In 1969, United of Japan produced a set of brass HO locomotives commemorating the Golden Spike ceremony, the completion of the first transcontinental railroad 100 years before. From the very first time I saw them in the modeler's magazine ads, I knew I'd have to get the set— someday.

Fast-forward. About 44 years and half a dozen model railroad layouts later, my adult daughter gives me a birthday surprise...

The original Jupiter, Central Pacific #60, was built in 1868 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works of New York. It was a typical wood-burning high-drivered dual-use (passenger & freight) 4-4-0, a standard "American" type. The Central Pacific was in its final months of construction, the need was great, and contracts for engines had been sent out to most major locomotive factories in the East. The Jupiter and its three sisters from the same works were boxed up dismantled and sent by sailing ship 'round the Horn to California, where they were assembled and immediately sent to the "Front"— the eastward-building railhead.

Jupiter ended up at the Golden Spike ceremony as a last-minute replacement for another engine that encountered a minor obstacle (a log) left on the track by some chagrined workers. At the ceremony, Jupiter shared the spotlight with the UP's 119, was featured in the famous Andrew Russell photographs, and so became an icon of American railroading.

It's hard to believe, but over the years the original measurements and erection drawings of the locomotives were lost. The engines themselves were scrapped. By the time the centennial rolled around, all any historian or model builder had to go on was the black and white photographs taken at the time of the ceremony. When the United models were made, there was still some uncertainty about the locomotive's appearance. Balboa produced a brass set too, differing in dimensions and detail. As for paint and colors— that was anybody's guess.

In recent years, new research by indefagitable historians Jim Wilke and Jon Davis has come up with the closest approximation to the original color shemes yet. I used their notes and Jon Davis' renderings for guidance in creating my own decals. The renderings can be currently found here.

After remotoring and fine-tuning the loco, I painted it using Floquil paints airbrushed on. The Russia-iron boiler jacket got several coats of gloss varnish. Because I couldn't print gold leaf with a laserprinter, I decided to print the decals on transparent decal stock, leaving the gold lettering and filigree blank so that the shined-up brass underneath would show through. It works. The gilt lettering gleams.

A replica of the Jupiter can be seen steaming back and forth during summer months on a short stretch of reconstructed track at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah. The original Jupiter was scrapped in 1909.

Click on any picture for an enlargement.

Here's my HO Jupiter fresh from the box... for 44 years this little gem had gone without a coat of paint.
This is the UP 119 from the same set... riding on temporary tender trucks. Between the two engines, I was able to salvage one decent set of tender trucks.
An underneath shot (of the 119) shows the newly-added wheel wipers. I remotored both engines with Northwest Short Line 12270/71-9 can motors.
I think this was worth the 44-year wait...
Next, it was the 119's turn...
After carefully measuring the model, I made a set of decals using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The decals were printed on a laserprinter using transparent decal stock from Micro-Mark. I had room for four sets per page. It's good to have extras when you mess up applying the first few. I used all four sets.

The 119 was built by Rogers Locomotive Works for the Union Pacific in 1868. It was intended to be a freight engine on the steep grades traveling eastward out of Utah. It had a straight stack and extended smokebox designed for burning the cheap Wyoming coal found along the UP's right-of-way. The 119 was a more utilitarian engine than the flashy Jupiter, but like the Jupiter it was unceremoniously scrapped in the early 1900s.
Like the Jupiter, a replica of the 119 is on display at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.