Saturday, May 18, 2024

Another SP ballast hopper

 I often operate a ballast train in my layout operating sessions. As was Southern Pacific practice at the time, much of the ballast moves in General Service, or drop-bottom gondolas. But SP did own a modest fleet of ballast hoppers, as I described in Chapter 5 of Volume 5 of my series, Southern Pacific Freight Cars (Signature Press, 2008). I wanted to include a few of them in my ballast operation.

As I mentioned in the book, after World War II, SP continued to buy 70-ton ballast cars, with two classes of inside post cars with riveted construction. But in 1953, they purchased their first all-welded ballast hoppers, from Pullman-Standard, and changed from their earlier preference for inside-post cars, to an outside-post design, and also changed from the previously standard Hart Selective designs to Enterprise ballast doors. The first such class was Class H-70-11, SP 168600–168899. 

Here’s an in-service view of a car from this 300-car class, taken at Fresno in 1956 (Chet McCoid photo, Bob’s Photo collection). The lighting angle and the dusty condition of the car show the features very well.

This car class is (for me) quite modern, since they were built in 1953, the year I model, but it’s just within my time frame. The class can be modeled with the resin cars long available at Bruce’s Train Shop in Sacramento. (Established in 1995, the shop closed in 2012.) The models are actually intended to model the following classes of (almost identical) cars built by AC&F, Class H-70-15 and -17, but can certainly be used for H-70-11.

Below is a photo of one of these urethane resin cars, cast and assembled for Bruce’s by a man who was a free spirit and always remained anonymous, but supposedly had worked for SP. The doors are separate parts and they open and close; they are open in the photo. At the right end of the car you can see that all brake gear and slope sheet supports are modeled also.

When these first came out, the only way to letter them was with Microscale sets 87-1 and 87-3. These sets did not have really correct size lettering or heralds for these cars, but I used them on the first of these cars I completed. I originally showed a photo of that car in the hopper-car segment of my overall freight car fleet description, which was Part 7 (it’s available at: ). 

In another blog post, I showed how I made a load for this car, removable as most of my loads are, so that cars can readily be run loaded or empty (see it at: ). The model car bodies are feather-light, with few places where weight can be added, so a load with added weight is a plus to operate these cars. 

But their accurate interior, with bottom openings of correct size and shape (quite different from conventional twin hoppers), is nice to be able to show. I sometimes spot one of these cars on a siding, empty, so that the interior can be appreciated. 

More recently, I acquired another of these models, and was inspired to get it into service, because there is now an excellent decal set just for these cars, created by Rick Leach and produced by Protocraft Decals, set SP Ballast-1. This set is for the 1953 as-delivered lettering, prior to the SP fleet renumbering that took place in the years after mid-1956, when the cars became SP 460226–460525; there is also a Protocraft set for that later lettering, SP Ballast-2.

I sprayed the car with Tamiya “Fine Surface Primer,” Oxide Red, and lettered it with the Protocraft set, choosing the car number shown in the prototype photo above. I did have to replace two of the molded-on sill steps; I used A-Line Style A and B steps as needed. I used Tangent 70-ton ASF A-3 “Ride-Control” trucks for this model. In fact, a 50-ton truck would have been close; the 50-ton sideframe is a little lighter in cross-section, and has a 5' 6" wheelbase, compared to the 5' 8" wheelbase of 70-ton trucks, but the differences are small. I added Kadee couplers in their own boxes.

This has been an interesting small project, to get this fine casting painted, lettered, and almost ready for use. You may note that this body casting does not have a route card board, which should be above the left-hand truck bolster (it’s evident in the prototype photo at the top of this post). I will add that detail, along with very light weathering (in 1953, the car has barely been in service), and include it in a ballast train at the earliest opportunity.

Tony Thompson

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