Monday, October 22, 2018

Small project: repurposing a covered hopper

I have purchased a number of the superb covered hoppers in HO scale produced by InterMountain Railway Company, or IM, and really enjoy the level of detail and the distinctive look of these square-hatch cars. They are essential parts of not only my Southern Pacific car fleet, but other western railroads as well, including Santa Fe and Union Pacific. Even the leased cars are interesting, and IM has produced a number of paint schemes for those cars too.
     But one of my purchases, admittedly probably an impulse event, was the leased SHPX car for the Sherwin-Williams Company. This particular leased car is a fine notion, but not one I can readily see a use for, beyond my mainline trains. Still, it’s one of the terrific IM models, and as a black car, I thought that likely I would figure out some other use for the car, either relettering it, or a full repaint.
     Deciding that if possible, I would like to keep all the dimensional and capacity data already on the car, I painted out the reporting marks (SHPX 25195) and the information about the Sherwin-Williams lease. That gave the appearance below.

     Next I had to choose a prototype. There are a number of railroads that painted their covered hoppers black, but most are eastern, and in my era, covered hoppers like this were mostly used for cement, and accordingly did not travel far. (Cement is cheap to produce, and heavy, thus costly to ship, so most travels only short distances.) But a leased car might be in almost any service. In particular, certain industrial lessees shipped dry chemicals in these cars. Since I have destinations on my layout which can receive chemicals, I decided to look for possibilities.
     Most leased cars of this type, like most covered hoppers generally, were painted light gray. But I did find a few General American leased covered hoppers that were black. Shown below is one example, from a group of five cars (GACX 40218–40222).

Photo is from General American, and appeared in Vol. 28 of Railway Prototype Cyclopedia in an article by Ed Hawkins.
     I quickly found that none of the alphabet decal sets I have were really the right size and style to match what is in the photo above. But an old Walthers alphabet set came close enough. I decided to go ahead and live with somewhat oversize lettering. In the photo below, you can see the AC&F builder stencil (visible in the photo at the top of this post, toward the right of the car side) has now been painted out.

     Next the car needed to be weathered, and acquire some reweigh and repack stencils. As is my usual procedure, I weathered first. Then rectangles of black decal were applied where the new stencils were located, and appropriate decals added. Here is a photo of the car in service, spotted over the unloading auger at Pacific Chemical on my layout (for more on the modeling of the unloading auger, you might wish to read my post at: ).

     This has been an enjoyable small project, turning a black covered hopper model that was kind of surplus, into something that can operate regularly on my layout.
Tony Thompson

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