Friday, January 13, 2017

You Don't Always Get What You Want (When You Buy a Locomotive), But Sometimes You Get What You Need

The Rolling Stones sang "You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need."

What I wanted, about 15 years ago, was another CP Rail GP38-2 for my locomotive roster.

I found a Proto 2000 GP38-2 in the used bin at a hobby shop, so I bought it.

From day one, it ran poorly.

I tried everything, to no avail. 

I even had a friend who was expert in such things look at it.

It didn’t matter how much tinkering was done: It just wouldn’t run well.

When it ran, the motor squealed. Other times, it wouldn't run at all; it would just sit there and hum.

Occasionally, it ran flawlessly, then reverted to its old ways.

(I'm not alone; a search online shows that lots of people had troubles with these units.)

Frustrated, I turned it into a static prop in the engine house in Fort Frances. 

And there it stayed for over ten years, its nose sticking out of the door, just part of the scenery.

But last week I was bored, so I decided to try to fix it one more time.

Nope; still the same problems.

In a fit of inspiration—or maybe just a fit—I decided to take out the motor and turn it into a dummy.

If it couldn’t pull anything, at least it could look like it was, in a consist with two other four-axle units.

And that's what I did. At first, it felt bad tearing a locomotive apart. But I got over it.

And now it runs perfectly! Those Proto 2000 units roll so easily once the gears are removed.

And after some weathering, it looks good, too, now earning its keep on the layout, running with two other powered GP38-2 units (from Atlas).

So I didn't get what I wanted, but I got what I needed: Another four-axle locomotive for the layout. 

This is not the first time I have dissembled something I wanted to create something I needed on the layout. Click here to read how I took apart my finished and painted Rico station to make it fit better as a flat against the wall in the Fort Frances yard.


  1. It's indeed unfortunate the Proto has a reputation for non-operating units that look great. Having purchased two privately and returned due to wonky operation, I know from personal experience. I was gutted, as was your unit, John. Live and learn and model!