Modeling the Ski Train



Up until Rapido’s 2019 announcement of a limited run of the Tempo cars, there were no commercially-available models that even came close to these cars. Nor were there any trucks available that match the inside-bearing trucks used on the train. The modeler who cared about accuracy was left with one basic option: scratch-building.

I began by doing just that. I started by building a single coach, to work out the bugs in the design; next I mass-produced a batch of four, so as to save time in parts layout, etc.

For the prototype I chose MOUNT EVANS. It’s made from sheet styrene; the only commercial parts are the diaphragms, wheel sets, and couplers. This approach worked out very well. It’s just too bad the scratch-building takes so long.

Here are some photos of the cars, complete or nearing completion.



Coach, Car No. 2.  This car is the only one of its exact configuration on the train.  This is the B side.  The model is nearly finished; it just lacks grab irons and number boards, and the final details on trucks.


Lounge, Car No. 5.  This is the A side. The model is in the same state of completion as MOUNT BIERSTADT.




Lounge, Car No. 5.

Here is the B side.   Note the large blank area in the middle of the car.  This is the back wall of the snack bar service area.



Coach, Car No. 6.  It is essentially identical to MOUNT ELBERT and MOUNT MASSIVE.  The window patterns on each side are mirror images. This was the first car I built.
Business car UTAH


Private/Business car (diner).  This car brings up the markers on my model train, although on the real train it’s nearly always followed by business car KANSAS. This model is a conversion from a Con-Cor slumbercoach. I haven’t gotten to the underbody details yet.

I actually scratch-built the trucks out of styrene, using commercial wheelsets. Although I didn’t get down to the brake-caliper level of detail, they turned out quite satisfactory, and work well. Of course, you could just opt to use standard commercial trucks; most people wouldn’t notice the difference. But the trucks are pretty distinctive, so I want them to look right. A recent option is to use the trucks that Athearn makes for their Bombardier commuter coaches. They’re not an exact match, but are a lot closer than anything else on the market.

One thing in our favor is that Microscale does have a set of decals available in HO and N scales (stock Nos. 87-577 and 60-577). The catch is that they will only do three cars from one sheet, since certain critical decals are only repeated three times. You end up with a lot of unused decals. But the set does include the markings for the power car and the business cars.


The power car is a conversion from an Athearn PB-1 dummy– a rather extensive conversion. It requires replacement of the trucks with 2-axle EMD trucks; the fuel tank must be rebuilt, and the roof detail redone. All existing details must be removed, and two square openings with snow hoods must be installed. Lastly, large radiator screens must
be installed in each side.

– and here is the result! The project requires a bit of an article to describe
the full range of challenges in detail– something that I’ve been working on for
a while. One day it will show up in The Prospector


This depends on your era.  If you intend to model the post-2000 period you must repaint and detail a set of F40PH’s.  Earlier eras use relatively-stock locomotives available off the shelf.

sktx-289Here is an example of how it turns out!  I built two of the three F40’s, omitting the 283.  I just don’t need that much power on my shortened train.  Of course, now for the low low price of about $335, you can buy it from Rapido.




If You’re More Interested in the Past…

The Patterson & Forrest book has a lot of good information on past Ski Train equipment, including dimensional drawings (something it does not have for the newer train!).  There have been brass imports of the 1910-vintage heavyweights, but good luck finding any.  An acceptable stand-in would be the Walthers paired-window heavyweight coach model (this is what I use, myself).  Or, you could try the kitbashing or scratchbuilding approach.

During the 1970s and 1980s the first car on the train was always one of the ex-Prospector combines (# 1230 or 1231).  This is available in brass;  Nickel Plate Car also makes car sides and car cores that can be assembled into the car. Or, you can kitbash one from a surplus 85′ car such as a Con-Cor coach.  The Bicycle Car on the later train is the same car so it’s a solid investment, however you go. One of these same cars would always serve on the Rio Grande Zephyr as well.

Motive power would depend on the time frame you’re modeling, but a pair of GP40’s (or GP40-2’s) were the typical power in the late ’70s and early ’80s, with occasional appearances by the F9 set. The F9s were the sole power during the 1984 season (which was the last season they were used on the train, being retired later that year).

The steam generator car could be the ex- RGZ Alco PB unit (especially from 1984-1987), or one of the units built from Baldwin steam locomotive tenders. I had a go at creating one, as seen here.