Bringing an Athearn GP38 up to standard

Starting on the third GP38 intending to have a matched set for the head end of long freights. I thought I'd list the various little modifications that I have found useful:

  1. Constant lighting. The as delivered light shines out thru the cab windows. I put a ceiling in the cab and mounted the bulb above the ceiling so that it shines out the headlamp only. I use a 1.5 volt bulb for the cab head lamp and a second 1.5 volt bulb for the long hood head lamp. I mount a Radio Shack full wave bridge rectifier in series with the motor to let the lamps stay on at full brighness irregardless of the throttle setting. I remove the long springy electric pickup strip and use 1" Fastons pressed onto the truck electrical strips to route track power to the bridge rectifier and from there to the top motor brush. Having the cab windows stay dark while the headlamp shines improves the look of the locomotive considerably. The Fastons give better contact than the factory power pickup strip.
  2. Kadee couplers. Drill and tap the coupler lugs to accept the #38 coupler boxes.
  3. Change the road number. When running a multiple unit lashup it is nice to have each one sporting a different number. I have a decal set for this locomotive. Best results seem to be painting over the factory numbers with a brush and decaling over the paint.
  4. Check drive for smoothness. Athearn drives can be improved by merely disassembly and careful cleaning of the plastic gears. Tiny bits of plastic flash sometimes are left in the gear train that causes noise. On my test track this particular drive ran so smoothly and quietly that I didn't bother to take it apart, but other Athearn drives have benifited from this step.
  5. Spray paint truck side frames with dark gray auto primer. This kills the plastic gloss and is consistant with the paint scheme used on my railroad. Truck frames are a friction fit and just pull straight out.
  6. Brush paint the handrails. This kit has the older wire handrails. A coat of primer followed with a top coat and the paint will stay on dispite handling the locomotive.

David Starr

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David J. Starr
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