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Milwaukee Steeplecab Electric project

In the Oct/Nov Run 301 issue of OGR Magazine, Don McCuaig (Scale Rail) did a nice article on his long journey to produce a Milwaukee Steeplecab Electric Locomotive.  After failed attempts to engage manufacturers in producing one, he designed and 3D printed an excellent Steeplecab body to fit over the chassis of a Williams scale 44-tonner.  If you have read the article, you know this was not an easy endeavor.  The Milwaukee Road used 4 of these little class ES-2 electrics for switching duties in their Rocky Mountain division.  Two of these GE Electrics were built in 1916 and two in 1919.  They were powered by a 3000v DC catenary.  GE built variations of these electrics for other railroads with either Pantographs or trolley poles.   All 4 of the Milwaukee ES-2s were scraped.

Don nicely modeled #10000, the first of 4 Milwaukee Steeplecabs.  As delivered, this was a simpler design. 

(photos removed 8/18/19)

Many "accessories" were added later, and each of the 4 electrics having different variations.  I liked the numerous details on E82 and elected to model it.  Its original paint scheme was all black like #10000 above.  Later it was painted in Hiawatha colors and finally in traditional Milwaukee orange and black.  

(photos removed 8/18/19)

Here are the parts needed.   Don's kit provided the body shell parts, 2 headlight castings, bell, and decals.  The Milwaukee style pantograph came from eBay, the Williams scale 44 tonner from Trainworld, and the ERR Co. Minicommander 2 from ERR Co.   These are currently not available.  Update: 3rd Rail will start producing them. The Minicommander is able to handle the low current draw of the 2 small motors contained in the trucks of the Williams 44 tonner.  I did not add a Sound Commander, though there is plenty of room to add it later.


Don's 3D printed parts are nicely done, but unlike injection molded styrene parts, some finish work is required.


Here is the raw printed part:


After re-working the rivets and hinges with a #11 blade, and smoothing the striations with a sanding stick and one coat of rattle can spray primer/filler:


I repeated the process of sanding and filling a couple more times and was able to eliminate most of the striations.

The cab side panel came out nice and smooth.  The rivets did not form well enough for a closeup photos, so I sanded them off and applied Archer rivet decals.   These decal strips are easy to apply and look nice.  


Here is the completed assembled shell.  The rivet detail on the hood was excellent and didn't require much extra work.


The Williams 44 tonner has a cast-in fuel tank, which is, of course, not present in an electric.  It was a PIA to remove, but 15 Dremel cutoff discs later . . . 


Notice all the broken Dremel disc fragments 


There are many details on the E82 that I had to scratchbuild from styrene and brass.  Here is the high voltage tower that gets mounted on one of the hoods.   So, you wonder, how is the TV reception?  

The purpose of the "rabbit ears" is to catch high voltage arcs so the crew members don't have a very bad day.

The white insulators are eyelets from Michaels.


The radiator piping was more of a challenge.  I had no plans to work from, but after looking at multiple photos, I was able to sketch out a piping diagram.  My preferred tool for bending the brass rod:  a pair of Kadee coupler pliers.  I was able to do a reasonable job of soldering the pipes together and some small files corrected my mistakes.  I flattened some brass rod and used some brass wire and tubing to make the trolley pole keeper. The hatches and the side tank were made from styrene and I added Archer rivet decals.  The railings were brass wire, pieces of wire insulation, and metal eye bolts.


I drilled and filed in the recessed steps


A coat of primer blends it all together.


After painting the interior a light green color, I masked and airbrushed the maroon and orange.   At this point I realized my rookie mistake.  I should have painted the model before adding the handrails.  It was very difficult to mask with the handrails between these 2 colors.  

Also seen in this photo, I moved the stirrup step from the right end of the frame to middle center as in the prototype.  Cut with a razor saw and glued with JB weld.


And the 3rd and final color.  Microscope cover slip glass was added to the windows.


I removed the Williams board and speaker, mounted the minicommander and program/run switch. Kadee short centerset 743s added.  I wish I could mount them more inboard, but the trucks are in the way.


Almost done.  Assembled and tested. Number boards were cut from stripwood and decals applied.

The body fits perfectly on the Williams frame.


Toolbox added to the deck.


Brass strips added to the cab roof with high-voltage warning decals.  White railings added.  Don was nice enough to send me a trolley pole. It was only used to touch the overhead wire long enough to raise the pantograph at the start of the day.


This was my first kit/scratchbuilt locomotive. It was going to be a simple project, but each time I looked at a photo, more details jumped out at me.  So it kind of morphed into a hundred hour project.  I really appreciate Don's work on developing the design.  We emailed during my build and he was a great encouragement. 

Bob Glorioso


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Last edited by RRDOC
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