How To Expert Tips Quick and easy flatcar loads for Christmastime

Quick and easy flatcar loads for Christmastime

By Bill Wasinger | November 20, 2023

Inexpensive ways to add a festive look to your rolling stock

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

Want to learn how to make some quick and easy flatcar loads for Christmastime? You don’t need an heirloom set or holiday-specific cars to make your own Christmas train. With a little imagination and a trip to your local arts and crafts store, you can find Christmas cargo that will turn almost any piece of rolling stock into a holiday hauler. If you shop early enough, you can assemble an entire Christmas train using cars you have on hand for less than the price of a new freight car.

Most arts and crafts stores and dollar stores carry a selection of miniature holiday items, such as ornaments, Christmas trees, mini gifts, and bells, that are great for gondolas, hoppers, and even work cabooses. For this project, I found several holiday-themed items that fit perfectly on an O-gauge flatcar.

small red truck and Christmas gift floral picks
These items were floral picks from a craft store. The author removed the flexible rod from each item before adding to his flatcars. Bill Wasinger photo


three small packages on gray flatcar
Bill secured these gifts with wire from the dry cleaners. You could also use floral wire or miniature chains. Bill Wasinger photo

My favorite flatcar cargo finds came from the floral section. That’s where I discovered what are called floral picks, which are decorative items on flexible rods used to adorn plants and floral arrangements. For this project, I found floral picks with wrapped presents and red plastic pickups hauling Christmas trees. I pulled out the flexible rod from each item, placed two or three of each (depending on size) on a flatcar, and tied each one down. Florist’s wire in holiday colors (also in the floral section) works great for tie-downs, but the longer, wider twist ties that keep my dry-cleaning hangers together work just as well.

model flatcar with load of bells
Ring in the holidays (or the new year) with a load of bells. Bill Wasinger photo

The arts and crafts store’s holiday section led to even more holiday flatcar freight. That’s where I found sleighs, plastic ornaments, and silver bells that are the ideal size to fit on a flatcar.

two model cars with bows on a flatcar
Two Ford Mustangs with bows are ready to make someone’s day. Bill Wasinger photo
blue model flatcar with two red sleighs on top
Two red sleighs are ready for transport. Bill Wasinger photo

As I looked at my flatcar roster, I realized I could also dress up my existing freight for the season. Wrapping the small, red foil bows I found over my auto cargo turned a Lionel No. 6424 flatcar into a fun holiday car. (Who wouldn’t want a ‘64 Mustang for Christmas?) These bows can also wrap around smaller containers or crates, too. If your existing cargo is too large for foil bows, you can find other sizes of bows with an adhesive back that you can easily apply and remove after the holidays.

Merry Christmas sign in a black gondola
A small sign fits perfectly in this gondola. A tiny string of battery-operated LED lights would add another festive touch. Bill Wasinger photo

The best part about making your own festive flatcars is that the craft store inventory, whether in-store or online, changes every year and will vary between retailers. Plus, the big box arts and crafts stores will usually get their holiday items on the shelves before Halloween and offer it at a discount before the holiday rush. That means, with a little planning and some imagination, you find Christmas flatcar cargo to easily and affordably assemble an entire train of eye-catching holiday haulers to run under your tree!

You must login to submit a comment