Weathering TH&B Slab Side Covered Hoppers

copyright Gerry Schaefer

copyright Gerry Schaefer

The term “slab side” covered hopper has always seemed a bit odd to me.  I suppose it does seem odd in the context of modern covered hoppers.  My guess is that back in 1947 it would have been necessary to describe the unique approach to constructing a covered hopper with the vertical side braces on the inside of the side sheets.  It was in ’47 that CPR built a prototype covered hopper in exactly this fashion, defying the norm and producing a car that appeared to be constructed of slabs, I guess.

CP liked the idea enough to National Steel Car in Hamilton Ontario to build 200 cars based on their prototype.  It must have caught on, because between 1950 and about 1963, similar covered hoppers were built for TH&B, CNR, and PGE, by both National Steel Car and Canadian Car & Foundry.

These cars are uniquely Canadian, and for a long time it was difficult to own a model of one, let alone a fleet of them, in HO.  There were very nice brass models of these cars imported some time in the 1980s, but they’re quite rare.  25 years ago, I tried twice to build a model of a TH&B car.  The first was a kitbash that went dreadfully wrong.  The second was an aborted scratch-building adventure.  In the 1990s, Sylvan Scale Models produced a resin kit of this car, and I bought two of them.  These kits proved so challenging to me that both of them are still in a state of partial completion at the bottom of a box somewhere in my basement.

True Line Trains came to the rescue a couple of years back, and produced a smoking nice model of this car in its most common variations.  I didn’t get around to buying any until they were nearly sold out, but I did manage to snag a few TH&B and CP cars at the 11th hour. They were immediately put into service on the WRMRC, and a couple of them were nicely weathered by my friend Ted shortly after they were put on the club layout.  

I love heavily weathered cars, so before I even paid for these, I had a vision of how they would end up.  I remember these slab side covered hoppers being very messed up, almost absurdly so.  And it just wasn’t the occasional car that was really filthy.  It seemed like every slab side covered hopper I saw was a complete mess.  I couldn’t resist going full out on these models.

I brought three of my cars home from the club, and over the past few days, I’ve had a chance to experiment with creating the base weathering of dried cement on the top and sides of the cars.  I’m using oils for this part.  I’ve been mixing a variety of greys by eye and applying them in layers.  I feel like I’ve captured the dried cement effect. Next, I’ll probably use pastels on the trucks and airbrush the slope sheets and underbody.  I don’t usually like showing my weathering work before it’s finished, but here’s a sneak-preview of both sides of the three cars I’m currently working on.  Keep in mind that they’re not finished.

IMG_0014 IMG_0015 IMG_0016 IMG_0017 IMG_0018 IMG_0019

10 thoughts on “Weathering TH&B Slab Side Covered Hoppers

  1. I remember in the very formative years of the WRMRC, back when we were still using John Brown’s basement layout as the club layout over 20 years ago, that we started making the first baby steps towards getting prototypical Canadian equipment onto our layout. Getting some slab side hoppers was one of the thing we tried first. Ted tried a basic kitbash of an MDC two bay hopper, which didn’t look at all right. Then those Overland brass cars came out, and I decided to spend the big bucks.

    I couldn’t find a CP model, but did locate a TH&B car. The all black paint job was easy enough, but I recall that the only lettering available was CDS dry transfers. I remember it was quite a lot of work getting that onto the model correctly, especially the lettering on the back of the slope sheets inside the end cages. I did a pretty decent job of weathering the thing, too. That car still soldiers on at the current Sudbury Division layout, and amazingly is only one of a fleet of over 50 prototypical CP and elsewise Canadian model hoppers running around there. I never would have guessed that you would be able to buy the same model someday in ready to run plastic with all the quality of that expensive brass model.


    • Heh, it turns out that car is in our Yahoo photo file. Here it is:

      I recall I didn’t have a good dirty brown so I tried making a boxcar red look rusty, with mixed results. There are a lot nicer cars on the layout these days.

      Once started building the real club layout we had a couple members who invested in bunch of Overland slab side and tank hoppers which made up the bulk of the fleet. Several members managed to get a bunch of the Sylvan cars put together as well, and then Intermountain and more recently NARC have added a lot of cylindrical cars to the layout. A few accurate P2K CPAA cars round out the roster. Now if only some manufacturer would see the light and produce the 52 foot cylindrical car, our hopper fleet would be truly representative of what ran in the 70s.


      • Jurgen, there’s something up with that link. I did eventually find it by browsing through the photos on the yahoo group. You did a great job on that car. I agree that the colour that you used for the rust isn’t earthy enough. I like using umbers and other browns. I think the trick is to do rust in layers, starting with larger, washed-out orange tones and working toward smaller, more defined and less opaque dark browns.

        That brass model must have been pricey. It’s a great time to be modelling in HO. We have access to such incredible plastic models that rival the quality of hand-made brass models.


  2. I went down that same path – trying to do an extensive kitbash based on articles in RMC. We’re fortunate that TLT came to the rescue. The weathering looks great so far: I look forward to seeing the finished cars.

    • I don’t remember seeing an article in RMC, so I was just proceeding on my own. It might have been an MDC hopper that served as the basis of the model, but I can’t be sure. I think there was another brand that I might have used; it had just come out, and has since disappeared. Regardless, it was a lot of work.

      The part that I found most interesting was the field work. I had done an exhaustive amount of photographing, measuring, and note taking on a prototype car. After that, I envisioned a plan, drew the cuts on the models – I believe it was two kits required for each finished car. By the time the carbody was completed, I decided that, although the kit I used for the project was the closest thing on the market, it still embodied too many compromised dimensions to effectively represent the TH&B car. I learned the value of all the tools I didn’t own. I also learned to better assess the point at which scratch-building is a better approach.

      The TLT model is an absolute gem. They knocked the ball out of the park on that one.


      • My link works fine for me. Mind you, this is Yahoo we are talking about. Any possible malfunction is a given with that outfit. I have had them argue that I can’t view yahoo photos from outside of yahoo, while signed in and and trying to access them from within the yahoo site itself.


  3. Hunter,
    Whitch color do you use to make your mix of gray. Do you use White Spirit to dilute your colors or you use them strait from the tube? Thank you. Claude St-Charles

    • Claude, I mix a range of greys by eye (using mixing white and lamp black). I apply the various colours in sequence, putting the colour onto the car and then using mineral spirits to pull the paint along the surface and even remove some into the brush. It’s a subtractive technique. Hope that helps.


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