logo: Black River Valley Model Railroad




For the purposes of this web site, "Early Diesels" are defined as those diesel engines recognized as 'first generation' diesel locomotives.

NYC #1814

New York Central F-7 #1814 is the newest addition to the Black River Valley layout's locomotive roster. It is and InterMountain model equipped with a Soundtraxx (no sound) decoder. It is intended as the running mate for NYC #1821 which is shown below. When #1814 arrived the box had a sticker on it announcing that the locomotive "Was converted to DC only by my dealer." Huh? After removing the shell and studying things through a magnafying glass for awhile, I changed the location of one small plug and the decoder came to life. Except for changing the address and adding a bit of momentum the loco was already speed matched to #1821.

NYC 1821

NYC F7A #1821 was my 2015 Christmas gift from my wife. The locomotive is an InterMountain Railways model with a Soundtraxx Tsunami sound decoder installed. It is shown here at the head of a short mixed freight consist passing the Redwing Flour Mill on the BRVRR layout. Although it is shown here solo, I usually pair #1821 with NYC #1872, a dummy locomotive that helps round out the power set. Except for setting the address and turning down the sound, I haven't taken the time to explore the capabilities of the Tsunami. Hopefully, DecoderPro and my home computer will make that task enjoyable.


NYC SW8 #9622 was purchased at the Berea, Ohio train show in 2011. Somehow it has been left off of the roster of 'Early Diesels' until now. It is a Proto 2000 model. I installed NCE SW9-SR decoder for motor and light control. Out of the box the plastic handrails appeared to be a problem as they sagged considerably and I intended to install metal replacement. But once the model warmed up sitting on the layout the handrails straightened out. They are still a little big for scale, but don't warrant immediate replacement. A quiet runner and quite powerful for its size, #9622 is a welcome addition to the BRVRR power roster.


Union Pacific F-7A #1469 an Athearn BB kit locomotive has been around the BRVRR for some time now. I installed a Digitrax DH-123 decoder for motor control and lights. I built and installed light tubes for the headlight and gyra light. While the model did come with clear plastic glazing, I installed metal grab irons and handrails. The trailing A-unit UP #1480 is also an Athearn kit. A dummy in which I installed a MRC Universal Diesel Sound Decoder and speaker to give the matched pair a voice. It is detailed to match its lead unit. There is still some detailing to do, namely air and MU hoses but for now both are functional and operate quite well together.

The A-unit Pennsylvania F7 #9822 at left has been lying around for years. It is an Athearn BB kit that I detailed with a Walther's dress-up kit. I made the train phone antenna from stantions from an Athearn handrail set for a GP40-2 and a couple of pieces of .015 music wire. The air hose is a A-Line detail part I think. The drive is original Athearn. After installing a TCS T1 decoder and modifying the head light to put out the 'fire' in the cab, I decided to add a B-unit with sound. The Brunswick Green and five gold striped livery proved to be a problem though. I stripped the paint off of an Athearn BB F7 B-unit I had on hand and painted it with custom mixed Floquil Brunswick Green to match the A-unit. This took some doing, but I finally got it right I think. I applied stripes and numbers from Microscale Decal sheet ##87-39 and handrails from a Walther's "dress-up kit". The unit is shown at right. I weathered the shells and trucks of both locomotives with Bragdon dry powders and sealed everything with a couple of light coats of Dulcote. The sound installation consists of a Soundtraxx DSD-101LC decoder and a 1-inch speaker with enclosure in the B-unit. As a part of the installation I put a small 14-16 volt structure light across the motor leads on the decoder to aid with programming. I coupled the booster to the A-unit with a drawbar and installed a Miniatronics 2-conductor wire set to couple the locomotives electrically for 16-wheel electrical pickup. The locos operate together quite well.

Pennsy E8s

The Pennsylvania E8 locomotives at right are Proto2000 models and both were in Atlantic Coast Line livery when they started out. I stripped, modified, painted, decaled and detailed both shells to make the locos you see in the thumbnail. There is a description of how I rebuilt and refinished them into PRR locomotives on the How'd You Do That page.

I saw an ad in one of the 2007 Walthers monthly fliers for PK2 E8A locos for an unbelievable $49.95. After verifying that locos in NYC livery were available I ordered one through my local hobby shop. The following Thursday, NYC E8 #4089 turned up. I didn't even have to pay the shipping. I installed a Soundtraxx DSD100LC decoder and a 3/4-inch speaker to give the engine a voice. It is shown in the thumbnail at left as part of lash-up with NYC E8A #4040 and E7B #4105 at the head of a consist of mixed heavyweight and streamlined passenger cars. Looking back, I wish I had ordered two or three more of these great locomotives.

Every railroad should have at least one small switcher. The Proto 2000 ALCO S3, NYC #874 at right is a welcome addition to the Black River Valley Railroads locomotive roster. I purchased it (Feb. 2006) from a LHS at a price too low to refuse. I intended to install a Digitrax DH163LO "drop-in" decoder into it, but could not get the body shell to seat properly with the decoder in place. Instead of performing surgery on the chassis weight, I removed all the circuit boards and plugs and installed a Digitrax DZ123 decoder. There is plenty of room under the shell now and the locomotive performs brilliantly. With the decoder set for switching, this little S3 will move so slow it is almost imperceptible.

I changed a pair of Santa Fe F7s in the blue and yellow freight livery into NYC F7s #1663 and 2443 shown at left. I needed "Lightning Striped" liveried diesels for freight service so they would fit better into my primary mid-fifties operating era. I disassembled both units, stripped off the paint and started over. I painted both body shells black and applied the striping and lettering from Microscale Decals sheet #49. I detailed both units with the parts from a Walthers Diesel Detail Kit #933-822. I then added Details West MU hoses and Spark arrestors. I replaced the original Athearn headlight with a modified structure light encased in black shrink tubing. The A-unit #1663 has a Digitrax DH123 decoder hard wired into place. I replaced the original plastic wheels on the dummy B-unit #2443, with Athearn metal wheels and bearings for powered units to add weight and for electrical pick-up. A Soundtraxx DSD100LC diesel sound decoder and a 1.1-inch diameter speaker from Tony's Trains are installed in the B-unit. These two locomotives are electrically coupled with a Miniatronics miniature 2-conductor plug and wire set. This arrangement provides for 16-wheel electrical pick-up and all but eliminates the stuttering of the sound decoder. I lightly weathered both units using thinned paint and artists chalks. I am pleased with the way both units look and sound.

The P2K NYC E8A #4040 at right was purchased at the Midland, Ohio train show 2006. I had been looking for a NYC E8 for a long time and this one filled the bill quite well. It is virtually new, not even all the factory supplied detail parts had been installed on it yet. I removed the circuit board and hardwired a Soundtraxx DSD-100LC Diesel sound decoder and a 3/4-inch speaker and enclosure from Tony's Train Exchange. The sound could be better, but the 3/4-inch speaker is the best I could do without major surgery to the chassis. The loco runs very smoothly and quietly and can pull all twelve of my streamlined and heavy weight coaches and 3 express reefers around the BRVRR layout without a problem.

A welcome addition to the Black River Valley Railroad's locomotive roster was this Proto 2000 NYC E7B (Dummy)#4105. I found it at the Midland train show, NIB and only twenty dollars! Not even the LHS could get one of these beauties for me. It had to be an E-7 because the New York Central didn't have any E8 B-units. Since my Proto E8 doesn't need any help pulling its passenger trains, I will someday install a Soundtraxx DSX, sound only, decoder and a couple of 1.1-inch speakers in this unit.

I purchased a third locomotive at the Miland, Ohio train show. This little P2K NYC GP7. It came with a Digitrax decoder installed and a cracked gear in the forward truck, but the price was right. I replaced the wheel sets with some Athearn units I had on hand and reprogrammed the decoder to my liking. It is a sweet runner. Very quiet and can move so slow you have to mark the track and wait a few moments to see the motion. I dusted it and touched up the paint on the handrails which greatly improved its appearance. A great little addition to the BRVRR locomotive roster.

This matched set of ALCO PAs, NYC #4210, #4301 and #4208 are handy additions to the BRVRR locomotive roster. I needed a New York Central passenger diesel for the BRVRR to pull my mixed consist of heavyweight and streamlined cars. The PAs shown here are all I could find locally in late 2005. They are Athearn blue box kits. Number 4210 has its original drive. Number 4208 is a clone of its sister. The B-unit #4301 is a dummy, equipped with a Soundtraxx DSX sound decoder and two speakers. Both powered units have a Train Control Systems T1, 2-function decoder for motor and lights control. I replaced the truck mounted couplers on the front of both A-units with body mounted Kadee coupler boxes and couplers. Researching these units was difficult because photos of NYC PAs proved very elusive. The road numbers on the A-units were changed to reflect units I found on the Fallen Flags Website. The B-unit's number is one of the four PB1 units owned by the NYC. The locos are rounding the curve at the east end of the BRVRR layout.

NYC #1855/2425

At right, is my first set of NYC F-7s. This New York Central A/B set #1855 and #2425 started as Athearn kits in Burlington Northern and Canadian Pacific liveries respectively. I stripped and painted them, and applied NYC decals from Micro Scale Decal Sheet 87-88. Walthers' F7 dress-up kits, Details West spark arrestors, MU and air hoses completed the detailing as far as I wanted to pursue it for now. I matched them as best as I could to photos of these two specific units I found on the Fallen Flags Web Site. I built the loco with original Athearn drive and installed a Soundtraxx DSD-100 Decoder and a 1-inch speaker from Tony's Train Xchange, mounted inside the body. However, at a later date I placed the Soundtraxx decoder in the B-unit #2425, which is not powered, and installed a Digitrax DH123 decoder in the A-unit. No. 1855 is coupled to the sound equipped B-unit #2425 with a drawbar and a Miniatronics 2-conductor wire set which gives the locos 16-wheel electrical pick-up. This set of locomotives run very smoothly and sound awesome.

Black River Valley Railroad EMD F7A #1116 is the first, and only, 'House' locomotive. It has an MRC chassis and an Athearn BB body shell. (I melted the original MRC F7A body shell trying to remove the paint). The simple light grey, red, black and white paint scheme was chosen because I am a novice at refinishing models which are not black. The Machinery Grey body is accented with letering, numbers and stripes from Microscale. The BRVRR herald on the nose was home-made with my desktop computer and a Testors Custom Decal making kit. The engineer, windows, ports, cab details, handrails and grab irons came with the original MRC F7A body shell. Details West MU and air hoses completed the details. A Train Control Systems T1 two function decoder provides the motor and light control. I weathered the body shell and trucks with artists chalk and Testors Dulcote. This is the first engine on the layout that doesn't look showroom new. Lenny Harlos graciously shared his weathering techniques to make BRVRR F7A #1116 truly unique. Thanks Lenny!

At right is a set Santa Fe 'Warbonnet' passenger livery locomotives. They are Athearn 'Blue Box' kits with Walthers detailing kits and Details West MU and air hoses applied. The A-Unit Santa Fe #337 has the original Athearn drive train, with a Digitrax DH123 decoder installed for motor control and lighting effects. The gyra-light is really cool when running the trains in the dark. The B-Unit Santa Fe #336 is a dummy with a Soundtraxx DSD100-Lc decoder and one-inch speaker installed. I know the numbering isn't right and I'm working on it. The lead unit and the sound equipped B-unit are electrically coupled with a Minatronics 2-coductor plug set which povides for 16-whell electrical pick-up. These two together with a second powered A-unit usually pull my abbreviated (5-10 car) Santa Fe Passenger Train.

Santa Fe F7A #334 is the third unit in my three unit War Bonnet consist. This model is an Athearn BB kit. It has its original drive and a TCS T1 decoder istalled for motor and light control. I installed aWalthers detailing kit and Details West MU and air hoses.

My PK1 RDC-3 started life in B&O livery. In March of 2007 I stripped and painted it in NYC livery and added a few details, mostly on the inside. I painted the interior, installed a homemade light board, and put in a few passengers for effect. I installed a Digitrax DH123 decoder for motor and light control. It runs smoothly and very quietly. Although I was pleased with the outcome, it was too clean! Most of the photos I have of NYC RDCs show them grimy and worn. I spotted on some rust stains with a couple of different red-browns and streaked the top with grimy black. In August of 2010 I striped the front and rear of my NYC RDC#53. The arrival of the needed decals from Microscale meant that I had to take action. After removing the body shell, removing the window glazing and taping of the top and sides I sprayed on a coat of reefer white Testor's paint on the front and rear panels of the body shell. Once the paint had dried I applied black 8-inch (scale) stripes from Microscale sheet #91152 to each end. It took a little fiddling to get the right match on the entry doors, but I finally worked it out. Next I applied a few strips of 8-inch wide red barricade stripes to complete the design. A few touches with red and black Testor's enamel finished the stripe application. A liberal application of Bragdon Enterprises weathering powders and a couple of coats of Dulcote finished the job. For a larger image of my RDC click the thumbnail photograph at right above.

PRR #9600

PRR FTA #9600 is a Walthers Trainline model which has been lurking in storage for a long time. I installed a Train Control Systems T1 Decoder for motor and light control. Its a smooth running little loco. I'm looking for another like it or maybe a B-unit to put a sound decoder and speaker in.

logo: Black River Valley Model Railroad
Copyright by Allan Coates 2004-2016. All Rights Reserved.