Finally! A Buildable and Affordable Hulett Unloader

The new Hulett Unloader is built from 12 3D printed subassemblies that require no special modeling skills besides gluing together a few parts. Read below for the history of the Huletts on the Great Lakes. The new version is priced at $189 plus shipping. A completed model is $550 plus insurance and shipping. Shown here are the prototypes. Production models have even more detail such as the apertures of the weighing car and details related to the bucket.

The base is equipped with 4 “D” bogies or 16 wheels in total. These are Micro Trains Z scale wheelsets that snap into the 3D printed bogies, so the Huletts can travel parallel to the dock side on ready-to-run Z scale tracks (not supplied).

The tower assembly has two “A” bogies and two “C” bogies or eight wheels in total. These run on code 40 rails (supplied) that must be gauged for the wheelsets. A track gauge is supplied to make this easier for inexperienced modelers. The tower assembly moved forward so that the bucket extended over the ship’s hold, descended into the hold for a ten-ton load, then raised and moved backwards to drop the load into a weighing car, which then dropped the load into the Larry [sic] car which traveled over the loading tracks. A single Hulett could load up to eight tracks. 

Huletts often worked in gangs of two, three or even four to unload the larger Great Lakes freighters that they enabled. Here are two Huletts on my workbench, ready for a customers.

The Huletts weighing car (basically a scale) had limited movement back and forth, while the Larry car spanned up to eight tracks. The tail of the base platform can be and was shortened for less than the full eight tracks.

The weighing car. New models have the aperture details instead of empty circles.

The Larry car moved on a set of interior rails to reach up to eight tracks,

Rather than hundreds of .015 styrene parts that had to be removed from a styrene sheet, laminated together, and then assembled into dozens of subassemblies, the new Hulett kit is composed of 12 subassemblies, many of them one or two pieces, such as the base and base tails (too long for the 3D printer) that used to be at least 40 parts and the single piece tower that used to be at least 20 parts.

Some subassemblies could conceivably be printed as one piece but I chose to print them as flat sides for better consistency and less trimming and clean-up. The walking beam, for example, is basically two tapered boxes each with two sides and a top and bottom.

3D Printed Parts

Base and Base Tails

Side walks and enclosure (2 parts)


Walking beam (8 parts)

Machinery House

Support Beam (4 parts)

Vertical Beam


Weigh Car

Larry Car

Bogies (10 parts)

Brass and Other

Railings and Stairways

Z scale Micro-Trains wheels (24)

Bearings and shafts (8 @ 3/32 and 4 @ 1/16)

Z scale Rails (top of base, code 40 supplied)


Weight car tracks

Larry Car track supports

 The Older Styrene Model (Superceded By Above)




History (Condensed From Wikipedia):

The Hulett was invented by George Hulett; he received a patent in 1898. The first working machine was built the following year.

The Hulett machine revolutionized iron ore shipment on the Great Lakes. Previous methods of unloading lake freighters, involving hoists and buckets and much hand labor, cost approximately 18¢/ton. Unloading with Huletts cost only 5¢/ton. Unloading only took 5–10 hours, as opposed to days for previous methods. Lake boats changed to accommodate the Hulett unloader, and became much larger, doubling in length and quadrupling in capacity.

By 1913, 54 Hulett machines were in service,  the vast majority along the shores of Lake Erie. A total of approximately 75 Huletts were built. The last ones were used until about 1992, when self-unloading boats were standard on the American side of the lake. All have since been scrapped.

4.5C Completed Hulett Unloader

Price includes shipping; international inquire at


4.5K Hulett Unloader Kit

Kit with 24 Z scale axles and C40 track. US Shipping included; international inquire at