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I've been wanting to convert the swing pilots on several of my diesels to fixed pilots and installing Kadee couplers. I've seen photos that others have done but never saw the exact process of how it's done and what is needed.

I'm looking at my Lionel GP30 (6-28840), GP9 (6-34738), SD40 (6-34782) and U33C (6-28235). Also an Atlas GP35 (1131-1).

Before I just tear into it, I would appreciate hearing from those of you that have done these conversions and learn from your experience.

Thanks,

RAY

PS I have converted several of my F and E units to fixed pilots using a replacement pilot from P&D and really like the results.

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There are some 3d printed spacers available for some models on Shapeways but I’ve not used any of them so far. Most of my spacers are made from .125 (+/- depending upon the model) Evergreen styrene shaped to fit the pilot. Oftentimes I will just make a new pilot from styrene and detail parts. A Diesel Locomotive Cyclopedia is handy to have for measurements but isn’t that critical. You can then attach the pilot in whatever way you choose. I’ve used both screws and epoxy depending on the situation. Obviously I’m not worried about the resale factor!

Here’s a few in-progress pics of a Railking switcher with a scratch built pilot I did a while ago. It’s not near as difficult as it would seem.

Joe Shipbaugh

1129465C-0713-4B1D-84D3-399462894A96F2E06714-EC3C-48FA-A189-3A4D5B38909C8EE8B12C-8AD4-46B2-8F68-71A00EB5EE65068C9D43-CA40-4CEC-9BD2-C19FED703298

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  • 068C9D43-CA40-4CEC-9BD2-C19FED703298

I haven't done a Lionel conversion, but I did convert this MTH C30-7.  Granted it is not exactly the U34CH it is meant to represent, but I am happy with it overall.  The only challenge I ran into when I chopped the pilots off the truck block is that they were not balanced properly and as such, the locomotive does not have traction.  I have yet to fix that.  My first fix was to put flanged wheels on all axles.  Works, better but more improvement is needed.  I created my spacer out of styrene plastic.

Now I mostly model 2 rail O so I don't have to do this kind of work.

_IGP0871

_IGP0881

_IGP0887_IGP0890

IMGP3479

IMGP3492

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Jonathan,

I'm working on an MTH U30C and may be experiencing the same thing you speak of as it relates to traction. What do you plan to do to fix the issue? What are some of the options?

Dave

I think one solution would be to move the blind wheels to the center axle so that the outside wheels balance the truck.  I have not tried that yet.  With all three axles with flanged wheels, I am outside of the tolerance for my current 072 curves on my modular 3 rail layout. 

Ray,

I haven't done the Lionel SD40, but I have done the SD45, which I think has the same "kinematic" pilot set up. The good news is with that is the pilot is already mounted to the frame, so it doesn't have to be detached from the truck to be frame-mounted. The bad news is it moves and there's still the same gap between frame and pilot one sees with good ole fashioned flippy-floppy pilots. Compared to more traditional three-rail diesel set ups, though, it's simpler. The pilot is already mounted on the frame and the coupler is mounted to the pilot. So there's no need to mess with things factory-mounted to the trucks.

I checked the frame for any oil or grease, cleaned it away and then just applied some glue between the mount and the frame to center the pilot in place. Then I reinforced it by gluing in some styrene strips to keep the pilot from moving. After that I cut plastic strips to fill in the gap between the pilot and the frame. This required some trimming and filing and test fitting. Then paint and glue in place.

With the SD45 Lionel supplies pads to install Kadee couplers, but I didn't like the mount--the couplers protruded too far out from the pilot. So I made my own mounting pads from strip styrene, painted and glued in place. I also used styrene to fill in the pilot around the coupler and pads. Obviously one has to remove the factory three rail coupler. As Jeff says, the full handrails are the finishing touch.

2172C2B0-12D5-43E6-AE3F-1A01FA691D6D

43B667E2-FBC2-445F-89B3-0FABC5AB3C9C

I've done an Atlas GP35. The gold standard for converting Atlas engines for me is using the parts Atlas uses on the factory two-rail models. And that's how I've done most of my fleet. But the two-rail pilots for the GP35s have been out of stock a long time and were out of stock years ago when I did mine.  So improvised using a filler part Atlas uses for the two-rail SD35s. (Mario wasn't around designing conversion parts available on Shapeways back then). It wasn't perfect, but it's much better than the floating pilot. (I've since managed to acquire a two-rail pilot part I plan to use for a second GP35 model that's been waiting years for the conversion). If Mario has done a filler for the GP35, you can use that. Otherwise the SD35 spacer can be made to work.

You'll need to remove the factory three rail pilot, cut off the mounting tab, measure where to drill mounting holes (it doesn't have to be perfect) and drill. You may have to tap the mounting holes in the die cast frame. I don't remember the size, but in my experience, Atlas usually uses 2.5 mm screws to mount pilots. Micromark sells an inexpensive tap wrench. See if there's a parts chart on the Atlas site for the GP35 in two-rail and you can see what size screws are needed. After mounting the pilot I made coupler pads to mount the couplers and glued them in and painted to match.

52CCD65B-BC78-43B2-ACB0-2D2D6CDDF25E

53CC8385-367D-4CBB-A2EB-CD4FFBDF4C0D

RM

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Images (4)
  • 2172C2B0-12D5-43E6-AE3F-1A01FA691D6D
  • 43B667E2-FBC2-445F-89B3-0FABC5AB3C9C
  • 52CCD65B-BC78-43B2-ACB0-2D2D6CDDF25E
  • 53CC8385-367D-4CBB-A2EB-CD4FFBDF4C0D
Last edited by Rich Montague

Ray,

I haven't done the Lionel SD40, but I have done the SD45, which I think has the same "kinematic" pilot set up. The good news is with that is the pilot is already mounted to the frame, so it doesn't have to be detached from the truck to be frame-mounted. The bad news is it moves and there's still the same gap between frame and pilot one sees with good ole fashioned flippy-floppy pilots. Compared to more traditional three-rail diesel set ups, though, it's simpler. The pilot is already mounted on the frame and the coupler is mounted to the pilot. So there's no need to mess with things factory-mounted to the trucks.

I checked the frame for any oil or grease, cleaned it away and then just applied some glue between the mount and the frame to center the pilot in place. Then I reinforced it by gluing in some styrene strips to keep the pilot from moving. After that I cut plastic strips to fill in the gap between the pilot and the frame. This required some trimming and filing and test fitting. Then paint and glue in place.

With the SD45 Lionel supplies pads to install Kadee couplers, but I didn't like the mount--the couplers protruded too far out from the pilot. So I made my own mounting pads from strip styrene, painted and glued in place. I also used styrene to fill in the pilot around the coupler and pads. Obviously one has to remove the factory three rail coupler. As Jeff says, the full handrails are the finishing touch.

2172C2B0-12D5-43E6-AE3F-1A01FA691D6D

43B667E2-FBC2-445F-89B3-0FABC5AB3C9C

I've done an Atlas GP35. The gold standard for converting Atlas engines for me is using the parts Atlas uses on the factory two-rail models. And that's how I've done most of my fleet. But the two-rail pilots for the GP35s have been out of stock a long time and were out of stock years ago when I did mine.  So improvised using a filler part Atlas uses for the two-rail SD35s. (Mario wasn't around designing conversion parts available on Shapeways back then). It wasn't perfect, but it's much better than the floating pilot. (I've since managed to acquire a two-rail pilot part I plan to use for a second GP35 model that's been waiting years for the conversion). If Mario has done a filler for the GP35, you can use that. Otherwise the SD35 spacer can be made to work.

You'll need to remove the factory three rail pilot, cut off the mounting tab, measure where to drill mounting holes (it doesn't have to be perfect) and drill. You may have to tap the mounting holes in the die cast frame. I don't remember the size, but in my experience, Atlas usually uses 2.5 mm screws to mount pilots. Micromark sells an inexpensive tap wrench. See if there's a parts chart on the Atlas site for the GP35 in two-rail and you can see what size screws are needed. After mounting the pilot I made coupler pads to mount the couplers and glued them in and painted to match.

52CCD65B-BC78-43B2-ACB0-2D2D6CDDF25E

53CC8385-367D-4CBB-A2EB-CD4FFBDF4C0D

RM

I did my Atlas GP35 the way you mentioned...  Although there is some other work I have done for others, especially on the Atlas GP7/9 and GP60.

Thanks!

- Mario

Unfortunately it won’t, the best thing to do is either grab the 2-rail pilots from the MTHpartsandsales.com website or Thor 3D printed a set that’s available on Shapeways.  I believe it’s for the SD45 but it fits…

IMG_3239

Check it out!

- Mario

Hmmmm. MTH website can be Very unforgiving with searches. Use “2-rail pilot” for results. Gotta have the dash😮🫣🤪.
Search for “2 rail pilot” won’t work.
Reasonable “in stock” choices.  Description says front and rear pilot and the price box says EACH - $ for front pilot, $ for rear pilot. It’s a bit pricy but if you want the look, it’s Very Nice they (select models listed) are available !!!!!  
Having the option to just get one is nice. I love the clean look of the front fixed pilot. Since I’m 3rail, I can leave the back with the lobster hookup for what follows the diesel.

Thanks Mario !!!!!!!! 😉

@TrainBub posted:

Hmmmm. MTH website can be Very unforgiving with searches. Use “2-rail pilot” for results. Gotta have the dash😮🫣🤪.
Search for “2 rail pilot” won’t work.
Reasonable “in stock” choices.  Description says front and rear pilot and the price box says EACH - $ for front pilot, $ for rear pilot. It’s a bit pricy but if you want the look, it’s Very Nice they (select models listed) are available !!!!!  
Having the option to just get one is nice. I love the clean look of the front fixed pilot. Since I’m 3rail, I can leave the back with the lobster hookup for what follows the diesel.

Thanks Mario !!!!!!!! 😉

Try this one…

I believe the frame will need some modifications but it should fit.
- Thanks!

Mario

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Try this one…

I believe the frame will need some modifications but it should fit.
- Thanks!

Mario

Yep. There are several there that I will be purchasing. I was Pleasantly Surprised - Pleased to see the choices. 👍.  
Thanks Again !!!!!!!
Now I wish they’d restock replacement speakers !!!!! So Many Out of Stock !!!  😵‍💫

Last edited by TrainBub

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