Modeling a CN Big Blue Dash 8

A step by step way of turning a rare locomotive into an excellent model

Dash 8-40CWs in Conrail Blue have been beloved by railfans. Today, since CSX and NS have finished repainting their Dash 8-40CWs from Conrail colors to their respective colors. The only blue Dash 8-40CWs are owned by CN and have CN markings, but are still popular with rail fans old and new. Atlas did a run of the CN Blue Dash 8-40CWs years ago, but those are rare and hard to find. Here, we will turn one of those engines into a high-quality replica of one of those blue Dash 8s in service today.

The first step is to get a CN blue Dash 8 from Atlas.

Scratchbuilding a Santa Fe SD24 Slug

Building a Santa Fe SD24 slug, from the walkways up.

Santa Fe built numerous 6 axle slugs on the chassis of former Union Pacific SD24B's. These and their larger SD40 built slugs number in the 20's, and appear in quite a few Santa Fe (and now BNSF) yards.

Modeling a Metrolink F59PHI

From John Deere to Metrolink. Athearn John Deere F59PHI from a Wal*mart train set, to Metrolink #884.

When I first saw the Wal*mart Athearn John Deere train set, I had my eye on an F59PHI from one.  I'm modeling Cajon pass, from San Bernardino to Barstow, with Metrolink terminating at San Bernardino. To search out, and pay for a decorated F59PHI takes time, AND money. Undecorated models run the same. This train set allowed me to get it cheep, $49 when I bought it.

The Beginnings of a BNSF (BN) GP28M

I've chosen to use a Life-Like Proto 2000 GP20 chassis, and Kato Walkway

The Morrison–Knudsen built for BN, GP28M has its beginnings in retired GP9 and GP18 models from EMD.  I've been tossing around the idea of building one, because they looks like a cross between a GP35 frame, and GP38 hood.  But that's not the case!  That's only where the complexity begins.

The GP7/9/18/20 all share a common frame length and truck centers.  The GP28/30/35 again share a common frame and truck centers.  Where the confusion begins to arrive is the frame length! Every EMD GP from the 7 through the 35 line shared a common frame length, but to accurately model the GP28M, not the EMD built GP28, we need the correct frame length and truck spacing.


The BNSF C44-9W has been the mainstream power on BNSF as well as the GEVO locomotives. As the oldest C44-9Ws turned twenty, the time had come to rebuild or retire them. So BNSF had twenty of the former ATSF Dash 9s rebuilt. The result: AC44C4M, and an HO model was built as well.

An HO AC44C4M was made, but how?


Making a 3 pane All-weather Window

How I made a 3 pane window

Short how-to on making 3 pane all-weather windows.

During the detailing of an SD9-3 I recently received off of a custom order, I realized, that there was NO 3 pane all-weather window available [Ed. This article is from October of 2006, as of 2019 Athearn sells a 3 pane].  So, I went out to my local hobby shop and picked up two packs of Details Associates all-weather windows, Walthers stock #

I then cut one of the panes in half from each frame, and glued them together, creating the middle pane of the 3 pane window.  After considerable drying, and some Testors Silver, I attached it to the unit.

I'll post a picture or two later if I can restore the lost photos from the old website software.

©2006, 2020, Josh Baakko,

Scratch-bashing a Locomotive Pilot

How I made new pilots for my Bachmann Spectrum DD40AX

Simple quick tutorial on constructing new pilots, in two different ways. This article refers to HO scale, but can be used in other scales if you'd like.

Applying Commercial Automotive Transmission Lubricants to Model Railroad Gears

Save some money, one quart of ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) will last you though hundreds of locomotives, and years of service.

When test running some new locomotives of mine, I noticed a few noisy offenders and decided it was time to lubricate them.

LaBelle makes some awesome lubricant, but at $5 a bottle, its expensive.  Thinking back, I remember a certain thread on a forum, discussing using ATF.  Here's what I found.

  • One quart bottle of ATF, $2.19 at Auto Zone.
  • Two plastic, curved tip syringes from a Hobby Store, $4.95
  • Cap from an empty 1 gallon Gatorade bottle, $1.50 (cost of Gatorade!)

Carefully pour just a little bit of ATF into the bottle cap.  Using the syringe, suck up that ATF.  Carefully, and sparingly, dispense the ATF onto the gears of a gear box.

After some minor running, the noise should go away.  If it does not, then its time to completely dismantle the gear box, and re-lubricate every point of motion.

©2008/2020, Josh Baakko,

Creating a Hanging MU Cable

Railroads don't always store MU cables in dummy plugs on the pilot of locomotives.

Some time ago, maybe 2015 time frame, I noticed several BNSF locomotives in Victorville CA, with MU cables hanging from the pilot handrail stanchions.  Recently I decided to model this on a locomotive I was building for a friend.


Painting Fine Mesh Grills (HO & Smaller)

How I painted the Fine Mesh etched grills for my SD50F

Just showing you an interesting way to get a good paint coat on fine mesh grills. Very useful for HO & smaller scale, scratch or kit builders.

During the process of building my Kaslo HO Scale SD50F, I realized I needed a way to paint the fine mesh grills included in the kit. Kaslo says to paint them before install, so this is what I chose to do.

I picked up two of these Elmer's "Painters" from Wal*Mart one black, one silver, for detail use on my models. I use the silver to do the window frames on many units. The black got used here. They also have a other basic colors, but RR specific colors, such as BNSF green, or Santa Fe blue will not be there.