The Gilpin Tramway Caboose – History and Models

Folio-23-11 Gilpin Tramway Caboose
Folio-23-11 Gilpin Tramway Caboose

This post will provide a brief history of the Gilpin Tramway Caboose including notes on how to build a model of this iconic railroad car.

The Gilpin Tramway (aka Gilpin Gold Tram) was located in Gilpin County, Colorado. It was built in the 1880’s to serve the gold mines and mills of the area. You can read a brief history of the Gilpin Tramway here.


The historical information on the Gilpin Tramway was derived from two books that contain a gold mine (no pun intended) of information. The authors of these books have deeply researched local newspaper accounts and documents from the Gilpin Tramway and the Colorado & Southern who purchased the Gilpin.

  • The Gilpin Gold Tram: Colorado’s Unique Narrow-Gauge Hardcover – January 1, 1970 – by Mallory Hope Ferrell (Author)
  • The Gilpin Railroad Era: Black Hawk, Central City, Nevadaville and Russell Gulch Hardcover – January 1, 2009 – by Dan Abbott (Author), Dell A. McCoy (Author), Robert W. McLeod (Editor)


Gilpin Tramway Caboose
Gilpin Tramway Caboose

This picture shows three women standing on the end of the caboose. For more info on this photo and where it was taken see this post. The rock retaining wall on the left can still be found but there are no other remains of the railroad in this location.

Over the course of its history, the Gilpin Tramway had several cabooses. The first was built at the Gilpin shops in 1904 and was numbered “400”. This caboose was completely destroyed in an accident in 1912. Shortly thereafter, a replacement caboose was built in the Colorado and Southern shops (by this time the C&S had acquired the Gilpin Tramway). This caboose was also numbered “400” and was slightly larger plus it sported the larger 20″ diameter wheels.

Sometime around 1913 a second caboose was built and numbered “401”. The official C&S inventory from 1915 listed both cabooses. In the end, both cabooses where sold at auction in 1917.

For a more in-depth treatment of the Gilpin Tramway I have several book recommendations here.


The Abbott/McCoy book and the Ferrell books have detailed drawings with dimensions of the Gilpin Cabooses. I highly recommend acquiring one or both of these books if you are interested in modeling the Gilpin Tramway. This is the starting point for my models.

Folio-23-11 Gilpin Tramway Caboose
Folio-23-11 Gilpin Tramway Caboose

The illustration above was produced by the C&S and was intended to help workers identify rolling stock. The illustrations provide enough dimensions to get you started building a model of this caboose. So for I’ve built two models, one in “7/8’s” scale and one in “On30″ scale. 7/8’s scale uses 7/8 ” to represent one foot in the real world. At this scale, the popular #1 gauge track (45mm) represents a 2 foot gauge railroad. For more information on scales and gauges for modeling narrow gauge trains check out this post.

7/8’s Model

The 7/8’s scale model was scratch built from wood and brass using traditional methods. Below are a few pictures from the build.

caboose railings
caboose railings

Here is a shot of the railings etc. This is a combination of scratch built from brass parts and some white metal castings from Ozark Miniatures.

caboose closeup
caboose closeup

Closeup of the railing details. The link and pin coupler is from Ozark Miniatures. The bolts and nuts are 0-80 size brass parts from Micro Fasteners.

The caboose was built from quarter inch plywood which I scored with a hack saw to create the individual boards. The frame was built from oak strips cut on the table saw and stained. Windows and doors are yet to be installed.

On30 Model

The On30 model was built entirely from 3D printed parts.

Gilpin Caboose CAD drawing
Gilpin Caboose CAD drawing

The model is designed using FreeCAD. I model it at a 1:1 scale (full size) and then use a python script to scale it down to the desired size. This way I can create 3D print files for any model scale I want. My first effort is using On30.

3D Print Caboose Structure
3D Print Caboose Structure

In On30 I can print the entire structure in one go.

3D Print Caboose frame and detail parts
3D Print Caboose frame and detail parts

This is the On30 Frame and some of the detail parts set up for slicing. I use the Lychee slicer pro edition.

Here’s a picture of the finished model (coming soon).

And Finally…

I hope you enjoyed this writeup on the Gilpin Tramway Caboose. I have an entire series of posts on how to model the Gilpin Tramway. Also, you can hike portions of the right of way for an up-close experience of this long-forgotten railroad. Check out the categories on the right hand side of the page if you’re interested.

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