Daniel’s mystery freight car

Today I’d like to start with a big ‘thank you’ to Daniel.

His post – as well as being fun – has given me an idea that I hope you’ll all like.

More on this below, as you’ll read.

But first, we start with Margaret.

And she proves in spades that a layout can be whatever you want it to be:

“Dear Alistair,

I built this N scale fairy village layout at the request of my granddaughters. They love it.


Now on to Daniel.

He’s come up with a great idea – a fun competition:

“Good morning Alastair;

Probably morning when you open this, as it is about 7 pm where you are. It might be time for a pint, but like here, the pint places are shut down I suppose.

I hope you are coping with our global situation. Looks like your readers are keeping you busy. Truly unprecedented since the 1918 influenza run.

Anyhow, I thought a bit of fun might be in order.

The attached photo is a replication of an actual MOW car that was taken from revenue service for one specific function, one specific function only.

I thought it might be fun for your readers to guess what the car was used for.

After the guesses come in I will see who got it first and then come back with the winner and tell more about it.

Is that something you might be interested in?

As to the prize, I guess “bragging rights” is all that I could offer, or you could come up with one of your “silly deals” [just kidding about that, not necessary] but it might be a fun diversion for some.

Thanks, Alastair! Stay healthy!!


So… any guesses on what this was for? Please do post a comment below.

And now on to ‘the idea’, which was entirely prompted by Daniel.

Last November, I was in a spot of bother. You probably remember, and I planned to close down the site.

But you came right back at me with some very helpful suggestions. Three in particular saved this little blog.

(I was reluctant to put ads on the site, but they have indeed made a difference.)

I was very touched by it all, and nothing would make me happier than to give something back to you lovely lot in the grip of this latest gloom.

My finances are still very precarious, but I have a little something to give, thanks to the kindness of Rich and Ron.

During my financial wobble, believe it or not, they both sent cash, both accompanied by some very kind words. I’m not making this up, have a look:

Long story short – I still have their $140. And now I’m going to put it to good use.

Don’t get me wrong, it would have helped and I was very tempted to make the trip in to town and bank it.

But for some reason that just didn’t feel ‘right’. What to do? Send it back?

Well, being a serial procrastinator, it’s still sat on my desk. Not for long, however.

I’m running a competition, and the winner will get Rich and Ron’s $140.

What can keep us all occupied amongst this doom and gloom? I’ll tell you – the print out scenery.

Layouts can be rather long projects, and I know lots of you are ‘arm chair’ modelers too.

But anyone can have a bash at the print scenery. It’s fun. So here’s my idea:

Lots of you bought the ‘Silly discount print out bundles’ in my hour of need.

The great thing about these bundles is they contain every kind of texture, wall, roof and window imaginable.

So here’s the competition:

Scratch build a building from the bundles, take a pic and send it in.

(So that’s a scratch build – use your imagination – make a new building, not an existing one.)

I promise to post everyone I’m sent, and the winner? That will be chosen by you – I’ll run a survey.

The winner gets $140, and the winning building will be put on the site, totally free, for everybody to download.

How does that sound?

Hope all like it.

I did ponder over giving the buildings away, but then frankly that would be the end of this little site. Sales have already dried up, but I’m okay with that. We’re all in this together and what will be, will be.

So if you want to get scratch building and join in the fun, here’s the Silly discount print out bundle’. I’ll keep it open for a few days if you missed it last time.

Entries to be in by the 16th April, then the voting begins.

Winner gets $140.

Winning building will be available on the site, completely free for all and everybody, forever.

Course, I’m well aware, this may be a total floperoo, but at least I’ve tried something.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

Oh – and don’t forget Daniel – leave a comment below.

I’ll leave you with my usual:

Don’t forget the The Beginner’s Guide is here.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Keep busy.



55 Responses to Daniel’s mystery freight car

  1. Gary Chapman says:

    Tunnel ceiling ice breaker

  2. Tim Shirk says:

    Not a clue. But love your competion. Great ideas.

  3. Raymond says:

    My guess for the MOW car: Portable gallows for train robbers.

  4. MOW car – used for transporting ships’ propellors?

  5. Peter says:

    Re the MOW car, it is a rather Heath Robinson structure, so no great value support. Is it a support for laying cables across a large gap or even canyon. The cross member supporting a large pulley.
    Like the competition idea, but why not give the #140 to a worthwhile cause in these strange times, a give a prize of one of your building packs?

  6. Roger Coleman says:

    How about a platform for tree bench pruning or tunnel pointing?

  7. Mike Balog says:

    Trestle Support Transport Car for work on Trestles and Bridges.
    2nd Idea.. Over Head Trolly Wire Support Car… used to keep over head wires up while stringing or maintaining the line.

  8. Alan Cutler says:

    How’s a out a height guage?

  9. RonE says:

    DIY (Do it yourself)
    “Maintenance of Way” car
    I Googled it…sorry!

  10. Andrew (Johannesburg) says:

    Re the MOW wagon…..I think it was used to raise electric cables when installing a catenary system. If I were to win, I concur with Peter and use the money for a worthy cause of your choice.

  11. Emyr Jones says:

    The photo might have given a bit more insight, if the angle it was taken from was slightly ‘more front on’.
    I believe that the front rail is actually hiding a third rail behind it.
    The front rail appears to be mounted central to the structure.
    If this is in fact the case then the ‘centre rail, rising at 45 degrees is some form of ‘thrusting, rising deflector’, perhaps to lift cables, branches , etc whilst travelling very slowly.
    If I’m the winner – kudos is more than enough!

  12. Andy Braman says:

    MOW car – vertical clearance measurer, used in tunnels to clear icicles, other places to make sure that power lines and tree branches are clear overhead.

  13. Bradley Kirkland says:

    Hmmm depending on the era,my guess would be either transport for cowcatchers and/or transport of locomotive snow blades. I would reco 1/2 the loot to keep your site going and 1/2 to your local charity

  14. dan robinson says:

    You my try putting a couple of can of beer on it.

  15. Dickie says:

    Daniel, the car is used for knocking down icecicles in tunnels and along the right of way.


  16. Bob SHipley says:

    Gary got it. Ice breaker. The MOW train would run through tunnels with this car in front to knock down the icicles hanging from the tunnel roof. The gondola catches the ice.


  17. Mike Walsh says:

    We can’t leave our homes, so this guy is building one on a wagon so he can keep moving.
    Only got the roof up so far…

  18. Peter Daly says:

    I think it’s the mainframe for a mobile Ferris wheel!

  19. John Frye says:

    Amtrak car for transporting pre-cast concrete sections of passenger station decking.

  20. Stephen Kurtz says:

    This is used for breaking ice in tunnels.

  21. Kevin McArdle says:

    MOW, maintenance of way. Are the contents of the car, which seems to be rail for track, used for repairs, in that configuration in the car? Rather than having to have extra long lengths on flat cars. Just a stab in the dark.

  22. Werner says:

    Would it be a rocket launcher ?

  23. Prefab support for bridges, hoisted into position by crane…

  24. Tom Roise says:

    Cable is good. Cantenary support and ice breaker sounds good too. How about track panels for repair and replacement?
    Contest is a great idea. Yes donate money to those in need. Prize of your products would be great.

  25. Tony, Kitty Hawk, NC says:

    Lots of great replies and comments to the 2 contests, but we all forgot to mention the other posts. Margaret- excellent layout! It looks like there are a lot of interesting details throughout- I’m sure your granddaughters love it- well done!

  26. Several things in response today…
    First and foremost… I LOVE MARGARETS LAYOUT!!!! It is excellent in every respect. It is fun, well detailed, amazing scenery, a novel idea… And I can go on…
    Very clever work!
    The MOW car in question is an icebreaker car for use in cleaning tunnels and in cleaning icicles from bridges… That one is a lot more solid than many…. A LOT MORE SOLID… I believe the prototype was used on the east coast of America.
    Love the contest idea… Will have to go through my files and see what mischief I can dream up!

  27. george zaky says:

    Your layout is fantastic, It is an expression of your imagination and not a duplication or replication of something. Great job.
    Daniel- great idea to post a question- there should be more of this.
    My guess is it for pulling signal cables
    Amazing how the MOW question got mixed up with the kit bash contest.
    Big Al
    My opinion is keep the money. Just winning and posting on your site is award enough. We need you to stay afloat and keep this going.
    All stay safe
    George from NY

  28. Tom Shak says:

    Tunnel ceiling ice clearing car. Winter MOW.

  29. John Berger says:

    It’s the Luminatti car! Feel the power.

  30. Greg Moulse says:

    this car had a duel purpose, hauling massive ice cream cones for Bigfoot in the winter, and hauling large Tee Pee’s in the summer, simple explanations

  31. Bill Cantrell says:

    For scraping ice from tunnel ceililngs.

  32. Dan says:

    Have no clue but just use it and have fun with it

  33. George Edel says:

    Could be used for transporting pre-assembled track switch sections.

  34. Jim Maitland, Millersville, MD says:

    It’s a dohicky for use with the thingahbob, or a rasmatigate

  35. Dan Hulitt says:

    Ok folks, time for the reveal, but first to Margaret, what a novel way to connect with grandaughters! Very well done. I think that is the first model railroad fairy garden I have seen. To Peter, I loved the action and to see your detailed scenes again.

    You folks came up with a variety of uses, all quite interesting and some very funny. From cable pullers to Ferris Wheel frame; from tree pruner to a rocket launcher, from beginnings of a mobile home to beer holder. Quite the lot. And don’t forget Big Foot.

    So there are 8 of you that had the answer outright, with the very first answer by Gary Chapman being correct. Kudos also to Dickie, Bob, Stephen, Tom R, John, Tom S, and Bill. An icicle breaker is the function.

    The car was indeed part of an eastern railroad, as John indicated. The Delaware and Hudson was the railroad, and was used for one location; Tunnel, NY where the D & H had a tunnel. This is northeast of Binghamton, NY.

    I will post a photo of the actual car to Al, and the vehicle they used for a more eastern tunnel at Ticonderoga.

    Thanks for playing along. Now I need to go take a look at Al’s deal.

    MN Dan

  36. Marty Glaze says:

    A big thank you to Margaret, for her wonderful layout, fantastic !! Also what has come out of this bringing people together with big Hearts wanting to help others, when times are bad there are some many good people in this world, more so then the bad !!! Thank you Al, for keeping this site up and running you are appreciated very much.
    Marty, from Kansas

  37. Dienzel Dennis says:

    My first thought when I saw it was that it was a tunnel Ice breaker. Lionel made one very similar but it was in a hopper car. Then I read all the other members idea and they all sound plausible to me.. So, I will just wait for the correct answer to show up soon. I am currently working on my lay out and display room and will share pictures later on. Keep up the good work, keep rail roading, and keep having fun with those precious little toy trains. May God keep all of us safe from this terrible Coronavirus that has us all house bound.

  38. Joe says:

    It’s a high speed observation tower for testing tunnel clearances. Observer sits atop the top cross bar with a direct line to the engineer. When he quits reporting in every 10 seconds is when the tunnel is too low. Train then stops to retrieve what’s left of the observer.

  39. Allen from Cali, USA says:

    It is a frame to transport ferris wheels or a frame for a carnival swing ride.

  40. Dave Fife says:

    I’m guessing it was used to break off overhanging branches and tree limbs that were in the trains right of way. A quick way of clearing the path for the trains. That is why you see no smooth design or fabrication in its construction.

  41. Ralph says:

    Dinosaur cage…

  42. Rich Corbin says:

    You can look close and see tracks loaded on the rack. So, I think the car is for hauling/removing track to/from work sites.

    Most of the time, there is no hauling back today because of engineering advances but in the old days, bad track or questionable stressed track had to be checked in a lab. My brother, who died last Sunday, was a pioneer and patented track telemetry technology over 50 years ago. His skills were in demand and continued working for railroads until Sunday. He was 80 years old.

  43. No guess on the car — use the 140 to purchase a few gift cards for doctors/nurses/med tech etc… near you Alistair. A church near us is selling t-shirts and using the money for gift cards for those taking care of us. I wonder if you upped the price just a little bit on the stuff you sell and said the difference would go to gift cards….?

    Anyway, thanks for the service you provide and ALL OF YOU be very careful!

  44. Lev says:

    It’s either a bridge to nowhere or a part of the stairway to heaven!

  45. William L Ridge Jr. says:

    Great projects. Thanks for sharing. And I like the competition idea of a new-build. I don’t have any other ideas, so I’ll just say HI from San Diego. Thanks for all you do for the hobby and I am glad that you were able to keep going as it benefits us all.
    A/F Collector. — Bill Ridge

  46. Bob Rolfe says:

    I find it interesting that people post before, well maybe they never, read the other posts.I wonder how they got the icicles out of the car? In the Spring maybe.

  47. Since the truss is not constructed to n a structurally sound manner I would guess that this was a way of transporting I beams that were too long to fit in the box car lengthwise.

  48. Ewart says:

    In the middle of the North Island of New Zealand, railway engineers built the Raurimu Spiral. At one stage you can see the next train coming below you while you are exiting the spiral about 100m above. So I reckon that the MOW vehicle is the first stage of the elevator that was used to build the spiral. A new MOW was built and attached to the one below, which means there must be dozens of these wagons lounging around somewhere.
    Keep the money. Do something useful with it. This site is is a goldmine of ideas, construction tips and a huge amount of friendship.
    Kia kaha. Stay strong.

  49. maragret your layout was great ,peter your coal loader and layout was also
    great.I think the train car is part of a repair train fixxing bridges and repairing
    tunnels and driving everyone crazy wondering what it is
    thanks al great work

  50. It could be an inverted bridge support pier

  51. Rob McCrain says:

    It is an American truss bridge.

  52. John says:

    Oh Al that’s a really good idea with the $completion mate and these guys who sent money from across the pond are just amazing and supportive! Hope your little site makes it through the storm Al. JohnE UK

  53. Vincent A says:

    It is an oil well drill support, obviously.

  54. Barry lipton says:

    A moveable part of a roller coaster

  55. Dave Morgan says:

    its the A frame that goes at the base of an oil rig? Draw works sit behind it a bit.. . . . I am here to help, not here for money.. Regards..

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