Modelling the TH&B

Modelling the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo is both easier and harder than modelling one of the "giants" like the CPR or CN. It is easier because the TH&B was a small railroad: it is possible to model every locomotive and representatives of every class of freight car and passenger car ever used by the railway. It is harder because so much is not easily available in kit form, requiring proportionally greater scratchbuilding/kitbashing efforts.

All recommendations below are for HO scale. Fellow TH&B fans are encouraged to help update this information for any scale.

Layout Plans

The TH&B is a railway that lends itself particularly well to modelling. Interesting motive power, attractive rolling stock paint schemes, a wide range of industries and many small, compact and compressible scenes all make the TH&B an attractive prototype.

Several authors have looked at different parts of the railway and have created layout plans based on the TH&B's unique features. Both of the layout plans featured here have appeared in Focus, the official publication of the TH&B Railway Historical Society.

Hamilton & Dundas Branch Layout by Kevin Leddy

Motive Power Timeline

Here is an approximate timeline for the evolution of TH&B motive power:

TH&B Motive Power Time Line
Click to enlarge

This is not to scale; the dates in the diagram are those on which either wheel arrangements were acquired or disposed of, so the relationships are correct, but the proportions are distorted. These "end dates" are only for time in TH&B service; many of these engines went on to work for other owners.


Notes from Nicholas Russon

The TH&B was, after dieselization, a pure EMD shop. The only models owned and operated by the railway were:

(Numbers 71 through 77)
My personal roster includes a pair of Atlas (Kato-manufactured) GP7s, which have been produced in at least two runs in the past few years. My pair are decorated for a fictitious #70 and the real #71. Other HO choices include Athearn (I have one of these decorated as #72) GP9s, which are too wide in the hood, but are otherwise reasonable conversion candidates (getting rid of the dynamic brake blister & smoothing the resulting roofline). Life-Like Proto-2000 has produced a GP7/GP9 with Life-Like Canada producing them in TH&B Colours
(Numbers 401 through 403)
In talking to Keith Sirman, I learned something obscure about the GP9 locomotives of the TH&B. For the exact modeller, the point to note about the GP9's is that the TH&B took delivery very early in the building cycle from GMD in London, Ontario. Although by the date of delivery the parent plant in La Grange was already producing what we are now calling "Phase II" bodies, London began building "Phase I" bodies at first. As the GP9's went into the shop for maintenance, the louvered doors were changed to match the more recent "Phase II" arrangements. Therefore, if you want to exactly match one of these diesels, use a dated photograph for the period you model.

In N scale, Atlas recently started a run of torpedo boat GP9's which would allow N scalers to model TH&B 401-403, with a bit of paint stripping/repainting and some minor detail changes.
(Numbers 51 through 54)

Kato produced an excellent NW2 which is probably your best choice for these engines. Note that the stock NW2 chassis does not have room for a DCC decoder, so that many modellers are using the smaller decoders and hiding them in the roof of the cab. Southern Digital is offering customized NW2 frames which have sufficient space in the fuel tank for a typical DCC decoder, and which also weigh more than the stock frames.

(Numbers 55 through 58)

A  prototypical base would be the Life-Like Proto 2000 SW9.

For O scalers, Atlas produced the EMD SW8/SW9 in 1998. Offered in factory paint for the TH&B. Both NYC and CPR schemes will be available for those who want to model interchange opportunity.

The closest paint matches to the diesel colours are Scalecoat I #10672 Lehigh Valley Cornell Red for TH&B Maroon and Scalecoat I #11112 Cream for TH&B Cream. These colours match the DuPont colours that EMD was using when the engines where painted. The Lehigh Valley Cornell Red was further matched to the maroon paint on a NW-2 air whistle that was recovered from the TH&B roundhouse. But be aware that colours of the diesel varied over the years and there is some evidence that they switchers were painted with CP Maroon in the late 80's.

Steam Engines

An accurate model of a TH&B steam locomotive has yet to be produced. IHC offers a "USRA" Pacific in TH&B markings, but the TH&B never owned any "true" United States Railway Administration (USRA) locomotives. All of the Pacific wheel-arrangment engines of the TH&B were built by the Montreal Locomotive Works to ALCO/NYC designs.

That said, the appearance of an RTR steamer in TH&B markings is welcome -- perhaps it will prompt a more prototypical TH&B steamer to appear on the shelves someday.

For the kitbuilder, Bowser produces a New York Central K-11 Pacific in kit form, which could be used as a basis for either TH&B 15 or 16.

Aside from the Pacifics, the situation for a pre-1956 version of the TH&B is not so simple. It seems that there has never been any specific TH&B prototype steam locomotive commercially produced in any scale. The easiest to model would be the two J-1 class Hudsons bought second-hand from parent New York Central in 1948. These locomotives, 501 and 502, only served until 1956 before the arrival of the three GP9's forced their retirement. Among other importers, Sunset imported some less-expensive NYC Hudsons which could be more readily available at flea markets now.

Some of the TH&B's 0-6-0 switchers are similar to NYC B-11 models, which have been imported by both ALCO and LMB. It is unknown how readily available these models may be.

Earlier locomotives may be kitbashed from models from IHC, Model Power, Mantua, MDC/Roundhouse, and others. For the brave, there may be brass locomotives which would serve as appropriate starting points for kitbashing.

Dry transfers for TH&B steam locomotives are available in set #469 from C.D.S. of Nepean, Ontario.

Passenger Cars

Precision Scale produces a model of a New York Central combine without air conditioning as their kit #16160. According to William Sharpe, this is accurate "to a rivet" for TH&B combine number 303. Plans for the NYC car appeared in a mid-1940's Model Railroader.

The Bethlehem Car Works is, as of September 1997, advertising a kit for the 1924 Baggage Car series #50-55 built for the TH&B by Canadian Car & Foundry. The kit is priced at $59.95 (U.S.) plus $4.50 shipping per order.

Rolling Stock

The rolling stock situation is fairly good, compared with just a few years ago. Many freight cars can be closely or reasonably closely modelled without resorting to Athearn or MDC stand-ins.

Covered Hoppers

The TH&B modeller has been blessed with several new car kits since 1994. The distinctive slab-sided covered hoppers and the cylindrical covered hoppers have been commonly available (from Sylvan and Intermountain, respectively). OMI produced the 2800-series slab-sided covered hoppers in brass back in 1990, and these models are still offered for sale at train shows.


Sylvan has produced a resin kit of the wide-vision van used in the final years by the TH&B.

Hopper Cars

Stewart's 1000-1100 series of twin-bay hoppers are reasonably close stand-ins for the TH&B's 150 1914-era steel hopper cars.

Stewart's 11000 series of three bay hoppers are reasonably close stand-ins for the TH&B's 1960-era steel hopper cars.


Life-Like's Proto-2000 line includes a 52'6" mill gondola which is lettered for the TH&B:

These can be modified to fixed-end without needing to repaint the whole car.

A cast resin kit for a TH&B gondola is available from Andy Carlson:

Andy Carlson
157 S. Pueblo Dr.
Ojai, California, 93023

This is a TH&B version (2300-2549 series) of the 1746 cubic foot fixed-end gondola. Included are CDS dry transfers, injection molded stylrene brake detail parts, styrene strip crossbearers, wire for staight and drop grab irons, brass corner steps, and eleven polyurethane castings. Price with CDS dry transfers and Kato trucks is $30 USD.


Westerfield (who is has closed down production) produced at least two different versions of the TH&B's double-sheathed boxcar fleet (either the 3000-3999 series, or the former NYC 4500-4799 series).

Less prototypically accurate kits have been issued by various vendors, including H&D Hobbies and Cooper and Oshtemo Works, using standard Athearn and MDC undecorated boxcars and hopper cars with TH&B markings. These are certainly welcome, if only to avoid having to hand-decorate a large operating fleet.

Decals and Dry Transfers

Decals from Aberdeen Car Shops include:

THB-8701 TH&B Steam Locomotives
THB-8702 TH&B Diesel Locomotives
THB-8703 TH&B 40FT Tuscan (Boxcar Red) Boxcar
THB-8704 TH&B 40FT Ti-Cat #1 Boxcar
THB-8705 TH&B 40FT Ti-Cat #2 Boxcar
THB-8706 TH&B 40FT Ti-Cat #3 Boxcar
THB-8707 TH&B 52.5FT Gondola
THB-8708 TH&B 52.5FT Gondola 1964 Repaints 
THB-8709 TH&B 52FT 70 Ton Flatcar
THB-8710 TH&B 70 Ton 3 Bay Open Hopper
THB-8715 TH&B Tuscan (Boxcar Red) Double Sheathed Boxcar
THB-8717 TH&B Red or Brown Van 1940-1953
THB-8718 TH&B Red Van 1953-1956
THB-8730 TH&B Steam Generator Car #500    

Decals from Black Cat Publishing include:



TH&B #1000 Twin Hopper


TH&B #1000 Twin Hopper - O SCALE


TH&B passenger cars - gold leaf


TH&B passenger cars - dulux


TH&B caboose - white lettering - pre 1957

Decals from C.D.S. include (no longer in production and all sets may not be available):

22 TH&B 40' steel box 3000-3599 (1950-60 boxcar red scheme)
23 TH&B 40' steel box 3000-3599 (1954 yellow and black scheme)
54 TH&B 40' steel box 3000-3849 (1960 yellow and black scheme)
130 TH&B 52' flat 1800-1899 (1974 black scheme)
131 TH&B triple hopper 1200-1249 (1960 black scheme)
132 TH&B 52' steel gondola 2300-2549 and 2600-2699 (1976 black scheme)
199 TH&B steel caboose (1967 yellow scheme)
210 TH&B extended-vision caboose (1974 yellow scheme)
213 TH&B 4-bay cylindrical covered hopper 1500-1549 (1967 black scheme)
214 TH&B slab-sided covered hopper 2800-2889 (1956 black scheme)
592 TH&B 36' SS boxcar 4000-4299 (boxcar red scheme)
593 TH&B 40' DS boxcar 4500-4799 (boxcar red scheme)

Decals from Champ include  (no longer in production and all sets may not be available):

OB-301 TH&B Boxcar (Yellow and black scheme)
PH-107 TH&B Passenger Cars (Tuscan and Imitation Gold scheme)
HN-129 TH&B all kinds

Decals from Highball Graphics include:



TH&B Boxcars - does three cars


The Athearn 52' flatcar is a reasonable stand-in for the TH&B 1800-1899 series.

Maintenance of Way Equipment

The Russell plow from either Walthers or (if you can find one at a flea market) Triang/Hornby can be used for TH&B plow X786. Unlike the shorter CC&F snowplows which have been kitbashed from these kits, x786 was almost identical to the NYC model. (In fact, the TH&B snowplow order was tacked on to the end of an order by the NYC.)

Various work cars from George Taylor can be used to model TH&B work train equipment.


The TH&B had two distinctive stations on Hunter Street in downtown Hamilton. The 1930 Art Moderne station has just recently been re-opened as a GO station, after extensive repairs. The 1890 station was demolished after the new station opened in 1930. Pictures of both stations are reprinted in Norman Helm's In the Shadow of Giants/2, and there have been several magazine articles about the rejuvenated Hunter Street station now operating as a GO Transit station.

Preston House Publishers issued a 1997 calendar showing photos of TH&B stations and shelters. It is probably still available from the publisher or from some southern Ontario hobby shops.

Last Modified: April 5, 2011