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Walther's Crossing Shanty

This unique structure will be at home on a variety of steam-era and transitiion-era layouts.

Product Review: Walthers Elevated 8-sided
Crossing Shanty in HO

by Vic Roseman/photos by the author

Lawsuits against railroads for damages in grade crossing accidents are nothing new and some roads have been put out of business by legal action of this type. So it is not surprising that in populated areas the railroads have taken steps to prevent the public from crossing train tracks when a train is approaching. The first U.S. patent given for a railroad crossing gate dates back to August 27, 1867, and was awarded to J. Nason and J. Wilson of Boston Massachusetts.

As vehicular traffic has increased in towns and cities, and especially motor vehicle traffic, new conventions were instituted. The "Whistle Post" of two long, one short and one long whistle blast was instituted as trains approached any grade crossing. In towns and cities, crossing gates became standard equipment. Railroad lines with traffic insufficient to warrant crossing gates get cross bucks with flashing lights and sometimes a bell, or may require a flagman with red lantern and flag at these crossings as trains approach.

The first crossing gates were hand operated by means of a crank mechanism. As a train approached, the gatekeeper would crank the gates, and these would remain down till the train passed safely. Gatekeepers usually had some kind of shelter for the times between trains, and some of these were elevated as either the second story of a structure, or were sometimes perched on a wood or steel structure reached by a ladder.

The Walthers crossing tower model is based on Milwaukee Road prototype structures and two similar towers of this type stood on Clybourn St., Milwaukee adjacent to the passenger station. The upper floor provided viewing in all directions and the first floor had a toilet and room for storage of tools, red flags, lanterns and other necessities. These little buildings should be useful for modeling other roads too. The designs for this type of structure were sometimes taken from source books, so several roads might have used the same design.

Photos of Milwaukee Road's passenger station on Everett St. (torn down in 1963) their namesake city station going full tilt with Hiawatha trains arriving and departing for all points of the compass, commuter trains and even some branch line locals. These photographs show that the vehicular traffic pattern must have been like a circus for the approach tracks to the station in both directions crossed Clybourn Street in the middle of complex intersections. (The present Amtrak station was once the replacement for the old Milwaukee Road station on Everett Street, now located closer to the river, cutting out these grade crossings.)

Walther's Crossing Shanty

The Walthers model grade crossing tower is a well proportioned replica of the Milwaukee Road prototype, and photos appear in the Morning Sun book "Volume 2, The City of Milwaukee" which has many photos showing various locations of Milwaukee Road in the Milwaukee area.

The kit box includes two of these towers injection molded in styrene, a pair of little bins (probably for coal) and a pair of small utility sheds which could have housed tools, lanterns, a baggage tractor or similar implements. A built up version will be available soon.

A good pair of sprue cutters is useful in removing the parts from their sprues, but I found that parts still had to have small stubs from the sprue "gates" removed. I used a small file for this, but sandpaper would work too. With this done, the parts go together beautifully with good locating ridges that make assembly very easy. I began with the base on which I began to glue the first level wall sections one at a time, working all round the structure. I made sure to avoid getting any glue near the top of the parts as I set the roof onto this assembly to be sure it would all dry in exactly the right orientation. Once dry, I removed the lower level roof which contains the base for the upper floor and glued each piece to this, again working around the building. Again, I set the roof on till the parts were dry.

At this point I painted the buildings. I used Testors Modelmaster Light Sea Grey (flat) for the walls. I brush painted the foundation a mix of Light Sea grey with a drop of black in it to simulate the concrete base. The roof sections were painted with Floquil weathered black. Once dry, I brush painted the trim with Testors Modelmaster Gunship Grey. If you are modeling a period after about 1960, railroads including Milwaukee Road often simplified the painting charts and the buildings were seen in solid grey with black or dark grey roofs.

The clear window parts for could have been a nightmare trying to figure which parts were for the different sized windows, but despite the difference in the window sizes, all have identically spaced locating pins so all of the clear parts can fit any window- a very good design feature.

The back or inside of the clear window parts have small holes which taper outwards so the larger holes on the outward facing side of the clear windows will slide onto the locating pins on the back of the wall segments. On my kit, the clear windows fit well enough that they did not require gluing in place. (You may wish to glue these, for unglued windows have a tendency to fall out of model structures in general, and if the roof is glued in place might be impossible to replace.

I made window shades out of a corner of a sheet of yellow paper cut into small rectangles. These were glued to the windows using Testors canopy cement. Tacky glue or Elmers glue could be used too. With a view of 360 degrees, tower workers would make good use of window shades especially at sunrise and sunset hours when the sunlight would be blinding.

Despite all the windows, the absence of an interior does not detract from the model, in my opinion. To add interior detail, a pot bellied stove such as one from SS Limited (not included) under the smoke jack could be used, and the small vent would be for a toilet located on the lower level. There could have been couple of lockers or some shelves outside the washroom. Various other accessories such as lanterns are all available separately from aftermarket providers shown in Walthers catalog.


Wm. K Walthers
5601 West Florist Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53218

Item #933-2944, HO scale

MSRP $32.98
Includes two shanties, two storage sheds, two small coal bins.

The windows have very fine window frames, the molded on door detail is very nice as is the rendering of the clipboard and raised "stick" type trim. Many railroads used structures of this general type, and painted in your road’s colors would not look out of place in any populated area on most any model railroad. This is a very nice kit for any model railroader looking to improve the safety of their HO scale grade crossings.


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