The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

GE 80 ton models by Bill Johann

I was sent three photos by Bill Johann some years ago of his scratchbuilt GE 80 ton switchers. More on the prototype here.

He built three of these models. The construction photos are dated in April of 1993, and the in service photo, which I’m presenting first, is from December of 1997. Check out also all those hoses and such, and the Midlin track, it was the best looking of all the OO track lines.

So far as I can tell he only mentioned these models briefly and in passing on the on the first page of the May 1994 issue of The OO Road. There we read that the “80 Ton triplets, [were] built last year for road switching….” The focus of the short article is on how he had more recently taken two of the HO Davenport models (by Mantua – with the side rods) and combined the bodies with an Athearn switcher chassis to make yet another smaller Diesel of similar design.

The 80 ton models were scratchbuilt from styrene. The first construction photo shows a model with incomplete handrails, so we can also see his process a bit further there. Painting before installing handrails was a smart move.

My guess was that he used something like an Athearn GP7 (blue box) frame and drive, and chose the model as it suited the length of the stock frame and 8 wheel drive. Perhaps adjusted the prototype design a bit to fit. The body details are simple, but effective.

Fortunately, two of these engines are now in a collection in the east, and I’m told by owner Drew M. that they run great!

This photo from Drew confirms the construction date and also the drive setup, which is a stock Athearn frame and drive modified for 19mm gauge.

This final side view is of one of the engines today. The truck sideframes have been modified to resemble EMD Flexicoil trucks rather than the correct GE design, but suit the model all the same.

I know I really like the way Athearn blue-box era drives work on 19mm OO gauge locomotives, I’ve got at this point more than a dozen models running with those drives, and more under construction. I describe the basics of the conversion here.

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