Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Stock Pen Improvements

 Learning something new each day makes it a great day for me.  This years Modelers Retreat presentations were no exceptions.  The Modelers Retreat is a Railroad Prototype Modelers (RPM) event, this year virtual, put on by the Twin Cities Division of the Thousand Lakes Region of the National Model Railroad Association.  Doug Harding’s presentation “Railroad Facilities for Handling Live Stock” included photos of stock pens showing various features.  One feature that stood out for me in prototype photos was foot boards.  Foot boards allowed the various people involved with the loading or unloading of cattle at the stock pens to stand on them rather than in the pens or hanging on the pens fencing.

Douglas Harding Collection
(Click or tap on this or any image to enlarge)
Note foot boards on top of fences and
side of chute.

Douglas Harding Collection
Foot boards on side of chutes being used.

Douglas Harding Collection
Foot boards on top of fences being used.

In the presentation charts showed that most towns on railroads in the Midwest contained one of two pen stock pens.  On my railroad, the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company (M&N) located in central Minnesota in the town of Little Chicago,  I have stock pens called “Bumsteer Stockyards.”

Bumsteer Stock Pens before foot boards were added.

While watching the presentation stock pen prototype photos I realized my stock pens, a Campbell kit built in the mid seventies, were missing this neat feature of foot boards.  It was time to make the improvement.  I contacted Doug Harding asking if he could help with board sizes to accomplish the task.  He provided plans that showed 2” x 6” and 2” x 8” boards used to construct the foot boards along the chute.  I did not find the exact size for the foot board on top of the pen sides so I chose  2” x 12” boards which looked right to me from viewing prototype photos.

Douglas Harding Collection

Douglas Harding Collection

I began the project by removing the stock pens from the railroad (they are removable) and moving them to my workbench to make the foot boards improvements.  Next the scale lumber needed was taken out of the supplies cabinet.  Scale lumber used for the project was as follows:

 - Northeastern Scale Models 2” x 8” scale lumber

 - Midwest Products Micro-cut Scale Lumber #8003, basswood 2” x 6” scale lumber

 - Midwest Products Micro-cut Scale Lumber #8006, basswood 2” x 12” scale lumber

After measuring board lengths needed, I cut the scale lumber to length of boards needed and glued them with Elmers White glue to the locations on the Bumsteer Stock pens.  I used a 2” x 12” board for the foot board on top of the fences and a 2” x 6” next to a 2” x 8” for the foot boards along the chute.  These boards sat on top of foot board supports, 2” x 6” size boards,  attached along the chute.  The foot board supports were cut on a Northwest Shortline Chopper since several of the same size were needed.  The angle on board ends for support boards ends mounted to the posts was 45 degrees.

Foot boards are added to fences and
sides of loading chute.

Once the foot boards were added, the stock pens were moved back to their location in Little Chicago on the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company.  The new boards could be left as is using improvements as a reason; however, I preferred to have a finished look.

Therefore, the final step to finish the project was to stain the added boards to match the existing stock pen boards.  Again stock pens were moved back to the workbench.   I first applied a coat of iodine purchased at the local drug store.   No need to wait until iodine was dry so I immediately followed with dirty Dio-sol and bottom residue in the bottle.  Dio-sol (no longer available) is a paint thinner for solvent base paints I mix using Xylene 50% and Toluene 50%.  Once the staining was finished, Bumsteer Stockyard pens were placed back in Little Chicago for cattle movement to Northfield or South St. Paul stockyards.

New foot boards stained.

Three quarter view Bunsteer stock pens to see
 the foot boards on side of chute.

The knowledge gained in Doug Harding’s presentation proved once again the old saying, “our railroads are never done”. 

A  big “Thank You” to Doug Harding for the photos and plans to help make this stock pen foot board improvement and for permission to use  photos and plans in this blog post. 

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 sign your comment with your name if you choose to leave one.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer



  1. That's a really cool detail. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Thank You. Sharing is what makes our hobby great.