By Jim Kelly-Evans
The set as received prior to repair and restoration
During summers spent at our vacation cottage I am usually not heavily involved with tinplate trains. But this year I acquired a three piece Howard set in May that needed lots of TLC to bring it back into good operating and display condition. Working on this set became a summertime project.
Howard trains are American 2" gauge tinplate electric toy trains manufactured in New York between 1904 and 1911. Howard made three steam locos, one steeple cab, two different size passenger cars, and several freight cars. My set consists of a late version of the No. 6 switcher locomotive, a No. 23 U.S. Mail baggage car, and a No. 22 Pullman.
The first rule of tinplate restoration is to study the pieces thoroughly before you do anything. Like physicians, another good rule to follow is to do no harm, i.e. don't make things worse. So after I unpacked the set I spent some time evaluating the three pieces.
I determined that the locomotive cab was probably originally painted red. It could have been nickel plated, but I didn't find much evidence of that. I did find evidence of red paint that had been removed. The boiler was painted black, but underneath some areas of an original Russian blue (Russia iron) finish remained. Therefore the plan for cosmetic restoration of the locomotive was to carefully strip the boiler and paint the cab red.
The No. 23 U.S. Mail baggage car had very little original paint left on it. It would require a good cleaning, thorough surface preparation, and complete re-painting and rubber stamping.
The No. 22 Pullman car had no remaining paint whatsoever. It also had epoxy repairs that had come apart including the clerestory, which was epoxyed to the heavily over painted roof. The car would require significant solder repairs and complete repainting.
I decided to restore my set using a previously auctioned set, Lot 502 from the Ward Kimball auctions as a guide for colors and appearance.
Some of the indispensable tools I used were a hand torch for the solder repairs, paint stripping gel (it worked great) and alcohol for cleaning everything up before priming and painting.
Using the hand torch, I burned off all of the epoxy and heavy over paint from the roof of the Pullman. It looks like it was originally painted black. I re-soldered the clerestory to the roof as it was originally attached - only at the ends.
This corner of the Pullman had come apart and needed re-soldering.
The Pullman got an alcohol bath for cleaning and masking to protect the trucks before priming.
The Pullman and roof with a primer coat. The final coat is a gloss gray that is a little darker.
The U.S. Mail baggage car and doors were completely stripped and cleaned of any remaining paint prior to the application of the primer coat.
In selecting top coat colors I tried to find somewhat darker shades that would look more appropriate on a century old train set. A local home supply store had a gloss medium dark gray and a gloss red that is several tones darker than bright red. The toughest color to find was the dark maroon for the car roofs. That I ordered from an on line spray paint supply house.
The U.S. Mail baggage car was painted dark red. I ordered rubber stamps for the re-lettering of the loco and cars, and a local arts and crafts store provided the silver marker pen that I used to apply the graphics on the mail car doors.
The original Russia iron finish was evident on the inside of the loco boiler, so I decided to strip off the black over paint. The cab shows the remnants of red paint.
Some of the original Russia iron finish remained on the boiler after cleanup, so I decided to leave it as is.
Masking off the boiler prior to painting the cab
The cab primed and painted
The restored No. 6 Loco
The restored No. 23 U.S. Mail car
The restored No. 22 Pullman car
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