Bashing a Gnomy Caboose

As built by Phil DeChene

Phil has bashed a toy Gnomy caboose into an interesting piece of On30 rolling stock. He has graciously agreed to tell us how he did it:


Unmodified Gnomy caboose on left, Phil's bashed caboose on right

These instructions are for bashing a toy bobber caboose into an On30 model of a bobber caboose.

For this bash you will need a toy Gnomy Caboose and an HO Bachmann bobber caboose. The Gnomy frame and wheel set will be replaced by the Bachmann frame and wheel set. There are several places on the internet where you can get the toy Gnomy Caboose. Some are:

Watt's Train Shop

Some members of internet discussion groups have reported that there are two versions of the Gnomy Caboose and on one version the roofs are hard to remove. I was apparently lucky as all of the roofs of the five that I ordered were easily pulled off.

When you remove the body of the Gnomy Caboose from the frame you will find there is a solid floor that is a part of the body. This is not so with the Bachmann Caboose. The floor is a part of the frame and on that floor is a metal weight that fits inside the body of the caboose.

I fit the body of the Gnomy Caboose onto the Bachmann frame by cutting a hole in the Gnomy floor so the body will fit over the Bachmann weight. The fortunate thing is that the length of the weight will fit just inside the end walls of the Gnomy body. If you cut the width of the hole in the floor the width of the weight the Gnomy body will have a friction fit onto the Bachmann frame.

If you do not wish to cut out a section of the Gnomy floor you can shave off the protrusions that hold the body to the frame and use styrene to build a frame that will fit around the Bachmann weight. This will raise the body of the caboose some and probably make it more like an On30 scale caboose.

The Bachmann HO Bobber Caboose

Body Bash

For the windows and doors I used Grant line C&S Caboose Window and Door set, part # 52. There are two ways you can go at this point for enlarging the windows and removing the doors. (The following steps are if you have cut a hole in the floor of the Gnomy Caboose floor. If not you do not have to worry about the solidity of the caboose body.)

I used a jeweler’s saw to enlarge the window openings. If you cut the windows out before the door openings you will keep the body solid for handling purposes and then you can cut out the door openings last. Using this cutting sequence you will have to put the jewelers saw blade through the window you are cutting and the window opposite to the one being resized. You will have to be careful not to cut into the opposite side as you cannot see where you are cutting. The size of the Grant Line Windows is such that you can cut on the scribe lines that represent the boards on the Gnomy Caboose sides. This makes it easy to make straight cuts for resizing the window openings. After the windows are resized you can remove the Gnomy Doors. I added a wooden deck to the end platforms so I had to cut the holes for the Grant Line doors a little higher than the height of the doors so the floor would fit under the doors when they were installed.

The other sequence is to cut the doors from the ends before resizing the windows. What this does is weaken the Gnomy body where you can easily break it in half. This way you can resize the window openings with the jewelers saw without putting the blade through the opposite window and being concerned not to cut into the opposite side without seeing where the blade is cutting. After the windows are resized you can glue the body parts back together.

If you have cut a hole in the Gnomy Caboose floor you will need to glue a styrene brace across the door openings to regain the body strength; unless you glue the doors in place at this time. I chose not to glue the doors at this time as I wanted to paint and weather the doors separately from the body. I did the same with the window frames. I made sure they fit, but did not glue them at this time. If you use the bracing make sure it is high enough on the inside of the body such that it will not interfere with the weight when the body is fitted to the frame.

I used an X-acto chisel blade to shave off the curved grab irons on the caboose side. I also used the blade to cut the board grooves where the molded grab irons crossed over them. I drilled holes at the ends of the molded grab irons and then formed the 3D curved grab irons from brass wire. I made everything to fit, but did not install them at this time. For the posts that the grab irons fit in I used some brass HO locomotive boiler railing posts that were lying around doing nothing. If you don’t have posts you can bend the wire at the ends 90 degrees and place them in the drilled holes. The Gnomy caboose does not have molded grab irons on the end walls. I drilled holes and formed brass wire for the grab irons on the end walls of the caboose.


Remove the Bachmann couplers and set them aside. The HO railings are made of metal and can be pulled from the end sills. I broke/cut the steps from the end platforms and then removed the end sills by sawing them off just in front of the platforms. Be careful to cut square to the platform so the fabricated On30 end sills will fit square to the frame. The removal of the original end sills will require the removal of some of the coupler pocket. This can be rebuilt when the new end sills are installed. If I do this again I believe that I will extend the end platforms, remove the coupler pockets, install the wider end sills and use Kadee couplers and pockets.

I fabricated end sills from 0.100 X 0.156” styrene strips the same width as the caboose body. I used a file to round the ends of the end sills. I calculated the size of the brass railings and made them from brass rod. Once that is done you will know where to drill the holes in the end sills to install the end railings. Drill the holes for the Grant Line brake wheels at this time also. I glued the end sills to the frame with ACC. I used 0.010” styrene to rebuild the coupler pockets at this time also.

I used some scale 3 X 1 boards to make a platform floor. I made the floor the same width as the original end sills. I did not install the floor at this time.

I made the ladders with 0.060” styrene angle and 0.020” styrene rod.


The roof walks and the stove pipe can be easily removed by pulling them off. I replaced the Gnomy stove pipe with a Grant Line stove pipe part # 143. The Grant Line pipe is much larger than the original so you will have to enlarge the pipe hole. I did it by hand so I enlarged the hole with progressively larger drills until the pipe assembly fit. I did not install the pipe at this time. I have some commercial tar paper material so I cut it into strips and glued them to the roof. The roof of the cupola will need to be smoothed some before gluing on the tar paper. Once the glue has dried you can (from the inside of the roof) drill/cut holes in the tarpaper for the roof walks and the stove pipe.

Another way to do the roof and create another style of caboose is to saw off the cupola and use a 0.010” sheet of styrene to glue another layer of roof over the original. You can then install the tarpaper, cut a hole for the smoke stack and forget the roof walks and the ladders.

Painting and Weathering

I wanted to try the peeling paint look on the walls, doors and window frames. I primed the body, doors and window frames with Floquil primer. I’m sure other primers can be used, but I used what I had available. After that dried I dry brushed on some Vallejo Smoke color to give the primer some wood grain. After that dried I dabbed rubber glue on the components using a scotch bright heavy duty scour pad. I then dabbed on the final paint color using a rough face cloth. I used acrylic artist paint for the final color so I waited an hour or so before I used masking tape to lift off the rubber cement and randomly expose areas of the first layer of primer and wood grain color. This is not my original idea to represent peeling paint. It has been written about in the commercial press and on the internet discussion groups. Try it, it works.

Add lettering as desired. I used dry transfers because they are easy to pick at and age.

I painted the frame with acrylic artist paint and dry brushed it with Polly Scale rust. I painted the grab irons, railings and ladders with the same color and weathering.

I stained the wooden platform floors, dirtied them up with some Bragdon weathering powders and glued them to the end platforms.

To give the black roof walks a wooden look I painted the roof walks with Folk Art acrylic Barn Wood and then dry brushed them with acrylic Vallejo Smoke Color. I used some Bragdon powders to weather them up a bit.

I streaked some weathered black on the roof below the stove pipe hole and then weathered the roof with Bragdon Powders.

I painted the stove pipe with Floquil Gun Metal.

Body Assembly


I glued clear styrene to the back of the window frames. Before I glued some of the windows to the window frames I scratched a crack on the edge of a couple of the windows. On one window I drilled a small hole and made scratch marks around it to represent a hole made by a thrown rock or even worse a bullet hole. I clouded the windows by painting them with dull coat and then I wiped some off with lacquer thinner so it looked like someone wiped the window to be able to look out. I then glued the window frames into the window openings.


I test fit the door to the caboose body and the body to the frame to ensure the door fit over the wooden platform floors. After a little filing I glued the doors to the body. One thing I forgot was to add a door knob to the doors. The head of a small pin will suffice for a door knob. Painted and weathered of course.

Grab Irons

Glue the grab irons in the predrilled holes in the side and end walls with ACC.

Roof Assembly

Install the roof walks and the stove pipe in the predrilled holes.

Frame Assembly

Install the end railings and brake wheels on the end sills. One end railing is inserted into a leg of the ladder. I determined the location of the hole for the end railing, drilled the hole and assembled the railing to the ladder. I then assembled that assembly to the end sill.

Final Assembly

Insert the roof into the body and press the body onto the frame. At this time I measured the distance between the end sills and the body and fabricated four steps from 0.010” styrene. In that the body was not exactly square to the end sills there was some difference in the measurements. Painted, weathered and glued them to the frame. The ladders do not reach the roof so I used 0.010” styrene to add braces between the ladder legs and the roof.


If you follow theses instructions I believe you will end up with an acceptable model. If you modify them any you just might end up with a better model.

Many thanks to Phil for preparing this article and allowing me to publish it. If any of you try bashing a Gnomy car into On30 and would like to share the results, please let me know.

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This page updated April 4, 2006
Webpage ©
Larry Rickert
Photographs and text © Philip DeChene