It’s sometimes funny to find out how much you don’t know! And sometimes not so funny. I found out that finding out how much you don’t know takes a whole lot of time. (Skip to the last sentence of this post if you want to know how long.)

RS3My first modeling attempt was an un-assembled HO kit produced by Stewart. The kit was for a DC powered Alco RS3. This HO scale locomotive kit construction project took much time and taught me a lot. Everyone should consider taking on a project to really learn how it’s done.

At the time I wasn’t interested in “prototyping”… I really didn’t know that much about it. I just wanted a nice running, nicely weathered model of an RS3. (At the time, I didn’t realize I also wanted it to be DCC with sound. We’ll get more into that later.) First step – Remove the locomotive shell if attached, set the shell aside and make sure you have a motor, wheels and chassis frame that run well together. How do you do that? Click here.

So I’ve cleaned and “lubed” the motor, linkage, gears and wheels. Time to test how well the chassis runs. To do that I simply set up a powered test track in a kind of rectangle pattern. Some hobbyists I’ve seen on the web simply have a powered straight track for testing. [If you would like to see how to build a test track click here.] My chassis ran very well!

What do you do if the locomotive doesn’t run well? There will be several “how to” articles on that subject in the future on this website. For now your best bet is to conduct a Google search using this search term – “ho scale locomotive doesn’t run well”. That search will return a bunch of information that you will need to weed through to find what’s applicable to you.

My next step was to build the locomotive shell. That building process is modeling 101 – (1) glue plastic parts together in sequence set forth in instructions with plastic glue, (2) make sure corners are square by using a form of some sort for support, (3) apply adequate pressure (rubber bands or clips) and allow adequate time for glue to properly dry, (4) fill holes with plastic putty or appropriately sized styrene, and (5) file and sand until smooth in all the right places. Yes, it takes some time. If you would like more information about building plastic models you can click here or conduct a Google search using the search term “building plastic models”.

I now have a (1) chassis that runs well and (2) a well built shell. Just a couple more steps to finish (if I choose not to install fancy LED lighting or DCC with or without sound).

(In reality, I elected to install LED lighting, DCC and sound. Those elections require an ability to solder which you must have or develop. I had to develop the ability and will share that experience in the future through another post.)

Now is a very good time to paint and weather the chassis and shell. Decals will also be added to the shell. This link is to a site called Delano Mountain Custom Models (the Custom Model’s link is on the list at the linked site). Jim Rinker appears to be at the top of his game in weathering and customizing HO scale locomotives. His site has some amazing photographs of weathered locomotives and instructions on how to do it. There are numerous other instructional videos on painting and weathering here.

After completion of painting and weathering some cleaning and re-assembly may be required. Here’s a picture of my final “first effort” project. So, how much time did it take me…six (6) months of starts and stops, but I learned a lot.

HO scale locomotive kit construction. A Stewart RS-3 kit.

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