ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How To Change The Road Number on A Lionel Locomotive

Updated on July 23, 2012
Testor's decal sheet ready for cutting. Hindsight being what it is, I should have left more space around the colored blocks and used white paper instead of clear.
Testor's decal sheet ready for cutting. Hindsight being what it is, I should have left more space around the colored blocks and used white paper instead of clear.
The SP's numbers were harder to remove, resulting in loss of the undercoat. Weathering will cover all this up.
The SP's numbers were harder to remove, resulting in loss of the undercoat. Weathering will cover all this up.

Getting Started

Model train makers do not always produce your favorite motive power or rolling stock in a variety of road numbers. You may have a fleet of the same type of locomotive and in that fleet have duplicate road numbers. Or, you may have a merger situation on your pike, where some of your older locos once belonging to the fallen flag need ot be renumbered while they await repainting.

I have both situation on my road. I have two Lionel Vision Line 3GS21B Genset locos, both numbered 2701. I need one of those engines to get renumbered. I also have several older Southern Pacific locos that I want to have assume their proper UP numbers.

If you fear devaluing your locomotives, this article is not for you. We are going to remove the original road numbers from both of these Lionel diesels and replace them with decals produced using the Testor's Custom Decal System. To try this at home, you'll need Testor's decal paper and decal bonder. You'll also need nail polish remover or model paint thinner, cotton swabs, and a hobby knife equipped with a scraping blade.

A word of caution here. The decals being produced are water transfer decals. This means they are water activated and slide on wet off the back paper and on to the model. If you are going to try this with your electric trains, be sure to work on a clean dry surface with no electricity present. Also, take every precaution to protect the sensitive electronics inside today's model locomotives. When possible, remove the locomotive shell so you may work on it free of the motors and circuit boards. (If you jack up your loco, don't say I didn't warn you!) If using water-slide decals and making your own are not your thing, you can accomplish essentially the same task using dry transfer decals from manufacturers such as Woodland Scenics, which are available in a variety of scales.

The renumbered Genset
The renumbered Genset
Back to the drawing board on the SP - the key difference here is using white background decal paper instead of the clear. The colors are translucent on the clear paper.
Back to the drawing board on the SP - the key difference here is using white background decal paper instead of the clear. The colors are translucent on the clear paper.
Much better with the white decal transfer sheets. The colors don't wash out and boo-boos get covered
Much better with the white decal transfer sheets. The colors don't wash out and boo-boos get covered

Have you ever changed the numbers on your engines?

See results

Out with the old

I began work on the Genset first. On this loco, I have two numbers on the sides of the cab to remove, and four numbers on the ends of the unit, two in front and two in back. I do not plan at this time to worry about the illuminated number boards on the cab or the long hood of the loco. This is a die cast locomotive body and is screwed together. I thought about removing the cab but instead decided to exercise extreme caution when working with the decals and removing the old numbers.

The original numbers are painted on. I used a small amount of model paint thinner on the end of a cotton swab to soften the top coat over the painted numbers. With the top coat softened, I noticed that the numbers were coming off nicely. I worked slowly and did not apply much pressure as I did not want to remove the yellow paint below. The less damage inflicted in this case the better. The Gensets are new locos in real life, and I want this number job to look decent. It took patience, but the numbers came off fairly clean. Any blemishes to the yellow can be easily covered up with the new decals or with the weathering that I will be applying to this engine in the near future. It took more work on one side of the cab than the other, but I was successful. The numbers on the ends were easy, as they were small.

I used the same process on the SP loco. On this one, the numbers were a little more difficult to remove, and I had to use a hobby knife with a scraper blade to get everything off. This resulted in a few nicks to the undercoat, but in this case, the engine will be weathered heavily, and since it is a fallen flag in pre-repaint condition, I wasn't too concerned. I set the locos aside and went to create my numbers.

I used Microsoft Word and the typeface "CityOf" which is the actual font used on today's Union Pacific fleet. I knew my cab numbers needed to be around 20 scale inches tall. This meant between 3/8 and 1/2 inches. This converted to roughly a 26-point font size. I say roughly as using this method, with Microsoft Word, I am not going to get an exact match. I want my numbers to be as close in size to the other Genset in my fleet so they do not look completely different when they are lashed together. Certain graphic design products will allow you to easily size your numbers to the exact 9/32 that you would want for 18-inch letters.

The water-slide decal paper is expensive, so when you are creating decals, make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. I made a sheet with numbers for all the locos I was addressing - three total. I made sure that I had duplicates for everything that I needed just in case a decal failed. After printing the decals on your ink jet printer, you need to let the ink dry. This is typically a 10-20 minute process depending on your printer. I set mine aside for 30 minutes to be safe. After the ink is dry, apply a coat of the Testor's Decal Bonder to the sheet. Use a thin coat so as not to cause the ink to run or the decal to separate. The drying time for the bonding spray is suggested at 2 hours.

Application

To apply the decals, cut them from the sheet coming as close to the decal as possible. Leave yourself a little space for the tip of tweezers to hold the decal. I like to leave a lip for the tweezers and I score the blank space between where I will place the tweezers and the decal to facilitate easy removal when I am ready to apply the decal to the model. Let the decal soak in room temperature water for 2-5 minutes, or until it starts to lift from the backing paper. When it is ready, place it in position on the model and slide it off the backing paper. Use a cotton swab to tap it down and position it, then let it dry thoroughly. After the decal has dried, I use Testor's decal setting solution to make sure it has conformed to all the nooks and crannies and to keep it protected. Once the model is weathered, it will have a clear coat of flat lacquer applied, this will add extra protection.

Hindsight

there are two types of the Testor's paper that you can use - clear and white. The clear paper produces a translucent background. If you are adding background color to your decals, you need to keep this in mind and use the white paper. I had picked up the clear, and know now that it is not going to cut it for the SP renumbers. When a railroad renumbers a loco before it gets a new coat of paint, it typically just paints out a box in the new road's colors and paints the new numbers in that box. This is the effect I wish to reproduce on the SP locos. Problem is, with the clear decals, I get a translucent orange background with my red numbers, and much of the original Southern Pacific Gray shows through. Back to Hobby Lobby for that one.

With some trial and error, you can create nice looking decals for your models and you can renumber your locos. By the way, a simple search in Google gave me a site with locomotive roster numbers for the Union Pacific. I was able to locate my two Southern Pacific diesels and find their new UP numbers. It adds a little touch of realism to the layout.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)