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Monday, January 11, 2021

Freight car graffiti, Part 20: a couple of hoppers

 My series on freight car graffiti extends back over the past year, ever since the article of mine on this topic was published in Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH), in the issue for January 2020. You can obtain a copy of this or any issue of MRH at their website, , but now that the series of “Getting Real” columns, to which I contribute, is contained in companion “Running Extra” issues of MRH each month, these are no longer free. The price varies from time to time; individual issues have recently cost $2.99.

Previous posts in this series are easily found by using “freight car graffiti” as the search term in the search box at right.

The present post addresses two different sorts of hopper cars. The first one is a “Golden West Service” car. For those who don’t know, this is a former Southern Pacific car. In the late 1980s, SP was very short of funds, and had many freight cars in need of repair. The SP pursued a strategy used by many companies short of cash: selling the cars to someone else to obtain money, then leasing them back. In this case the purchaser was leasing giant Greenbrier. 

The Greenbrier cars were refurbished and repainted in a blue scheme and given new reporting marks of working railroads. These were the marks of various short lines that received compensation for the use, including Ventura County Railway (initials VCY), Coe Rail (CRLE), and the Galveston Railroad (GVSR). The car shown below is an Ortner-type hopper car, thus has a car number beginning with “6,” as did all Golden West hoppers. 

The model of GVSR 637720 as I received it from owner Seth Neumann already had the interior weathered, as you can see above.

For the left side of this car, I used a single Blair Line decal from their set no. 2262. You may also notice that I have added a number of tags with a fine-tipped “Micron” pen, as described in my post about tagging generally. You can find that post here: . I have given this car larger graffiti pieces, as is typical of these rock, sand and ballast cars in the prototype.

For the right side of the car, I returned to my Blair Line decals, in this case set no. 2261 (you can see their line at this site:  ). I also added a few tag legends from Microscale set 87-243, along with the “Micron” pen tags. Both sides of the car were also weathered with acrylic washes after decaling.

The other car for the present post is an SP covered hopper, SP 493502.  This is a conventional hopper, and is shown below as I received it from its owner.

Decaling for this car took advantage of the light body color. As I have reviewed in a previous blog posts, some brands of decals are relatively transparent and thus take on the hue of the body color beneath them (see my review at this link: ). 

On the left side of this model, I used two decals, one a Dave’s Decal (set 6028) and the other from Blair Line set 2263. As you see it below, the car is also weathered and has received some tags. You can see the roof weathering here too.

On the right side of the car, I chose to add only one large decal, again from Dave’s set 6028, then added some small decal tags from Microscale set 87-243 and also a few with “Micron” pens.

Because of their differences in body color, these two models were approached in quite different ways, but have a certain overall similarity in degree and color of weathering. This would be typical of cars like these which tend to operate repeatedly in the same region of the country. They should fit right in on the owner’s layout.

Tony Thompson



  1. Tony, Your grafitti and tags look really good. You mention using a fine tip Micron pen for the tags on the GVSR hopper. Those tags appear to be white in the photos, did you use something else instead? If so what? I've had mixed success with different white pencils. Some are too crmbly and others too hard to mark on the car side.

  2. For white tags, I do sometimes use "Gelly Roll 08" white pen. It does lay down white pigment. But as long as the car surface has a coat of flat finish, a Prismacolor white pencil will work, and I use pencils along with the Micron pens for most tags.
    Tony Thompson

  3. As it happens this heavily weathered and graffiti treatment is perfect as I model 1999 and the car has a build date of 1960, so this car is about to be banned from interchange and hasn't had any love for a while and isn't likely to get any!