Hopper Interior Paint and Weathering

While I had the airbrush and paint booth fired up this evening to do some priming and initial paint work on a different project I’ve been working on this weekend (more on that sometime later when I’ve made some more progress) I also ran about a dozen of these hoppers through the paint shop to paint the interiors.


I picked up at least part of the technique (with regards to some of the colours and order of use) from an old RMC magazine article, although probably any time anyone ever does something, they always put their own slight twist on it.

My first step is to paint the interior with a light primer colour. For some cars in raw grey this was not always necessary, but as I have several cars molded in several different colours including red, yellow, green and gray (most were stripped from various roadnames) and a primed interior is required to let the actual colours cover properly. Once primed, I gave the interior a base coat of Model Master “Steel” to give it the metallic silvery of bare polished steel. Then – working very lightly, and progressively up the sides of the interior – blend in Gunmetal, Rail Brown and Rust. Go real easy on the gunmetal and rail brown – the gunmetal is a dark almost black colour, and the rail brown just helps blend with the rust and shouldn’t be too prominent – and the whole interior can get a really light final mist of rust to blend all together.

The one really tricky bit about these interiors is the angled pipe bracing. You really have to be careful to mist the colours in from both sides around the braces to avoid “paint shadow” where the brace blocks the spray. (I did end up with a couple cars with a slightly noticeable vertical line at some of the braces.


I may go over some of these interiors later again, after the cars are fully painted and lettered, with some powders and pan pastels to add a bit of additional colour for specific loads that these cars carried around Michipicoten and Wawa – limestone, coke, sinter and raw ores, but otherwise this is the basic colouring for the car interiors. The top of the car will later be masked off completely to paint the exterior body of the car.

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.

Painting and Weathering Started on 55 ton Twin Hoppers

This weekend I had the chance to do some basic painting on this pair of hoppers and start some of the initial weathering of the cars. I gave the two cars an initial spray of weathered black for the basic body colour a while back, and now I had a chance to do the next step.


First, I painted the interiors. To get the initial base colour for the interior, I actually used four different colours, lightly blending the colours up the sides with the airbrush. First I sprayed the lowest parts of the interior a metallic silver colour (Model Master “Steel”), then working up the sides with Gun Metal, Rail Brown and Rust, lightly blending each colour together so the the colour gradually transitions from a bare metal appearance on the centre sill and lower parts of the bays (where the load flowing out of the car during dumping would have the effect of “polishing” some of the rust off) to a more oxidized appearance on the sides and further up the hopper bays where less material is moving around during loading and unloading. This will likely be supplemented yet with a little bit of powders or pan pastels, but I’m liking the effect so far.

The next major step is weathering the exterior bodies of the cars. Most of these old cars on the ACR had a pretty distinctive weathering pattern caused by an older practice of loading sinter into the cars while still hot, resulting in much of the paint on the side sheets burning off over the years  causing the sides of the cars to essentially become an expanse of rusted metal, following the shape of the interior bays. Check out this early 1970s prototype photo from Ted Ellis to see what I mean.


To begin replicating this pattern, I used a somewhat experimental technique. I masked off the sides and spayed them a mix of roof brown and dark rust. I first covered the ribs with strips of masking tape, as the burning effect of course only effected the sheet metal of the side sheets with which the hot material had direct contact. Then the bottom and side sills were also masked, and then the rest of the sides roughly masked in the shape of the load inside. The key here while masking is to deliberately NOT be too precise with it. Most importantly, prevent the masking tape from actually laying down on the sides of the car. The ribs were covered with a strip of tape wide enough to completely cover the rib, but these were not folded down over the shape of the ribs. The side mask was just laid down on the tops of the ribs and deliberately prevented from touching the surface of the side. My goal here was a nice soft edge that is NOT clearly defined when the rust colour is airbrushed. The masking thus completely, the sides were sprayed with a dark rust colour and the masking then removed.


You can see the preliminary result above; so far, so good, I think. I have a ways to go yet with blending in darker colours with pan pastels to really make it look like rust. Eventually the raised panel at the left hand side car number and date will a shot of black before adding lettering.

55 Ton Twin Hoppers

This is another pair of cars pulled out of a box on a shelf somewhere that I started years ago and then put aside at some point. This week I got them out again, cleaned them up and finished off the detailing on them.

These two cars represent the older hoppers on the Algoma Central’s roster. Information on these cars’ history is scarce, but sources suggest they were acquired secondhand from multiple sources in the United States. Studying the ACR roster over time, it appears that several sub-groups with at least 4 different listed cubic capacities were added beginning in 1938 (when the sinter plant at Wawa was built) with more added throughout the 1940s and 1950s. As these were all acquired secondhand, build dates ranged as early as before the Great War (a.k.a. WWI). It appears there may have been around 300-400 of these cars at some point.

By the 1970s, these old cars were in really rough shape with some derailments said to have resulted from one or more of the older cars essentially being pulled apart. From 1971 through 1975, 400 brand new, larger 100-ton cars were acquired from National Steel Car to replace the aging smaller cars and the old cars were scrapped. A 1984 freight car list republished in Dale Wilson’s “The Algoma Central Story” however shows 16 cars remaining within the number range 6605-7604, a range covering several original sub-groups in the 6600-6900, 7000-7100, 7500 and 7600 series. These cars would have been non-interchange, and very likely reserved for company service at this point. Official Railway Equipment Registers stop including any of these cars in public listing early in the 1970s.


The main visual feature of the ACR’s 55 ton hoppers was the reporting marks and data being place on a sheet steel plate between the first two ribs on the left of the car side, rather than directly on the car body.

At one time, all the lettering may have been painted on the car side itself, but for many years there was a practice of loading these hoppers with sinter from the ore processing plant while still hot, which had the effect of burning off the paint, leading to some really interesting weathering patterns with most of the car sides being bare rust and the practical solution of putting the car data on a separate plate instead of the car side itself. The Kar-Trak ACI labels were also placed on a smaller plate mounted towards the right-hand end of the car side.

Both cars have the data plate and a smaller plate for the ACI label fashioned from styrene sheet and strip. On the lower car, I also used .005″ [clear, because that’s what I had on hand at the time] styrene sheet to represent repair panels welded on to the side of the car. The way the light caught them doesn’t show really nicely in the above photo, but shows a bit better below.


Underside improvements to the car involved using body putty to fill the gaps around the metal weights installed below the car’s slope sheet and new door bars and a representation of the locking mechanism scratchbuilt from various styrene strips to match what showed in the prototype photos.


Both cars got a little bit of upgrading on the ends as well. The model represents a car with vertical brake shaft, and I gave both cars a brake wheel housing. The car at left also got new vertical braces that extend over the full height of the car compared to the original uprights as on the car at right. This was following prototype photos, but I decided to leave the second car alone; after all, there was a certain amount of variety in this fleet.

I didn’t replace all of the body grab irons on these cars, but I did at least upgrade the ladders in the open ends with wire grabs to get rid of the look of deep, flat steps that often plagues models of hopper cars with one-piece bodies and cast ladders.

I also didn’t necessarily bother to add all the proper piping and brake linkages between the components under the ends. They may not be contest models, but they should look good on my [future] layout when rusted within and inch of their life and loaded with ballast in a work train.