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And then there were two...
The F3A unit that my ECI uses to pull a passenger excursion train now has a helper. It is an F3B. The F3A is a Varney/Life Like shell mounted on an Athearn F unit chassis, new trucks and a can motor that fills the shell. Talk about pulling power and the speed is reasonable, too!

Some time back, a fellow on r.m.rr said that he had 5 old Varney B unit shells that he would sell for $5 + freight. If no-one wanted them, he would toss them. I bought them. Well, for 1957, they aren't bad at all. They are the replacement for the old Varney die-cast shells and match my powered A. There is one problem that I chose to ignore on the basis of the 3 foot rule and I cleaned up the flashing and mold lines on one of the shells and thinned down the steps. Then I painted it in ECI colors and decalled it with East Central Indiana lettering (not the logo) and applied orange safety stripes on one end.

Rummaging through my junk box, I came up with an Athearn F unit frame and a pair of old power trucks that I stripped the gears out of. I will replace the trucks with new dummy trucks as soon as I can get some so they will match the ones under my A unit. I had to trim off the small mounting studs on the side of the frame leaving the large slot tab. That one fits right into a slot on the shell. I started to mount couplers on it, but thought that maybe I should see how far apart the units would sit with couplers.

Arrrggghhh! Unacceptable! I could almost drive a car through the gap! What to do? Cut off the coupler mounting tabs and make new mounts? I don't think so. Don't wanna. How did the railroads handle AB sets? Didn't some of them operate them as coupled sets? Ah, yes they did and so will the ECI. The only place that this B unit will be used is to assist the F3A and supply HEP for the passenger consist. If it needs to work freight, it will run as a pair.

I made a link out of some plasti-struct and joined the units. Boy, do they look good close coupled. :-) I took the short Kadee coupler that I had on the A unit and drilled and tapped the end of the B unit for the 2-56 screw to mount it. I test fit against one of the passenger cars and it looked good, but it doesn't run against the passenger cars, it runs against the baggage car and that doesn't have diaphragms. Well, it looked pretty bad. the baggage car uses a different coupler set up than the other passenger cars. In fact, I had used the swing arm part of the coupler/truck setup from an Athearn 86 foot boxcar in order to get this car to track when I put it together. Ah, so, that gives me something to work with. A little drill work to create a new center for the swing arm shortened the coupler and pulled the baggage closer to the B unit AND closer to the passenger cars as well. Looks good, but will it run?

Everything tracks well running froward and, boy, does it look good with an A-B combination. Of course, I have to back it into the parking track and I did notice a little jump. In fact, the baggage actually derailed and then re-railed while being backed. Oops! A little tuning on the trucks took care of that spot, but how about backing down the entire railroad? A glutton for punishment aren't I? In the words of B. Bunny, Esq., "What a Maroon." I had to test it didn't I?

Well a little more filing and adjusting was required on the baggage trucks (they are Rivarossi 4 wheel passenger trucks) and there was a tab that I had missed. It runs great and backs the entire railroad as well. Bottom line? With a new set of dummy trucks for the B and the another set of diaphragms for the baggage car, it is truly a train to be proud of; the flagship of the fleet.

Photos by Roger Hensley

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