How To Build a Model or Structure Kitbash large-scale sugar cane cars

Kitbash large-scale sugar cane cars

By Bill Barnwell | January 6, 2024

Use raffia straw to make an interesting flatcar load

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After finishing “Rosy,” my sugar cane train saddle tank engine, I decided to kitbash large-scale sugar cane cars.

black model flatcar
Bill added sides from Evergreen Styrene and chains to a HWL flatcar. Bill Barnwell photo

I started with Hartland Locomotive Works (HLW, now out of business—Ed.) flatcars and added solid square posts (Evergreen Styrene #196) into the holes in the car. I also added a small piece .10” flat styrene into the hole to make the posts fit tightly. For the bulkhead, I added a piece of “V” groove siding (Evergreen #4250) to the front of the post at both ends. I didn’t worry about detailing the inside because the sugar cane load would cover it.

Next, I used a small chain to hold the canes in place and secured the chain’s ends with a piece of paper clip at the top of the post. Do this in small increments. I almost went stir crazy counting the links! (Opening those small links with shaky hands is a sight to behold.) I secured the chains to the bottom of the car with small cotterpins.

Now I needed something to replicate the sugar cane loads. I first looked at broom straw but found it difficult to find a natural straw broom. Instead, I found bamboo kitchen skewers that were about the right size, but I needed to bend them a little because they were too straight. I soaked them in water overnight and put them in a jig for a day to dry.

Once dry, I cut them to length and started putting them in the car. They just didn’t look right, but I finished the load and put them in the car. Took some pictures and sent them to Eric Mueller for critique. He’s a garden railroader who lives in Hawaii, so who better to ask? He agreed that the pieces were too uniform.

straw with rubber bands wrapped around it
Bill added the raffia straw onto a foam block and secured it with rubber bands, then glued it and let it dry. Bill Barnwell photo

Back to the drawing board. After searching in craft stores, I discovered raffia straw from palm trees. For less than $4, I have enough straw to fit 20 or 30 cars. After some experimenting,  I found it easier to secure the straw to the foam with rubber bands first and then glue. I brush painted using acrylic paints and finished with a coat of Krylon spray matte finish.

model of sugar cane car
The finished car. Bill painted a “brick” covered with raffia straw. Bill Barnwell photo

I plan to finish 3-4 cars plus a caboose. Now I have an entire sugar cane train for my railway!

Supply list:

  • Hartland Locomotive Works flatcar
  • Evergreen Styrene #196
  • Evergreen #4250
  • Evergreen .10” flat styrene
  • Cotterpins
  • Chain
  • Straw raffia
  • Rubber bands
  • Glue
  • Styrofoam/foam scraps
  • Acrylic paints


2 thoughts on “Kitbash large-scale sugar cane cars

  1. Nice job there, and yes I do miss HLW for their inexpensive kit bashable small cars.
    I just acquired a new Accucraft 13 ton 2 cylinder Shay live steam locomotive. It is based on an Australian sugar cane engine prototype. While it appears the AU cars are a bit different, this is a well timed article for me to base my attempts for a cane train on.

  2. Excellent, I enjoy using Hartland locos and cars in various ways, sorry they are out of production and prices are rising, when you can find them!

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