Archive for March, 2018

C’mon. You know you wanna


The History
Intergalactic Transport Machines (ITM) will build 3725 HH-78 models between 2142 and 2159, used mainly for deep space heavy industry like mining and transport. “HH” stands for “heavy haul” and these machines are revered for their simple mechanics and their robust life spans in the harsh working conditions of the space mines. Three hundred year old internal combustion engine technology is still quite effective and cheap and is the basis of many of  ITM’s designs, including the HH series.


Unit HH-78 #15 engineer’s side

Engine number 15 is one of the locos present on Xenon III during the Machina Revolt of 2154. My model depicts the unit after it was confiscated by the miners and modified for maximum protection and military operations.

HH-78 00a

The Model
No model train manufacturers make a model of the HH-78 since the prototype doesn’t exist yet. A kitbash would be in order. Since this was my first science fiction locomotive kitbash and first engine kitbash overall. I sought out the advice of Jack Hess, author of the article “An Out of this World Kitbash”  published on the Railroad Model Craftsman website. Jack had actually started work on this unit himself and graciously let me finish it to my own specs and in my own style.

The Bash
The chassis and mechanism is from an unmodified Atlas blue box SD45-2 and the shell started out as a Bachmann electric E60PC in Amtrak livery. Jack had already made the first cut and splice to get the shell to fit on the chassis when he passed it on to me.


The factory paint was stripped using a bath of 91% isopropyl alcohol. Horns, exhaust, and window glazing were removed for the final prepping step. The color scheme for the series of locos the Xenon Mining Corporation has purchased for its fleet is an orange corporate logo over a beige base color. The logo is a simple scriptograph produced from the letters “XMC” in a futuristic font I found on the Internet.


I attached a few extra vents and hatches from my scrapbox and gave the engine a base coat of Rustoleum ivory from a rattle can. I printed the logo on Testors water-slide decal paper and applied to the sides per the manufacturer’s instructions. Everything on the engine body with the beige color represents the “stock” production model from ITM before the humans got a hold of it and added the upgrades.

HH-78 00d

I liked what Jack had done on his Colony 5 model engine, so I took an extra sprue from a Walthers building kit and added an extra exhaust pipe amidships, which also serves to hide part of the body splice. I softend the sprue with heat from a hair dryer and bent it to fit the space. I bored out one end with a small hobby knife to represent hollow tubing. I spray painted the piece gold and attached it to the main body. I then did some light weathering on the overall model to show some light road use.

The Fantasy
Next was the fun part and required a bit of imagination and some courage. The idea is that the miners and workers on Xenon III took over operations of #15 in the early days of the android uprising. They “upgraded” the unit by adding armor cladding on the sides and general body protection at the fore and aft of the model. A few simple mechanical upgrades like an extra fuel tank helped the engine run for longer distances. Protection for crew comes from grates and wire mesh added wherever possible. Battle guns on the top side add some offensive power. Finally, survival supplies and spare parts are crammed in wherever possible to ensure the crew has everything they might need.


Unit HH-78 #15 Mad-Max style model locomotive

I scrounged the Internet for ideas, and my scrap box  for “Mad Max” style bits and pieces to see what would work. Mostly I tried to replicate some images I found of post apocalyptic vehicles without going overboard. I wanted a bit of a mix of science fiction and apocalypse. Materials should look like they were added hastily (see “Tips for Mad Max Upgrades to Your Sci-Fi Model Train” in the blog post below). Evergreen corrugated siding provided armour to reinforce the sides. The end of a 70’s era Athearn Pullman Standard hopper and some picture wire provided a nice plow for the front end. I think Matchbox has some really good stuff and they contributed the oil tank, back snow plow, gun turret, and the rack of camping (survival) equipment. Railing from an old AHM house helps protect the crew cab. A friend’s screen door mesh provided the safety cage on top and on the back end.


If the pieces don’t fit quite right, that’s OK. If the paint doesn’t match, all the better. It all adds up to an effect of humanity making do and surviving in real time. Some war-time graffiti and another layer of weathering completed my model.

HH-78 14

The Future
My next model will use the same techniques, but look totally different. Why don’t you get some extra locomotive shells and see what you can come up with? The model doesn’t have to actually run and should you not be satisfied, just chuck it in the bin. A little imagination and out of the (scrap) box thinking will have you building your own space ship train, unique to you. It is impossible to do it wrong. Maybe I’ll see you out there somewhere.


C’mon. You know you wanna.