After looking for a reasonable or inexpensive Lionel 9278 Life Savers Tank Car (they are rather hard to find and I have never seen one at a train show) I decided to make one.   They are whimsical and very colorful and always caught my attention.  I do not know what Mars- Wrigley Co., the present maker of Life Savers five flavors hard candy, would transport in a Tank Car.


Lionel Lifesaver Single Dome Tank Car you can purchase


I had three double dome tank car bodies and frames, unmarked and looks exactly like the Lionel two dome tank cars.  I know Lionel used a single dome tank car for their Life Savers car, so I figured a double dome car would work.  If they transported the makings for the five flavors, perhaps they needed  five dome tank cars!

I chose a tank car body that had a sizable chip missing on one side walkway.  I decided to remove the two side walkways as this would make adding the multiple colored strips, by paint or colored tape,  much easier.  I ground the walkways off with a Dremel grinding bit, small file and knife and puttied it smooth.  The center hand rail bracket was also removed as this spot is where the “Life Savers” name label would go.




The ends of the car and domes were spray painted with aluminum paint. 



The colored stripes can be masked off and painted or colored vinyl tape can be used.  I thought the colored vinyl tape would be easier to do but either way will be a chore.  The colors of the stripes should represent five Life Savers flavors which are currently Cherry, Raspberry, Watermelon, Orange and Pineapple.  I purchased a couple of rolls of Life Savers, 5 flavors finally finding them at a Cracker Barrel restaurant  and planned on using the package label for my car Life Savers logo label.  I had problems figuring out which flavors represent which colors on the package so I chose the colors as red, green, yellow, orange and cherry or grape.  I had colored tape from a package of six colors, which included red, green, yellow and white.  I had some acrylic orange paint and made a purple or maroon color from red and a little blue paint and painted strips of white tape to make orange and purple stripes.

I decided strips of 5/16 inch width would look good and give four sets or so of five colors.  I saw the Lionel 9278 Life Saver single dome tank car started with the same order of colored strips from each end and then had to repeat a color or two to make them meet in the middle.  The single dome car has a substantial railing and ladders at the middle of the car.  My double dome tank car will have an open visible middle and walk way and ladders at the domes, nearer the end of the car.  I decided to start the color sequence at one end and repeat it in order to the other end.  I was two colors short of finishing the last two colors on the last sequence.  I arranged the colors sequence to use more of the pre-colored tape and less of the two painted colors.  Cutting the tape around the domes was tedious and the tape was old and had to be glued on in some cases.  I found E 6000 clear glue would melt the vinyl tape and I had to use some old auto vinyl trim glue I had to glue it on.


The picture below shows the painted and other colored vinyl tape on the right and the car partially striped.  I removed these strips to allow removal of the hand rail anchor as it was in the way of the "Life Savers" logo label to be attached  and decided to start the striping from the end.



The Life Savers wrapper from the Life Savers tubular package was removed and sprayed with clear spray paint on both sides twice to keep glue from affecting them.  The logo labels were cut out and glued on with auto vinyl trim glue.

I decided to make one short walkway at each dome and install them on opposite sides and use one ladder for each to allow access from both sides of the car.  I made them out of Popsicle sticks and glued them on with J B Weld.  I made a walk way between the two domes so that an operator can climb one ladder and reach both domes.  I added plastic window screen on the top of the Popsicle walk ways to simulate grading. 



I made two ladders out of N scale plastic track ties and cut out every other tie to give one foot distant between each rung.  The ladders and walk ways were painted aluminum.

I added a pair of Lionel trucks to the car frame and screwed the tank car shell to the car frame.  I then glued the ladders on between the short walk ways and the car frame with a little auto vinyl trim glue as they will have to be removed if the car tank body has to be removed from the frame in the future.






This picture shows several of my homemade cars:  large Vanderbilt coal tender, Lionel 6413 Mercury Capsule transporting car, flat car with two small General engines, Aquarium Car and the Lionel Life Savers Tank Car.



My new homemade Life Savers Double Dome Tank Car is my most favorite car.  I always say that about my latest homemade car or latest train meet find.  I do know this Life Savers tank car is the car that really stands out on any train consist it is in.

 You can see how I built my O27, 50s style, 27 switch layout over the past 40 years including many more homemade cars like this and round house with a scratch built turntable for $10 at the OGR link below.



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Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie
Original Post

Charlie: Great work! I love to see projects like this - so creative and re-cycling at it’s best! Thanks for posting this nice work and keep enjoying this hobby of ours!

Chief Engineer of The Gitler Central Coast Railroad

Three Dimensional Art In Motion With Sound ©

Member TCA, LCCA and LOTS

Happy Railroading!

What might they hold? Corn syrup or liquid flavoring maybe?

Another nice one Charlie.

Thanks for the tip on making treads too.


"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Awesome job. Thanks for posting your exceptional work.

Home of the JMX RAILROAD

 TCA 90-30457  

Associate Member NJ HI Railers





Charlie, I wouldn't have ever even considered your project... mostly it just never occurred to me. But I really like your ingenuity!

Most folks don't consider us 027 guys to be "model railroaders," yet it is obvious some of us are, albeit accepting the limitations of that quest. With all the Lionel tooling dollars going into the high-end products, we non-scale guys (what used to be known as "Lionel guys") are forced to be a little more creative.

So I think your Lifesavers tank car is a very clever idea indeed. As for me, my projects have been focused on mimicking more modern-type freight cars...

TankTrain tank and NS SP caboose


Images (1)

Fellows thanks for all the comments.  It was a fun project and is a colorful addition the any train I run it on.

I am working on adding a operating front coupling to a Lionel 8310, 0-4-0 switcher.  Turning out to be more than I thought.


Yea nailed it! Applause and kudos to you for a looking kitbash! Matbe try the lifesavers wint o' green car next!

C-57D  Pilot

I bet you had a lot of fun doing that.  Great job and upgrade.  It looks like you're running it with other fun cars.


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