Commission: Way car in 1/20…

Narrow gauge at the opposite end of the scale from yesterday, a 1/20 model built from a long defunct US made craftsman kit by Hartford Products…

This 2 axle ‘way car’ represents prototypes built by the Denver South Park and Pacific in the late 1870s that saw use well into the 20th century. A precursor to the modern caboose, apparently at least 18 were built between 1878 and 1884 by DSP&P, and later parent company Union Pacific. The cars did vary in size and detail, with menthes and widths apparently altered along with other details. Built without cupolas, it wasn't until the Colorado and Southern took over that these were added, later the C&S replaced the couplers and added airbrakes replacing the entire suspension system as well.

The model combines laser cut wood, pre-cut timber sections and white metal details. Long winded but well written instructions combine with scale drawings meaning you could probably build one (if you could find it) with very little previous experience - that said, there area number of areas where experience does help, and it certainly has resulted in me being able to solve a few problems with missing or damaged parts.


Under the frames the suspension is built up from separate white metal components that are all pinned together with small 0.6mm brass rod. I ended up supergluing this all solid (once sat on a flat surface!) so that it was a little less fragile - this model will be shipped to the US now, and I'd hate for it to arrive in pieces!

The 'dropped' top windows are my mistake - these have been correctly fitted closed as it is the inside (lower) frame that moves! The mix of wood and metal details means you can work to the best of each materials properties and the results are very pleasing. I painted the wood in a custom mix of Humbrol trainer yellow (24) and camouflage grey (28), the wood in a mix of chocolate (98) with a touch of black (33) and the metalwork in a mix of metalcote gunmetal (27004) with a touch of chocolate (98).

The result is a lovely little vehicle, deliberately finished plain one side, and with markings the other so my customer can 'ring the changes' on his live steam railway. If you have an old kit languishing in a drawer, even with missing parts, get in touch and see if can breath new life into it. I work in all scales and gauges and work with you to generate a fixed price proposal. The contact form is in the menu here, or use Facebook or the forums. Until next time, more soon...

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  1. Nice to see one of these models built up! Known initially as way cars, by 1882/1883 some cars were painted with "Caboose" on the side. There were also two on the Colorado Central, one with "Way Car" and one with "Caboose" lettered on the side. There is now photographic evidence that a small number of cars got cupolas by the mid-1890s prior to the C&S takeover of the line--but all appear to have been flat-roofed in the 1880s. I like them without! There's also fantastic paint research that's been recently done on one of the surviving cars, which had layers of paint and lettering from back into the 1880s hidden in various protected spots, giving us the closest idea of the original scheme of both the dark (built by the DSP&P) and light (primarily UP-built) colored cars--let me know if you'd be interested in the artwork done by Andrew Bandon on that and I can email the jpgs to you.

    1. Thanks Dave. I hope I’ve at least approximated the colour, I worked from a Pantone colour I was given by the customer, and hand mixed to match.

    2. Color is a tough one to nail for a car that ran 140 years ago! Hand-mixed in Omaha by the UP, colors rarely were exactly the same from car to car. The cars were rarely, if ever, painted after they were put on the rails in the 1880s and early 1890s, unless damaged, so paint would've looked worn rather quickly in the harsh, UV-heavy Colorado mountains. The color evokes this. Can you share the Pantone number you used?


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