Model Railroader

Build an etched-brass diesel: a Bachmann GE 44-tonner drive unit gets this HO scale scratchbuilt engine running easily.(model railroad)

I grew up alongside the intriguing little Thousand Islands Ry. Only 6.33 miles long, it connected the resort and manufacturing town of Gananoque, Ont., on the St. Lawrence River with the main line of the Canadian National Ry. between Montreal and Toronto.

Locomotive no. 500, locally known as The Susan Push, was the TI's sole motive power from 1931 to 1962, thus one of my earliest railroad memories and an engine I simply had to model.

Prototype history

The Susan Push was constructed by the Oshawa Ry. shops using the frame, trucks, and traction motors from retired Oshawa electric No. 42. The rest of the components came from Whitcomb via its Canadian licensee, the Canadian Locomotive Works.

The engine was completed in May 1930 (even though Whitcomb gives the date as December) and given builder's no. 50006. It worked on the Oshawa Ry. until March 1931 when it was transferred to the Thousand Islands Ry. and became no. 500.

Originally powered by a 250-hp Waukesha gasoline engine, it was one of only eight Whitcomb gas-electrics ever built. However, in 1947 the CN rebuilt the unit into a diesel-electric using a pair of Cummins diesels.

When the Thousand Islands Ry. was integrated into the Canadian National system in 1959, The Susan Push, at a mere 35 tons, became the smallest locomotive on the entire system.

Though taken out of service in 1962, no. 500 wasn't officially retired until April 1963. On June 4, 1966, after months of restoration by the CN, it was donated to the town of Gananoque for public display.

Construction choices

I knew that if I were ever to have a model of no. 500 in HO scale, I'd have to scratchbuild it. I like to model in brass and decided on photoetching most of the superstructure, as I had used this technique before (September 1991 MODEL RAILROADER). This way I could build my locomotive and have parts available for others who might want to build their own no. 500.

You can order HO etchings from me, or you can etch your own (to any scale) from the patterns included here. A Bachmann Spectrum GE 44-ton locomotive provides the power, and detail parts from a variety of manufacturers complete the model.

You can build this engine with just hand tools, but you'll find a motor tool, such as a Dremel, a great asset. I found NorthWest Short Line's The Bender, a modeler's-sized sheet-metal brake, very handy for bending the etched pieces, but a small vise will also work.

I glued most parts with cyanoacrylate adhesive (CA). Where strength was needed I used solder. Depending on your modeling preferences, you could just as easily solder everything or not solder at all by using epoxy where I used solder.

I was able to buy small quantities of brass from a local used metal dealer in sizes not commonly available to modelers. …

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