Making a cup of Tea and a Canvas Curtain for a Steam Locomotive


CM Zentz


Now this was originally written for HO scale but can easily be adapted to N scale by using less “canvas” material.

A Friend of mine suggested to me if I were making canvas detail parts, radiator covers and curtains for the cabs of steam locomotives I might try a used tea bag. At first I was thinking yeah sure. Not that the ones I made for my Grand Trunk Western S-2’s radiator and 2-8-0’s cab curtain were bad looking. In fact they looked good.

As I started my GTW 2-8-2 project I was considering such details. Why you ask? Well I am modeling fall. Particularly October of 1957. Since most of GTW’s steam locomotives have standard open cabs I thought my crews might like to be prepared just in case it gets cold. The weather in Michigan changes every 5 minuets, so naturally a canvas cab curtain would be appropriate. On my 2-8-0 I used paper towel and painted it. For my S-2 I used regular printer paper and painted it. On both I used black nylon thread to tie up the canvas as I wanted it rolled up and not in use.

With my GTW 2-8-2 nearing completion I had some minor details to add and the decision of weather to add the curtain or not. I chose to add the curtain. So while I contemplated the paper towel I took a break and brewed some hot Earl Gray tea. As it was steeping I though about what my friend had suggested, a used tea bag. I thought why not give it a try and see what happens.

So I took the tea bag and squeezed out the water. Placed it in the microwave to dry it out (don’t tell the wife!). It only takes about 30-45 seconds.


Next I took it out and cut open the bag and dumped out the tea grounds and washed the bag off to clear any left over grounds. Then I dried it off in the microwave again, 30-45 seconds.

chad2 chad3

Next I rolled the bag lengthwise. Now take some black or tan thread to tie off the bag using any kind of knot you want. I used black nylon thread and a square knot. I used five tie offs. One in the middle and two on each side. The two closest to the middle are approximately 3/8”-1/4” apart (for HO). The other two tie offs can be spaced 3/8” -1/2” apart (for HO). These don’t have to be exact. Tie them where you think they look good.


Now using the middle tie as a marker, you should place it at the top center of the cab opening. Make your folds down the side of the cab opening and see where you need to cut off any excess bag. Then glue into place on the rear of your locomotives cab.


Now you have an extremely nice canvas cab curtain that is weathered without painting or a lot of work.
Mine took me about thirty minuets from start to finish and boy was that cup of tea good!


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