Sunday, October 14, 2018

Wood chip hoppers

Railroads extend the height of standard hopper cars to carry a full load of low-density wood chips. A recent loco buy on eBay came with some 40' hoppers and 40' gondolas, so this project will combine them to make some wood chip hoppers.

Gondola + hopper = wood chip hopper!

1. Mix and Match: First remove the trucks and couplers and set them aside. The gondolas were test-fit on the hoppers and lined up well. They required three easy modifications:
  • Remove the gondola's brake wheel (we don't need two, we will rely on the lower one on the hopper)
  • Remove the gondola's four corner stirrup steps
  • Remove the gondola's weight (we don't want weight high up in the car)
2. Adjust Weight: All the individual parts for each car were weighed in a batch. Be sure to include the trucks. The target weight (per NMRA recommendation) is 4 ounces. They were both too light, so weight was added to the floor of the hopper. (The interior of the hopper will not be seen, as the gondola floor will cover it).

3. Glue up: The gondolas were glued to the hoppers. I needed a glue which was rather viscous and gap-filling so I mixed some 5 minute epoxy (the type that comes in a double syringe) and brushed that on. Weights were placed on top and left overnight. This worked perfectly - and permanently. "What epoxy hath joined together, let no man put asunder."


Lantern battery and old flatiron serve as gluing weights.

4. Primer: The cars were taken outside to my "spray booth" which is a stepladder inside my woodshed. Cars were sprayed with grey primer from a rattle can. My holder is made from scraps of 1x4.


Primer is applied

5. Rust the interior: Masking tape is applied and the interior of the gondola is sprayed with red auto primer - which is my universal rust color.


Interior painted with red auto primer

By now you probably realize when we get to adding the wood chip load, we need not fill the hopper at all! (We can't anyway, it is no longer accessible). We will only be adding a thin layer of chips to the gondola. The viewer will never realize there is now a false floor in place.

Interior after painting

6. Exterior paint: Next we mask off the interior and paint the exterior. These are going to be Maine Central cars so a deep green is sprayed on.

7. Decals: I had some leftover MEC decals so they are used rather than buying new ones.



8. Wood chip load: And now ... the perfect load - cedar cat litter. They are real, but tiny, wood chips. No one can say "it ain't protoype!"

9. Secure the load: The chips are wet with sprayed 71% isopropyl alcohol, then glued in place with 50/50 white glue/water.

10. Finishing touches: Replace the trucks and couplers. Weather as desired.


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