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our passion is the American West

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A plastic model stagecoach and team photoshopped into a photo taken at Old Tucson Studios

Old West Scale Models By The Captain

The Old West Company

Old West Products

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Click on the stagecoach for more products by The Captain.

A lot of Old West tidbits can be found in this 742 page book by The Captain. Click on the image to learn more.

Barbed Wire, Windmills, and Sixguns

THE "ROBERT E. LEE"
1866 MISSISSIPPI STEAMBOAT
BUILT BY THE CAPTAIN 1993
SCALE 1 : 150

The "Robert E. Lee" was constructed in 1866 at the "Howard" in New Albany and could haul a load of 5,741 bales of hay. It was 300 feet long, 40 feet wide, and had two steam engines and 8 boilers. This model was built from a kit by the Italian company "Amati". The kit included banisters in photo-etched brass and a few metal castings, but all the rest of the model was made of stripwood. All the figures and cargo were not a part of the original kit.

 The first highways in America which permitted the growth of commerce and transport were without a doubt the great rivers. However, the varying depth and tides of these rivers did not allow for the use of normal boats. To solve the problem, goods were loaded on enormous rafts which were floated down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans where the goods would then be transferred onto ships which took the goods to their destination.

 The advent of steam and the brilliant idea of Fulton and Livingston—first and exclusive builder of riverboats—made possible the upstream navigation of rivers. These strange, but picturesque, steamboats were gradually designed to perfection, making them safe and functional in shallow waters. Both persons and goods could be transported rapidly up and down the rivers.

 The paddlewheels were driven by enormous steam engines, and could be positioned at the stern or on each side of the boat (as is this "sidewheeler"). Both types were vulnerable to terrible accidents. In the frantic attempt to increase the maximum speed, shipowners adopted boilers with a very high pressure with the consequent high risk of explosion.

 The search for speed inspired marvelous competitions, and victory meant being the fastest boat on the "Green River" and thus in the entire world. One of the most famous races was that between the Natchez and the Robt. E. Lee, held in 1870 between New Orleans and St. Louis. After 750 miles of river for 3 days, 18 hours and 14 minutes, the Robt. E. Lee crossed the finish line as the winner.

THE "GENERAL"
1855 4-4-0 STEAM LOCOMOTIVE
BUILT BY THE CAPTAIN IN 1990

SCALE: unknown
The "General" was constructed from a plastic kit made by MPC. It was weathered to look neglected. Actual wood was used in the tender to replace the kit's plastic casting.

THE BIRTH OF THE 4-4-0
In the early 1800's America was still mostly wilderness. Its railroads had been built rapidly and cheaply. Steep grades, tight curves and light-weight or strap rails on rough roadbeds were the rule.

Early locomotives had drivers and idler wheels mounted on the same rigid frame. Though fine for Europe, they often derailed in America. America needed a better engine design so its railroads could operate smoothly and safely. In 1836 Henry R. Campbell revolutionized American railroading by inventing the swivel four-wheel leading truck, creating the 4-4-0 arrangement. The leading trucks had the flexibility to turn sharply and absorb irregularities in the track. They formed an adjustable three-point suspension with the drivers so that the engine could follow the rails. Now the railroads could grow!

Through 1885, virtually 85% of all U.S. railway engines were 4-4-0 steamers and many, converted to coal, remained in service into the 1900's.

THE LOOK OF A WOOD BURNER
The most visible indication of a wood burner is the enormous stack with spark arrester. The giant oil burning lamp was more than decorative. On a dark night the lamp's beam reached up to 1,000 feet so the engineer could keep watch for fallen trees, slides, and livestock which often blocked the track. The hardwood cowcatcher weighted 1/2 ton, but even so, sometimes a steer would derail a train. Virtually all these locomotives were painted, polished and decorated with brass fittings and beautiful scroll work.

4-4-0 woodburners were the first transcontinental trains, participating in the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory, Utah in 1869. They were the locomotives of the Civil War, 95% of the locomotives on both sides were 4-4-0's.

THE FAMOUS ANDREWS RAID
The "General", built by Rogers at Patterson, New Jersey, in 1855, is best known for its role in the celebrated Andrews raid, called the Great Locomotive Chase, on April 12, 1862 during the Civil War. James J. Andrews, a Union raider, had the daring idea of stealing a locomotive and cutting Confederate rail communications between Atlanta and Chattanooga by burning the major railroad bridges. This would have left Chattanooga an easy prey to Union forces.

Andrews and nineteen volunteers boarded an Atlanta to Chattanooga passenger train at Marietta, Georgia, 200 miles behind the lines. When the train stopped for breakfast at "Big Shanty" (now called Kennesaw) they coolly uncoupled the "General", its tender and three box cars and steamed off.

They might have gotten away clean except for forgetting to detach the bell cord which rang the gong in the engine when it snapped. This alerted the conductor of the passenger train, William A. Fuller. Fuller started his persistent pursuit on foot, continued by handcar and various engines. In spite of torn up rails, cut telegraph lines, ties thrown on the track and abandoned boxcars, he was able to overtake and so-closely follow the "General" that the raiders weren't able to complete their objective.

After racing 87 miles to within 20 miles of Chattanooga, the "General" ran out of fuel. Fuller, on the "Texas", another 4-4-0, was on its heels. The raiders were forced to scatter. Eventually all were captured, and eight were hanged.  The historic wood burning "General", completely restored, is now on display at Big Shanty Museum in Kennesaw, Georgia, the site of the start of this heroic event.

THE SILVER SPUR MINE
LEADVILLE, COLORADO

BUILT BY THE CAPTAIN, FEBRUARY 2000   SCALE 1:87 (HO)

The Silver Spur Mine diorama began as a simple Campbell Scale Models kit as the background to a mining operations scene. Drawings of the mine were also found in a plans book “Structures of the Early West” by Joseph Crea (1975) who originally published the plans in the Slim Gauge News. The Campbell kit was modeled after the actual silver Spur mine in Leadville, Colorado.

 Looking at the plan, the HOIST HOUSE is the building on the left with the large smoke stack. It contains the winch and boiler used to pull men and materials out of the vertical shaft. The small building in front is the FORGE SHED where the blacksmith repairs iron parts. The largest building on the right is the SHAFT HOUSE over which sits the HEADFRAME built of large timbers. In front of it, along an enclosed corridor containing a track for the ore cars, is the TIPPLE where ore is stored until freight wagons or the three-foot narrow gauge train arrives to take on the ore and haul it to the nearest stamp mill. Waste rock and tailings are run down a track on the right side and dumped down the hillside. In fact, waste is dumped anywhere a space can be found, eventually surrounding the mine with waste rock  (tailings) that has come from deep in the bowels of the earth. Years hence (1980’s) —when the value of silver rises dramatically— some of this waste rock will be re-mined to get at the smaller pieces of silver.

 Quoted from Crea’s plan book: “The silver mine on which this drawing is based sits in a mountain canyon high above Leadville, Colorado. The rusted corrugated siding and bleached timbers indicate that the grouping of structures has been long abandoned to the elements. The main building, or shaft house, protected personnel and equipment operating in and about the shaft itself. Towering above the shaft house is the headframe, which guides the cable from the winch in the hoist house. Products from the shaft go to either the waste dump or the tipple.”

 MODELING NOTES: The base was build from layers of crescent board which was then covered with Woodland Scenics’ Foam Puddy and painted with a base coat of Polly Scale’s “Venetian Dull Red and US Tac Tan”. Woodland Scenics’ Iron Ore and Brown Ballast was use on the ground with plantings that include Harvest Gold Field Grass, Brown Course Turf, Yellow Grass Extra Course Turf and Plastruct cacti (I know there’s no saguaro in Colorado so I used my artistic license). The weathered wood was distressed with a wire brush then stained with Floquil’s Teak, Maple and Oak and washed with a dilution of India Ink and denatured alcohol. Corrugated iron was primed with Polly Scale Light Gray, streaked with Rust, and finally, a fine chalk of “rust” by Weather System was dry brushed on. The work car was an Hon3 Grandt Line plastic kit replaced with wood deck and siding. The ore car was a kit by Trout Creek Engineering. The small narrow-gauge Class A Shay geared locomotive is a lead castings kit by Keystone painted with Polly-S colors. The metals are primed with grimy black and drybrushed with reefer gray, rust and oxidized aluminum.      — The Captain, February 2000

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Detailed information about some of the models below photo gallery.

A few photos of Ho scale and smaller wood and plastic models built by The Captain