M&K Sugar Co. Cane Cars - A Project So Simple Even I Could Do It

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  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 800 posts
M&K Sugar Co. Cane Cars - A Project So Simple Even I Could Do It
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Friday, July 3, 2020 1:59 AM

     As promised, here is my overdue "how to" on our homemade cane cars for the fictional M&K Sugar Co.  We got a lot of help on this, to include a generous donation of "junk" wheel sets and couplers and, most importantly, nicely cut 1/2"x1/2" redwood strips.  With no swap meets, dealers, or train shows, these parts got us over the hump. We also had some tips on research and essentially found mills around the world were worlds unto themselves, which meant we could build to our own prototype; still, I wanted these to be Hawaii inspired.  I should  mention that Eric Schade's article on tipper cars was a great rough guide for the project, and I borrowed liberally from it, changing things to meet my needs, tools, and, frankly, skill level!


Our efforts began at the Hawaiian Railway Society where the last of thousands of cane cars is on display.  The pictures are not all that great, but it gave us rough dimensions.  


A more important example of a rough-and-ready field expedient was the ex-Navy car below from a pre-World War II underground fuel tank project:

The big timbers, lack of brake gear, oversized wheels, etc. matched my toolset and handiness levels!

The original plans looked like this:

We model in 1:24-ish PLAYMOBIL Scale, which is close enough for O'ahu's 3' gauge cane roads and common carrier.


Based on these, it was time for cardstock and masking tape to validate the design before we glued and before I cut (more) timbers to the wrong size!

The devil was the journals.  I was loathe to order a commercial product with no guaratee it would fit.  Again, cardstock and masking tape were the tools of experimentation.  A HLW gondola helped us set the height:


The cardstock experimentation gave us dimensions.   If we poked a hole in a 1" long piece of our 1/2"x1/2" wood, it looked like it would work.   Some scrap foam died in the final test, the we cut our journals:


Oh, and let not your own frustration stand in the way of a budding engineer:


We experimented  with journal bearings, cutting brass tubing (3mm, I think) and gluing in grommets:


The grommets are much, much easier and proved to work just as well!  We ended up using tubing only in those cases where my concept of "straight" led to a car too wide at one end for the axle to fit.  If you can't see the error, it doesn't count, right?  Anyway, it all looked like  this:

A top shot just before we started gluing and things  would become "real:"

I should mention, at the suggestion of another, we glued fender washers for weight to the inside of each wheel to give the cars extra heft.

Finally, the first chassis was field tested:

We used LGB, HLW, and PIKO to validate the coupler height and its ineroperability.

Proof of succes:  video.


     Next up was the deck and bulkhead supports.  The former are craft sticks and the latter pre-cut basswood.  Neither my saw nor skills support stripping things this small!  A shishkabob skewer became a truss-rod connecting the journals:

Small nails hold the bulkhead supports.  Close enough to bolts in 1:24-ish PLAYMOBIL scale!


More craftsticks became lumber for the bulkheads:


...and jewelry bits became hold-down chains:

The string of cars looked like this:

These were entirely too clean, and the journal bearings bothered me.  At the suggestion of a cane train enthusiast in Australia, I used a hole punch and thin styrene to make journal bearing covers.  Then, I worked the cars over with a metal brush on my Dremel, Oldest Daughter gave them and India ink wash, and we both dyrbrushed on some "red dirt" brown.  The finished cars look like this....

...and the string look pretty good hitched up toM&K Sugar Co. #7 Komakaiki  on an operational test run .

The cars usually run fine, and the plans serve as a basis for what I hope will become a small fleet of light industrial cars to serve the M&K Sugar Co.!




  • Member since
    February 2015
  • From: Ormond Beach, FL
  • 383 posts
Posted by chocho willy on Friday, July 3, 2020 9:33 AM

Eric, those came out great, BB

Tags: sweet
  • Member since
    November 2011
  • 2,070 posts
Posted by Postwar Paul on Friday, July 3, 2020 9:46 AM

You have captured the look. I'm feeling it!

Good job!


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