HO scale diner

Dale has been in touch with his HO scale diner that looks fantastic:

“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 passenger car

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.

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.

ho scale 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 his HO scale diner – a wonderful example of being creative and using what you already have.

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

That’s all today folks.

And if you like this post, don’t forget there are lots more tips and tricks in the Beginner’s Guide is here.

Please do keep ’em coming.



Brand new ebay cheat sheet still going strong.

40 Responses to HO scale diner

  1. NJ Mark says:

    Great job re-purposing. It looks fantastic and great attention to detail. Let’s see more of your layout. Cheers! NJ Mark

  2. Dan Brown says:

    Great way to use cars that don’t fit your plans anymore. You did a great job on the diner. I have flat cars also used for bridges on driveways or ramps for early piggyback service. Keep sending more modeling.

  3. Kenneth W. Hall Jr says:

    Very creative. Reminds me of the restaruant I used to walk by every day in downtown Philladelphia.

  4. Juan Carlos Reinoso says:

    Incredibly wonderful!!!

  5. Dave says:

    Well done looks fantastic. Like to see more of your layout.Thanks for sharing

  6. Brad says:


  7. Larry Johnson says:

    Great job! Recycle, reuse. I’ve repurposed a caboose into a “home”, a stock car into a lumber shed and a San Francisco cable car (toy) into a take off on Tujague’s famous New Orleans restaurant. Pictures soon.

  8. Bill Holt says:

    Very good idea. Nice job.

  9. kathe kozlowski says:

    Savannah Ga has a rail road museum and a dining car turned restaurant. Your conversion looks great.

  10. Hemi says:

    NICE work on converting a un-used car into something useful…….. -I’m always taking pretty much “junk” cars and re-purposing them, OR restoring them to rail service!

    Kinda in the that process now…..

  11. Timothy M Barr says:

    I have ate in one of these converted cars someplace here in the Us
    Great idea Just starting new layout, may have to put one of these in the layout

  12. Warren Ferguson says:

    Diners such as this used to be a common sight in the US, and I miss them. You have done an excellent job with JoAnn’s Fine Dining! Most of those where I have eaten were not as classy as this, nor could they have been considered Fine Dining. But I did have some great greasy burgers there. Congratulations!

  13. kathe kozlowski says:

    GA. restaurant called “The Whistle Stop Cafe”. Great southern food.
    Dave’s sign is very nicely done. The handicap ramp a first I have seen on a layout. Adds true realism.

  14. Jim Donovon says:

    Well done, I have a caboose that needs a home. Great idea.

  15. Don Jennings says:

    ME TOO!!!! on everything the other guys stated.
    Send more pictures

  16. Ron Schultz says:

    I’ll have a burger and fries and a root beer please. This window seat will let me see the trains on the main line while i eat.

  17. Appookta says:

    York, SC, county seat for York County, uses an old train station for a city gov’t office, a caboose standing nearby.

  18. Susan Cannon says:

    When I was growing up in Tampa, Florida, our reward for good school report cards was going out to dinner at a restaurant that was made up of railroad cars. I LOVED it!!! I forget the name of the chain – I think it was a chain. They made good steaks and there was just something about being in a railroad car. I was sad when they went out of business. I hope I can someday find old pics of the place, and make one of these for my own layout! Thanks for posting.

  19. Cary Price says:

    Hi Dale, I think its great fun to repurpose and scratch build as you’ve done here. Your diner looks great and the details you’ve added really make it eye catching. How did you do the lettering on your sign? Cary in KY

  20. Charlie says:

    That’s a great idea. you put a lot of detail into you setup. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Lester Larrew says:

    I know that the ATSF used passenger cars with out trucks and wheels for yard offices.

  22. Bill Roberts says:

    The University of South Carolina has parked on their campus a train of refurbished cabooses parked on their campus, owned by graduates for partying before and after sports games. It is the best use of old train cars I have ever seen.

  23. Jim says:

    Sure is a great way to reuse rolling stock. Very nice. Really like the way you built the step/ADA ramp to the entrance. I too have added several cabooses and passenger cars to my B & B bed and breakfast and excursion business. Better than leaving them in the box.

  24. Lynn Taubeneck says:

    Great job re-purposing the car. It looks fantastic and great attention to detail. We had a diner that looked nearly identical to yours in my home town.

  25. Allen says:


  26. now THAS wut I cal ‘recycling’ dead toys….
    great slam build
    keep em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach cal

  27. kathe kozlowski says:

    Victoria Station was the restaurant chain. They had one in Miami by the airport.

  28. David Patterson Sr says:

    One of the best Diners I have seen. Great work!

  29. Dale Arends says:

    A question was asked about the lettering on the sign. It is a bit of trickery. I used a graphics program, in my case paint.net since it’s free, and made a background layer using a wood grain texture. Then did the lettering on the transparent layer above it. I then printed it on plain paper, cut it out and glued it to a piece of scrap fiberboard (left over from a different laser-cut building kit).


  30. Rick Lochner says:

    Great idea! I have a few extra cabooses I have some new ideas for now. Thanks

  31. Bill Sparling says:

    Wow! You have given me the answer for what to do with an “impulse” baggage car I bought on eBay. It is a New York Central baggage car and all of my passenger cars are Southern Pacific (which I grew up with). When I first bought it, I thought I would just change the lettering and add it to “the herd.” I like long trains and the little commute train I rode as a kid was just that – little. So I didn’t repaint the NYC car. After reading about your combine conversion and seeing the picture of your sterling craftsmanship, I am going to use my extra baggage car for another purpose. I don’t know what as yet but I will convert it and place it somewhere on my “island.” Great work and a terrific inspiration. Thank you.

  32. Dr. Bob says:

    Bravo Dale! I’ve been to a couple of those train shows and bought some of the ‘gently used’ equipment. Sometimes it’s a gold mine, other times, better off in the rubbish or pawn off, I mean gifts for the brother-in-law!

  33. Carl in Kansas says:

    For decades, New Jersey was the home for many railroad diners, more than any other state. Unfortunately, most of them have gone.
    For repurposing, here is one I know of in real life. A campground used a flatbed trailer to make a bridge over a small stream. An adequate crossing for pedestrians and for one car, one-way at a time.

    Keep on training,
    Carl in Kansas.

  34. Gregory Williams says:

    When I saw what you did what a fantastic idear well done I must look into this my self.
    Greg from Australia.

  35. J. L. Williams says:

    Barstow Station in California has (or maybe had, its been years since I’ve been there) a MacDonalds fast food restaurant made up of several passager cars and a caboose. Neat!

  36. Gopal Daga says:

    Hello & Congratulations !
    Here is how your imaginations go over all the planets, we can see ! As very said:
    IN HOBBY, NOTHING IS WASTE. All scrapes and discarded stuff makes up for hobby. If you go and buy same kind of restaurant in hobby shop, it might cost you a fortune. Now, as seen in pix, no one can ever say that it is made up. One will always visualise this piece as an additional model train accessory readily bought from a store, paying heavily.
    Once again by very best wishes for your imagination and it’s going to be an eye opener for BIGINNERS like me. Regards,

  37. john thorogood says:

    I had some old cabooses and converted them into motel cabins minus the trucks and call it The End Of The Line Motel. I arranged them into groups of three facing each other with a roof covering the commons area that has a picnic area.

  38. Ian McDonald says:

    great conversion looks practical well done thanks for sharing.

  39. Get out my head Fred I have used this trick a lot of times on other peoples villages
    for a better way of using a pc. of rolling stock that did not fit any other purpose
    in the towns or even the country side ! I knew it was not my original idea but it works to well to not use it ! You are a great thinker and I did not say stinker !
    Be well and stay safe Sir !

  40. Joe says:

    Reperposing is the finest form of recycling. I love your diner. We had one here in Ventura for many years. Ours was recycled (too?) many times.

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