Inspiration from old books

I found an old book first published in 1941 by Kalmbach. The book is titled “How to build Railroad Models” by Frank Taylor. As the title suggests, it is about scratch building railroad models in an era of little to no parts or kits. There are a number of interesting projects in the book. While the models may be crude by today’s standards, the models are an amazing example of craftsmanship.

old book

Like most of the early Model Railroader magazines, the focus is on local railroads like the Milwaukee Road.   One article that caught my was a car construction project to build a composite 40′ gondola.   Some older modelers might recognize the car as the same prototype for an Ambroid 1 in 5000 HO kit.   I built one in my HO days.  The car had no weight and would not stay on the track without a heavy load.

MILW gondola

I was thinking that it might make an interesting project to scratch build.   I would use styrene as the primary material.  I send a photo of the car to friend, Rick Leach, and he came up with a plan published in a trade journal many years ago.   The photo shown in the article shows a repaint date of 1939 and was still wearing a K brake system.   I will need to do some research to find out if the lasted in revenue service into the 1950s.  The Milwaukee Road had a lot of interesting wood equipment but little in the way of information exists.  I do have a diagram book that does provide a few dimensions and the roster numbers.

Doing the research is part of the fun of a project like this.   We see where it goes.

7 thoughts on “Inspiration from old books

  1. I picked this book up about a couple of years ago, it amazes me that so many folks now would consider these builds “undoable” for the “average” person when we have so many more tools available to us now than then. If you decide to build the gon, please post everything as I’d like to see intimately what decisions you make along the way (mine ended up in the discard bin, but it was an education).

    • Tom
      There is less building being done today than in 1941. Sadly, the hobby has shifted to consumerism rather than craftsmanship.
      In fairness, Frank Taylor was not your average modeler. He was a well-respected innovator of model products and was involved producing hobby items. He had an exceptions skill set. I think that the average modeler of that era was a builder. The modeler probably had more time to model given the lack of modern day distractions like the internet, TV and ……..Besides you could still build models as you listened to the Shadow or Jack Benny on the radio.
      The projects in the book can be done better today. Building a coach or gas electric with all of those rivets can be tackled with Archer decal rivets rather than impressing a zillion rivets in brass or Strathmore.
      I will make it a blog project if I decide to do the car.


      • Gene
        I have that book also and it is well worn. I looked up the gon in question in the ORERs. That series of MILW gons was still in use in 1950, but gone by 1954. BTW not mentioned in the construction article, but the car has four drop bottom doors.


      • Charlie
        Thanks for the info. Sounds like its in the right timeframe.
        The drop doors are a great place to use those old Chooch Wine door latches.

  2. Pingback: Inspiration from old books | Model Railroading ...

  3. Gene – I measured an all-steel longer version of the MILW composite wood gon back in the 1970’s, and also a similar AT&SF Caswell car that was still of composite construction. Let me know if you are interested, and I will try to find the rough measurements.
    A.T. Kott

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