Have you ever seen a locomotive this weird (Picture 1)? It’s the grandiose KT1-not exactly a beauty-but it is a curiosity piece that runs on the tracks of my game room railroad. Several years ago, while I was visiting the Iron Horse Hobby Store not far from my home, I spotted the motor unit you see in Picture 2. It sat amidst other used and discarded items.
Since I love to mess around with wood and parts of any kind, I let my imagination run wild. I bought the unit. It is definitely a Lionel unit even though it has no neutral position. It runs either forward or backward. Lionel is printed on the bottom plate (Picture 4).
At that time, I owned no GG1. I thought about designing a locomotive shell with the general shape of a GG1 into which I could place the motor unit. Since it had only four wheels, I knew it would look odd, but little did I realize how strangely weird it truly looks.
First, I drew an outline of a single side on graph paper making sure the diagram included several windows. I had the general shape of a real GG1 in mind. The graph paper made it easy to draw both ends exactly the same. I had to overlap and then tape two pieces of graph paper together because of the planned loco’s size. I traced this outline onto ¼” Luan underlayment. Using my jigsaw, I cut out two matching sides.
I cut and glued pieces of 1 x 2 in-between the two side pieces at both ends. These I would shape later. For a roof, and the two hood pieces, I cut and glued thin Luan. When the assembly dried, I used a Dremel tool to shape both ends so they were snub-nosed (Picture 1). Out of cardboard, I cut a shape to use as a template while sanding. For sure, each end is a little different, but it is hardly noticeable. The sanding took some time. I also added a piece of trim to both hoods after cutting it to fit with my jigsaw. This is the piece you see in Picture 3 that houses the miniature light bulb and socket. So the bulbs did not look bare, I slid a black rubber grommet over each to add “class.”
In Picture 4, you can see up into the shell which holds the motor housing. You can also see the bottom of the finished product. To light up the interior, I added two small lights to the motor housing (Picture 2). Now, in order to replace the bulbs, I only need to slide out the entire motor unit without playing around with a lot of small wires.
If you check picture 2, you can see that in order to secure the motor mechanism in place, I attached two wooden pieces sideways to the motor housing. After sliding the motor in place, I predrilled through the sides in such a way that flat brass screws would turn into the ends of the wooden support pieces. I deliberately accented these with decorative brass caps.
The wheels under each end actually came as an afterthought. I wasn’t sure just what to add to make this strange locomotive look somewhat streamlined and complete. I played around with many designs before settling on the trucks you see in Picture 5. They were made by bolting regular Lionel freight trucks to pieces of ¼” square Luan.
To the front of each truck I added what looks like a bumper atop of which sits a small searchlight. This I also bought at the hobby store and it really lights. I do not recall where I got the two small handrails that you can see in Picture 1. The round knobs are nothing more than the round plugs carpenters use to hide the place in furniture which there is a recessed screw head.
The trucks are attached to the locomotive via two aluminum pieces as seen in Picture 4. I glued two additional supports from side to side inside the body cavity to accept the screws from each of these trucks.
The pantographs in Picture 3 were probably the most expensive items on the KT1. Although they are not functional, they could be. The driving rods on the wheels I left in place simply because it looked strange without them, if that’s even possible. The four torpedo-like tanks hanging below the brass screws serve no useful purpose. They simply fill in what seemed to be too much empty space (Picture 1) and are attached directly to the wood of the motor unit.
Finally, the bright red color with silver trim only adds to the mystique of this one-of-a-kind locomotive. It is several coats of paint applied with a brush before a few coats of polyethylene were added on top. Most importantly, however are the letters and numeral “KT1”. They stand for Kathy Thompson, who was truly a one of a kind individual. Kathy was my sister-in-law who, after an extremely brave fight with cancer, died several years ago. It is hard to look at this engine without thinking of Kathy because its appearance would surely have made her laugh!
This project just goes to show you what an imagination can do if left to run wild. People who visit my layout always ask about the KT1.