HO LIRR #614 FA Modeling
Text and Photos:  Richard Glueck,  05/07/2006

When the LIRR started picking up FA’s, they combed the country for all available units.  SP&S FA1 units got sidelined by the Burlington Northern, Western Maryland had four FA2’s, and the L&N FA2 units started the show.  The last New Haven and NYC units came via the collapsed Penn Central.  Collecting all the FA’s and refitting them was a major preservation coup, carried out by a railroad that didn’t realize it was in the business of preservation!  The units all went to GE in Bergen , New Jersey , where they were rewired, tuned, and set up as HEP generators for the Long Island fleet.  At the beginning, the locos retained their 244 model prime movers. The traction motors were taken out, MU receptacles placed on both ends, and the exhausts moved to accommodate the internal structure.  Long Island Rail Road had been absorbed by the MTA, so the units never saw grey and orange paint.  They were painted in “platinum mist” with blue stripes, but retain LIRR style numerals.  When 601, an ex-L& N FA2 , began service, there was no yellow on the pilot, but two weeks later, the yellow was applied to promote visibility.  Years later, some of the units were rebuilt with Detroit Diesel “sleds” and reconfigured with some of the classic ALCO cab units traits obliterated.  I chose to model the units as I remembered them.  I happen to like dirty, heavily weathered locomotives.  The platinum scheme FA’s did not disappoint!  The heavily sooted ALCO exhausts stained and marred the FA power cars almost immediately.  Some were nearly blackened by the exhaust being draped over the units as they were pushed or dragged back and forth on endless commuter trains. 

A last comment regarding the preservation of these units; It was sad to learn of several locomotives being destroyed by fires or collisions.  I will never understand the logic behind ravaging the ex-WM #304 into a truly ugly monstrosity!  We can be grateful for the efforts of a small group of imaginative men who purchased the remaining retired fleet brokering them out to collectors, museums, and preservation groups.  I know of at least four units being rebuilt for operation as traditional ALCO freight locomotives, while others remain untouched, rusting away with little interest from the preservationists who acquired them.

I built two of these units for my Long Island-New England model railroad.  The first was a Proto unit, complete with motor.  While the Power Cars never actually pulled a train, I wasn’t about to remove the motor!  Of course, I could keep the motor and disengage the drive gearing, which would be pointless but prototypical!  The second unit I modeled was a Bachman dummy unit.   Not all FA’s were created equal, and roof details were modified after their original owners pressed them into service.  In comparison, the two units are more like “cousins” rather than “sisters”.


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1. I first ground off the plastic railings and grab irons.  I made replacements from brass, drilling set holes and gluing them with ACC (“Superglue”).  Next, I brushed Floquil engine black paint across all the grating and louvers.  If the coming paint job missed crevices, I didn’t want Union Pacific yellow showing through!

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2. I got ahead of myself here, in that I sprayed the unit with its first coat of platinum paint.  This was acrylic military light grey.  Acrylics are so much easier to clean up!  I may never go back to distillate solvent paints again. A second view of the locomotive after the first air brushing of platinum.  The remaining horn on the hood was later removed and replaced with something far more authentic.

3.jpg (174006 bytes) 3. I fabricated MU receptacle from brass strips and bits of tubing.  I soldered wire behind these for mounting into holes above the pilot anti-climber.
4. A second close up of the MU receptacles glued in place.
5.jpg (575983 bytes) 5. Ready for next painting; the blue stripe.
6.jpg (428923 bytes) 6. After the platinum had dried for two days, I used painters tape to line up the borders for the blue stripe.  This takes patience, since getting both locomotive sides the same height and straight is a bit of an art form!  The really difficult part is getting the tape snug around the railings and raised plastic edges.  Inevitably, you are going to get some under-spray, but that can be touched up later with a fine brush.
7.jpg (315760 bytes) 7. I used Tamiya acrylics flat blue to add the MTA blue stripe that matched the window stripe of the converted MP72 trailers.  And a piece of advice; use lots of tape to cover everything you don’t want to be blue!  At this point, the unit looks more like one of the later paint schemes
8.jpg (281685 bytes) 8. Tape removed and Tamiya flat yellow acrylic paint applied to the pilot using a brush.  While other guys might want to try re-taping the car body, I didn’t have the patience.  A small brush can be effective in getting paint into restrictive spaces.
9.jpg (647309 bytes) 9. I waited another two days before decaling the locomotive.  I wanted the various paint layers to harden and settle onto the units surface, but I also needed some time to do this job without interruption.  Decaling can be a  difficult process at best, and a disaster at the worst.  I cleared an area on the kitchen table, had plenty of overhead light, some tweezers, a clean brush, and some good scissors.  I cut the decals with a small margin around the images, then place them in tepid water.  I removed the decal sheet before the film slips off of it’s own accord and gently slide them into place.  Once satisfied with the placement, I soak up excess water with a torn edge of a paper towel.  When they have begun to dry, I use a clean brush to apply Solva-Set over the decal.  Solva-Set causes the image to settle down over any bumps or raised surface features.  I let this dry entirely on its own, not soaking up any excess liquid.  Once Solva-Set is applied you should avoid touching the decal further.
10.jpg (292201 bytes) 10. Reassembled with most of the work done.  I have to added some details at this stage and fix a few under-sprays near the cab windows.

11. I sprayed the unit with flat overcoat for several reasons.  The overcoat dulls decal film and makes it fairly invisible to the viewer.  The flat finish darkens the intensity of the bright colors.  Another layer of clear flat coat adds a hard shield to prevent chipping, which is essential if your H-O layout track work, like mine,  is second to collect rolling stock.  Lastly, I want to weather this unit so it has some soot and road dirt apparent.  My other unit is heavily weathered, looking so much like I really remember them, but I also wanted a comparison unit, since not all locomotives wear in the same manner, depending on service and time in Morris Park