I chose the Proto 2000 Phase II GP-30 model as the starting point for the GP-30u. At the time I built these models Proto 2000 had not yet released the Phase I version, but now they have. So you can apply the steps from this article to help make models of the Phase I versions as well.
Choosing the prototype
Since Proto 2000 only had the Phase II version at the time I built the models, I looked only at those versions of the prototype. I also liked having the stylish 'vee' windshield that limited me to Phase II locomotives rebuilt prior to January 1, 1982. After examining several rosters and cross checking information I found just three locomotives that fit this category, 2759, 2768 and 2776. I also had to make sure that the locomotives were still on the roster in 1995, the era that I plan to build a layout in someday. The fourth model I built was the 2764, I chose not to rebuild the front windshield on this model and left the classic 'vee' windshield. I also did not move the headlight down from between the numberboards or move the horn back along the long hood. I like having all of those details up high and up front and my HO scale engineers don't seem to care at all!
Upgrading the trucks and chassis
I started on the chassis first by removing the trucks from the frame then I removed the sideframes from the trucks and placed them aside. I then removed the Proto 2000 circuit board and 1.5 volt lamps and replaced them with a North Coast Engineering D104P2K DCC decoder and added 14 volt lamps. I prefer to use the 14 volt lamps instead of the 12 volt lamps because they don't burn out as quickly. Follow the instructions in the NCE decoder package as the install is completely solderless. Be sure to put a piece of electrical tape on the top of the frame to avoid any potential short circuits.
I took the sideframes and added all of the detail parts to them such as the brake cylinders and the swing hangers. I also drilled a 1/16" hole in the number 2 journal on four of the sideframes to mount the speed recorder. I then painted the sideframes silver, let them dry the reassembled the trucks and placed them back on the frame and set that aside until I finished the shells. In retrospect, I probably would have used the Athearn sideframes as they have a finer detail.
Assembling the Body and Superdetails for the shell
The Proto 2000 undecorated shell comes with all of the parts for several different versions of the locomotive as well s being pre-primed in a flat gray finish. I took all of the parts out of the plastic bags and separated what I needed. The shells I had came without the dynamic brake grill inserts installed, so you can add them on first. I then added the fan housings using CA, as the plastic these parts are molded in will not take to your typical plastic cement. I left the fan blades off until the model was completely painted. The pilots of the locomotive are pre-drilled for the addition of the detail parts, including the footboards. These holes will need to be puttied over as they were long gone by 1995. I also cut the notches in the corner of the pilots per the prototype. I then installed the Details Associates brass cut lever brackets and the cut levers in the holes in the pilots. I think that the brass parts have some very nice detail and are much easier to work with than the plastic version form the same mold.
I used all of the existing holes on the roof to install brass lift rings and for all of the grab irons including the curved one behind the last fan housing. The only plastic handrail I used from the parts pack was the one below the headlight casting. Leave the grabs off of the nose, it will make your decaling much easier in the end. The square sand hatches for the nose come in the parts packet and I glued them on next. I then shaved off the class light detail and puttied the holes and sanded the area smooth. I then used thin pieces of styrene to simulate the prototype, which used sheet steel to cover the area. Leave the headlight and numberboard castings off and save them for later.
The roofs of Santa Fe diesels are full of all sorts of details. First I assembled the air-conditioner and glued it in place. Then I moved on to the radio antennas. There are two types of antennas on the roof. One is the large Sinclair one for voice communications, and the other smaller one is the EOT antenna. Both antennas are mounted above the roof on grounding planes. The large ground plane is 3'x 3' and mounted on four legs that are long enough to mount the plane above the air conditioner. I use small brass rods glued into the cab roof to mount the ground plane. I make my planes from a piece of styrene cut to the right size and glued on the legs. Plano makes a great etched stainless steel ATSF small antenna stand for the EOT antenna. Use the template provided with the kit and drill and CA the part in place. I then installed the antennas by drilling small holes in the grounding planes and glued the parts in place. The horn is mounted directly above the engineer's side of the cab on a small square piece of styrene to be high enough to clear the roof. I used A-line and Precision Scale sunshades on two each of the locomotives. Both have excellent detail, but I think that the A-Line ones are more durable and forgiving when a full scale hand accidentally catches them.
Paint and Final Details
I paint all of my models with Scalecoat II paints. I prime my models with Scalecoat MOW gray to provide a uniform base coat for the yellow paint. The opaque yellow will not cover the detail parts added evenly enough without having several shades of yellow on your model. Don't forget to prime and paint the rear numberboard casting! For the yellow, I mix just a few drops of ATSF red into a bottle of Reefer Yellow to get the desired color, being careful, as the paint will turn darker as it cures. I then paint the entire locomotive yellow, using several light coats until I got the desired color. I then let the model dry for a few days and then begin masking. The Proto 2000 shell makes it extremely easy to mask off the nose area of the shell, it practically falls apart for you in all of the right places. If you are careful you can get the masking line along the sidesill right along the welding lines and really make those details in the Proto 2000 shell pop out. I use Scalecoat II ATSF blue for all of my blue and yellow warbonnet power. Once the blue is applied I remove the masking and take care of any touch-ups that are necessary. I then paint the front numberboards a gloss black finish to make a better surface for the decals to adhere to. I also paint the fuel filler caps and the emergency fuel cutoff switch red at this time.
I usually wait until the paint no longer has a detectable odor and then I letter my locomotives with Microscale's 87-29 ATSF diesel set that was just recently revised. I also use some of the warning decals from the 87-527 EMD/GE warning decal sheet on the long hood of the locomotive. I also follow the prototype practice of placing the safety slogan decals in the step wells of my locomotives and to set the period, American flags on the battery boxes. Carefully cut out and soak the decals, place them on the shell and tuck them down carefully with Solvaset. You will need to soak the lettering on the long hood several times to get it to tuck down into the crevices.
Then I install the two remaining grab irons and the handrails. I used the Proto 2000 handrails and snapped them in place and painted them to match the paint on the shell. I then added the fan blades and left them painted in the gray color they are molded in so that you can see them easier. I also install the MU hoses on the pilots and paint the ends of the hoses silver to represent the metal couplings on the hoses. Once that is complete I give the model a light coat of Testors dullcoat and install the headlight lenses and windows. I put the shells on the chassis and my four GP-30u's and added the Kadee #5 couplers in the Proto 2000 boxes.
Although I did not follow the prototype 100% on these models or put every detail into the shell, I feel that they are just over 90% correct. These models will eventually be used in operating sessions on a layout and will need to stand up to use, not to sit on a shelf in a display case. I took these models to the SFRH&MS national meet in Kansas City in 2001 and they placed first in the MU diesel category. They will eventually earn their keep protecting the locals and wandering on the mainline every now and then in my future Emporia Subdivision layout.