The Lionel Coal elevator has been around for decades. It is truly one of the classic tin plate accessories of the 1950’s. So, how do you take a tin plate accessory and turn it into something more realistic? Here is how we upgraded a pair of them at SMARTT.
First, I took 1/16” basswood with lines scribed at ¼” spacing from Model Shipways and attached it to the vertical sides of the base. This created wooden retaining walls around the base, about ¼ inches above the raised top. Next I took the same scribed wood and created wooden walkways and platforms on that raised base, including a platform for stairs going to ground level. I stained all the wood with a black wash. Once it dried, I dry-brushed black streaks and stains. I finished the weathering with a gray dry-brushing. This gave the wood a real good aged look. The final touch was the addition of advertising signs, to the retaining wall.
Second, the raised house structure was covered with a corrugated metal paper from Alpine Division Scale Models. This is the first time I have used this product and I would highly recommend it. Around the base of the house, I created a U shaped walkway around three quarters of the perimeter. Here I used Evergreen brand 0.060” x 0.500” strip styrene; to that I attached Plastruct O scale hand rail. A Plastruct ladder descended to the base and was affixed to one of the wooden platforms. On the house itself, I added a door, and three Lehigh Valley Anthracite signs. The roof was covered with a very thin corrugated metal from K&S Engineering. All were given a rust wash and then light black wash. After it dried, I went back and dry-brushed on more rust.
Third, was to add some detail while at the same time creating covers for the electrical posts. One way I did this was to make two raised vertical oil storage tanks that rested on concrete platforms. Each platform fit over one of the two sets of posts. The tanks and concrete risers they sat on were from an HO scale Grandt Line kit called Midwest Petroleum Distributors. The tanks were painted a rust color, and then highlighted with a brighter rust color, as well as black. The concrete base and risers were made from the same 60×500 strip styrene then painted with Testors Flat Gull Gray. Once dry, they were given a black wash and then dry- brushed white. On one of the Coal Elevators, I covered the second set of posts with a small boiler house. This was made from styrene covered with the same corrugated metal paper from Alpine Division. A door and vent was added to the sides and a smoke stack was added to the roof. The roof was given a simulated tarpaper finish, with 400 grit sandpaper and then painted black. The sides were done the same way the raised house was painted, except with a heavier rust color. The second set of posts on the other coal elevator was covered with a simple concrete platform with a wood top.
Details like the fuel tanks and shed cover the toys’ electrical terminals
Forth, all the areas of the base that was not covered by wood or concrete were filled in with Smith & Son light cinder ballast. The motor that raised and lowered the hopper that the coal cars dumped their loads into was given some pipes and vents for detail. It was painted a rust color and highlighted in black. Finally, a fence was built to the same height as the retaining wall with the same scribed wood. The fence connects between the two elevators.
It is amazing to see the change the two coal elevators went through; they are so-far removed from their original appearance. This project proves that with a little work you can take a toy accessory and convert it into something much more realistic. Just look at the coal tipple below. Have fun!
from the October, 2011 SMARTT Newsletter