The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading


© January 08, 2013 

| Read other articles Send in an article |

©  and Tom Bee. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

The Bee Hopper

By  William Gardei

Photo by Carl Baskin, Illinois Live Steamers

Tom Bee has been making 1.5" scale railroad equipment for many years. He got started when saw how scale freight car trucks and couplers at the time were made and how expensive they were. He knew he could offer better quality at a better price. For a long time the legacy of Tom Bee couplers and trucks was known only to a few clubs in Illinois and Michigan. Eventually members of clubs in Florida began using his products. Not only did they enjoy the quality, they also found the price and service was tough to beat.

The only advertising Tom had was by word of mouth and a few postings by various clubs. Tom's product line grew to include flatcars, gondolas, and hopper cars. And like his couplers and trucks, he demands quality in his freight cars.

I got involved when I heard this story from some of  Tom's customers. But Tom never had a website. That was because he did what he does best. That is build high quality large scale railroad equipment. He didn't have the time for website design. I on the other hand have much less experience in craftsmanship but tons of web-server space I'm paying for and not using. So I told Tom if he'd send me a price list and some photos I'd put up a website for him.  And like he does for many customers, he sent me exactly what I asked for.

This picture story, taken from one of the pages of the Tom Bee website, takes a peek into the workshop of one of Tom's talented carbuilders. I wish he'd teach me to weld like that!

The first thing to decide is which length of car to buy. What are the choices?

(click any photo to enlarge)

This is Tom's son, Ben, who's come to take away 3 hopper cars just completed by Tom's fabricator. This is a 34 foot twin-bay hopper. Actual length is 4 feet.

Or choose this 40 foot, three-bay hopper. It's actual length is 5 feet.

Or the grand-daddy of them all. This 50 foot four-bay hopper is a full 6 feet long.

OK, Ben. Take 'em away. There are customers waiting for these.  Meanwhile, let's see what's going on in the shop.

Here's a car being built. It is important to insure that the sides are square with the ends and floor before and during welding. Otherwise they won't fit right and won't look good.

This side is ready to be welded.

It is also important that the plates that the truck bolsters ride on be parallel to the bottom of the car. Otherwise, the car won't ride right. So extra care is taken to insure proper alignment between bolster plates, frame, and carbody.

These alignment procedures may seem tedious. But if you want quality they are required. Fortunately, years of carbuilding have fine tuned this process.

This is the "Ballast Duty" addition to the frames. The customer for this car indicated the need for this option. If you have any special requirements, be sure to ask.

Better get Ben on the phone. Tell him there's three more ready for him to pick up.  

Article by  William Gardei. Reprinted by permission from Tom Bee's web site
Nickel Plate Road gondola photo by Carl Baskin, Illinois Live Steamers.  All other photos by
Tom Bee

the end


Have an idea for an article?  Please share it with us.

| Live Steam Railroads | Suppliers | Postings | For Sale  |
 | Events Calendar | Books | Magazines | Videos  | Photo Contest |

Hit Counter