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I have this tendency to pick up an ATSF steam locomotive, really like it, and then end up with multiples of the same locomotive. The MTH Premier model of the Santa Fe 2900 class was no exception. Last year I picked up a pilot version of a PS3 model and made it fully functional:

MTH Premier Santa Fe 2900 class Northern, or lets build a 3rd steam locomotive from junk | O Gauge Railroading On Line Forum (

I really liked the model and decided I had to have another one. Being that I'm "frugal" I didn't want to hunt down a factory PS3 model, plus I had a PS3 steam kit, detail parts, and the know how to upgrade a locomotive. I started looking for a Premier PS1 version. It took awhile, as current market prices on PS1 Premier steam is kinda wonky (i.e. way higher than 2 years ago) but I found a PS1 2900 class at an actual decent price.


As a bonus it even ran.

The model had several short comings that needed to be addressed to bring it up to the standards of my PS3 model. First, and foremost, was PS1. I run all TMCC/Legacy/DCS locomotives so PS1 had to go. Secondly was detail. MTH added a lot of detail between when this PS1 model came out in 1995 and the PS3 version they produced in 2017. Some things I had to address were:

Shiny driver tires

Shiny handrails

A fixed (non moveable) stack extension

The smokebox door that was black instead of tarpon gray

Cab interior black instead of green, and not back head details painted

No whistle or bell cords

No fireman figure

No cab glass

I decided to tackle the stack first. I happened to have a moveable stack extension from a Premier Santa Fe 3460 class Hudson. While not an exact match for the 2900 class stack it was close enough, and it moved. I had to slightly enlarge the opening in the boiler for the stack to fit, and chop the stack motor off the non-moving stack, but it went together pretty easily.


Next I redid the smokebox front. I painted the smokebox, added the correct bell bracket with an air ringer, and also a bell mount with an arm for the bell pull cord. 


At the same time I made a bracket out of sheet brass to mount a PS2/PS3 smoke unit in place of the factory Seuthe smoke unit.


I also installed cab glass, a fireman figure, and painted the cab interior green.


Turning back to the exterior those shiny metal handrails had to go. I removed them, sanded the hand rails with some 120 grit sandpaper, and chemically blackened them. I also added bell and whistle pull cords on top of the boiler.


I then tackled to the chassis. Pat @harmonyards, has a process he perfected to blacken the driver tires on PS1 steam locomotive chassis. It involves using Caswell black oxide. He's explained it on the forum before. It turns the shiny metal driver tires and axle ends a nice satin black which won't rub off and conducts electricity. The chassis turned out extremely well following his process.


Once the chassis was done it was just a simple matter of reassembling everything, installing the PS3 wiring harness, and adding all LED lighting.


The final step was the tender. Pretty simple. PS3 kit boards, wire harness, nice large bassy speaker, and a LED light. Nothing fancy here.


The finished product.


With a little bit of effort it's pretty simple to take an older scale model and upgrade it to modern standards. This whole project cost less than half of what buying a PS3 2900 class new would have cost. It was even easier to do something like this before prices went crazy, but if you shop around you can turn these older locomotives into real gems.


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That's a great looking custom piece! Literally one of a kind. I need to learn a bit about the blackening process, might have some engines that could use it. Does the blackening of the shiny handrails use the same prices as the wheels and axles?

By the way, where do your PS1 boards go? I still have lots of conventional Kline or Williams things from my dad's collection that I've been slowly putting PS1 guts into. I'll be happy to take it off your hands if it's in working shape.

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