Tuesday, January 16, 2018


I have completed a Westerfield resin kit, number 2501, a Milwaukee Road composite gondola with four drop doors which I numbered 307682.  The number places the car in series 305625-308624, an order of 3,000 cars built for the Milwaukee Road by Bettendorf Company in May 1923   The excellent Westerfield kit instructions provide a history of the car which states the railroad based its design on the USRA car but made significant changes in the kinds of bracing used.  A bibliography describes sources of plans and photos: the 1925 Car Builders Cyclopedia reprinted in Train Shed Cyclopedia No. 62 and contemporary photos in the July 1940 issue of Model Railroader.  One additional source I found not listed in the bibliography is The Milwaukee Railroad Freight Cars published by Normandie House.  It contains the official employees' shop diagrams (tracings of the original blue prints) of in-service Freight Cars and Cabooses in 1937.

Before starting the build, the nice one piece gondola body, which makes for an easier resin build, was washed with Dawn dishwashing soap to remove mold release agent.  I began the build with the underframe adding Kadee #262 coupler boxes with Kadee #148 "whisker" couplers installed.  The kit provided Tichy Train Group "K” brake system was installed.  I substituted .018" diameter floral wire for the train line. I made the brakes levers from Evergreen, #8106, 1x6" and #8108, 1x8" strip styrene.  Clevises used on the brake rodding are half of a Tichy Train Group, #8021, turnbuckle.  Chain used was A-Line, #29219, 40 links per inch. Accurail ARA cast steel with spring plank with InterMountain 33" metal wheels were used for the Bettendorf trucks called for in the employees' shop diagrams.

Click or tap on photos to expand.

Once the underframe was complete, I installed the interior car weight, fitted the floor that covers it and added the interior gussets.  I substituted two .040" thick pieces of sheet lead for the interior supplied weight to make the car weigh 3.8 ounces. Next I completed the "B" end.  I made the retainer line with Tichy Train Group, #1100, .008" dia. phosphor bronze wire (PBW).  I made a brake shaft step with plastic sill steps found in my scrap box that had been cut-off some plastic car.  A brake shaft bracket, located below the top flange, was made from Tichy .008" dia., PBW.  Uncoupling levers were fabricated from Tichy, # 1106, .0125" dia., PBW.

With the "B" end fininished I added the remaining details such as grab irons, sill steps, and wine door locks to the rest of the car exterior.  Next I washed the car body with a makeup cotton swab dipped in 91percent isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining traces of mold release and assembly grime. The car was now ready for the paint shop.

The painting is pretty simple as only one color, Mineral red, is needed for the car body, underframe and truck side frames.   The Mineral red paint  I used to spray the car was a mix of two parts Vallejo Model Air Black Red, # 70.859, and one part Vallejo Model Air Flat Yellow, #70.953, thinned with a thinner consisting of distilled water, Vallejo Airbrush Thinner, and Vallejo Airbrush Flow Improver. Once paint was dry, I sprayed the car with Model Master, #4638, gloss clear Acryl for a decal base.  A nice decal set in the kit was used to apply the 1930's lettering scheme using the side and "A" end photo views in the July 1940 isssue of Model Railroader.  Microscale Micro Set and Micro Sol were used to set the decals.  After decals dried overnight, I sprayed the car with Model Master clear flat.

Milwaukee Road composite gondola 307682 joins in-service MILW composite gondola 308620.

 I scratchbuilt MILW composite gondola 308620 in 2006 using the plans and photos in the sources stated above.  The scratch build was done with plain styrene scribed with 9 and 12 inch wide boards for sides and ends, Evergreen V-groove siding for the floor and underframe and many sizes of Evergreen strip styrene combined for braces and other parts. All rivets were hand made using a dressmaker’s pin chucked in a pin vise. The under body received a Cal-Scale, #190-283, AB brake system with piping and rodding made with various Detail Associates brass wire sizes. In the paint shop, I sprayed this car with Floquil Boxcar Red and then Floquil Glaze to provide a good decal base. Champ decals sets were used for lettering.  As soon as the decals were dry I sprayed the car with Floquil Flat Finish.  Finally, the car weathering was applied using eyeshadow makeup and Bradgon weathering powders.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer


  1. Lester, Excellent work on both the Milwaukee Gondolas. Both look great Thanks for posting your summary of these builds and providing info on additional parts and paints used for their construction. Very much like your new blog as well. Looking forward to new posts.

    1. George Thank You for your kind words on on cars and blog.

  2. Lester: Thank you very much for this build report and blog. Number one it is a very professional build and an excellent looking result. Number two it helps me greatly. I model in S scale and for a long time have had 2 well constructed wooden bodies for these cars sitting in my someday pile without instructions. These comments and photos help immeasurably to identify the many details and where they go, especially the drop doors and underframe and brake rigging. Chris Rooney

  3. Chris Thank You for your kind words. I am pleased to hear that my photos and writeup will help you finish building your MILW gondolas. I wish you every success.
    Lester Breuer