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Upgrading a Walthers covered hopper car

This CSX 2-bay cement service covered hopper car looks like it has been on the rails for some time now that it has been weathered and upgraded.

I was looking through my fleet of cars and decided it’s time to upgrade and weather some cars. I wanted to try some different techniques and products, but did not want to experiment on a $50 freight car, so I looked through my fleet to find an inexpensive car. It is always better to try things out on a car that you don’t mind if you mess it up, rather that the pride and joy of your fleet. The new products I wanted to try were Monroe Model Weathering Wash in medium earth, and Tamiya panel line brown accent color.

The focus of this project is the Walthers Mainline 2-bay 37’ 2980 cu ft covered hopper car. The car is reasonably priced, overall looks pretty good, but could use a little help to bring it up to the more highly detailed cars available today. I figured if I messed up this car it was not a big loss so I dove in to try a few new products. Today, I’ll cover the steps that I took to weather and upgrade the car. The best results can be achieved by looking at prototype photos of the cars you are planning to weather. I located prototype photos of the car on the Railroad Pictures Archive website and used those photos to determine the amount of weathering for the car.

The first step of the project was to remove the plastic cast roof walk and crossover platforms. These details are overly thick and don’t look as good as photo etched metal ones. Fortunately, Plano Model Products (www.Planomodelproducts.com) offers a very nice etched metal roof walk and other details for the Walthers covered hopper model, Item #10868. When I removed the original walkway I tried to not break off the pins that hold the roof walk to the car, but was unsuccessful. That’s okay as the holes would have needed to be filled anyway, so I just cleaned up parts of the pins that remained and filed them smooth. These spots won’t show once the new roof walk is in place, but you could touch them up with paint if you want to. Before installing the new roof walk I weathered the top of the car with PanPastels and weathering powders, as it was much easier to access the roof without the roof walkway on the car. The etched roof walkway needs to be bent to conform to the roof mounting brackets so I used the old plastic one as a guide to get it formed correctly. Canopy glue was used to glue the etched metal walkway to the car. This glue allows for a little bit of movement between the different materials, and is what some manufacturers recommend if you need to glue an etched metal part to a plastic model. I also added the end crossover platforms from the kit to the car using the same techniques.

It makes sense to spend a little time and money to detail the roof of our models as that is usually the surface of the car that is viewed most frequently.

Next, after spraying the car with a Model Master Clear Lusterless Flat paint and allowing the paint to dry overnight, I tried the Monroe Models weathering wash on the underside of the car. It’s a good thing I started on a less conspicuous portion of the car as it looked horrible! The product was way too dark and you could easily see the brush marks. I used Q-tips dipped in alcohol to remove as much of the weathering wash as possible. Once I got most of it off the car looked better, but still needed more work. I decided to give the Tamiya panel line wash a try. It looked much better, but was still not the effect I was looking for. I went back to the tried and true PanPastels and weathering powders. I was able to get a nice fade with a Neutral Gray (820.8) PanPastel and then some overall grime with a Raw Umber Shade (780.3) and a light application of weathering powders. I weathered the new roof walkway and crossover platforms with the PanPastels to dull them down a little. The trucks and wheels were painted with a brown color and then weathering powders were applied.

I installed Kadee scale head couplers after painting them a rusty brown color. I also added a cut levers made from .015 music wire and used an eye bolt to attach the cut lever on the handle end to the car. One final detail was to add air hoses to the cars using Kadee #438 Air hose & angle cock details.

Once the weathering was completed, I added reflective safety striping from Smokebox Graphics. The FRA mandated safety stripes on all new cars constructed after May 31, 2005, and all cars are required to have safety stripes by May 31, 2015. If you are modeling the modern era most, if not all, of your cars should have the safety stripes applied. The Smokebox Graphics set (Item R187 FRA 224 Stripes Yellow) is a peel and stick product and the stripes are easy to apply. The set contains different length and width stripes of reflective material that replicate those found on the prototype. Online photos are a great resource to determine where the stripes should be applied on each car type.

Weathering cars is truly an art form, and the only way to get better is to practice. Don’t be afraid to try new weathering techniques, with each car you’ll learn and improve your skills. I hope you picked up a few tips and techniques to apply to your next weathering project. Until next time be safe and keep model railroading.

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