Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Landing Craft, Boat and other military loads

Inspired by John Barry's ATSF Valley Division blog and his recent post about building a Santa Fe WWII fleet, I'll give you a sneak preview of my cars loaded with military vehicles and boats.

A train loaded with military vehicles and landing craft is pushed into the USMC military base in Old Town San Diego on my home layout. Missing information about how the prototype entrance looked like, I used the guard shack and gate from a Walthers Cornerstone kit. The flag pole comes from IHC. The MP is from the 1/72 Airfix USAF personnel set. I will cut the bases off, so they will be closer to 1/87 scale. I just suspect that the guards were taller and stronger guys anyway :). Some of the military vehicles at the gate are place holders for the moment. I will replace them with more specific ones for the USMC.

To model military loads in a train, you'll need plenty of flatcars. Unfortunately almost all kit and ready-to-run models come like the one on the picture. The deck is painted the same color as the car. To correct this, I painted the decks with Vallejo Pale Grey, but you might also use whatever brand you're comfortable with.

After the deck had dried, I gave it a Vallejo black wash. Here also, you may mix your own wash and apply it to your liking.

At the bottom of the above picture is an Athean flatcar with the weathered deck.The slots in the deck are for fixing the boat cradle. (On normal Athearn flatcars these slots are closed)

These cradles are molded in black, so I painted them with a tan color to look more like wood. I inserted the cradles into the slots and the car was ready to accept a boat.

Now for the boats, these come painted in red, blue, yellow and green. In the Book "Rails to Victory" I saw a picture with similar boats loaded on flatcars and they were supposed to be small motor tug boats. The photo as a guide, I fashioned the lettering using different numbers and printed them on clear decal sheet. So I have plenty to letter my boats. I airbrushed the boats with Navy Gray paint - whatever this gray may be - between pale and medium gray should work.

Some years ago I found a Technical Manual on eBay from the US Army Transportation Corps, showing the riggings and fixings for every piece of military vehicle and boats on railroad cars you could imagine. Although the manual was from the 1970's, it contained many drawings of WWII equipment. Meanwhile this manual is also available as downloadable pdf-file thanks to John Barry

I added the ropes as per the drawings and also a rear support to keep the boat from shifting during transit.
Above is my first car rigged for transport, but I need to tighten some of the ropes.

Another interesting load I found on a picture is an LCM-3 landing craft loaded on its side in a drop end gondola. There are quite a number of LCM models on the market, but the only one that fits the gondola almost perfect is the Airfix 1/76 model that also includes a Sherman M-4 Medium tank. I only had to leave one railing away. The steering house and ramp was loaded in the hull anyway. I added some bracing using strip wood. The gondola is a Walthers/Life Like Drop Ends gondola. I only need to tie it down with some ropes.

Another unusual load is the 155 mm "Long Tom" Howitzer. Because I had no ROCO model of this gun in 1/87, I used the Hasegawa 1/72 model. If you avoid to put a scale HO truck next to it, the difference in scale is not visible. Again I used the Technical Manual for the blocking and bracing of the gun.

Tanks, Trucks, Jeeps and Trailers are a common sight in military trains, so they cannot be missed on my layout. The loading diagrams on hand, these blockings are easily made from strip wood using a model truck as a guide and glued to the flatcar deck.

The finished truck load.

The DUKW load is a model from EKO. I had to trim flash away on some spots and gave it a new paint job. The canvas top doesn't fit out of the bag, so a little trimming and filing is necessary.


  1. This is a very timely blog post for me! I have a partially finished Frisco transfer caboose using the Moloco kit. I've been delaying finishing it because I wasn't sure what to do with the deck. Now I know! Thanks!

  2. I like how you painted the flatcar decks; I've got a bunch I'm using in lumber service; I'll have to try it!

  3. For a newer deck you might also use a tan color and weather it with oil stains. But the decks did not remain new after a while, so the greyish look is most appropriate.

  4. Outstanding! I have been working on a WWII era train for about 7 years now. I have about 90 flats with vehicles, a number of Army box cars, over 2 dozen troop and kitchen cars and my Rivirossi Army hospital train. Next step, my home layout military base. Love the work you are doing.

    1. Thanks Ty,

      It's been a while since I've done something on my military train. There are still some details to do. But there are always too many other projects that I like to work on also. I guess you know what I mean.

  5. Hi Alain Kap,

    Just as you are using 1/72 models in HO (1/87), I use them to make S-scale 1/64 loads. I really like what you did with the LCVP and have already ordered one of these models so that I can "copy" you in the future.

    Currently, I'm building a model of a dissembled M65 'Atomic Annie' being transported on several EJ&E flatcars;


    I'm using the 1:72 Dragon; Black Label model...

    It was great seeing your creations!!!

  6. Hi Jeff,
    I'm happy that I inspired you with my modeling. Yes some of the 1/72 scale models are suitable, especially some of the 1/76 Airfix or Matchbox kits. Some Japanese manufacturers had also 1/76. Although the new tooling for the LCVP from Airfix in 1/72 is actually smaller than their old 1/76 kit. The best feature is the cradle as used to load them onto flatcars. It also matches the Pegasus LCVP (although this one is not as detailed as the new Airfix)

  7. Alain,

    Out of curiosity, do you have a prototype picture of a DUKW on a flatcar, and if you do, would you mind forwarding it to me???

    I've always thought that the DUKW was a very unique vehicle and have built several models in deferent scales. I would certainly like to build one on a flatcar...

  8. Jeff,

    I'm not sure but I'll check this evening. Photos with military loads during WWII are extremely rare and I bought every book with this topic that I could find

  9. Jeff, I found a picture in the book "Trains to Victory"

  10. Hello sir, You said you used a 1/72 scale long Tom because there was not one made in 1/87. Well plot twist, there is! A company by the name of Roco Minitanks makes a 155m Long Tom In 1/87, They go for around $20 to $15 on ebay. Thought id let you know!

  11. Yes I know, I change my text. At the time I had only the 1/72 model and there were no Roco's available. On the other hand this one was cheaper actually than the Roco Model, and more detailled. Thanks for your info.