Another O scale locomotive build

Bob Sobol dropped an email at the end of May 2019; it seems he found some new etched metal details on the market for the Atlas SW8/9/1200. For a while Scott Lupia of KV Models out of Denville, NJ has been making some very nice etched metal details for HO and N scale end cab switchers. He has decided to bless O scale with twelve different etching sets designed to fit the Atlas O scale SW models. These sets upgrade the radiator/fan/screens, end steps, and pilots. It looks like it’s time to dig out my stash of Atlas switchers and start a new project!

Bob has spearheaded a couple posts on the Appalachian & Ohio forum pertaining to his work on his model of A&O SW1200R #88. He has also been active on the O Gauge Railroad forums, explaining in detail, his decoder, sound, and lighting installation. I will be following his proven path in these areas!

First up; here is the painting guide from the Antioc & Dover roster book.

Over the years I have managed to acquire two Atlas SW1200 models. Both were used and cost about $50 each. One was missing its box and the other was missing some handrail parts. I am combining parts from both models to produce my model of Antioc & Dover #1503. 1503 will have full length handrails, non-MUed, and ride on AAR type A solid bearing trucks. (I am saving the second powertrain for a future SW1000 project!) I completely disassembled the model and separated the cast metal hood and frame from the plastic cab, exhaust stacks, and pilots. I stripped the thick paint form the metal parts using automotive gasket stripper. This is pretty fast and very effective and also dissolves any factory glue. I used an old toothbrush to clean the dissolved paint and after allowing everything to completely dry, I used a bead blaster to finish off any remaining paint. For the plastic parts, an overnight dip in 91% isopropyl alcohol and a quick toothbrush scrub made short work of the paint.

Atlas O Scale SW1200 pair await their destinies! A couple bins of parts; I hope I remember where everything goes! Look mom…no paint!

A KV Models montage of etchings for the radiator, grills, screens, and fan.

Here are factory shots of the step sets. Check out for the whole line!

Rick -

Nice job! How did you get those two SWs so cheap?

Did you use the same gasket stripper on the plastic cabs and mix of plastic and metal parts on the shells? Some of the Atlas SWs have a few flimsy plastic handrail “loops” but others like my 1200 are solid brass. All seem to have a plastic vent on the top of the hood and louvers for the battery boxes.

You give me way too much credit. Many years ago it was your HO RPM detailed D&RGW SW9(?) with a visible fan that inspired me to upgrade my 1200. And if I recall, you built two locomotives in different paint schemes.

Hey, there are some interesting developments in ACC glues for bonding to metal. Some of them have incorporated rubber in the mix and that is said to make them much tougher to debond, particularly to metal. Common ACC is brittle and can snap loose. Both Loctite and Microscale have primers to help ACC adhere to slippery plastics such as polyethylene and Teflon (and presumably acetyl a/k/a Delrin handrails.) If one of the primers works, I’ll try it prior to painting.

Loctite has several interesting options including #430 for metal (recommended by Joe Fugate) and another (number momentarily lost due to a brain ahem) that actually has rubber in the mix.

There is currently a Youtube “infomercial” for a product “Flexy 5K” that is flexible and holds brass wire to styrene sheet with incredible tenacity compared to a “whatever” ACC. Today there is an unopened bottle of 5K sitting in my refrigerator. It was $9 plus shipping instead of ~$26 plus shipping for Loctite.

We will see which is the better value after I order a bottle of the Loctite…

I’m eager to see how the KV Models parts work out for you.

FYI, Jay Criswell ( sells replacement brass retainer plates, in case you need to replace the plastic Atlas ones. Unfortuantely, Jay’s parts cost almost as much as you paid for each locomotive!

Chooch also made laser-cut replacement glass for the cab windows, but I don’t know i that part is still available - it is not listed on their website.

I haven’t seen the Chooch windows listed in years. On a 1200 I rebuilt years ago, I did a somewhat unsafe hand-hold of the cab in my Sherline mill, using a cylindrical Dremel burr to ream a rabbet all around the inside of each window. In one spot I got too aggressive thinning the 0.1" thick plastic and ended up calling Mr. Orange Bondo.

If I recall Jay’s gearbox covers (or retainer plates) also move the truck side frames inboard a bit, to remove extra clearance needed for 3R wheels.

Bob, I think word is getting around about the inexpensive Atlas SWs! I haven’t seen one that low in a while. A big secret is to look for missing parts or boxes!

I have one with brass handrail fittings and one with plastic fittings. I’m using the brass fitting shell. As for the battery box vents, I don’t like the look of the plastic insert so I’m going to fill the opening and figure out how to add new vents; maybe some Archer decals. Before I applied the gasket remover, I removed all the plastic parts, but the shell with the brass handrail fittings wasn’t removed and stripped as easily as the cast metal shell. All the plastic parts were stripped with 91% isopropyl alcohol. Everything came out very clean and didn’t require a lot of effort!

I did some looking into ACC and am going to try a rubberized ACC from Loctite. I have been studying the pictures on KV’s website and at least for the pilot foot boards, I think in gong to also drill and pin the etchings to help. I’m worried that gluing alone will not hold up as this area is prone to impacts from miss-aligned couplers and uncoupling sticks as well as possibly being able to strike the rail head in a derailment. I think I can disguise the pins by using brass NBW castings and they won’t look out of place.

Chris, I do have the Criswell plates on my shopping list, but may hold out for a while as one of my pair is not damaged. They do close up the gap between the wheel and the side frame. As for windows, I haven’t managed to track down a set of the Chooch windows yet. I seem to remember some talk back in the day that they don’t fit well, but I’d like to see that for myself! I have put a lot of thought into the window problem. The ultimate answer is to scratch build a new cab, but I’m not ready to commit to that yet! I am thinking about a partial cab wall replacement or maybe opening up the cab (read cut it apart and glue it back together) and milling the walls down. There are several options, all with pros and cons! I just need to find the balance that works for me!

The etchings arrived in the mail. Bob, you are going to love the detail on the top screen. It is a multi-depth etching that looks very “to scale” and looks very much like the prototype weaved screens. These will really pop with a good dry brush finish! All of the etching look very well done; sharp corners, crisp depth, and straight lines. These should build out well. These are on par with some of the high end etchings I’ve seen in the armor modeling world.

I will be using a miniature bending tool from Mission Models. It is designed for etched details and was recommended by Gene Fusco back when he was still running Railyard Models. I used it on several of his kits and it works well; nice sharp “z” bends!

Here is a cheap shot of the Etch Mate by Mission Models. Part number EM-001.

Rick -

I really like the radiator etchings but they would block sound from firing up through the radiator. I plan to make thin styrene frames with gray or dark brown silk for the cores themselves. New ones would be gray; old ones a chocolate brown giving a dark background to contrast against A&O gray on the chicken wire. Here’s the rear radiator core set of Great Western GP7 #2233 during scrapping in 2007. That’s an SW8 radiator in the background with cores clogged by orange paint. There really should be a 1" tall lip all the way around the SW chicken wire.

Which of the rubberized Loctite adhesives do you plan to use? McMaster-Carr shows 6 different products suitable for bonding to stainless steel and plastic.

Here’s a “cheap shot” of a Small Shop 4 inch bending brake. That’s a scraper blade inside the plastic tube.

If anyone is interested, I have the remains of an Atlas switcher that I pinched the trucks and motor from for my sw1500 project. While the original motor and trucks are gone, I have since purchased additional gearboxes and motors from Atlas. So the unit could be made essentially whole again. I even have the 3-rail electronics to sweeten the deal!!!:roll_eyes::thinking::face_with_raised_eyebrow::crazy_face:

I’d be happy to move it on for $50 plus shipping. I tried for a while, but I can’t think of anything in particular I would use the parts for.

If anybody really wants it, I’ll dig out everything and make sure I have all the parts I claim to have.


Thanks for contacting me. I only withdrew the post because I had the picture and I wasn’t sure if I broke forum protocol. Although I’ve been reading the forum for years I just recently signed up.

Yes, if you have something with the correct handrails, I would be grateful. I do want them. I moved a couple of years ago and just opened the SW9 box to find half the handrails missing. My prototype only had the front and rear handrails, plus the little handrail at the front steps on the side.

I appreciate you checking it out. Let me know.

A sincere thanks,


I will take a look and see which type of handrails I have with this model. If nobody expresses interest in the whole thing within a short while, I will be glad to part out the remains. I’ll be in touch.


I need to rescind my offer above for my leftover Atlas sw8/9 . After a search through my many tubs of parts, I now see that I’m missing many of the necessary drive train parts to make the model whole again. I do have spare gear boxes and motors. However, I do not have any of the worms, worm gears, universals, gear box covers, or wheelsets! Some of that makes sense, since I was going to use NWSL p48 wheelsets and Jay’s replacement p48 covers. But I’m trying and failing to understand now why I wouldn’t have purchased the gearing and universals at the time I bought the boxes and motors.

So really at this point, I think the only real value is as parts. I’m still hunting for handrail parts for Howard, but anything else is available. If you want something, let me know and I will see if I have it.

I apologize for misrepresenting what was available in my earlier post. Clearly I did not remember things as they actually were :flushed:


Thank you Jim. Right now I only need the non-MU handrails. Let me know. I appreciate the trouble you’ve had to go to.

As for the real topic: Rick,I’m glad you decided to take on this project. I had purchased the KV Models details and am about to take on an SW9 myself.

As always, I’m grateful that Bob had done such serious groundwork on the model. I keep going back to review what he has posted.

Thanks to all. I am one that really needs the help.

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A couple weeks delay, but back to the workbench…!

I started major shell modifications with the cab. It is styrene, my favorite material to work with. There are a couple issues with the cab, mostly related to the overall thickness of the injection molding. The two areas that this thickness is apparent is the roof, and the windows. The windows are not an easy problem. The factory glass inserts are poorly fitting and not salvageable to convert to flush fit. There is a rumor of an aftermarket laser cut acrylic window set available years ago, but I haven’t managed to find a set. Bob Sobol experimented with a method of under cutting the back side of the openings to thin the cab walls around the windows. I went this route for the front windows, but chickened out on the rear windows due to the very tiny amounts of material separating the individual windows. Fitting windows isn’t going to be fun! For the side windows, I haven’t completely “imagineered” my solution yet, but it will have something to do with the sliding windows on the prototypes.

The roof thickness was a lot easier to fix. Basically, I trimmed the factory thick edges back to the walls and laminated a thinner styrene roof over the factory roof. Before trimming, I used double sided tape to stick a 3x5 card to the roof. I penciled around the roof to draw a template. After removing the card and tape, I simply cut the card to shape following the pencil lines. I cut the card template out with ordinary scissors. This template is used to trace the shape onto .010 styrene. The same scissors were used to cut the styrene, and a quick pass with a fine sanding stick cleaned the edges up. I used flush cutters, a razor blade, and several sanding sticks to square the roof up to the walls. I laminated the new roof using fast evaporating solvent (I have a very small supply of Tenex 7 left!). I started the lamination from the center of the roof and worked towards the sides using a measured pencil mark at the center line of the roof as a start point. Truthfully, this method causes the overall height of the cab to increase by .010 of an inch, but I think the look of the thinner edge more than makes up for the extra height.

I also replaced the front cab step, the window access step on the rear wall, and both door handles. The Factory grab irons are oversized, so I plugged the holes with styrene rod and drilled them for closer to scale .020 brass wire grabs. I added a scratch built “fire cracker” antenna that I turned from some brass wire. The antenna is mounted to a styrene base with NBW castings. I want a flashing beacon, so I built a level base from some styrene shapes. The beacon will be a very close to O scale detail I found in a 1/35 scale armor kit. I added rain drip rails above the side windows with .005 styrene rod.

The styrene steps and end sills are separate from the cast metal frame. This makes modifying the steps/end sills a lot easier. I am using KV etched metal parts for the steps and the foot boards. The KV parts are etched in stainless steel and need to be bent to shape. Overall, I am impressed with the KV etchings. The art work is very precise resulting in very sharp and clean etchings. A pair of sharp high quality miniature metal shears make quick work snipping the etchings from their frets. A small jeweler file will clean any nubs of fret if needed. Make sure you run the file along the edge of the etching and not against it or it will bend out of shape. All the needed folds are marked with an etched line. I used a small bending brake tool to make these folds. The folds could be done with flat, smooth pliers but it would be difficult to make clean folds especially along long edges. KV doesn’t package instructions with the etchings, but there are simple instructions on their website with a lot of good close-up detail pictures. I found everything pretty intuitive after a quick glance at the website. I did spend a little extra time studying the pictures before I started cutting on the model, kind of a measure twice, cut once thing!

The foot boards were pretty straight forward. Cut the factory ones off with a razor saw and clean up the cuts with a sanding stick. Fold the footboard etching. Superglue the etching onto the end sill. Repeat three more times!

The steps needed a little more effort. To start, after looking at pictures from the internet, I need to modify the KV Models etchings a little to better reflect my prototype preference. Based on KV’s website pictures, the etchings are folded as a one piece assembly for each step well. On the prototypes I’m following, there are 3 individual steps in each step well with a clear gap between them. I cut the etchings apart to create the separate steps. The plastic factory steps need to be removed. At first I used a razor saw to carefully slice the steps away leaving a small remainder to serve as a shelf to mount the etchings on. This was pretty tedious, as I had to do a lot of carving in a tiny space to match the individual steps. After my first step well, I changed my tactic, and completely removed all of the factory steps. I sanded the wells smooth and added .015 styrene square strip stock to replace the mounting shelves. This was much faster and cleaner!

OK, I’m jumping ahead a little now! About 30 minutes after my bedtime, I found myself looking at the KV Models etching set for the SW radiator cores. There are 6 etchings in total. A base, two core assemblies, two core frames, and a small tab that goes around the nose headlight. Of special note is the well-engineered mechanical attachment method for joining the cores to the base. I had assumed this would be an all ACC glue joint. Closer inspection revealed tiny tabs on the cores that match tiny holes in the base. The tabs extent through the holes. I found that by bending the protruding tab over, it would provide a very tight and firm mechanical attachment! I followed this up with ACC around the perimeter of the mating surfaces. I knocked out the whole radiator assembly in about 30 minutes. Excellent job Scott over at KV Models! As a side note; folding the cores definitely require a bending brake tool. Both cores fit perfectly on my first try with no fiddling! If the model builder makes the folds correctly, the etchings fall together perfectly!

Looking great, Rick! And thanks for figuring out how to fix the roof line. You make it look easy. It will be a while before I start working on mine. Good call on the steps, too. I’ll have to do that with mine. I may attempt a fixture to hold the plastic step assemblies in the mill to hog out the steps since there are 6 SWs to rework.

I do need to make a fixture to hold the car body on the Sherline mill tooling plate so I can open the radiator and fan. And another one to make it easy to put an inside rabbet around the cab window openings. I tried that once freehand and had to put some orange Bondo to repair an oopsie on the lower window on the cab door.

I’m awed by the radiator core. It isn’t exactly correct (too long at the front); there is a ~6" shelf just below the chicken wire at the front of the hood. No-one else will know (unless I just let the cat out of the bag) and I didn’t until I stood and shot straight down on a GW SW8 hood section being scrapped in Loveland.

I like how you reworked the grabs on the back of the cab.