Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Classy Hi-Rail Vehicle

During the tenure of New Haven railroad president Patrick B. McGinnis the railroad purchased a 7 passenger Cadillac limousine for shorter duration inspection trips when the use of a business car and locomotive were unnecessary.

This 1954 model year Cadillac was fitted with a center headlight, rear marker lights and retractable rail wheel bogies at the railroads Readville shops.

Pat's Caddy

Registered in Connecticut with state issued vanity plates "NHRR" at first, Patrick B. McGinnis later had the plates changed to his initials "PBM".

          Charles Gunn Photos

I have read in the era of declining revenues this limousine had become an embarrassment to the railroad and was sold.


To my knowledge there is no correct 1/87 model for a 1954 cadillac limousine, therefore my modeling attempt can only mimic the prototype.

Praline' (now Busch) Cadillacs were used as a starting point. These 1/87 models are 1950 Cadillacs that are close but lack two design features that were standard on the 1954 model year, a wraparound windshield and front bumper bullets as below. The wraparound windshield became standard in 54. The bumper bullets were added to the front bumpers on 1951 Cadillacs increased in size yearly and were most prominent on the 54-57 model years. These bumper bullets are also known in automotive lore as "Dagmars" *.

2 = 1

Two production Praline' Cadillac models were combined to imitate the stretched body of a limousine, a hearse and a series 62 coupe sedan. Today Busch markets these as a 1952 model year but are actually a 1950.

The front 2/3 of the hearse and the rear 1/3 of the coupe were spliced together to form the limousine style body. The joints were backed up on the inside with .005" styrene. Similarly the rear quarter windows were backed up then filled with a light weight catalyzed automotive glazing compound leaving only the center window.

The chassis of both vehicles were cut at the same separation lines as the body, then glued together matching the length and wheelbase of the limousine.

The rail wheels were made from the chrome headlight moldings that originally came attached to the model, styrene flanges were fabricated and glued to the backside to represent rail wheels. A styrene axle keeps the wheels in gauge.

Two brass rods are attached to the axle, these rods then pass thru corresponding holes drilled in the bottom of the limousine chassis at both ends but are not permanently attached so the rods can move in or out to raise or lower the wheel bogies to make contact with the rails or not. 

Below is the completed model. Antenna, spotlight, half opened drivers and vent window add some detail interest. As all vehicle models on the layout most chrome plating is covered over with silver paint and the overall color finish is semi-gloss for consistency and to eliminate an out of scale shiny look when placed on the layout.

Roof mounted marker lights, A/C intake vents, bumper exhaust portals, and Pat's "PBM" vanity plate bring up the rear.

A note about the license plates, the only pictures I have seen of the limo have the small silver and black Connecticut plates that were issued thru 1956. Blue and white now standard size plates were issued for all Connecticut autos beginning in 1957 so these modeled plates are one year off for my modeling era.

MV lenses replace the headlight moldings that became the rail wheels, lenses also are attached to the fog lights, spot light and one for the railroad added center headlight. Front and rear bumpers have slots cut in them as the prototype to clear the rail wheel bogies when in the up position. No attempt was made to add the Dagmar* bumper bullets or wraparound windshield, the shame of it all.

Below the rail bogies are in the up position

Rail bogies are in the down position with limo on the rails at the Canal street crossing to Danbury yard. Looks quite regal!


Cadillac front bumper bullets of the 50's became known as "Dagmars", this term comes from the attributes of a TV personality of the same era. Reportedly she was amused by the tribute.


  1. I think the license plates would still be correct in your era. Folks get new plates only when necessary (new car, etc.) so there are always lots of older designs still on the road.

    Great looking model, although if anybody would modify it to make a wraparound windshield, it would have been you. I would have loved to see how you would tackle it!

  2. OMG - I love everything about this post! From the amazing modeling work (*always* impressive modeling, without exception) to that awesome LIFE cover! All sorts of AWESOME!