Create an Ann Arbor GP35
The following step-by-step directions are intended to serve as a narrative and visual guide for creating a custom N scale locomotive. Any road name could be substituted, or any products can be used. There is no intended promotion of any one manufacturer, nor is this necessarily the "best" way to go about building your own locomotive. As I have selected a railroad that has a very limited amount of commercially available rolling stock and motive power, I have been "forced" to solve things on my own, so here's how it was done:

Other How-To Articles
Re-number boxcars
RS1 Project
Modify a caboose
GP35 Project

Step 1: Gather materials
Atlas Classic GP35 undecorated w/o dynamic brakes, purchased from the LHS. Original photo downloaded from web, detail parts from
Sunrise Enterprises and decals from Solidesign, along with glue, paint, Dremel tool, pliers and X-acto knifes.

ready, set, go!

It may seem like a daunting task to completely disassemble a perfectly good locomotive, but it's the only way to create a realistic Ann Arbor GP35 in N can do it!

Note the plastic bag with black blobs in the center of the picture: the blobs are really Alco trucks! - this whole thing is coming apart!

Step 2: Locate new trucks
To match the Ann Arbor GP35 trucks (they traded in 10 FA units in 1964 but had EMD use the FA trucks) you'll need to substitute Atlas U-25B trucks.

fuzzy but warm!

Contact Atlas through their web site, where the trucks can be ordered on-line... they were $1.00 each when I ordered 5 sets in 1999.
Step 3: Disassemble
Carefully separate the entire body assembly from the frame. Then remove the  handrails from the cab, squeeze the sides of the cab inward and remove the cab. Lift the body off the sill and running boards by gently squeezing the center of the shell. If you look underneath you will see four small tabs that hold the body on the running boards.

this better all go back together

Lift the black running board treads off the sill. Pop the metal tabs off the back of the coupler housing, slide the black coupler pin out and remove the Rapido couplers.  Remove all clear plastic lights and windows.  Disassembly is now complete. Next, wash all the pieces to be painted in warm soapy water, rinse and set aside to dry for 24 hours.
Step 4: Install new trucks
Remove the old EMD trucks by pulling firmly down and to the side. Insert the new Alco trucks by firmly pressing them straight up into the frame.

I've been framed!

IMPORTANT - Remove the metal wipers and create a downward angle just outside the fuel tanks. The new Alco trucks have shorter electrical contact points and the wipers need to be adjusted downward to reach the shorter contacts. 
Step 5: Prepare detail parts
Ann Arbor GP35s had nose mounted headlights in addition to the cab mounted lights. I used a chisel point X-acto knife to carve an appropriate notch into the nose of the diesel.

nose lights installed, mu hoses and plow painted

I used Walthers Goo to cement a Sunrise double headlight assembly in place. While the glue was drying on the nose lights, I prepped and painted the M.U. (Multiple Unit) hoses and pilot plow - they are at the bottom right of the photo.
Step 6: Add details & paint
At this point the M.U. hoses and plow have been installed along with cab sunshades, and the body parts have all been painted. The tiny "frames" around the cab marker lights have been shaved off to better accommodate the number decals that are still to be applied. 

painting and details in progress

The same technique was used for the back marker/running lights, and Micro-Trains 1015 couplers have been added to the pilots by simply re-inserting the black coupler post through the coupler box and into the sill. 
Step 7: Add decals
At this point the "ferry in the fog" logo and lines have been added along with the front numbers.
logo half-way done The "ann arbor railroad system" company name will be added next.
Step 8: Re-install cab
Reinsert the clear plastic windows and lights in the cab, then apply the unit numbers in the cab marker lights. Then take the shell assembly and gently slide it back onto the frame and handrails. Now you are ready to slide the cab back onto the shell.
almost complete! Once the cab is back in place, reattach the handrails to the holes in the cab.

Note that the "Michigan Interstate Railway Company Operator" decals are at the bottom left of this picture as they cannot be added until the entire body is back together.

Step 9: Final re-assembly
Carefully apply the last decals and then slide the completed body back onto the motor chassis. Now compare your effort to the photo guide and make sure you're satisfied with the results. This was a very relaxing vacation project, consuming just three evenings.
as delivered! If you're like me, despite your best intentions you may have inadvertently overlooked one or two small details... like the front handrails on the prototype were painted white! And I didn't bring any white paint on my vacation, so I didn't "complete" the job until I got home! Ultimately each of my GP35s will get a nice dose of weathering... but for now I've lightly dry-brushed some grimy black onto the exhaust stacks, fan grills and hood louvers. 
Step 10: Better pictures
After painting the handrails white upon my return to Michigan, it was time to fiddle with the digital camera settings in an effort to get some better pictures.
left side profile Digital photography is pretty easy, but the ability of my camera to capture close-up N Scale details is not that great... hopefully these last pictures are a little bit better.

head-on view

right side profile

tail-end view

back to the Annie pages


2012 Leaders & Best Consulting

questions or comments

site updated: 01/11/12