontinued).  After many hours of frustration with chemical strippers I busted out my Badger hobby sandblaster.  Even with that it took a long time to remove enough of the paint to start over.  Floquil was tough!

Incidentally, I’ve found that it’s not always necessary to remove every last bit of paint before repainting.  If the underlying paint is stable (i.e. not flaking) and not overly thick then the important thing is to remove any trace of lettering or separation lines between colors.  This is to prevent those things from showing up ghostlike under the new paint.  It’s certainly good to get as much paint off as possible, but sometimes models just don’t cooperate.

When I rebuilt my Santa Fe SD40-2 I pulled out all the stops.  I cut away the entire cab, short hood, sub base and inertial filter hatch and replaced those pieces with Cannon parts.  I had installed a Cannon cab and short hood already but these were pretty beat up after I got done tearing the model down so I replaced them with new parts.  I used Cannon dynamic brake fans and radiator fans.  All molded on grab irons were removed and the shell was drilled to accept free-standing grabs.

On the sill of my Santa Fe SD40-2 I used Cannon walkway tread and photo-etched steps.  The handrails were fabricated from Precision Scale brass stanchions soldered to brass wire.  The air reservoirs and underframe details like the bell and air filters are from Details West.  I had to fill in the original side mounting holes for the frame with styrene.  I also reshaped the contour of the sill a bit to match the prototype.  The uncoupling levers are custom made with Detail Associates brackets.  The plow is from Details West.

My Santa Fe SD40-2 model has a can motor with flywheels.  Athearn drive components transfer power from the motor to the trucks.  The frame was modified by removing the original mounting lugs.  Long ago I had also removed the coupler mounting pads from the frame.  This is not something I’d recommend.  On this model the couplers are mounted on styrene pads affixed to the shell.  The rear coupler pad has a detachable extension that hooks under the frame and holds everything together when the couplers are screwed down.

The fuel tank was also sanded down and reshaped.  The original molded-on details were ground off and replaced by aftermarket and custom made parts.  Styrene end caps were added to the front and rear of the fuel tank.  The pilot areas were also reworked.

After painting I used Microscale decals to decorate my Santa Fe SD40-2 in the blue and yellow warbonnet scheme.  The cab glazing came with the Cannon kit.

The ditch lights are from Details West.  They were drilled out and lit with 603 surface mount LEDs.  603s were also used to light the numberboards on both ends from behind.  The numberboard LEDs are mounted in custom styrene enclosures to prevent light leaks.  The front and rear headlights are lit by 3mm LEDs mounted inside the shell.  Fiber optic strands carry the light to the lenses.

The model is equipped with an ESU LokSound Select DCC sound decoder.  Two speakers are mounted in a custom enclosure mounted in the back of the locomotive in the radiator area.


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