Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A 36ft Tank Wagon aka Grandfather's Axe

When I converted back to HO scale in 1996, the first wagon that I purchased was an Athearn  US three dome tank wagon. The primary purpose of this acquisition was to test the new track that was being laid. In my ignorance at the time, I also thought that it could provide a 'near enough' version of its NSW equivalent. Although, I was soon set straight on this point, the wagon continued to operate as the only tank wagon on Philip's Creek. Fast forward to last December and the arrival of my SDS tank wagons. The old Athearn wagon now looked very out of place and languished in the 'back of house' staging area.

A few months later, Peter Hearsum posted retrospective on some 9000 gallon tank wagons that he had built quite a few years ago ( http://burrowa.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/a-lesson-learned/). Peter had co-authored an article on this work in an issue of the magazine Branchline Modeller (later The Australian Journal of Railway Modelling). Fortunately, I had a copy of the issue, reread it, and noted that one of the two wagon used as the start point for the conversion was the Athearn three dome tank wagon. I contacted Peter and he very kindly helped me out with the specialist dome and end casting, and cylinder to complete the conversion. Many thanks Peter!

I followed the process outlined in the article fairly closely but stuffed up the shortening of the chassis. To overcome this, I glued a styrene channel section on each side of the centre bream to create a sandwich arrangement which allowed me to achieve the straight line that my earlier attempts had not achieved.

I did get a bit confused with the different arrangements of domes, ladders, handbrakes and securing straps. As a consequence, I decided to follow the drawing of the Caltex 9000 gallon tank wagon on page 8 of the magazine. The model now just requires painting and the procurement of some suitable Caltex decals before returning to service.

The one thing the article did say at the very start was that most of the Athearn kit should be discarded and this was certainly the case. I have chosen to show photos before painting to demonstrate this point. The dark grey coloured parts of the model (not to be confused with the new grey domes and tank ends) are the only components from the original wagon hence the reference to grandfather's axe. We are all familiar with the story of grandfather's axe. It had seven different handles and five new heads but it was still grandfather's axe. And so it is with the tank wagon, although heavily modified it is still the first wagon that ran on Philip's Creek


  1. G'day Phil. I am pleased to see the results of your efforts on the tanker project. The underframe is a bit tricky but you have achieved a very good outcome. Who said scratch building is dead. Peter

  2. Peter,
    Thanks for your comment and indeed for your assistance in the project. As you may have guessed, there is a degree of sentimentality associated with the original wagon and your help allows me to retain at least some parts of it in service.
    cheers Phil