Although I have only two passenger cars and one observation car for an antique Lionel train set which often runs on my layout, just for fun, I decided to duplicate its light cars. One of the home made passenger cars I’m referring to can be seen sitting between two antique cars in Picture 1.
I started by cutting 2 small rectangular pieces of ¼ inch underlayment down to size: 6 ½ inch by 1 and 5/8 inch. One of these pieces would serve as the bottom of this very light car, the other would become the top. (Picture 2)
From heavy cardboard using a sharp utility knife, I cut two end pieces: 2 and 5/8 inch by 2 and 5/8 inch. Next, I cut out two side pieces: 2 x 5/8 inches by 6 x ¾(?) inches. The length of this piece will vary depending on the thickness of the cardboard used. It might be neater to intentionally leave the side pieces a bit too long so you can cut them away after they are glued in place.
Using Elmer’s white glue, I assembled these pieces according to Picture 2. It is critical that the corners are glued and meet neatly. The bottom and top pieces (gray color) help anchor the vertical cardboard seams, making them a lot stronger than they first appear. Make sure the sides and ends are seamless.
The top of Picture 3 shows the actual passenger car I photographed and downloaded to my computer desktop. With Microsoft Paint, I drew an empty rectangle (the car side) and an empty square (the car end). I kept printing and cutting these blank facsimiles until they exactly fit the size of the intended passenger car sides and ends. Now I could use these blanks to crop and resize my photos to fit neatly inside them. I had to play around a bit for an exact fit. As you can see in Pictures 3 and 4, I did a lot of touching-up using my original photo as a guide
After printing out two ends and two sides, I used white glue to mount them securely to the cardboard. Next, I cut out a third piece of Luan as a flat roof which extends over the edges of the car 1/8 inch and glued it in place. To the top of this roof, I glued a strip of wood just to give the car some additional height to reduce its boxy-ness. This strip is ¼ inch in height and 1 ¼ inches wide. It would probably look better if this strip was sanded to arc downward on each end. Then, I also cut out two under carriage sections that can be seen in Picture 4 and glued them in place as seen in Picture 3.
With a two brass screws, I mounted trucks to the underside of the passenger car as Picture 5 shows. I measured exactly where each truck would go and then drilled a pilot hole. The trucks were not expensive. I bought them at the local Iron Horse Hobby Store which is not far from my home. These trucks feature operating couplers that are yanked open via Lionel’s magnetic remote control track. However, I’m sure by searching the Internet, you can order even cheaper, non-operating knuckle couplers. The trucks I used were made for freight cars. To dress them up a bit, I painted them silver.
All in all, the finished product makes a very interesting passenger car, especially if you make a long line of them. I must admit that I enjoyed this simple project. Now, any time I want to add a few more passenger cars, I can open my saved computer file, print out any number of end and side copies, and then glue them in place to as many rectangular car boxes I’ve made.
These cars are extremely light. A light locomotive can easily pull a large number of them. Nothing brings back the emotions of yester-year more than these toy-like passenger cars. Happy Railroading.