Halloween model train

Dan’s had fun with his halloween model train project. He’s turned one of his freight cars in to a pumpkin shipper:

“It is pumpkin time and I came across a 1960’s Mantua gondola car that was Union Pacific orange and looked to be the perfect customer to turn into a pumpkin shipper. Some 91% alcohol and a Q-tip took care of the UP MOW markings.

The next step is to mask the sides with painters tape, being sure to burnish the outer posts so no paint seeps in. I primed the interior and upper sill then followed up with black gloss enamel. I wanted a color break between the car and the pumpkins.

Now to the new stuff. At Hobby Lobby I purchased TesTors decal paper for inkjet printers. I used my 40% coupon for this. Once I got home and opened it up I realized I should have also bought the TesTors decal bonding spray. Don’t try this without the bonding spray. Fortunately, my wife had to make a trip, so I followed along to pick up the spray.

I pulled some likely clip art from the internet and played with the sizing in Word so they would fit on the car. You do some dry fitting, just printing on regular paper.

As with any decal project, it is a good idea to wash the car in warm soapy water and let it dry. Once dry I sprayed the sides with a glossy coat. These TesTor decals require that kind of finish, as do most decals. Then wash your hands and glove up. There was a question a week or so back about the need to use gloves. It is just that the same oils that leave fingerprints for the CSI folks can also spoil paint and decal jobs.

I printed my halloween model train decals, ganging them so they would fit on the smaller decal paper, and when dry, gave them 2-3 passes with the TesTors bonding spray. I let this dry overnight.

The next day I followed the instructions on the decal pac, cutting and soaking for 5-7 seconds in water [I use distilled] then placing it on a paper towel. I also dabbed a drop of water on top of the decal after placing it on the towel. 15-30 seconds later the decal would slide off the paper. Using tweezers and a very small straight cut brush I placed the decals where I wanted them. I put a dab of water on the spot before placement. I let it sit for a bit, then dabbed with a Q-tip very carefully to pick up excess moisture. Then on to the next decal. As the photos show, a smooth-sided car will make this process easier and faster. My next holiday car (Christmas) will have this advantage.

Now I needed some railroad markings, so I pulled out my D&H decals and dropped the seal and car reporting # on the car. These decals were followed up by a setting fluid as normal, but the printed decals only really needed a good gloss surface.

I was very happy with how they turned out, and actually, I found them sturdier than the decals you buy at the store. With this product, you can make any decals you want with your inkjet printer.

Now to the “pumpkins.” I found this ORB Micro Mosaics also at Hobby Lobby in a variety of colors. The black makes for good coal, and this material is malleable with a sticky back. One pack had two different orange colors and the scale seems to work for HO scale pumpkins. I dummied the gondola with foam, inserted a steel washer for a magnetic release if needed, then pulled apart the mosaics and placed them in the gondola, mixing up the colors.

The final step for my halloween model train, a dull coat application, trucks, couplers and on to the produce distributor.

I did not weather the car, as this car had just been repainted at the shops in Oneonta. That is my story, and I am sticking to it.

I hope this provides some useful info for you folks.

MN Dan”

halloween model train

halloween model train freight car

halloween model train freight car

halloween model train shipping freight

model railroad railroad freight

model railroad cargo cargo

Now on to Alan:

“Hi all,

I live in the uk and have a Kato with tomix tomytec buildings in my loft and garage.

I am analogue with simple gaugemaster and Morley controllers – no scenery I just enjoy the hobby and like running the trains and trams. It’s not exhibition standard but i would say to everyone just enjoy yourself.

I throw a few Lego models into the mix and anything else I can find.


kato model train

kato track

kato model train

kato model railroad

kato model railroad

kato model railroad

A big thanks to Dan and Alan.

It just goes to show all it’s all about having fun. If you just want to run trains without putting down a stick of scenery, that’s fine. If you enjoy it – do it!

And I know there are just as many on the other side of the fence. For them it’s all about the scenery and they’ve never even plugged in the tracks.

Well, what ever works for you, that’s fine. I think that’s what makes this hobby – make it your own.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

PPS Or perhaps you are after N scale layouts?

20 Responses to Halloween model train

  1. Dirty Dave says:

    Could not agree more with Al’s comment. RULE 1 – it is YOUR layout, do what ever pleases you!
    Love this mix of Lego and other models – very left field and different!
    Here! Here!

  2. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Well done both of you! Great narrative Dan- thanks!

  3. Eric Rayner says:

    Alan, it should be RULE 1 every time, it’s your railway run it how you want, ignore the rivet counters that have to have everything running to a schedule and nothing out of place. This hobby is for everyone to do things their own way, as they are doing it for themselves and no one else. Good one.

  4. Jeffrey Olson says:

    Agree completely.
    I just enjoy putting it together and see if it runs well as a layout. It’s disheartening when someone tells you you are doing it all wrong.
    Why is it wrong if you are doing it you’re own way?

  5. DJfromNJ says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Your layout, YOUR RULES applies!

  6. You have to have fun with railroading. Anything you do to promote the positive side, the fun side, the detailed side, it’s what it’s what is all about! It is amazing and you have an eye for fun. Keep up the excellent work and thank you for sharing

  7. Michael Balog says:

    Hi Dan:
    Really like the way your Halloween Gondola Car turned out. You could do a more realistic looking load, using scale boxes loaded with the Pumpkins, stacked up in rows…even use a flat car for the load. Reason, is it would not damage the fruit you are shipping to market to sell to a produce vendor. I know, in realty cause I used to have a small farm and did raise Pumpkins – mostly for making pies. And sold them at farmer’s markets… etc. You could make a small scene using a couple of track sections, with ballast and weeds growing along the track. Have a flat car positioned with boxes stacked on the car as well as on the side with workers loading them, using hand trucks and by hand from a platform.. Have a small flatbed farm truck backed up alongside the car or the platform . You could have a small barn or shed opposite side of a dirt road,,,, with a tractor pulling a flatbed farm wagon loaded with more pumpkins in boxes.. or loose. The reason for the boxes on the truck or flat car or even in a Gondola or parked boxcar would be to prevent the fruit from being crushed from the weight of those on top of them, which would destroy the load and marketability… turning them into mush. I delivered a pickup truck load of pumpkins to a buyer and had to make sure the produce was not damaged… lined the truckbed with hay. To enhance the scene, you could have a field of ripe pumpkins behind or next to the barn or shed, using scenic material that looked like crushed fall leaves with pumpkins scattered about along narrow rows… with other workers picking them up to hand off to others going to a farm wagon or pickup truck… you could also simulate other crops the same way. Just some realistic comments / ideas from someone who actually had a Farm.. Have a Great Day…

  8. i am not into HO trains currently. Had a basic layout years ago. I do enjoy seeing the wonderful layouts that have been made. I can only think of the money it has taken to make these layouts.

  9. Gary Manganiello says:

    Great narrative on how to work with decals and how to make your own.
    Thank you………and the car looks really good.

    Gary M

  10. To Michael:
    Yes cardboard or wooden bins would certainly make it more prototypical and less whimsical . Like watermelons, pumpkins are usually shipped that way, small loads may ship deadpiled on straw. I may have room for a small punkin patch.
    I have a dairy on the layout and built a small dairy platform for the farmers milk to be staged upon before pick up by the dairy.
    I will take your suggestion to heart and simulate some bins in my load. Thanks.

  11. Daniel says:

    Hey Alan, I like your layout. The white station and tram with the tram is really cool. Can you tell me who makes it? Thanks.

  12. Bill Hankins says:

    All the layouts look good . Model railroading is what ever you make it. That pumpkin car looks great. Good job to all

  13. Stephen Hart says:

    Looks Good, Thanks for the decal information

  14. steve joyce says:

    #1 Reason to model railroad…HAVE FUN

  15. ANDY SCHYHOL says:

    Dan, thank you for the decal info. Your advice will be a problem solver for me. Alan, wonderful layout. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one with minimalist setup!

  16. Lee Hirsch says:

    To Dan, Thanks for the great advice on decals! I, too, luv to shop Hobby Lobby with their 40% off app. Got all my track, trees and ground cover for my grandkids Christmas layout there. To Alan, Fun IS the name of this hobby, whatever your definition of it is. One tip for you or others, color all your layout boards the same, whether it be tan, green or pink! Gives your layout a cohesive, finished look with very little work. Another tip: I traveled a lot, and picked up model RR stuff as my souvenirs. Got most of my engines, boxcars, buildings, track & trees that way, spreading out the cost over several years. That way, when I did have time to work on my layout, I had most of what I needed. Enjoy! Lee

  17. John Birch says:

    Agreed. Have fun – otherwise why do it?

  18. alan spence says:

    Thanks everyone for your positive comments on my layouts.To answer Daniels question,the white station is part of the lego monorail which was recently designed and was a limited edition , I wouild love to exhibit the layouts but was always worried not good enough,but as they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    My grown up children make fun of me but i say if its good enough for Rod Stewart
    it sure is good enough for me

  19. NJ Mark says:

    Dan, there are no green stems on any of the pumpkins…really?.. just kidding I think the entire project is fantastic! Can’t wait for the Christmas car. Alan, have fun! That is what it’s all about. You have a wonderful layout! Cheers! NJ Mark

  20. Fun!
    Among my mother’s many sayings was this one….
    “Life is too short to take yourself too seriously.”

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