Rebuilding a Brass B&O E-27 Consolidation and Adding DCC and Sound.

I am always looking on eBay for a bargain Q-1 or Q-4 Mikado to back-up the Q-7f that most often will run the Old Main Line Peddler on my layout. Recently I found an older PFM/United B&O E-27 Consolidation at a great price. It was tarnished and tired looking, but the drivers looked good, so I took a chance. This locomotive type was not often seen on the Old Main Line in the late 40s and early 50s but it would provide a great learning platform and test bed for me. I need to add DCC and sound to my brass Q-7f that is well painted and runs great. I am already adding sound and DCC to a pair of Life-Like Proto 2000 FA-2s as a test bed for future upgrades to my Kato and BLI F-units. That experience has shown me that “practice makes better” as I have already gained a lot of knowledge from mistakes made.

Photo of the model on eBay.

With a little bit of research I realized the tarnished boiler was not a big problem and I could media blast it with my $20 baking soda media blaster to smooth out the finish.

The eBay photo of the tender.

I disassembled the model, but left the drivers and running gear connected as I did not want to mess them up too badly by my lack of experience. After getting the major body parts away from the running gear, I blasted them with baking soda, gave them a hour bath in dilute vinegar, and then after dry, hit them with Tamiya red primer from a can. The frame and running gear was spared this abuse and cleaned with WD-40 300554 Specialist Contact Cleaner Spray, the same polar solvent I use to keep my track clean. It is a good solvent and supports clean conductive surfaces. It cleaned the grease and dust from the running mechanism and left it dry and easy moving. I little Labelle #108 light oil was used to re-oil the bearings and joints on the mechanism. I did this before painting to insure the joints were well oiled and as they are mostly hidden I did not worry about great paint adhesion.

I started with the boiler and cab assembly, the difference is striking.
The red primer looks garish, but it is a good base color for a black finish coat and the Tamiya primer gives a very fine finish compared to other spray can primers.
The mechanism rolls very freely after being cleaned well and lightly oiled.

I wasn’t sure if there was a lacquer coating or gold paint on the model, so I tested the base of the tender overnight in a paint remover and found no change. The vinegar bath did dissolve some type of topcoat as the solder joints became more visible. I have read that some modelers soak in a vinegar and water bath overnight, I used about a 25% solution for an hour and like the results. The metal is smooth and accepted the primer well for a very smooth undercoat.

The tender received the same treatment. The black circle is a Soundtraxx speaker mount I am testing for size.

The tender will receive the bulk of the DCC and sound updates and there is enough room to add a capacitor to keep the locomotive running over any gaps on my layout track.

The one area that is least familiar to me is upgrading the motor, tuning the gearbox, and making sure the mechanism is as smooth as a Swiss watch. Other smaller challenges to the locomotive/boiler include adding lighting, a working front coupler, and possibly changing the air pump (I didn’t make this change). Knowing my weakness I put a request for help on the B&O listserve. The results were fantastic, more on that later.

When I am unsure, I start with the more familiar and for me that is now painting with my airbrush, speaker installation, and DCC wiring. All new skills but more familiar than motor and gearbox work. For this project, like my P2K FA-2s, I felt I had room for a large speaker and all the DCC tools I wanted in the tender. This probably won’t be the case for my Q-7f Mike, but I am learning while having fun!

A mock up without springs on the driver axles to see how the wiring harness will line up. An opening will have to be cut in the tender and vertical plate behind the cab to make room for the harness. Can’t wait for black paint.

With all of the DCC and sound in the tender, I started to work there. First decision, where to mount the speaker. The coal bunker is already a flat piece, ready for a shallow coal load so no need create a false bottom as recommended by Soundtraxx for a tender speaker install. Soundtraxx has become my decoder of choice, based primarily on local availability and support from my local hobby shop, Pro Custom Hobbies. I had already purchased the latest Tsunami2 Steam2 decoder for my Q-7f, so I diverted its installation to the E-27. I used a large 28mm speaker because I had one on hand and the bigger the better with speakers, for the most part. Using the Soundtrax enclosure for that speaker allowed me to be less concerned about sealing the tender joints to create an air-tight speaker enclosure. The enclosure kit has a mount which I used as a template to drill and tap two 2-56 holes from the top so I could secure it from below. I also drilled some holes for the speaker. As long as it is a sealed unit and securely mounted I don’t need to worry about a gasket for tight mounting or sealing the openings in the tender for quality sound. I used the same setup in my FA-2s and the sound is pretty close to full range and booming.

As brass steam engines often rely on pickup from the tender wheels for one pole and the locomotive for the other pole, stalling is a possible concern. I am adding a Soundtraxx 810140 CurrentKeeper to hopefully help the short model traverse rough spots. It fits neatly into the upper, rear fireman’s side corner of the tender and does not interfere with other parts of the DCC and sound install. It comes with a plug that goes directly into the Soundtraxx decoder, so an easy add. Some high quality 3M double sided tape will secure it to the underside of the tender deck.

The coal load covers the speaker so it has to be fairly sound transparent. A tried and true is method is black foam. I got a piece from a box and trimmed it fit. It doesn’t look bad plain, but an application of thinned white glue and some Woodland Scenics coal and I have a great looking, sound translucent coal load over the speaker.

Black foam without coal.
Black foam with a coal load. The rectangular piece was an experiment to see how the white glue worked on the foam. It does.
Soundtraxx DBX-9000 Locomotive-to-Tender Wiring Kit installed on insulated plate and through new opening in front side of tender. I covered this with tape while painting.

The next step for the tender was a coat of Vallejo Model Air 71.157 Black. I taped off the loco to tender connector and a previously soldered spot on the tender base to keep them paint free for better soldering later. I painted the two pieces separately, along with the trucks.

Next I brush painted some Pledge Floor Finish on the tender sides and rear to be decaled and added decals from Ed Sauers’ excellent set (available from Bill Hanley, email him at wmhanley at verizon dot net). This included the main lettering on the side, engine number on the tender beam, capacity data on the tender rear, along with the tender frame number centered on the lower side of the frame. I chose to do this before adding the DCC parts to allow me to add two coats of Testors DullCote. I wanted the clear layer in place to protect the finish, as I was soldering wires and adding parts to the interior. I also brush painted Vallejo Train Color 73.003 Steel in the tender light opening. This was repeated for the locomotive light.

Tender capacity and locomotive number decals on the back side of the tender.
As seen on the diagram and in the prototype photo, the tender is identified as a #10. The decal sheet has 2” letters for this and I verified it on a prototype photo, so I added it. Not something I have noticed before.

The next big step is putting the electronics in the tender. It is a tight fit as a chose a big speaker, important for excellent sound. I am using a Soundtraxx 810153 28mm (1″) Round Speaker with the 810110 28mm Baffle Kit. In the photo you see the Soundtraxx 810140 Sound CurrentKeeper on the bottom left. It is plugged into the decoder which is opposite, in the top left of the photograph. I first added a micro LED for the rear light with a 1k ohm resister on one leg. I tested it with a 9 volt battery to make sure it is still working after being installed. It has one the black wire which goes from the rear of the tender (left) to the Tsunami 2200 yellow wire which is the rear light negative. The common positive for lights is the blue wire which is T-spliced with the gray rear light LED wire and then connected to the locomotive female side of the connector (Soundtraxx DBX-9000). The black left side track pickup is soldered to the base of the tender.I repeatedly checked the continuity from the wheel treads to the frame to insure good pickup from the track.

Testing the LED lights often is good idea before things are buttoned up. The resistor is soldered in place before the test.

The DBX-9000 female connector is soldered to the wires from the decoder. I marked there location on a diagram and the photograph below that will be stored in the engine’s box. On the connector that is part of the locomotive I labeled the wires with there decoder wire colors to help with final installation. They are all black wires so marking them is important for installation and any future maintenance.

Things are coming together and the mechanism was cleaned with contact cleaner to remove old grease and to make sure there is minimal resistance in the rotating parts. With NWSL on temporary hold for motors, I was very fortunate to have a fellow B&O modeler offer me a Mashima flat can motor from his private stock. He also gave me three inches of thick walled tubing for the motor to gearbox coupling. Thanks Ed.

This mock up look like I am on the right track. The gearbox will change when the driver springs are added and I can adjust the motor mount to match.

The motor had a small mount on it and I was able to add it to the plastic, insulated side of the motor and it lined up well with original gearbox. The negative wire is attached to the bottom of the motor and seen in the photo below. After adding a new 2-56 threaded hole in the original mount between the frame rails the new motor mounted firmly. Capton tape will be added the motor case to insure contact between the case and the frame do not cause a possible short. The tubing was cut to length and holds the gearbox firmly in place in both directions. So far it runs like a dream on the test track with leads connected directly to the motor. I am also constantly checking the continuity of the pick wheels on the locomotive and the tender to insure they are solid when I connect the decoder.

With the most of the electronics in the tender, the connector will have five wires used in the locomotive. I added a rectangular slot in the vertical plate behind the cab (photo below).

Painting and weathering is another comfort zone for me to fallback on when the modeling gets difficult. I wanted to experiment with a well weathered smokebox, so I gave is a shot of Vallejo ModelAir 71.050 light gray paint and then gave it several washes of Tamiya 87131 Black Panel Line Accent Color.

If this works out I will use a similar technique on the firebox .
We’ll see how this looks after the boiler gets a coat of black paint .

The firebox was painted the same grey and then along with the smokebox taped over with Tamiya thin masking tape. This tape makes a nice edge, sticks well, and it’s thin width helps seal off small areas. I think I cut fifty small pieces to go over and under pipes and railings.

Not sure all the taping was worth it but here is the initial result. I used a fine brush to touch up the pipes with black paint.

Ready to go!

Something I have noticed in black and white photos of steam locomotives compared to color is the finish. In many color photos the whole locomotive looks black, one color, b&w photography seems to catch or show tones of black. Maybe tone isn’t the correct word, but the boiler looks a different color than the cab and tender, I am guessing this is related to temperature of the metal or how heat affects the paint. Either way, I want to see if I can capture this with paint. After spraying the smokebox and firebox with gray to represent the graphite finish on these hot areas, I sprayed the rest of the engine with black. But to finish, I am overspraying the cab to match the rather “cooler” tender with a gloss coat and then Testors dullcote. The boiler, after masking off the cab, will get a gray flat over finish to attempt to capture the variation seen in b&w photos. it may not make a difference, but this a platform for experimentation.

The front coupler on brass locomotives always seems to be a challenge. The dummy coupler was removed from the detailed brass coupler pocket on the pilot beam with some heat from a soldering iron. I used wet paper towels to keep the surrounding surfaces cool while heating up the pin that held it in place. After removal I had a well detailed coupler pocket that I could add a cut-off Kadee coupler by using the same technique as it came with, a shortened shank with a pin through it, marginally functional. I chose to add a full Kadee #178 coupler and pocket instead. I felt it would provide better operation to a locomotive that will be used in switching. Using a cutoff wheel in my Dremel, I trimmed out a wider opening in the pilot beam all the way up the bottom of the pilot deck. This left a little bit of the prototype looking draft gear in place. I shimmed the underside of the pilot deck with styrene to allow me to screw the #178 draft gear in place and provide a mechanically strong connection. I didn’t want to try to drill and tap a blind hole into the pilot deck. The styrene was epoxied in place and tapped for a 1-80 screw to attach the Kadee draft gear.

It is centered, though the photo angle makes it appear otherwise. I had to file the back end of the draft gear to help clear the pilot truck. The pilot truck was also trimmed a little to help with clearance.
The top of the original coupler pocket is still in place and adds a little extra detail to the installation.
The coupler hits the Kadee gage well within my specs.

Lighting is always something I want add to my locomotive fleet though I have learned the B&O didn’t require the use of a light during daylight operations in 1950. For the tender I used an LED from Woodland Scenics as size wasn’t extremely important as the light is mounted into the tender body. A Details Associates 14 1/2 inch headlight lens is the finishing touch for the rear light. One was used on the headlight also.

Final Tender details included adding a Kadee scale coupler and Hi Tech Details brake hose to the back of the tender.

Weathering is light with an undesrpray of light gray-grime.

Here is the sound…

Which prototype to follow? One of the reasons I bought this locomotive as a test bed was my experience on John King’s prototype operating layout of the B&O Branchline to Winchester, VA. I wanted to commemorate that great experience. I got to run an E-27 on the local through the layout with the help of an experienced conductor. I have never been interested in layout operations, but this experience changed my perspective. I was also very lucky as the other operators on that day were very experienced, one literally wrote the book, and they were all gracious and encouraging.

I asked John which E-27 could have possibly run on the Old Main Line. He gave me a quick lesson on the E-27 and how many had their cabs shortened thus limiting the prototypes for the model I possessed, unless I wanted to do some major rebuilding. He offered photos of 2712 which had the longer cab. Some other details don’t match, but I am proceeding with this number as it was in Brunswick and might have traveled down the OML, maybe on a work train or for some other plausible reason. Thanks John, this one model that is more than a replica of a former prototype, it is a memory of a great day.

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5 thoughts on “Rebuilding a Brass B&O E-27 Consolidation and Adding DCC and Sound.”

  1. Wow! GREAT post! Tons of great info in here. I have a Sunset E-24 that I picked up years ago and have been kicking around the idea of doing a build/detail/DCC install (minus the full paint job as the model I have is already painted) for my early Georgetown Branch trains. This is a really great perspective into getting things running properly. I’m new to brass stuff so seeing how you approached the running gear is very helpful. I really like your technique for the coal loads – I was struggling with that, too. Very cool! Again, great post – lots to digest here. Thanks!


    1. Yes or use a gloss clear from Vallejo or your favorite model paint. The thin gloss finish helps hide the decal film. After decaling, add a matte clear coat over the locomotive. Although I actually use matte for weathered areas and satin clear for cleaner, shinier locations. I’ll post an update on some things I have done to this engine since this article. Thanks.


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