Monday, July 25, 2022

Modeling Monday: SW-1 Disassembly & Stripping

I guess I should just bite the bullet and admit it: I can't keep up with this blog as much as I'd like. Either I'm too busy with the usual stuff of life/work (which nobody wants to read about - and I sure don't want to waste time writing about), or there ends up being so much cool stuff going on at once that - before I know it - days/weeks have passed and it's then old news. That's a nice problem to have, but still a "problem" when it comes to blogging. I'll just try to post more often so things don't backlog & build up too much.

And there have been a LOT of things lately. Since my last full progress report (way back on May 18 - ugh!) I:

That's just the layout-related stuff. In addition, The Missus and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary, attended a concert in NYC, spent a long weekend at the Cape, then I went to PA for four days of RR fun (Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern RDC ride, steam loco shop tour, Strasburg, Ken McCrory's legendary PRR Buffalo Division layout, Tom Jacobs' Reading Crossline layout, Colebrookdale RR, and the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum). And now that I'm back home, we're starting on another (semi)major house project.


But all that is probably not why you're here. As I alluded to in last week's Wordless Wednesday, I got started on converting PRR SW-1 #9137 to B&M #1109. In addition to the decals (thanks again to Tom Murray and Dave Owens), David Hutchinson contributed the correct bell (and an extra stack) to the cause, and while I was away my order for KV Models stainless steel details arrived in the mail along with the bell & stack. 

So the SW-1 project went to the top of the priority list and the first step was to disassemble it and strip the paint. Thankfully, this turned out to be much easier than I expected/feared.

First, remove the cab by rocking it side to side and lifting up the front. There's a large locking tab at the back, but only two small ones at the front of the cab sides. Once the cab is off, the hood lifts up at the back (its large locking tab is at the front).

Next, pull gently on the shrink tubing (cushioned tweezers are ideal for this) to pull out the headlight from the casing. Remove the headlight lens by pushing it out from inside the hood. I then used a small screwdriver to gently pry the handrails off of the hood.

The cab is a bit more complicated and at first I was just going to try and mask the windows and paint right over the factory paint (maybe trying to remove the road number first). But on advice from friend Schuyler, I used a (very!) small screwdriver to gently pry up the contact board for the rear light (see pic above). . .

. . . used tweezers to peel off the electrical tape . . .

. . . and pulled the rear light out of the casing. I also used a small screwdriver to pry out the windows (remove the side windows first) and pry off the headlight casing. Unfortunately, the rear light lens is so well glued in that I couldn't remove it. So I may end up just having to mask that off for painting.

With everything taken apart down to the main styrene body parts, it was time to strip the paint!  (Beware - graphic images - PRR fan viewer discretion advised).

Reminds me of a frog in formaldehyde %^)

I'd never stripped paint off a model before, so after consulting the helpful folks over at The Valley Local Facebook Group, I decided to give 91% alcohol a try . . .

After soaking for less than 10 minutes, the paint and lettering/numbering started to dissolve.

I then dumped the whole jar & parts into a bowl and, using a soft/old toothbrush, gently cleaned off the remaining paint residue. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it all came off - no hard scrubbing needed at all.

While I've since heard from others that 91% alcohol is safe for plastic (some folks claiming to have left parts soaking for days/weeks!), and won't even unglue details, I moved the parts over to a "stop bath" of soapy water for final cleaning.

After a final rinse under running water, and air drying, this former PRR unit is ready for additional details, paint, and decals to convert it to B&M 1109!

I haven't just been working on the SW-1 though.... While I was in PA, I scored a set of ESSO gas station decals at one of the hobby shops we visited. So I've been trying to get that finished too. But I'll save that story for next time...


  1. I wonder if the 91% alcohol treatment works because of modern paint composition? In other words, would it strip old fashioned enamel model paint?
    The only painting projects I have done started with undecorated models. One or two repaints that I have were done by a professional; I am too chicken to try stripping paint!!
    Shawn Hogan

    1. Hey Shawn! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment - just sorry it's taken me so long to reply! I think you're right - the alcohol works on more modern stuff, though I've heard it still won't budge Kato and some other model's paints. Guess I was lucky!