Modelling CP Rail System SD40-2 #5475 in HO scale by Manny Jacob

The unit I chose to model represents one of a batch of eleven (11) SD40-2s that were originally built for the Southern Railway (USA) in 1975, repainted into Norfolk Southern in the 1980s and later sold to GATX in 1991, who then leased them to CP Rail. On June 14, 1992, CP Rail purchased those 11 SD40-2s from GATX. By 1993, nine (9) of the 11 units had been rebuilt and repainted by CP into their then-new dual flags scheme and re-numbered to 5475-83. The final two units (3253 and 3254) were renumbered to 5484 and 5485 (but remained black) in 1997. All 11 units were off the CP roster by 2007.

Prototype photos

5475 in 1993
5478 in 1993
3254 in 1997
5480 in 1998
5478 in 2000 (rear)
5481 FL detail in 2004


In 2010, Athearn released a model of these distinctive units in their SD40-2 RTR line. These HO scale models are significantly improved from the original blue box series in terms of their flexibility, quality of drive and shell detailing and paint. They also come in a durable and attractive clamshell storage box. Specific prototype features include the end handrails, high hood, blanked-out windows and mostly-correct paint scheme and numbering. Athearn produced road numbers 5475, 5478 and 5481 though the latter road # featured see-through window material which is incorrect in the CP era.

In the winter of 2016, I carefully compared the old Athearn blue box SD40-2 to the newer RTR as well as to the prototype. While I felt the RTR version was still lacking in many of the features that make these ex-Southern units distinctive (ie. unique MU stands, roofline walkway lights etc), I nevertheless decided the Athearn RTR would form the basis for a more accurately-detailed model. The blue box model would have required a significant investment in Cannon parts, shipping, USD exchange, major kitbashing and custom painting to bring it up to modern detailing standards. The RTR version actually has very nice hood, door, fan/blades, cab, blanked out windows, exhaust, inertial hatch/intakes, radiator grilles, fuel tank details, sideframes, drive, DCC-compatibility and paint job. So onto eBay I went, where I managed to locate a nice model of Athearn RTR 5475 in the second-hand market. When the engine arrived in the middle of February, I went right to work.

Parts list

Detail Associates
Detail Associates
Detail Associates
Detail Associates
Detail Associates
Details West
Details West
Details West
Details West
Details West
Details West
Details West
Details West
Miniatures by Eric
MV products
High hood SD40-2 RTR/CPRS 5475 factory paint
Removed headlight covers
brake chain tensioner
ditch light - single
drop step EMD dash-2 type
MU stand EMD late double type (alt Wright Products or scratchbuild)
eye bolts 3.5" wire formed
fuel tank fittings (alt Athearn incl parts or Hi-Tech)
step lites (alt Custom Finishing #112)/5
prime air filter type 2
MU cable with double ended plugs
traction motor cables
large air dryer Salem
air hose, drop elbow style (alt Kadee #438)
fuel tank drain and vent pipes/5 (alt Athearn incl parts)
knuckle basket NS (alt Plano #11896 & if applicable to specific unit modelled)
GP38-2 truck bearings
lens (if not adding lighting to model)
Canadian Pacific Diesels (1993-97) decals

Random selection of build photos

"System" incorrectly placed/comet/toothpick removal
New "System" decal in right place
Add traction motor cables
Add traction motor cables and air dryer
Make roof blanks (old horn/antenna locations, vent)
Styrene circles added to larger blanks for vents
Make Southern-style MU stands
Walkway light, brake chain, roller bearings, dual fuel gauge, painted handrails, eye pins
Cab roof blanks and vents added


Complete list of steps

  1. Remove SD40-2 from box and inspect
  2. Remove coupler boxes
  3. Separate shell from underframe and inspect
  4. Remove lights from decoder to front dual beam (my model came DCC-equipped, lighted)
  5. Paint handrails white, red and black according to prototype
  6. Cut off coupler trip pin
  7. Paint couplers rust
  8. Glue slider windows in place
  9. Remove incorrectly placed "System" lettering engineer's side using comet and toothpick
  10. Apply new "System" decal in correct location
  11. Drill holes in roof for eye pins
  12. Drill holes in end pilots for train air line hose
  13. Install train air line hose
  14. Drill hole in roof for bell air line (follow quality roof shot from google for placement and shape)
  15. Paint newly-installed train air line hoses
  16. Remove bearing caps from every axle (use file or rotary sanding drum)
  17. Remove existing brake chain castings from side sill
  18. Install Athearn fuel tank details
  19. Detail sideframes according to specific unit modelled
    -new exposed bearing caps (not all axle ends are fully exposed, see photos!)
    -brake lines (I omitted these to allow trucks to swing freely)
    -sand lines (if desired, ensure trucks can swing)
  20. Paint wheel faces and contact plates flat black while sideframes are off
  21. Paint sideframes flat black and re-install
  22. Drill holes in walkway lights for .015 wire (5 lights needed for 5475)
  23. Drill locator holes in locomotive body for walkway lights (see prototype photos to determine placement)
  24. Drill hole through prime air filter and run .015 wire through (see prototype photos for placement and air line location)
  25. Glue Prime filter and wire assembly underneath shell, being careful to allow for later shell removal
  26. Install traction motor cables on both sides (see prototype photos for configuration and placement)
  27. Glue large Salem air dryer behind fuel tank on conductor's side, being careful to allow for later shell removal
  28. Paint Prime filter and wire assembly underneath shell, flat black
  29. Paint traction motor cables on both sides, flat black
  30. Check wheel gauge
  31. Install new Cannon brake chain tensioner castings
  32. When brake chain tensioner castings dry, paint black
  33. Fabricate mushroom-style cab roof vent with BLMA class light blank and smaller styrene circle, paint
  34. Install small BLMA circular plates where the SOU firecracker antennae formerly resided, paint
  35. Fabricate Southern RR style of MU stand, both ends, install, paint
  36. Install and paint double-ended MU cable part DW 218 (see prototype photos for placement, colour)
  37. Fabricate, install, paint forward exhaust hatch part (see above roof shot of 5475 for placement, shape)
  38. Install drop-steps, paint black
  39. Install brake chain (see prototype photos for placement)
  40. Install eye pins in roof and paint
  41. Install walkway lights

-drill holes in lights
-cut short .015 wire pieces
-glue together and to body
-fabricate/install brackets
-allow all to dry and paint

LAST MINUTE DISCOVERIES: rear eye pins, REAR horn base, replace curved roof grab with single drop conductor's side, flag brackets, removal of fuel tank circular gauge (both sides).

Omitted steps: Because I started from a factory painted model, I was unable to remove the incorrect numberboard and class light blanks from the front of the short hood without trying to match the factory paint colour. As well, I did not install brake and sand lines on the truck sideframes (these interfered with truck swing when I attempted to do so on this model). The model does not feature nice etched see-through steps and walkway tread material. Lastly, I did not change the fan tops to the correct style.

Finished model


© created 3-25-16, updated 11-29-21

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