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Here is a writeup that I have been promising for a while-- the GE ES-2 steeplecab locomotive that I built for my friend Bob @pennsyfan back in April.


This project started off with a donor locomotive-- a Williams by Bachmann scale 44-tonner. I chose the D&RGW model because I wouldn't have to repaint the frame to match the intended livery.

Bachman 44tonner donor engine

I tested the donor engine to make sure that it was in good running order.

After dismantling the locomotive and taking measurements of the electronics, I quickly realized that since I had to move the reversing board closer in towards the center, there wasn't a great way to fit the Trueblast sound boards into the conversion. Bob came up with a good idea for how to mount the sounds in an accompanying boxcar. I was able to reuse the engineer figure and the little circuits with the headlights with the new body.

Moving reverse board and retreiving engineer fig

Bob gave me a 3D printed and brass kit that he had acquired a while ago from another maker on this Forum. I had initially agreed to build the kit up, but as I examined it I found that the PLA plastic parts of the kit had warped over time (one of a few reasons why I have always avoided this material in my own designs). Rather than trying to make square corners with arched parts, I redesigned the entire kit and made up new parts. I made CAD mockups of the 44-tonner frame in Fusion and made up a whole new body to my own printing preferences.

steeplecab kit screencap from fusion

My new kit has a 3-piece body made from UV-cured resin. The hood ends snap into place around the raised sections on the frame, and the center section slides between the hood ends. You can see the pattern of three holes that I use as a mounting pattern for the WbB headlights.

resin printed hood ends

Here's the main body of the kit. I was able to reuse some of the 44-tonner's handrails for the build after clipping them down a little. The center section fits tightly enough between the two hood ends that no glue is required once the new body screws are set it.

resin printed body in 3 pieces

Here's a side view with some of the brass trim test-fitted to the body. I purposefully designed mounting holes into the new shell so that most of the trim would just slot in place.

resin printed body side view

This was the first custom locomotive that I had built that used a lot of brass trim. The brass is very nice looking, and the parts are very strong once attached, but I found them a pain to work with. Modifying the headlights to fit the original headlight boards took a couple hours of fitting, filing and testing. I have since designed resin-printed versions of most of the trim parts, particularly the headlights, that are better fitted to the new kit.

test fitting trim

With any conversion kit, a good fit to the donor chassis is critically important. I was very pleased to get the screw boss positions perfect on the first try. The original self-tapping body screws aren't the best type for resin parts, so I replaced them with #4-40 machine screws and tapped the kit's screw bosses to match.

Screw hole alignment

With the body properly fitted, it was time to paint the steeplecab. Bob sent me some photos showing the livery he wanted and I taped and sprayed a three-tone scheme with my usual Rustoleum 2x aerosol paints.


While I was finishing the paint, I also designed and fabricated some homemade waterslide decals to go with the locomotive.


I applied the decals with a little Micro Set, let them dry for a while, and then clearcoated the entire body with Rustoleum Matte Clear.


With paint, decals and clearcoat out of the way, it was time to glaze the windows. I always use scraps of plastic from food containers for glass and silver foil tape to hold everything in place.


I also found a spot to fit the engineer figure and glued in the rest of the trim.


With the clearcoat dry, the body screws in and the body complete with trim, the GE ES-2 steeplecab was ready for the track.


Here's a view from another angle. The pantograph is a Lionel GG1 pantograph part that Bob picked up to go with the original kit. It sits loosely in pre-printed mounting holes. I find that pantographs can snag stuff on layouts, so it's better not to glue them in place.


Here's a video of the finished locomotive running on my layout before I packed it up and sent it along to its new home.

Have a happy Memorial Day, and don't get heat exhaustion at the family barbecue (like I did yesterday)!


Images (16)
  • IMG_20240424_201500939
  • Bachman 44tonner donor engine
  • Moving reverse board and retreiving engineer fig
  • resin printed hood ends
  • resin printed body in 3 pieces
  • resin printed body side view
  • test fitting trim
  • Screw hole alignment
  • IMG_20240417_162556380
  • IMG_20240419_135247764
  • IMG_20240423_160533800
  • IMG_20240424_195742712
  • IMG_20240424_201110129
  • IMG_20240424_201115908
  • IMG_20240422_192654106
  • steeplecab kit screencap from fusion
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