AC 8201-8500 Series Hoppers Underbody Detail

This post is mainly just included for completeness for the hopper series, as the details are basically just assembled according to the kit instructions, although as Walthers doesn’t really sell cars with modeler-applied parts anymore, I should perhaps note a couple of things.


Here’s four of the around two dozen cars currently in progress, with many more still in boxes waiting their turn. You can see the door connecting/locking bars and spring details all installed. You’ll note if assembling a kit car, or re-assembling a stripped down car (in which case you’re not likely to have a diagram/instruction sheet) that there are two distinct versions of the bar details that definitely have to go on in a certain direction, as one has an extra bit of the locking mechanism detail and needs to align with the cast lock detail on the hopper bottom. (However the arrangement of the mounting pins makes this impossible to screw up.)

If you’re adventurous you could also replace the flat thick kit pieces with styrene channel to better represent the prototype parts in finer detail, replace the tail end bits of the door bracing with additional bits of styrene strip, fabricate the extra loop for the door lock on the appropriate bars. I did not do this.

One major note that apparently needs to be mentioned is the door springs, which attach to the door bars on one end, and the centre sill of the underframe on the other to cushion the impact of the doors dropping open when the car is unloaded, as the rapid-discharge hopper design basically opens up the entire bottom of the car. You can see them installed in the model photo above, and half-visible in shadow to the right side of this detail photo (courtesy of Blair Smith) below:


If you get some of the latest Platinum Line releases from Walthers, any of their cars without additional detail parts for air-actuated doors (i.e. a big air tank mounted on the car end) have omitted the spring details. And unfortunately, since the detail parts are not add-on pieces on an included parts sprue, the springs are just not included in the box.

Apparently Walthers thinks that only the cars with air-actuated equipment has these door springs, which is entirely false. Sadly there’s not likely too much that can be said there, and since they don’t stock additional parts (I tried and failed to get replacements from them, and they seemed not to consider the missing parts a mistake) I will likely be saving a couple of parts sprues to make a mold and copy-cast in resin the needed parts for about 2 dozen such cars missing the springs.

CP 336702 65′ Gondola Painted and Lettered


Over a few evenings the past week I got this car painted black and applied all the lettering. After languishing on the back burner for about a year, it feels good to put some attention towards finishing this project off.

The body was airbrushed black and then given a shot of GlossCote to prepare for decals. Lettering is (mostly) from a Black Cat set for 52′-65′ gondolas.

(The black sure is difficult to photograph well, particularly with the crappy lighting I have available in my apartment.)


The digits of the car number are all individually applied. It would have of course been necessary to apply several numbers individually in any case to form the correct number, but also because of the narrow space between the ribs the numbers in this case had to be applied with almost zero spacing between them. The spacing of the C.P. initials was similarly reduced.

For this car I also applied the data to actually match the numbers on the prototype photo, and also a little trimming of the spacing was required for everything to actually fit. I left the capacity line off as this was no longer required and started to be painted over on many cars in the early 1980s and I hand painted a bead of black over where this would have been lettered.

The NSC builder’s logo and dimensional clearance Plate C stencil came from a Highball Graphics CP Rail flatcar set, and the nailable steel floor data stencil (rectangular data block to the right of the panel with the Plate C stencil) was included in the Black Cat set.


Interestingly, in the prototype photo of 336702 that I have, the end reporting marks are in the modern italicized CP Rail font, which would not have been in use in 1965 when the car was built. This was probably re-applied at some point due to weathering of the original lettering on be end. I chose to reproduce this detail and used the small end reporting marks/numbers from a Highball Graphics CP Rail gondola set.

Now this car is almost ready for some basic weathering to complete its in-service appearance.

Backdated CP 65′ Gondola – Grab Irons and Final Details

Here’s an old project I was able to bring off the shelf on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. I documented the start of this project earlier in a couple of postings here on this blog, (see part one here, and part two here) and it’s been over a year since I’ve gone and done anything with this. Time to finish a few things up and get this project ready for finishing.

The next step that was holding me back on this project was drilling and installing the grab irons for the left corners on each side. Not that this was really a tough job.


To aide in keeping everything neat and straight, I laid out the locations of the drill holes for the grab irons on a scrap piece of styrene to use as a drilling template/jig. The jig fits into the corner made by the top chord and first vertical rib on the side of the car. Then by drilling through the pre-drilled holes in the template into the car side, everything is lined up nice and neatly.


I also reinstalled the brake wheel and housing, and used a piece of scale chain to represent the brake chain heading down from the brake wheel mechanism. The brake platform/step was cut down from the original long piece removed from the factory Exactrail model with a pair of supports out of a Tichy brake details set.

At this point the car is ready to be cleaned up and prepped for painting; I’ll probably fire up the airbrush this evening to give is a primer coat.

AC 2902-2915 series ex-ONT boxcars from TrueLine Trains’ 40′ NSC boxcar – Part 1

In the late 1970s to early 1980s the Algoma Central acquired some secondhand equipment from northern Ontario’s other regional railroad, the Ontario Northland Railway. This consisted of about 30 open hoppers acquired in 1978 for general service (basically meaning sinter from Wawa) and a number of old 40′ boxcars. Quite a number of former Ontario Northland boxcars ended up with 10000 series work service numbers as tool and storage cars, and a small handful received standard fleet numbered in the 2902-2914 series. These cars were used for the railways own local on-line freight service, hauling company supplies and materials, express and less than carload traffic to various remote places along the line, for which the railroad was the only way to bring in any sort of supplies or building materials. The railway used to run a weekly wayfreight for this service. I consider it highly unlikely that these cars ever left AC rails.

These boxcars were originally built in 1947-48 for the Ontario Northland by National Steel Car in Hamilton, ON. A few years ago, True Line Trains made modeling these cars easier by producing a ready-to-run model of this car, which was exclusively rostered (as original purchasers) by Canadian National and Ontario Northland.

These cars did receive a few modifications though, so a little bit of work to the model is required.


Here’s AC 2915 at the Steelton shops in 2004. The car’s running boards have been removed (a common modification as roof running boards on boxcars were banned from interchange service on all railways in the 1970s) and interestingly, the brake wheel on the end of the car has also been relocated to a lower mounting.


The first step obviously is to remove the running board (roof walk) from the car. It’s best to shear the mounting pins as you do this, or once removed, cut off the mounting pins and glue them back into the body mounting holes to plug them up. On the left side of the picture above, you can see how the mounting pins are located in the middle of several of the running board supports molded into the roof. While good for hiding the mounting pins when the running boards are installed, it’s a little visible when the running boards are removed. So I used a needle file to file the rounded housing around the mounting pin off into a flat running board support like all the others on the car.


The next step is to similarly (and *carefully*) remove the ladders and end hardware details from the car, since the ladders will need to be cut down in height, and the brake wheel mounting reinstalled at the lower height. I cut the ladders off after the 5th rung from the bottom, following reference photographs.


While I had everything removed, I didn’t like how far away from the side of the car the tack boards were mounted, so I trimmed the back off the tack board so that when I glue it back on using CA glue, the tack board is much more snug to the end of the car.


While most of the cars in this series were in the Ontario Northland’s early brown paint scheme (like the 2915 at the top of this post), this particular car will be given the road number AC 2906, which was in the Ontario Northland’s jade green colours. I have several more of the True Line Trains cars in both jade and brown, so more of the brown cars will join this one.

The patching out of the former Ontario Northland name and logo was clearly done with a paint roller on the prototype cars, so I took out some mineral brown paint and hand painted the patchwork with a small brush.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far; the next step will be to remount the ladders and brake hardware, renumber the car with stencil decals and weather it. All in all, a pretty straightforward job however, made easy by TrueLine’s ready-to-run Ontario Northland models.

AC 8201-8500 Series Hoppers – Part 4: Grab Irons

Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly working on this hopper project again, drilling out the myriad holes for the car body grab irons. This project languished for a while as I didn’t have any #80 drill bits (darn things are so easy to break!) so I had to order a few, and I’ve just been pretty busy through the last couple of months with the December holiday season and other things. However a week or two after New Year’s I got my order of fresh drill bits, and I’m trying to deliberately spend a little time at least one or two nights a week on projects. Of course the primary project I’ve started to get back into is my 25 car batch of hoppers where each step of progress takes a bit of time due to the volume of cars being worked on at the same time. And drilling out that many small holes on 25 bodies and frames has taken a few weeks to complete. So that has accounted for my dearth of recent updates. However I am trying to get some momentum going again, and hopefully get some other smaller projects finished off as well.

So, without further ado, back to the hopper project! Over the years this model has moved between different product lines at Walthers: first their standard line, then “Gold Line” with metal wheels, then “Platinum Line” which have wire grab irons factory installed. (And I think with the latest release(s) the model has been shifted again into the “Proto” series (the old Proto 2000 line inherited from Life-Like), although I really don’t think this model belongs in that category.) Earlier releases before the models were upgraded to the “Platinum” line did not have grab irons installed. I’ve been collecting these cars for quite a while now (and grabbing cheaper pre-“Platinum” cars at shows and on eBay to build up the fleet) so I have a lot of both.

Body Grabs

A bit of comparison of prototype photos to the model reveals a couple of interesting minor details.

First, the prototype AC cars have an additional grab mounted off the top cap on the end (which of course the model does not have, and which I discussed in an earlier post).

Secondly, when comparing end photos of the first batch of cars (AC 8201-8400) to the second batch (AC 8401-8500), notice that the first series has one extra grab iron compared to the later series:

ACR From Blair 012

AC 8390 end view. At Steelton shops, August 1997. Blair Smith photo.


AC 8495 end details. March 1981. Photographer unknown, Chris vanderHeide collection.

Notice that the 8300 series car at top has a total of 5 end grabs plus the vertical grab mounted to the top chord, with the topmost end grab being almost directly below the vertical one, giving a doubled effect near the top of the car. The 8400 series car has 4 end grabs, without the grab nearest the top of the car.

Compared to the model, the model is actually molded with locations for 6 grab irons. With the amount of cars I am working on, I decided it was not worth the amount of effort it would take to competely remove all of the molded bolt detail and the pre-molded drilling dimples and trying to make a template to re-drill it all to have 5 evenly spaced grabs instead of 6. (For the 8200/8300 series cars, or 4 (without the top one) for the 8400 series cars.) However, removing the detail for the top grab would provide that different visual detail between these two batches of cars. With the extra rung of the model, the spacing doesn’t quite work out perfectly, but the effect is close enough. For the 8400 series cars, I simply carefully carved away the bolt/drilling dimple detail for the top grab from the surface of the body and wet sanded the area with fine (1000-2000 grit) automotive finishing sandpaper.

The remaining dimples are all drilled out with a tiny #80 drill bit in a pin vise.

With the holes all drilled out, the grab irons can be installed. These are 18″ drop grabs. These formed wire details are available from several sources such as Tichy, Details Associates, Details West, etc. I place a drop of CA on a scrap piece of plastic and carefully dip the tails of the formed wire grab irons

To maintain a proper even depth for all the grabs, I use a piece of .030″ strip as a spacer when installing each grab:


Using styrene spacer to install end grab irons.

When installing the grabs, cut the tails to length before installing; the open space inside the car end will be filled with the large metal weight that comes with the car, so these can’t extend into the interior. I trim the tails shorter before installation with a pair of flush cutters, and once installed and the glue is dried, finish off the interior with a few swipes of a flat needle file so the weight will sit properly into the cavity.

By comparison, the top grab is a straight 18″ grab. I used my calipers to line up the locations of the drill holes for the top grab with the end ladder and drilled them out as close to the edge of the strip as possible. This offsets the grab from the end and lines it up vertically with the end grabs. The grab is inserted (without trimming the tails in this case) from the bottom using tweezers and CAed in place, using my same .030″ spacer to obtain an even level on the grab. Once the CA sets, I cut the tails off with my flush cutters and file the ends of the wire flush with the top of the cap strip.

Here we can see both version of the car with the end and top grab irons installed; 8201-8400 series car at left, 8401-8500 series car at right:


Finished grab irons. 8201-8400 series (left) and 8401-8500 series (right) versions.

End Platforms

I’ve also been working on drilling and installing the grab irons on the end platforms of the car underframes. Nothing fancy here, just drill out the provided dimples and install the grab irons.


Finished end and platform grabs.

All of the drilling was completed first; I’m working my way through installing the grab irons and that part is still in progress on the majority of the cars. About half a dozen of the bodies are complete so far. You might note in the backgrounds of the photos above that the deck grating on a large number of the frames still also needs to be completed yet, so it will still take a while to get all 25 cars completely up to this point, though I may progress some cars to the next point even while still catching up with some of the others.

This completes the major visible body detailing. The next major assemblies to figure out will be the altered end handrails for these cars, and the underframe detailing, which will be more or less installed as intended by the original kit and which should complete the assembly of these cars.