Empire Belt RR ALcos

Empire Belt RR ALcos
Custom Painted FA / FB Units

Friday, April 10, 2015

Penn Central U-Boat Make Over

Greetings Blog Followers,

I recently had the opportunity to give one of my three Athearn Blue Box Penn Central U28Cs a make over thanks to fellow modeler and Penn Central fan known here as PC Ralph. Here's the story of the make over and some PC six axle U-Boat tidbits.

PROTOTYPE PENN CENTRAL SIX AXLE U BOATS: Built by General Electric starting in 1963.

U23C  6700-6718 Delivered new to PC in 1970 for hump yard service. U30C body with 12 cylinder FDL engine. Saw occasional road work to clear out accumulated carbon deposits.

U25C  6500-6519 Delivered new to PRR in 1964-65  Featured a one piece windshield.

U28C  6520-6534 Delivered new to PRR in 1966. Featured two piece windshield and new style trucks.

U30C  6535-6539 Delivered new to PRR in 1967. Featured FDL-16 3,000 hp prime mover.

U33C  6540-6563 Delivered new to PC in early 1968. Ordered by PRR. Featured large wings on long hood. Missed being PRR power by only a few weeks.

THE ATHEARN BLUE BOX MODELS: Three U28C models purchased new from Caboose Hobbies in Denver in late 1990s. Order was for one powered unit and two dummy units. Typical Athearn powered product from that time period with metal handrails, sintered wheels, all wheel drive, dual flywheel motor and horn hook couplers. All units in road number 6533.

ON THE LAYOUT: At time of purchase my train layout was much smaller and tighter than today and featured 18" and 15" radius curves. These units were not well suited for that set up and consequently spent much of their first years in the box.

Fast forward to 2002 and a new layout with larger radius curves. The units saw some action and I renumbered two of them from 6533 to 6538 and 6583 with a fine brush and white paint. Were only PC engines in the stable at that time and their usage was light. So light that I discovered that I had never hard wired the unit in all the years I had it when I began this project.

The lone powered U28C in the fleet of three proved to be not powerful enough to pull the two dummies which were like sleds at first and a decent sized train. Often the engines were longer that the rest of the train. After I got the dummies to be free rolling I added one powered and one dummy BB U28C in P.R.R. livery to my son's growing engine fleet. This allowed me(and him) to swap out the power chassis and pull trains worthy of this amount of visual power. So now a three unit consist has two powered units.

Fast forward to 2015 I came across a BB PC U Boat featuring the red "P" logo for sale on ebay. It looked good and I forwarded the ebay link to PC Ralph. After an exchange of e-mails where I told Ralph I was thinking of painting one of my units with the red "P" if I had the decals in stock. Ralph generously offered to provide the red "P" decals for the project. Being even more generous Ralph sent me an envelope of numerous PC logos featuring the red "P", orange "C" and some others from the Micro Scale PC Esoterica decal set. Thank you Ralph!

With the red "P" decals now at hand I selected U28C 6583 to be stripped, painted and lettered as PC 6557 which actually wore the red "P". PC 6557 was a U33C but I didn't let that stop or bother me for this project.

The U Boat has been stripped and painted gloss black and the decals are ready to go

I kept the cab separated for the numbering process. This way I could dull coat it
 and then add the windshield. This way I only had to attach the cab once and 
reduce the chance of scratching it with the metal handrails.   

Decals have been cut and are ready to go. 

Newly lettered PC 6557  

Engineers side of PC 6557

PC 6557 and 6533 go nose to nose

Typical 1990s Athearn BB engine set up. This is my NH SDP40 power chassis

Note the metal sliding bar used for electrical contact

Removing the metal bar and "hard wiring" the unit

Hard wired and ready to go

PC 6557 with 6538 and a U Boat still in PRR paint lead a train into Empire City Station

The 6557 showcases it's eye catching red "P" courtesy of PC Ralph.
The 6557 was the only six axle U Boat to wear the elusive red "P".  

Three U Boats invade Empire City Station while a coal train crosses the Empire City Viaduct

The U Boats shake the glass of the control tower 

The 6557 gets a passing glance from some EC Station passengers.


  1. Great use of the decals John! That is some sharp looking heavy power!

    1. Thanks Ralph!! And thanks for the decals that made this units possible.

  2. The PC fleet is looking better and better by the day! Photo scenes look great. An assist goes to PC Ralph for sure. Thanks for sharing!