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November 9 2014 Airbrushing my Cary E7A & B Shells

Updated December 2, 2014

I wasn't planning on making a post for this project but everything worked out so good here it comes.

I have used Microscale Decals for what seems like forever and they have always looked very good, that is until I started my diesel fleet.  The decals are very good, the problem is me.  Applying a decal to a multi compound curve surface with huge number plates is just beyond my capability. . . . So I took on what I thought was going to be a impossible task by not using Micro-Scale Decals and applying the SP Daylight striping to my Cary E7A and B shells with my airbrush.

This is what the Bowser/Cary EMD E7A Shell looks like in and out of the box.

Because I wasn't planning on making a post on this project I didn't take pictures in the early stages of cleaning up the metal castings and the priming of the two shells.

Well the project turned out very good much to my surprise.  Come to find out it not only turned out very good but it was actually easier than applying decals to my Proto 2000 E7, E8 & E9s several years ago.

The first step was to prepare for painting an impossible project.  For years I have always painted in the garage to prevent smelling up the house.  A few months ago I stumbled onto Tru-Color Paints, TCP is solvent based Acrylic paint with very little odor so I began this venture by setting up for airbrushing in our hobby room.  Our hobby room is a converted bedroom off the garage, handy for working on my layout.

This is now my hobby room Airbrush setup.

I started with the Cary E7B as you can see in the picture above.  I had the thin sheet of opaque plastic that I've been using for brush painting, I cut a 3" hole in it so that it would drop over my Panavise.  My poor 30 year old Panavise is pretty beat up but still hanging in there, it works fantastic for holding objects for painting.  I use Acetone for cleanup, very little odor and the best and fastest paint cleanup ever.

Like I said I wasn't planning on making a post on this project so the pictures above are the first ones I took.  The first thing I did after cleaning up the sprue from the metal castings is paint them with Rust-Oleum Automotive Primer.  When the primer had dried for a couple of days it was time to attempt the impossible. 

I began by shooting the sides Daylight Red (TCP-106), I let that dry 24 hours then masked and shot the Daylight Orange stripe (TCP-107).  Next I shot the roof with TCP-171 Weathered Black.  Using the Tru-Color Paint is simply wonderful, just shake up the bottle, attach the bottle to the airbrush and have at it, no thinning needed.  The TCP goes on better than any paint I've ever used in my airbrush.  The TCP Southern Pacific colors are a perfect match too.

At this point I have to go into masking, over the last 20 or so years I've tried dozens of masking tapes.  I finally found one that works on hobbies, 3M Scotch-Blue Delicate Surface Painters Tape # 2080el.  The el is for edge lock and it does, this tape is wonderful.  It requires very little pressure to apply, there is absolutely no bleeding and it doesn't lift any paint when it's removed.

I started with .94" wide tape and got some 1.41" wide later, it's also available in 1.88" width.

The masking tape is extremely easy to apply, I easily masked the E7B for the 1/32" stripes.  After the masking tape was applied I used TCP-013 Aluminum to paint the thin stripes.  Again absolutely no bleeding or paint lifting.  I started with the B unit because everything is straight, no curved stuff.  

Now onto the more difficult shell, the E7A.

Here again I started with the easy stuff first, I shot the nose and sides Daylight Red, 24 hours later I did the Daylight Orange stripe from below the cab windows to the rear of the the engine followed by a Weathered Black roof.  Then the first of the hard part, the curved white stripe on the roof.  The curved white stripe on the roof went easy just applying the .94" tape using a gradual curve with a 1/32" gap.

The next portion will be the more difficult Orange Deep V on the nose.

I started the most difficult part of this project by making an accurate to HO scale CAD drawing of the deep V using a Microscale decal set 87-1057 as a go by.   That went pretty easy.  Next I printed out a three template sheet to use as paper doll type cutouts.

I made the drawing below to show my intent of use for the templates.

The white squares are cutout so that the tape will fit smoothly over the curved surface of the nose.  I'll cover the holes over the number boards later with small pieces of tape.

The picture above shows the 1.41" wide masking tape after cutting with a #11 Xacto.  Applying the template was much easier than I expected.

I shot the Daylight Orange over the Red, the picture above shows a great deep V without any problems around the number boards.

Next I used a second template and removed 1/32" strip to make the template for the top stripe, again it was much easier to apply than I expected.

Looking good.  About now I have started airbrushing quicker between coats, the masking tape works so good and the Tru-Color Paint dries so fast that I'm only waiting between 3 and 4 hours between coats.

Kind of a side note here, no touch up was needed after removing the masking tape.  The Aluminum paint edges came out perfect the first time, extremely good masking tape.

The lower stripes came out good also.

I decided to add a Mars light so I drilled a hole for the new headlight below what will become the Mars light.  I applied Dullcoat around the acrylic window glass to prevent a glossy window edge from the Testors Window Cement.

It took a bit of touch up with the airbrush after the headlight holes were ready for the bulbs but as you can see that went well too.

I'm using Walther/Proto 2000 bulbs for the headlight and Mars light. 

In the picture above I have installed the lamps and sealed them with Testors Clear Parts Cement and Window Maker.  I also used the Cement to seal the Laser Kit #248 E7 windows in place.

 I'm working on a flasher circuit to operate the dual filament bulb simulating a Mars light. I'm leaning towards a LM555 timer to end up with a ramp output to better simulate an oscillating lamp.


The Proto E series coupler cover above is the final touch completing my Southern Pacific Daylight Cary E7 shells.

The LM555 timer circuit worked out very good, the ramp output on filament 1 combined with the square wave output on filament 2 gives a very realistic oscillating Mars light.  Much better than a flop flop circuit.

The square Acrylic windows are slightly larger than the openings in the shells so it is necessary to file them to fit.

This has worked out so much better than using decals as well as being so much easier to do.

Both shells have Southern Pacific decals made on my Alps printer.

I sealed the paint and decals with two coats of Testors Dullcoat before I installed the Acrylic window glass.

This project came out far better than what I ever expected.  I really didn't think I could airbrush to this quality.

This was a very enjoyable project.   I now have a perfect in every way Cary E7A & B shells on Athearn powered locomotive frames to pull my Daylight passenger train.

After the great results of airbrushing the SP paint scheme using the Tru Color Paints I will go this route from now on, I've set my last store bought diesel decals.  The combination of Tru Color Paints, Scotch Blue Delicate Surface masking tape and my Alps printer will be my choice from now on, no more store bought decals. 

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