Model train rolling stock put to good use

Dale has been in touch with how he reused his model train rolling stock.

“When I first started my layout, before I had made my design decisions, I saw this combination passenger/baggage car at a train show.

For the exorbitant price of $5.00US I thought it might be useful.

model train rolling stock

When I got it home and put it on my layout, a few problems came evident.

First off, it had a tendency to derail on anything that wasn’t straight track.

Second, it had a light inside that was so bright it made the top and sides of the car glow. The pickups for the light were putting enough drag on the wheelsets that the car barely rolled if I pushed it down the track.

Fixing it wasn’t hard. First, I took out the light and the pickup wipers entirely. T

Then I removed, disassembled and cleaned the trucks.

Finally, I readjusted the wheelsets so they were in scale. Now the car rolled properly and I was left to decide what to do with it. Since by this time I had determined that I wasn’t going to be running passenger service, the car sat on my bookshelf.

Now skip ahead about 4 months and I needed a restaurant for the town. None of the kits I saw were quite right for what I wanted for the locale I was modeling. Then my eye caught the combine on the shelf and I thought it might make a fine diner. So, I pulled it apart again, painted it, installed a couple of low power LEDs in the roof (with enough resistance in the line to make them pretty dim), and reassembled it leaving off the trucks and couplers.

Addition of steps and a handicap ramp, some ground cover, bushes, trees, a picnic bench, a sign on top (it’s named for a very special lady in my life) and we have a diner in town.

model train rolling stock diner

There are other pieces of rolling stock that can easily be repurposed: cabooses make good yard boss offices, old box cars make industrial storage sheds, a flat car makes a stage for performances in a park. The only limit is your imagination. Go wild and have fun.


A huge thanks to Dale for sharing how he reused some model train rolling stock – a wonderful example of being creative and using what you already have (or bought for a few dollars!).

Now on to Dennis:

“A nice teenager was a bit too young for a summer job. He kept his agile brain and hands busy and built a diorama from the Jennings Lumber Company kit.

The kit is still available online for $150-$200 un-assembled from Scale Structures Limited. And what a job Tim did!

Look at the detail, you can even see tire tracks in the dirt. Tim added a lot more detail to the basic kit and then built a stand and surrounding glass and frame for protection.

The diorama went on a journey, residing for a time at the local historical society and then the railroad park in Scottsdale Arizona. Eventually it became a fixture at the train store that Tim’s father ran in Mesa, Arizona. I enjoyed visiting the store for years, and although I never met Tim’s father, who became ill, I was charmed by Tim, his wife, employees and a couple of friendly cats.

It was a gathering place for us train geezers! Finally, it was time for Tim to move on and he closed the store, selling all the fixtures. I approached Tim and said, “You don’t want this winding up in someone’s basement or garage, sell it to me and my patients will enjoy it every day.”

We agreed on a price, separated the display from the base, loaded the two parts into my SUV and I carefully drove it a few miles to Scottsdale. I put a fresh coat of paint on the base before reassembling the parts, and, yes, I’m proud to display Tim’s work at my Ophthalmology office.

The only change to his work is I added an old locomotive and a few HO train cars, but otherwise it is just as he created it more than forty years ago!

My prediction was true, it is a guy magnet and patients passing by my office window often come in to ooh and aah.

Thanks, Tim!

Dennis M.D.,”

model train diorama

model train diorama

model train diorama overhead view

model train diorama front view

model train steam locomotive

model train coal bunker

moel train lumber yard

model train lumber yard

model train diorama

A big thanks to Dennis.

Hope you can see why I love seeing what’s in my inbox each morning.

That’s all 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.

11 Responses to Model train rolling stock put to good use

  1. Ellis James English says:

    both of these posts were a refreshing read this morning. Thanks to both of the writers, Dale- Great Job repurposing that car. It looks just as a small town diner should with the freight end the kitchen and storehouse.
    Dr. Eyes, wonderful job in reality keeping the past alive. Many will be teased and tempted by your display, thank you, it looks beautiful.

  2. Brian Olson says:

    If it doesn’t roll, give it a new role on your layout

  3. george zaky says:

    How very clever and neat modelling you’ve done here. I’m sure you have a few more tid bits to share
    Dennis MD
    Thanks for sharing a nice story and a great piece of art.
    Big Al
    very nice

  4. Mike Balog says:

    Hi Dale,(1.) I really like the way you used that old Santa Fe Combine Car to make it into a small town Diner by the RR Tracks… Perhaps you can encourage the Diner Owner to Put up a board / batten or chain link fence behind the diner and on the sides ~ for diverting customers away from the Tracks. (2.) Dr. Eyes, Great Display. Maybe you can speak with the Lumber Yard Owner and suggest the Railroad back fill in that Flimsy Trestle… the weight of the Engine alone would collapse it, not to mention loaded freight cars,,,especially Hopper Cars full of Coal. Not Enough Physical Structural Support. Could also Widen the support structure (trestle) to enclose the RR Track Ties having a guard rail, with a fence on either side for safety reasons. Just a few hints to make it more realistic…. on that side. ~ Mike in N.H., USA.

  5. Matison says:

    Dale, I like what you have done with your unused car. It got me thinking about the many unused cabooses that are in my possession. I need to find a way to convert and use them. You have given me an idea or two.

    Dr D: I like your story. You saved a little piece of history that is also very interesting to see.
    I’m a life long sufferer of emmetropia, which as you know, no glasses will correct.

  6. Charlie says:

    In my youth (I’m 80} conversions like that – railway cars and trollies – were not unusual and I ate in many of them.

    Very clever putting your diorama in the front window to catch the eye of men passers-by. I know things of interest like that always gather by interest to stop, look and notice the business.

  7. Jim AZ says:

    Vert nice, Dale. That’s what I did for my layout. I used two passenger cars as part of the B & B Depot which is an old time train ride excursion facility. One is a restaurant and the other is for storage and supplies for the complex. For Matison, I used several cabooses for this facility for lodging for customers. All have lights and window shades.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  8. Bob Muhme says:

    JoAnn’s Diner came out beautifully- great job!

    Dennis-thanks for saving and displaying that work of art! I’ve been in the Scottsdale Train Park, as well as the Mesa model train store, can’t say that I remember that wonderful diorama. Great window dressing. If someone walking by can’t see it clearly, you may have a customer!

  9. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice set up. i like it.

  10. Tony N says:

    There’s an old rail carriage that has been put to the same use for real in Collie Western Australia

  11. william j plmer says:

    loved both their work

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