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Kitbashing a Lackawanna Wood Milk Car

Dave Rutan

(As per the July 1991 RMC article by Richard Recordon. Here with permission (page 1 ,page 2 ,page 3 ))

WARNING: The following dissertation contains modeling methods which may be appalling.

Bill of Materials

(as per the article)


  • 50-foot express reefer
  • Athearn 53308 50' Express Reefer trucks * (should come with the reefer.)


  • Trucks 95a (recommended by Don Spiro for those with a little more coint to invest.)

Detail Associates

  • No. FC 6207 Freight car ladders
  • No. SY 2202 grab irons
  • brass wire

Evergreen styrene

  • 1" x 4"
  • 1" x 6"
  • 2" x 2"
  • .080" x 100"
  • .020" car side sheathing


  • Concord Junction: N0. 8509 DL&W, Lehigh Valley, New York Central milk car decals or...
  • Champ Decals LG-60 Railroad Roman Dulux Gold 5/64" Alphabet and Number set (used by Dave Rutan)
  • Prime Mover Decals PMD-032 is a better choice and is what I will use on my remaining 4 cars.

Suggested photo sources

  • Thomas Taber III, Lackawanna Railroad in the Twentieth Century, Vol. I, Vol. II, Thomas Taber III, 1981
  • Ed Crist and John Krause, Lackawanna Heritage, Railroad Heritage Press, 1978
  • Robert R. Bahrs, Railway Milk Cars, Vol, III *
  • Erie/DLW Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment by Larry DeYoung *

* Added by editor of this website

Preparations: Remove the cast on grabs, end steps, and ladders on the car. Even though the article indicates using a # 17 chisel point blade in your hobby knife, I didn't have one. I used a # 18 to good effect. (I have since bought some #17 blades.) Using a straight edge and a scribe, re-score the sheathing lines from where the grabs and ladders were shaved off.

I'm modeling the 1700 style milk car with the roof walk. Plug the ice hatch holes with plastic and body filler.

Cutting: Measure 21'-3" from each end sill and use the closest sheathing line as a guide for the razor saw. Remove the center section and also the unscribed strip along the bottom of each side of the body. This brings the body sides level with the bottom edge of the floor.

The side door openings were cut spaces 6' high and 2'-3" out of each side (when assembled the door opening will be 6' x 4'-6".)

At this point I decided to glue the halves of the body together. I did this because I was unsure I properly cut the door openings and wanted to even them out with an emery board.

That done, I filled in the ice hatch holes and any holes in the roof that I didn't want. I did the ice hatches by cutting pieces of the car body from the segment I removed and gluing them from the inside under the holes. Then I filled the voids with body putty. I also used body putty to 'fix up' the seam between the halves.

Underbody: While the body putty is drying, cut a section out of the floor 7'-6" (scale feet) between the bolsters. Make this cut off center, so the seam of the car sides and floor are not together. It will add strength to the car. Square your edges and glue the floor together. I used bits cut from the section I removed as braces. I glued them to the back side of the floor.

Cut the fishbelly from the body underframe and glue the bolsters (with coupler pockets) to the underbody. Use .80 x .100 styrene (.100 side down) to replace the section you cut out. The instructions in the article actually say to remove the outboard sections of center sill, but I opted not to. Now glue the air reservoir and the brake cylinder to the underside. I was able to snip off one of the 'legs' of the air cylinder, spin it around and mount it in the one hole, so it was still in the center of the car. To finish the underbody, I added 1.5 oz. of weight and painted the underside grimy black.

Details: I shortened the roofwalk on each end so that it overhung the car by about a foot. From my sanding the roof, some of the walk supports were ruined, so I took then off and replaced them with pieces of 2x2 styrene. I also used 2x2 styrene to form the angled supports at the ends of the walks.

The end walks were fashioned from some of the scribed car siding glued to 2x2 styrene. (See the article by Rusty Recordon for particulars on installing these.)

While putting the handgrabs on the car I think I found a little trick which is useful. Measuring from the drawing included in the
article by Eric Neubauer (the same drawing appears in Bob Bahrs' book,)
I discovered that the grabs are spaced vertically at about 18 inches.
I'm using Details Associates SY 2202 grab irons as recommended in the
Recordon article (which is now on my website with permission.)
Anyway, I located and drilled the first grab iron at the bottom of the
car. The legs of the grab go nicely in the grooves of the sheathing, so
what I did was to take a scrap piece of the car sheathing from which I
made the new doors and cut a groove that was about 18 inches from
the edge. This gives me a handy little measuring stick with which I can
work my way up the side or end of the car to keep my grabs more equally spaced.

After installing all the various hand grabs and stirrup steps (made from freight car ladders,) There's nothing left but painting and decaling. I painted my car sides Polly Scale Pullman Green and the roof and underbody Grimy Black.

The decals were hand applied from a set of Champ Decals LG-60 Railroad Roman Dulux Gold 5/64" Alphabet and Number set. (Equivalent would be fine.)

Numbers: Four of these milk cars are said to have served the Becker creamery on the Sussex Branch till the end in 1964. Through vigorous perusal of articles and photos, I have identified the four numbers of thses cars. They are: 1676, 1670, 1766, 1781.

These cars were dirty and should be heavily weathered. The number should barely be readable.

I am very happy with how this car turned out. It was my first rolling stock kit bash which required cutting the body. Trust me, if I can do this stuff, anyone can. At the very least you should all try. This was a whole lot cheaper than brass. Much more satisfaction comes from doing it yourself.

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