J. Alex Lang

CR 6981 SD40-2R in HO Scale

In March, I acquired a pair of used Kato SD40s, one of which was Conrail 6345.  (CSXT 8488 is a future project). Since I model the same era as Dave Abeles on his Onondaga Cutoff, Dave and I try to avoid duplicating our roster so that power may run through between the two layouts. Dave already had a CR 6345, so I decided I wanted a Conrail-era SD40 that had originally been Central Railroad of New Jersey (in honor of my hometown of Allentown, PA where the CNJ maintained a huge yard and engine terminal).  By 1994 – the time period I am representing – there were very few CNJ units left in service. In the early 1970s, CNJ acquired a group of SD40s from the Baltimore & Ohio. Many of these remained in a modified B&O blue paint scheme.  One, 3067, was famous for its “Red Baron” paint scheme:

CNJ 3067 "Red Baron" leading ES-98 at Spring St, Elizabeth NJ Feb '76. Peter McGilligan photo
CNJ 3067 “Red Baron” leading ES-98 at Spring St, Elizabeth NJ Feb ’76. Peter McGilligan photo

Many of this group of SD40s survived into Conrail in their 6285-6291 number range.  In the early 1990s, Conrail embarked on an SD40 rebuild program that included several PC units, ex-KCS and other lease SD40s, as well as the remaining CNJ-heritage SD40s.  The “Red Baron” unit never made it to this rebuild fleet, and went to EMD and then UP instead. So I had to pick another unit…

I chose Conrail 6981 for a few reasons. First, this was a CNJ unit that made it to the rebuild program. It began as Baltimore & Ohio 7485, then CNJ 3064.  After Conrail it was renumbered to CR 6288, rebuilt in July 1993 as CR 6981.  After the Conrail split this unit became CSXT 8878 in 1999.  Second: I’d photographed this unit leading an ALHB with Peter during the summer of 1996. I’ll add a couple of those photos here in a bit.  Finally: Peter loved the Red Baron SD40, and everything about the CNJ.  I grew up loving the CNJ too, especially thanks to a great friendship with CNJ retired engineer Thompson (“Tommy”) O’Connell who ran for CNJ from about 1946 until retiring in the early 1970s.  I have two of Peter’s SD40s in my collection, a Red Baron 3067 and a blue 3062, so now I will represent a more modern era with the CR 6981.  (Perhaps sometime I’ll do a patch version, and a blue 6280-series version to round out a collection…)

As projects go, this one was straightforward. I repainted the cab and applied a bunch of decals, and added some detail parts.  I did remove the step rails on the front and back pilot area.

Parts list:

  • Detail Associates #2306 cab signal box
  • Detail Associates #1803 Sinclair Antenna
  • Detail Associates #1508 MU Air hoses
  • Details West #190 3-chime horn
  • Cannon & Co. marker lights (from 88″ EMD Cab kits)
  • Cannon & Co rear brake stand (from the same kit)
  • Details West #139 Air Filter Set
  • Details West #155 Plow
  • Detail Associates uncoupling lever
  • MU Hoses (whatever I had on hand)
  • NCE DA-SR DCC decoder
  • Detail Associates #1101 Lift Rings
  • Floquil Conrail Blue (I hoarded some when I heard this was going away…)
  • Microscale CR Diesel Data 87-628
  • Microscale CR EMD Diesels 87-627
  • Miniatronics YeloGlo White LEDs
  • I replaced the sand filler cap with one I had on hand.

I weathered the unit with a bit of airbrush, drybrush, and pastel work.  Everything was sealed up with Testors Dullcote.  I opted to stick with the slightly-thicker Kato factory handrails. I may end up keeping the stanchions, and drilling those out to replace the handrails with brass wire.  But that’s only if I get really bored.  For now I think the engine has the right overall appearance.