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South Jersey S Scale Modelers

Conrail GP38-2 8238


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In April 2022 a collection of Overland locos appeared on eBay with the same horrid hand painted fictional paint scheme. While I would have preferred a SD40-2, this GP38-2 with anticlimbers popped up for $250.00 and I bought it. Even the eBay listing said it was “painted with a broom”! It was in my house for less than 4 hours when I stripped it. I picked 8238 because there are a lot of photos of it on line. It is rare to get dead side shots of both sides of the same loco.

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This is Overland OMI1784 that is 1 of 15 models made in May 1983 with dynamic brakes and anticlimber. It is the GP38-2 equivalent to the rare SD40-2 #1740. I now have lots of experience with the Overland GP and SD locos and know where the weak points are, of which there are many, and includes cold solder joints especially on the hood and nose cross braces. They pop off making fastening the body to the drive not possible without fixing them. The handrails always need repairs as well but this loco was pretty good. I always add a drop of solder to the backs of the handrail stanchions. That is why I mostly do not want a loco that is nicely painted or I get a loco an awful paint job like this one that had to be stripped. Any paint probably would not survive a cross brace solder repair. It is a high heat repair.


I have developed a routine of what to do with them starting with total and complete disassembly to remove the 40 year old grease that has really turned to wax and is now useless. Once the old grease is removed I oil and grease truly everything with Labelle 108 oil and 106 grease.



Headlights are very important to me. I like bright WHITE headlights. I use 3MM LEDS most of the time. For a lot of locos it is actually 2 LEDS per end. Fitting them in some locos can be difficult but I make it happen. I have been goofed on about my headlight obsession but whatever. Some locos have lit marker lights and numberboards but that is a LOT of extra work.


I don’t necessarily remember “what I did last time” if I have more than 1 of the latest project. As you can see from the above photos there are no headlights or numberboards. The cab construction makes that extremely difficult without modifications I make. The front cab wall is solid behind the numberboards. I opened that whole area up completely to solder in filler plates from behind for the numberboards, and squeeze in the 2) 3MM LEDS for the headlights. I used rectangular tubing as brackets to hold the LEDS in place. In order to access the front cab wall with a Dremel I cut out a lot of the rear cab wall that is not seen anyway. My IPHONE8 photos are not the best but you should get the idea.


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No Solder!

Note the almost complete lack of solder on the long hood where a cross brace should be. This problem is very common to these GP38-2 and SD40-2 that happens to almost all of them. You are not likely to fix it without a resistance soldering unit or small torch. Soldering pencils do not have the heat needed to make a good solder joint.

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This is the drive after I was done lubing and fixing it. The motor was literally flopping around inside the shell when I got it. It was literally “glued” in at 1 time. I do not know why. The original mounting holes in the motor were fine. I replaced the metal driveshafts with the Overland plastic driveshafts that I have used on many of my locos. I used the same driveshaft as a motor to gearbox coupling for the first time. The original rubber tubing was already replaced. The wheel gauge was very slightly tight so I pulled them all with my NWSL wheel puller.

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Running on 5-28-22

There are still some minor details to be added and repairs to be completed but the heavy lifting is done here. The last photo is my current GP38-2 collection including my PRSL 2002 I am faking as a GP38 since they do not exist in S Scale.


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Added 12-17-22

This is what it looks like when you blast a GP38-2, briefly work on it then let it sit for 6 months!

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Finally some progress. This is the first new Conrail Blue I have painted since my SD40-2 in 1991. It is Scalecoat paint.

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I hate masking but this was not too bad masking for the black ends and steps, expecially when compared to the masking for a steam loco.

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Completed 1-2-23

For this being a reasonably simple project it is still rather time consuming by the time the drive issues get resovled and preparing the loco for paint by fixing loose parts and reenforcing others. With the work needed to get the numberboards blocked off and headlights opened I am guessing that is all about 40+ hours.


I had the decals custom made for this loco by Circus City. Their decal film is rather stretchy. But the many large “hinge” castings on the long hood are very time consuming to get the decal film to stretch and lay down with various decal setting solutions. I tried to make some relief cuts but that made for more work.



By now I have done over 150 hardwired decoder installations. I even have an established standard so decoders can be interchanged. As mentioned this is a 1983 Overland made at the same time as the SD40-2. I am big on same motor, same gearbox and same decoder to make running together easy. GP38-2 ran with SD40-2 all the time, so I want the same thing. I have other GP38-2 and SD40-2 that run great with this drive. THIS loco was a rocket with a TCS WOW4 decoder on speed step 2. I tried other decoders and changed the motor. I have this motor in a number of my old school steam locos. They run great. This GP38-2 still runs really badly. I really don’t get it. I can easily change back to the original motor but have to figure out why it is running badly first. Besides this problem it fought me with other problems like the front LEDs kept failing. I replaced them 3 times. It was a few days of nothing but problems. So it is going to sit for a while until I get back to wanting to take it apart again.

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I have not weathered any locos for a few years. Since I have some pretty good photos of the weathering I gave it a try. I like how it turned out. I changed to as smaller fuel tank because I had 1 and it made the loco more correct, but made the driveshafts more visable.

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Running Better

Added 1-10-23

I spent yet another day going over the drive and put the original motor back in. I have a LOT of time in this loco – really too much time for 1 loco. It is running better but the slow speed is still not good. I bought another motor Stan Stocroki reccomended and want to try that. As a scorched earth move I also have a River Raisin F unit redrive kt I could cobble in and do away with the tank drive altogether. Also you would not see the driveshafts with the shorter fuel tank. So it is not DONE, but just done for now. 


Updated 1-10-23

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