Empire Belt RR ALcos

Empire Belt RR ALcos
Custom Painted FA / FB Units

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

FA1-FB1-FB1-FA1 Project Part 1

Greetings Blog Followers,

The New York Central Train Layout Purchasing Department recently purchased a second hand set of Proto 2000 FA1-FB1-FB1-FA1 units which are destined to become New York Central Cigar Band Units. The NYCTL currently has one NYC Proto 2000 FA2 #1049 in the cigar band scheme, two NYC Walthers FA1s (#1000 & 1043) in the lightning stripe scheme, and one FB1 in lightning stripes (#2304) on the roster.

PROTOTYPE FA1: The 1500 horsepower FA1 and FB1 were introduced by ALCO in 1946 to compete with EMD's successful F3A and F3B. The FA1 was different in appearance with a boxy shape, unique front end contours and distinctive headlight grill work. All FA1s and FB1s were turbocharged and all were delivered with air cooled exhausts to handle the elevated temperatures caused by turbocharging. In 1953 ALCO developed an improved water cooled exhaust for the FA2 locomotives and most railroads retrofitted this improved exhaust to their FA1 and FB1s. No FA1s or FB1s were equipped with steam generators as they were intended for freight service only. ALCO options included dynamic braking, Mars Light and two types of number boards.

PROTOTYPE FA2: In late 1950 ALCO introduced the FA2 a new dual purpose locomotive which was a significant improvement over teh FA1. The car body was increased by two feet to accommodate the addition of an optional steam generator. This was accomplished by internal rearrangement  of the radiator, fan, oil cooler, oil filter tank, rear traction motor blower, batteries and air reservoirs. The locomotives normally operated in AA, ABA, ABBA consists.

PROTOTYPE NEW YORK CENTRAL: The NYC has 44 FA1s on the roster numbered 1000-1043. The NYC also had 23 FB1s numbered 2300-2322. The units were delivered starting in 1947 through 1949. The NYC starting in 1951 added 80 FA2s numbered 1044-1123 and 50 FB2s 3323-3372. Doing the math looks like 124 FAs and 73 FBs. All units were delivered in the Lightning Stripe scheme. The NYC FA1 units also were delivered with single headlights and small number boards. In the early to mid 1960's the NYC starting painting it's units in the cigar band scheme when they were shopped for repainting. Gone were the lightning stripes. The early FA cigar band had the lettering in the middle of the body with a small number below. In 1966-1967 the NYC changed the paint scheme on these units to what you see below, a larger NEW YORK CENTRAL and road number.

NYC 1009



PROTOTYPE NYC TIDBITS: ALCO  FAs ran on symbol freights right up to the end of the NYC. At the time of the Penn Central merger three NYC FA1s were conveyed to PC. They never received PC paint and were in scrap lines at the end of 1968. Four New Haven FA1s and three NH FB1s arrived on the PC in 1969. One unit, #1330 was painted in full PC regalia while a second 1333 received an interim PC paint job. The forty four NYC FA2s fared a bit better but none were painted in PC livery. By 1972 the FA era on the PC was over. The 1302(ex NYC) and 1333(ex NH) went on to serve the Long Island Railroad as cab cars.

THE MODELS: As received the four units (A-B-B-A) were in yellow Union Pacific paint. The units are second hand and as with some second hand stuff some repairs are necessary. The U.P. FA1s also differed from the NYC FA1s in that the U.P. units were delivered with the larger number boards and Mars Lights. I will plug the lower holes on the nose but will have to live with the number board discrepancy.

 The A-B-B-A units have been stripped of their Union Pacific yellow and await their
 next visit to the work bench.    

The units are ready for hand rail repair, replacement of a broken off horn and the plugging of the lower headlamp hole in the locomotive's nose. The fan grills are stored out of the way. 

Another time honored tradition of the older Proto 2000 units. The replacement of cracked axle gears. This was such a problem that if buying an older used P-2000 unit consider the gears broken and factor in the cost of replacement gears when considering a purchase. Fortunately this is usually a one time repair using Athearn Part #ATH-60024(6 gears to a package). Athearn has the gears in stock as of this posting. An NMRA gauge is definitely recommended to get the wheels in proper gauge. And where would we be without good ol reliable #5s from Kadee

Mechanically the four units ranged from like new to barely used. Out of the box the old gears made a lot of noise and one FB unit was seized. I took this unit apart and noted it was in like new mechanical condition with no wear on it's commutator. I removed the power truck and worm gears then scraped out he factory applied grease which was now more like a glue. A light grease and a few drops of oil and voila! The unit ran great even with the cracked axle gear noise. The rest of the units received a similar tear down and lube. All are running well. Looking at the FA1 mechanisms to the right the top light shrouded in black is the Mars Light. This will be removed and the lower clear light positioned to shine through the top headlight lens. The lower lens is to be removed and plugged.   



  1. You may well have your fill of FAs, but definitely don't neglect the Bachmann units, which come with or without sound and can be had in NYC lightning stripe. A big advantage is no need to replacer axle gears! I have some Walthers lightning stripe FA-1s that I converted to DCC and speed matched to the Bachmann sound unit I have.

    1. Thanks for the head's up on the Bachmann FAs John! Their sound value is very tempting to stick my toe in the water and try out DCC / sound. I certainly will not miss replacing axle gears!

  2. I posted a photo of my FA-FB DCC equipped combo at http://modelrrmisc.blogspot.com/2015/02/new-york-central-items.html

    A big reason to have DCC, which almost nobody mentions, is the ability to control the headlight. If you look at DVDs with archival railfan footage, the lit headlight on trains is a major prototype feature.

  3. Thanks for the link to your pictures and blog John! Great looking FA2 and FB1 and interesting blogs as well. Also thanks for the tip on the DCC headlight control.