Model train box cars – Dan’s

Dan’s been back in touch with different uses for his model train box cars:

“Just because a piece of rolling stock has become less than useful, consider making it useful in another way. I was even able to use a “gift” from a well meaning relative.

This reefer car was part of 10 I bought to fill out my reefer train. A friend’s dad passed ans was taking down his layout. It was a type that was incompatible with the others.

I needed something for my module at the club I belong to. As the railroads phased out the older ice bunker cars, they sold them to rancher as out building, sheds, and storage of all types. They are still seen allover the west in the U.S.

model train box car

The support for the car are railroad ties (sleepers). I distressed the sides with fine grit sand paper. I cut holes for the windows. This is the rear side.

model train box car

Finished product. The windows were from the ever ready boxes of left over parts. The awnings were from a corrugated roof. The privy was scrap pieces of wood.

model train box car

The owner is resting before getting back to work. His truck has more awning material for the rear windows.

model train box car as office

You can see the reason he needed a new house. (The dilapidated house was an old kit someone gave me.) The scene is of a sho-fly, the railroad is replacing some older bridges with new ones. The work has not been completed yet. The construction crew had to go to a wash out and will return when that work is done.

model railroad scenery

model railroad sunset

If you think the sunset is overdone, Google Arizona Sunsets. I have been to Arizona several times, once for a month. They can look this way.

I painted the backdrop with craft paints. I got the colors about where I wanted them and then used my fingers to “blend” the colors. Good old finger painting came in handy.

Model train box cars:

This is my grain elevator. The the silos can are Pringles potato chip cans. The STAX can is a different can. This is the one I had in hand used as an example. The cans are a scale 85 feet tall. I wrapped them in teletype paper. This probably no longer exists. Construction paper should work. Then I sprayed grey paint to get a rough concrete look.

model railroad silo

 model railroad silo

I had an old tank car and needed an oil supply for my steam locos that visit Burnt Lake. The western railroads used oil because it was plentiful and did not cause fires in the dry western US as coal sparks could. My trestle experience made the project easy. Sprue pieces made most of the piping. The red coil at the lower end of the long pip is a short length of solder.

model train tank

I cut off the legs of a switch tower and made it a shanty for the switch men.

model railroad loco

Photo 11 and 12 A length of “welded” rail ready for replacement of an older worn piece. These can be in place for up to a year before installation.

model train track

 model train track

A well meaning relative gave me the “Street Car Named Desire” as a Christmas gift. I do my best to keep theses things from happening. They know not to give me train gifts. So, I made it a car load on the way for a repair job.

model railroad passenger car

You have seen this car before. The load is a leftover piece from a building…in the parts box, where else?

 model train rolling stock with trestle bridge

This is a Rail Diesel Car (RDC) used as a yard office.

An old box car for storage.

An old time passenger car as a diner.

A caboose used as a lumber yard office. To the far left these is an old boxcar used for storage. A bonus for building layouts for others, your name shows up!

Always time for a lying session.

Probably enough.


A big thanks to Dan for sharing how he repurposes his model train box cars.

One thing I do like about this hobby is nothing ever goes to waste with a little imagination.

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.

model train answers

18 Responses to Model train box cars – Dan’s

  1. William Geresy says:

    Another use for “old” or damaged equipment is a scrap yard that specializes in scrapping railroad equipment. You can cut (razor saw) a few cars up and have pieces in piles. You can use other parts for gondola loads heading to the off pike steel mill. You can have more sitting waiting to be scrapped. You can use “old” rail cars as one way “loads” going to the scrap yard. You could even use an old steam
    or diesel engine that the scrap yard owner doesn’t have the heart to scrap yet. You can think up of a creative story as to why.

  2. Rich B. says:

    Completely convincing, fit right in. I could imagine the box car(s) full of gold bullion dumped off barge in one of the Great Lakes, Civil War thing. Still unfound (?) and not to quite that extreme of coarse. Or the Confederate gun boat in middle of desert/dessert lmao. Something like that which isn’t focal point of RR.

    Anything Dan comes up with is good news either way. Keep the ones criticizing the critics at bay… useless information.

    Rich, Regarding

  3. robert dale tiemann says:

    i used to put old cars that i cut up and twisted etc to make junk yards and i used a rail car for the office. nice work

  4. Tony Honeyman says:

    The repurposing of old equipment is endless and brings true creativity and character to a layout. Great imagination and detail to your layout Dan!!

  5. Don says:

    I like how he took railroad cars & turned them into a place to live, nice.

  6. Eric Kiehl says:

    Dan I like all those great ideas. I may put a couple to use.

    Thank you Eric the retired firefighter St. Louis area.

  7. Terry says:

    Your creativity is amazing! Thank you for sharing. Your sharing gave me lots of ideas for my American Flyer layout.

  8. Rob McCrain says:

    It is a great idea to repurpose an old car into a scenic point of interest. I admire the creativity. We all have old rolling stock that does not get run from time to time. Maybe the truck got broken or something. Nice…Rob

  9. Brian Olson says:

    Another reason why someone invented the word “Clever”

  10. George Zaky says:

    So appreciate the time & effort to submit a well thought out & creative piece. Your thought processes must be made known to all & we are better off when we hear from the pros. From the shack to the RR car- no more leaky roof and no more drafts-awesome.
    Big Al
    Who wudda thunk- what to do with old RR cars. Merci

  11. Don Kadunc says:

    Very clever.

  12. santafedan says:

    Terry, in the late 50’s a friend at our church had an American Flyer layout. In those days you had to scratch build just about everything.

    One thing I remember about that layout was his natural gas storage tanks. In those bygone days, coffee came in metal tins. I guess they were about 4 inches in diameter and about 3 or 4 inches high. They looked good to me.

  13. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome ideas for scenery ideas, well done !!!!!

  14. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done using older rail cars for additional scenes. I used cabooses from back in the day to create a B&B and old time train excursion business. Folks can stay overnight in the repurposed cabooses or in the B&B. And yes, southern AZ truly does provide many beautiful sunsets as you’ve created for your backdrop.

    Great modeling and thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  15. Peter Evangel says:

    I remember a restaurant in Cupertino, Calif. that was built using a couple of repurposed box cars. They used the old sections of track for the foundation, cut up the insides for passageways etc. Even though I’ve moved from that area, it’s still installed although the restaurant has since closed. Your “repurpose” is very real compared to the actual items being used!!! Great job!!!!

    Pete from Silicon Valley, CA.

  16. David Zehr says:

    Excellent creativity in repurposing. I now know what to do with some of my not up to speed rolling stock. Thanks for passing this along.

  17. matthew p schulze says:

    GREAT ideas for re-purposing other items.
    Mind if I borrow a couple of them.

  18. santafedan says:

    Matt, this what a teacher does. I hope I inspire and then watch the results.

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