Chip Syme

How I Built Four Huletts

I was quite surprised when I received an email from John Fryar. He explained that one of my friends forwarded pictures to him of one of my four Huletts and asked if I'd like to explain how I constructed them. So I'll start from the beginning. I hired out as a fireman on the Penn Central in 1969 at Collinwood and shortly after bidding to my hometown of Minerva, Ohio. Around 1988 Conrail still had a divisional assistant superintendent's office in Cleveland. I had heard that the Huletts were going to be retired in the next few years. I called the office in Cleveland and told them who I was and that I was working at Conway, PA as an engineer. I asked if could get a letter written to the dock company so that I could take some pictures of the Huletts. I was told yes but, I was not allowed on the equipment. I received the letter in a couple of days and headed for Cleveland. When I walked into the office I was greeted with a gruff, "Yeah, what do you need?" After I showed my letter things changed and I got a great guided tour from top to bottom. The dock superintendent was very happy to show off his four babies. He asked if I'd like to go to the top of one. Hummmmmmmmm! Maybe he forgot about not getting on the equipment.

It was a Kodak moment with yellow boxes being opened and closed. I told my friend with me that I thought something was wrong with my camera - it's eating film. I found that out very early in the game of taking slides. Film was the cheapest commodity of the day, so I didn't spare any Kodachrome 64. At the end of the tour I was told to come back in two days and take pictures when a boat was there. That was the start of my getting hooked on lake boats and Huletts. After several more trips over the next couple of years I had enough pictures.

Being a modeler I don't complain if something isn't being made the way I want. I will ask a manufacturer to consider making it, always telling them why I think it would sell. I wrote Walthers about doing a model of the Huletts. I told them with the steel mill, coke plant, and everything else this, would be a great fit for the product line. I also sent a CD of the 280 pictures I had taken.

After a month a got a call from Walthers and had an hour chat with one of the project guys. I later found out they had called the Dean of Styrene, Dean Freytag, asking if he knew me. Dean gave them a good report on me. I didn't hear anything for another six months then found out the Huletts were going to be made.

Almost two years later the Huletts finally came out. Walthers did a fine job on the kit and the instructions are pretty good. The parts all fit as intended and no flashing was required to be removed other than cutting the parts off the spur. I believe the kit only had 18 spurs. Another factor in these being made was that Michael L Rabbitt of Wayne, PA sells a set of Hulett drawings.

My brother-in-law, Ron Lutton, helped me on the first Hulett. It was completed in two months of just working on it a little at a time. It came out looking very nice. After a period of laziness, and a year later, I thought I'd better get started on the other three. Although I still wasn't up to tackling three more. I started on Hulett #2 then it hit me I had forgotten the easy way to build #1 and was taking too much time to be sure I was 100% correct. But, after much thought, the light bulb came on and decided I'd do them in an assembly line fashion. I knew after I started this way it was the way to go. I laid all the spurs out on my pool table with the numbers facing up and numbers toward me.

I started by cutting all the wheels off the spur. I'd say that was the worst job of the whole project. After I got all three bases completed for the Huletts they sat for a week so as not to burn myself out. Every time I'd go to the basement I'd see the one completed model and the other three kept saying, "come on we are up and walking now, so let's get going."

I now had the heat in me to get the project going. With snow on the ground, then rain in the spring, it was easier to keep working on it. Nothing special was added until page 8 of the instructions. After I got the clam bucket together I added the baffle to each side to hold more taconite inside and not roll out. This was added after the raw ore was no longer coming into the C&P Dock at Cleveland.

On part #46-73, the back plate, (this was the top sides of the bucket where the chain went through to pull the bucket closed), I drilled out the holes and placed the plastic chain into the holes. I now added small grab irons to the legs. It was kind of a pain to do the grabs on three of these, but it wasn't hard. The rest of the Huletts went together with no problem. I'm now thinking, "Wow! They are done." All four now need painted.

I attended a model railroad clinic one time and the Dean of Styrene Freytag said never paint anything black, but to always use Weathered Black. However, I thought I knew more than The Dean, but I was wrong. I mixed a batch of Floquil Engine Black and Weathered Black, figuring just straight Weathered Black would be too gray. I painted all four Huletts in about three and a half hours. After a week of just looking at them it was killing me that Dean was right - just "too much black." I called a friend, Mike Kopach, who was a professional at this and who would know the answer. Mike was an artist for American Greeting Card in Cleveland. I knew Mike had an eye for this, and when he arrived it didn't take him long to see just what Dean said - "too much black". I thought to myself, "why didn't you listen to Dean?" Mike said to paint just one of the Huletts and look at it for a week. Then, if I liked what I saw and liked the color, do the other three. After looking at it for a week it was close to the color I wanted, but still just a little too black. I painted the other three with straight Weathered Black. After a few days I thought I'd try to give them the final touch. This time I mixed in the air brush paint cup 1/3 weathered black, a couple of drops of Roof Brown, two drops of Gray Primer and one drop of Tuscan Red. I filled the cup with 1/3 thinner and mixed well, When it started to look like the pictures, I realized I almost had what I was after. I wanted the sides of the Huletts' beams to be lighter. Not the bottom that the Hulett rides on, just the arms that go up and down. I hit everything very lightly with the Tuscan Red not to overkill.

After things were dry in a few days I hit the sides of the Huletts with Bragdon's weathering pigments. The dark rust was applied with a soft brush with most of the pigments wiped off. Then I streaked down in narrow lines and added some around the pocket above the lary car where the ore is jumped into.

The final weathering was the easiest. I used Prismacolor pencils to finish it off. I used a #PC945 Sierra Brown pencil first and dragged it horizontally over all the rivets to highlight the rivet heads and vertically along all the ribs. I then took a PC 925 Crimson Lake pencil and lightly made a few rust spots and did the same with a PC937 Tuscan Red pencil.

I foolishly thought they were done. I was wrong again. I needed to hang overhead lights (non-operating). I used Campbell #200-255 brass light shades. I then got some pins with a larger head than normal from my wife's sewing drawer and used them as bulbs and then used the pin as the hanger. I then painted these white. I needed some way to make uniform hangers for the bulbs. I just made one bend with a pair of flat nosed pliers with no teeth; bend #1 from the top of the shade being about one plier's width, and the same width being glued on to the walkway.

Again I thought I was done - wrong again. I needed to add the white paddles on each side of the upper bulkhead #42-4 (Walthers instructions). When the Hulett operator is raising the leg out of the boat he looks toward the machine and can see two white paddles on each side of the upper bulkhead. These are on a cable, that when the leg goes down into the boat the paddle goes up, and when the operator brings the leg up out of the boat the paddle goes down. When the operator is at eye level with the paddle he now knows the leg is clear of the main frame and it is OK to back up far enough to dump the ore into the pocket for the lary car because the bucket is clear of the main frame.

I just used a couple sections of brass wire and added a white square of styrene for the paddle. Then I glued them on each side of the bulkhead. One other thing that the C&P dock Huletts had added was steel grating between the pocket and the upper bulkhead. I used Plano slotted walkway #565-201 stainless or #565-202 brass. Now, I thought, they were finally done.

Now all I need is an ore bridge, some buildings, some big Alco's and a few crews and I'll be ready to haul ore. My layout can be seen at

I have a CD of 280 pictures of the C&P Dock Huletts for sale, $17.00 that includes shipping. My email is