Large Scale Central

Tub-o-Trains: Low-Cost Micro-Projects on the Triple O

In early 2021, I found a tub of pretty battered LGB U.S.-styled pieces of rolling stock and a string of Kalamazoo cars (coach, combine, drovers caboose) on Craigslist. I have learned that when you live on the end of the global supply chain, if the price is right, go for it! All were missing parts; some were not rolling well; all offered opportunities to explore techniques without too much investment of time or money. Later, I added a trio of road-weary LIONEL brand freight cars on a run to the continent, but all but two of the trucks did not survive transit…

Despite the relative ease of these projects, I never got around to doing anything about these cars until recently when I realized having this stuff sit around on the lanai was not improving their condition…I had mentioned in my Triple O – 2022 Plans & Objectives that I had considered going all-in on these projects, but their deterioration led me to believe it was more prudent to get them back into service more or less “as is.”

I’ll begin with the Kalamazoo set. I like these. They are nearly impervious. Serviceable and rugged, they earned the name Diesel Dan’s Favorites and entered service as found: Video: Diesel Dan’s Favorites Enter Service (January 2021). It’s too bad that Kalamazoo / Delton / HLW are gone. Stuff like this is a needed bridge between seasonal toys and models.


Almost a years and a half later, Kid-zilla and I began to seriously look at some of the broken rolling stock. The LGB cattle car simply wouldn’t ride, per this picture from January 2021:

Tightening the trucks did not help, so this was a “set out only” car until Kid-zilla recommended swapping out the wheels a couple weeks back. Why not? A few loops behind Diesel Dan proved the kid was right, so we pried the walkway off the even more broken box car and restored this one to service.
Brakewheels have about a 4 minute half life around here, so there is no rush to replace that! Oh, and if the kid gets much smarter at troubleshooting, I am going to stop posting about him!

Flushed with success and armed with trucks of unknown manufacture, we set to on those LIONEL cars. After a quick trip to the hardware store for screws and washers, they soon passed speed trials behind Mike Bananapeal:
Video: LIONEL Cars Passing Speed Trials.
These are nice, but they are a case study in how fungible “scale” is in the world of “G.” Shorter than LGB cars, they will be right at home given the variety of car types across the Kingdom / Republic / Territory / State of Hawaii on various estates, public work projects, and common carriers. Quick note…Kid-zilla noted a missing brakewheel, rummaged through a bag of parts, found one, had me drill it out, selected the glue and accelerant, waited for me to apply the glue, hit it with accelerant, and finished the job.

Show off…

That brings us the fist actual project that goes beyond a simple repair, a busted LGB combine that the 1:24 rolled out for examination earlier this year

Broken hand rails, missing door, missing truss rods, missing coupler, missing chimneys…I had thought to salvage the trucks and convert the combine into a freight shack or get really ambitious and make a motor coach out this. The crew voted for a repair…To be fair, I like these combines, and a motor coach would have been a bit ambitious.

This week I finally had a chance to make good on the vote. Being under the weather, I have been exiled to the garden and lanai (suffer!). When not simply taking in the Vitamin D and watching trains loop the Triple O as part of my cure, I applied some lessons learned from our crane car project ( Crane Car for the Triple O) and crafted truss rods from piano wire and craft beads:

I am half tempted to leave the beads “as is” to see if anyone ever notices…

Next came the easy part, the broken handrails. I tapped some holes, pushed in the handrails, and added a bit of CA glue.

Yay, me!

For the door, I plan to use a piece of clear plexiglass salvaged from a broken homemade aquarium lid as the core, cut a pattern from thin styrene, paint that yellow, and then glue it to the plexiglass. The plexiglass is the thickness of the door, and the styrene the thickness of the battens and trim."

A quick test indicated that the glue on hand should help fuse these plastics.

As long as I’m not coughing too much tomorrow, I’ll start the cuts!

I know there is not a lot of fine modeling here, but posting keeps me honest.

Have a great weekend!


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My health-induced exile to the lanai continued, so I set out some rolling inspiration after breakfast and turned-to on the combine. The 1:1 gang was enjoying the second full day of summer vacation, so it was just me and my 1:24 buddies today.

The first order of business was to snap and score plexiglass to form the core. The the first snap was not quite clean…

…but it was good enough to make the core.

The styrene framing went well, especially after I switched to a sharp blade. Here it is held up to the original door:

The guy in the hardhat, to be fair, is usually a steamfitter…Anyway, the components all met the “good enough” criterion for this project, especially after some cleaning with a jeweler’s file.

Next up was the missing chimney. I lucked upon one of the original chimneys while rummaging about, and I matched its diameter to a dowel that we had on hand. The boys and I studied the original, found a suitable bead from Youngest Daughter’s bead collection to become the chimney topper…

…and cut and ground the bead to shape.
I fixed it to the top of the towel with a small nail, shaped it a bit with modeling putty, dipped the dowl in sanding sealer, and, after it all dried, wrapped a bit of spare wire around the chimney to better match the original.

OK, it is a bit more rounded that the one on the left, but it is consistent with the chimney tops on another of my LGB US-profile coaches and, after paint…

…close enough to impress Oldest Daughter, who, being a teenager, is now much harder to impress.

I found some small screws and discs that once hid Philips-style screws in long-since decomposed pressboard furniture that will finally serve a purpose as homemade “washers.” These are shown second from the bottom in my pre-assemble shot below:

The plan is to tap holes into both the original and homemade chimneys, remove the roof, place the washers, and screw everything in place. Then, I can touch up the black paint and paint those truss rods, paint the turnbuckles (Sorry @Dave_Meashey , no Elvin gem turnbuckles, after all!). I’ll have to scrounge up some yellow spray paint after Memorial Day to finish the door.

This project is going rather well…Wonder what I am missing?


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The last day of exile! Yay! I decided to make the most of it. The coughing is largely gone, so I first took care of Olomana ( OLOMANA (LGB 22130) - How do you remove the motor?). Success! I then focused my attention on this particular topic, the tub-o-trains, beginning with the LIONEL pieces.

I always make sure I am running the railroad when I am working on projects. It gives me motivation and an excuse to get up from time to time. I have been using this week of lanai exile to run all of our locos, troubleshoot / repair rolling stock, and, when the fever lifted, do some MOW. Trains have to be running to observe where work needs to happen!

Today, I got down Oldest Son’s B’mann 2-4-2 Smokey to give him a good run and to finish testing those LIONEL cars. Smokey has a habit of bucking, and “he” seems underweighted at the pilots (future project). We took the surviving trucks from the trio to make a transition car from hand to hook-and-loop couplers. This removed the extension necessary to run Hook-and-loop with this loco, and improved “his” performance immensely. So why was the car derailing? With the time to observe the trains in action today, I noted the “tail” of the coupler hook caught on the switches, something we hadn’t witnessed before. The 1:24 gang and I cut off the tail…

…and problem solved!

Video: Smokey’s Train Fails to Derail

I deliberately built the consist with multiple brands and multiple nominal scales to see how the looked in our 1:24-ish PLAYMOBIL scale world. I noted something a bit “off,” but I doubt any of it will bother the casual observer. Maybe its the view angle or the colors? For the sake of the record, this looked pretty good, even if the video seemed “off”:

I’ll close the LIONEL portion of this sprawling thread with a photo of Komaka Iki pulling one in consist with two LGB cane cars:

Different loco, different consist, different situation. Kauai plantations (30" gauge systems) used 4-axle cane cars, so this is actually not an implausible consist. All of this is food for thought as I continue to figure out what our standard will be for future builds.

Moving back to the combine, I actually thought to test the plexiglass door in the car itself. Holy smokes! It’ll work!

I did, however, somehow manage to cut curves using a metal straight edge. I plan to publish the technique in my forthcoming book, “Measure 85 Times, Cut Once, Screw Up Anyway.” I did do a little blade work to straighten things out. Hopefully, yellow paint and distance will obfuscate some of the error. Oh, yes, the paintshop did paint the truss rods and the “Elvin Gemstone” turnbuckles, as you can see.

Most of the rest of the day went to the aforesaid minor repairs and MOW. Kid-zilla joined me briefly. he has been into the box-o-tracks to build his ephemeral indoor empire. I showed him how to replace railjoiners and to glue rail back to the ties:

He applied a clamp as taught, set it aside to dry, and went back to his world. I missed him in mine, to be sure!

Thanks for bearing with me as I bounce between projects on this thread!


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With a little fiddling and some 1/2 inch (scale) spruce planks, those Lionel flat cars can be converted into a nice supply gondola.

You may want to give it a try.
Best, David Meashey

I always look forward to reading your posts. They are so funny. I chuckle a lot with your writing style. Keep up the good work. :joy:

@Joe_Zullo , thanks so much, Joe! I try to keep it light! With so many mastercraftsmen on this forum, it is nice to know there is room for a handful of future mastercraftspeople to make a mark!

And, yes, @Dave_Meashey , the LIONEL cars are not bad, and I really like how that flat car with the stakes looks. I think if I gave them a unified paint scheme, it would go a long way towards getting rid of some of the “off” I mentioned. This, of course, would require us to a.) settle on a unified paint scheme, and b.) come up with a better paint area than the Palm of Spray Painting! In the meantime, we have all sorts of things with which to load them. It will just take time to see where they belong on our railroad.

As for the combine…all stop. There were no paints even close to LGB’s D&RGW yellow. I packed up all the bits into a Ziplock, put a label in the Ziplock, placed the Ziplock in the combine, and got the combine out of the work area. That’s how life is at the end of the global supply chain!

Have a Great Week!


Spray paint has been extremely hard to find in the Northeast mainland as well. The shelf at Lowes is more than half empty even with multiple faces of colors they do have.

Reminds me of “The Giving Tree” book we used to have for our kids.

So you have The Painting Tree, a worthy variant.

I have The Peeing Tree…


I found a paint, Tamiya PS-19 “Camel Yellow” that looks at least close. I will take the components to the Palm of Spray Painting tomorrow. Krylon’s “Caterpillar Yellow” looked close, too, but it has not been in stock since March. I anticipate, having bought the Tamiya paint, the hardware store will shortly have a surplus of the Krylon one!

On the upshot, as I was cruising the hobby shop which sometimes has a smattering of “large scale” items looking for things I didn’t know I needed, a 10 year old boy came up and asked, “What would you recommend for a garden railroad?” 30 minutes and a reference to LSC later, he and his parents escaped

Have a Great Weekend!


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Kid-zilla and I did some MOW work in preparation for hosting visitors Monday, knocked off a bit on his crane car, then pre-hosted one of our Monday visitors (Crane Car for the Triple O). After that, I had the lanai and the RR to myself, so I returned to this project.

Naturally, the screws I had set aside to fix the chimneys in place had escaped two Zip-loc bags, the combine, and the storage bin, so I had to improvise (more). I tapped small holes in the chimey, found two tiny picture hanging nails, tapped everything together, and made it fast with super glue (Did I mention I recently discovered the glory of CA accelerator? Earth changing stuff…).

That’ll do!

At some point Kid-zilla wandered out to help me affix the styrene to the plexiglass core with the first coat of paint.

That’s where success ended. Over the course of the day, I entered into a “loop of stupid” at the Palm of Spray Painting. On the first coat, I managed to put on a base coat in a wind gust. Nope…After it dried, I sanded it and tried again. Success! Except, when I pulled off the masking tape, I also pulled off the paint.

This happened again later in the afternoon, so I realized I’d better see what I had in bottles on the shelf and grab a brush rather than continue this cycle of mask-paint-peel-repeat. The colors don’t match, but I actually found the slight contrast pleasing. You may judge for yourself in the photo of the refurbished combine below:

The repairs hold up well next to a stock version viewed from a normal viewing distance.

Even Oldest Daughter was impressed, an increasingly rare occurrence these days!

The results are not perfect, but they do return the combine to active service without either precluding a full restoration to “stock” or deterring a more ambitious kit-bash / customization later. I will call this project “Pau (Finished)!” and roll onto the next one in the tub…though I may detour to take on our cranky B’mann 10-wheeler first!

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there!



Nice work Eric. If you hadn’t mentioned it, the color difference would not be noticeable. I have similar issues with masking lifting paint in my work. Sometimes it’s prep related and other times it can’t be determined. Bottom line; the paint is adhering better to the masking than the intended subject. Sometimes, the way the mask is removed can help. I find that peeling back sharply pulling straight on the line sometimes works! Seems that no matter what, painting is a crap shoot!

I usually use a primer coat first, and I seldom have problems with masking.

Thanks, @JRad and @PeterT . The next car to undergo restoration / stabilization is a box car. It, too, is missing a door, so there will be another learning opportunity!


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Nice job Eric! :ok_hand: Extra characters .


Behold! The Palm of Spray Painting!

The girls actually dragged the coconut up from the beach over 10 years ago. I never thought it would sprout, let alone become a sort of living museum of old projects.


Maybe after the paint has dried, run a xacto blade along the edge to sever the link between paint and tape. That “should “solve the problem