Heavy Electric

The purpose of this page is to cover modeling heavy-electric engines in S-scale. Within S-scale, Dick Karnes is probably the foremost expert in modeling heavy electrics. He has provided the photos and the text for this page. He continues to model, and so more models and information may be added in the future.

Passenger Units


S-scale has only one commercially-available ready-to-run heavy electric locomotive, the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 by American Models. However, this locomotive is an excellent starting point for any of several other heavy electrics, provided you don't mind a little freelancing.

For operation with full-length passenger cars with body-mounted couplers, I recommend two easy changes to the GG1 chassis. The first is to eliminate the pivoting feature between each pilot and its adjacent main frame. Then, to allow the pilot trucks to follow the track while the pilots themselves no longer do, the mounting hole in each pilot truck must be enlarged to form a side-to-side slot. The pilot trucks are reinstalled with a conical spring between the truck bolster and the pilot frame. This is described in the June, 1996 S/Sn3 Modeling Guide magazine's article "An Easy Effective GG1 Improvement" on page 24. (ed: due to copyright issues, we cannot reproduce that article's photos, but you might have that issue in your library, or be able to obtain a photocopy of it from the NASG's Library.)

American Models GG1;copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission


A bit further afield, one finds the American Hi-Rail C-C electric. The original American Flyer New Haven electric was both highly desirable and very scarce; thus this body shell was first offered by Dan Olsen to meet the demand, then later offered by American Hi-Rail. The locomotive's shell is designed to fit the American Flyer Alco PA powered chassis without modification. American Hi-Rail offered this engine in several liveries, although, strictly speaking, it is not prototypically-accurate. The photo below shows one of these shells atop a scratchbuilt chassis with a Cascade drive, although it would look pretty much the same on an AF Alco PA chassis.

American Hi-Rail C-C Electric with custom chassis; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

The photo below shows a New Haven EP-5 built by Vic Roseman, who fairly heavily modified the American Hi-Rail shell to more closely resemble the prototype. This model also uses a Cascade drive, with sideframes from American Models' Trainmaster trucks.

American Hi-Rail C-C Electric by Vic Roseman; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

There is a bit of a background story behind this locomotive's shell. Well-known AF collector and reseller, Dan Olsen, had more requests for AF New Haven EP-5 electric locomotives than he could ever fill, so he asked Dick Karnes if he would develop a pattern resembling the EP-5 that would fit an AF PA chassis. Dan was careful to request that the pattern be significantly different enough from the AF original so as not to be unintentionally confused with an AF original. Therefore, there are two major differences between the Karnes pattern and the AF EP-5. Namely, the noses are shaped like an Alco FA, and the side ventilators are large horizontal louvers instead of smaller screens. After Dan had fifty copies made, he returned the pattern to Dick. The master pattern eventually found its way, via Vic Roseman, to American Hi-Rail's Tom Hodgson.

Freight Motors


Below is a photo of a freelanced C-C electric. Basically, it resembles a New York Central Class R-2, but with pantographs instead of outside third-rail shoes, and the carbody ends are more "Westinghouse-like" than the R-2's rounded GE ends. Its carbody is simply two spliced American Flyer Reading caboose bodies atop a GG1 chassis. I used Grandt Line On3 D&RGW caboose cupola windows and some Evergreen styrene clapboard siding for the louvers. Fabricated brass end platforms were added atop the chassis ends. Footboards, plain journal lids, and several other small details are S Scale Locomotive & Supply parts. The second photo shows the model before applying final paint, so that you can see the parts added or fabricated.

freelanced C-C electric finished; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

freelanced C-C electric before paint; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission


Below is an example of another locomotive made from a single American Models GG1. The 2-C-2 consists of a shortened GG1 carbody atop a GG1 chassis with one power-truck portion of the chassis removed; a really simple, easy project. This 2-C-2 bears a very close resemblance to a PPR Class P5a, the only deviation being the cast main truck rather than the PRR's older-style built-up truck.

PRR Class P5a; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

To build one of these, the American Models GG1 chassis has to be cut apart just beneath the end of the motor such that what remains intact is the partial chassis with motor, truck pivot bracket, and one rounded end. Tighten the main truck pivot nut as tight as possible in order to permanently keep the truck lined up with the floor; you don't want the truck to swivel, ever!

Now cut-up the superstructure. Cut the sides vertically along the right edge of each of the left-hand cab doors. Then cut vertically just to the left of the right-hand triangular window. Now you have two cuts on each side. Complete the carbody surgery by cutting diagonally, twice, across the roof to separate the noses from the center section. The two noses can now be glued together; a thin square sheet styrene patch will cover the diagonal roof joint.

Now temporarily screw the chassis into the carbody in order to measure where to cut off the nose section of the remaining metal floor so as to fit the empty space at one end of the installed floor. Because this piece carries no weight other than a light bulb fixture, it can simply be spliced to the floor by means of super-glued styrene splice plates top and bottom.

The last thing to do is to cut the pilot truck mounting tab off of the leftover truck frame and glue it with liquid plastic cement to the new locomotive's truck frame. You'll also need to draw power from the rails; for this, install American Models' passenger truck pick-up wires on the pilot trucks. Save the GG1's remains to create the electric switcher described below.

Another freight electric possible with the 2-C-2 chassis, described above, is shown below. While this one has a scratchbuilt chassis (circa 1959), a carbody essentially identical to the one shown in the NYC R-2 above could be placed upon the shortened GG1 chassis.

2-C-2 freight motor; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission


A B+B-B+B electric locomotive inspired by the Virginian Railway locomotives of the same wheel arrangement is shown below. This locomotive emulates the overall look of the VGN ones, but with one exception; there's a cab at both ends, whereas the VGN engines only had a cab on one end. They were permanently paired back-to-back. The body shell was spliced from three AF Alco shells, two A-units and one B-unit. Noses were replaced by two halves of a cylindrical plastic pill bottle. Stirrup steps were recovered from the PA shells. Pantographs are American Models products. Power is provided by two of Sagami's largest motors via Cascade Hobby Products drives atop two scratchbuilt chassis. Sideframes are from Locomotive Workshop. Were I to do this today, I would use four NorthWest ShortLine Stanton Drives, their nine-foot-wheelbase variety, with American Models Alco RS-3 sideframes.

freelance B+B-B+B; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission


The Class B General Electric steeplecab electric locomotive, shown below, was built from a William Flatt kit. The kit was comprised of a set of flat photo-etched brass body components plus an assortment of brass shapes and wire, a trolley pole, and white metal traction sideframes. This model was assembled mostly per the instructions, but with SSL&S road service pilots rather than the footboard pilots included in the kit. It is furnished with an American Models GG1 pantograph instead of the trolley pole. Truck sideframes are Baldwin drop-equalized, originally intended for O-scale traction models. Chassis power is not included in the kit, so this loco has two NorthWest ShortLine S-scale Stanton Drives. Unfortunately, William Flatt retired in late 2019, so the kits are no longer available, except on the secondary market.

Flatt Steeplecab; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission


The little three-axle switching locomotive shown below was built from the remains of the GG1 left over from the 2-C-2 project. Simple scratchbuilt ends were installed in the leftover GG1 cab center and a new motor was squeezed into the carbody. Although this switcher follows no specific prototype, its inspiration was the PRR Class B switcher found in the PRR Sunnyside Yard in Queens, New York.

copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

Hoquat Hobbies once offered a General Electric Class A steeplecab electric locomotive model kit that included a resin body and odd-looking resin sideframes, but no power and no pole or pantograph. The locomotive shown below was completed with a Walthers O-scale "short" pantograph, S Scale Locomotive & Supply Reading tender truck sideframes, an Athearn HO-scale SW7 powered chassis, and Kadee HO-scale couplers. Modifying the Athearn chassis is just a 15-minute job, simply spreading the wheelsets and securing their new positions with super glue. Extra details (headlights, bell, horns, railings, etc.) are from various sources. There is a detailed construction article for the pictured locomotive in the June, 1997 issue of S/Sn3 Modeling Guide magazine. This particular model's pantograph has since been replaced with an American Models pantograph.

Hoquat Hobbies Steeplecab; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

MU Cars

Multiple-unit (MU) commuter coaches, both power and trailer units, are particularly easy to create. The photos below show heavyweight MU cars built from American Flyer heavyweight combines. Creating these involves adding windows to the ends and using Black Beetles (out of production) or Stanton Drives for one truck only. Any of a variety of truck sideframes can be used, depending on your preference. The sideframes on the cars shown are for O scale traction, offered by Q-Car Company.

Powered MU cab; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

The non-powered left car (trailer) is a one-off that you won't find anywhere. The sides are 50-year-old brass etchings, ends are Nimco (from the 1950s), trucks from Steam Depot (1980s), an AF New Haven coach roof, and Dayton Model Products gas-electric roof vents (1948).

Trailer units; copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

The photo below is of a streamlined MU train led by a trailer unit (no pantograph). The cars, patterned after New York Central outside third rail cars, are shortened American Models smooth-side streamlined coaches with vestibule doors added to the blind end. Car ends are built-up styrene sheet glued directly to the AM ends, then shaped with a large bastard file. Truck sideframes are S Scale America outside-swing-hanger streamlined trucks. As with the heavyweights, one Stanton Drive or Black Beetle power truck is sufficient for each unit. Pantographs on both styles of MU cars are from American Models. An article detailing the construction of these cars appeared in the March, 2017 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman titled "Building an MU Train".

copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission

So Now What?

Strictly speaking, only the American Models GG1 is currently commercially available, so you are limited to only three of the several locomotives described in this article, unless you are willing to hunt. However, model railroaders are essentially collectors of equipment produced over the years that just might eventually find their way onto a future (often never built) layout. So, there are lots of the kits and components described herein sitting in attics, garages, and basements. Get on one of the S e-mail groups (such as the S-scale and S-Trains discussion forums) and inquire. You may be surprised by what some modelers would be only too happy to part with.

copyright © Dick Karnes; used by permission
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