When a set of TH&B decals made by Aberdeen Car Shops grabbed my attention last summer, I decided I should extricate a pair of Stewart 70 ton hoppers from a plastic bin under the basement stairs. With the help of Lance Brown and his archives of TH&B historical documents, I established the purpose and routing for these cars on the WRMRC. It was time to build up the models.
Surely, someone like ExactRail or Tangent will produce a model of a 70 ton hopper that meets the current standards of detail that we’ve come to expect from ready-to-run models in 2013. Until that time, we have to settle for the Stewart model of the same car. The Stewart model represents and excellent overall rendition of the TH&B cars, but the cast-on grab irons leave much to be desired. There is very little work left for the modeller bring the car up to the standards of commercially available models. However, as crude as the details appear on this model, it provides the modeller with an economical path to amass a large fleet of hoppers. A large layout with a hundred ExactRail hoppers would be a considerably larger investment a population of Stewart hoppers. I doubt I would undertake these improvements if I had to build a hundred cars. The stock Stewart car would have to suffice.
My models represent two of about four cars that will be required for slime service on the WRMRC, so I have no reservations about changing out the cast-on grab irons. The most tedious part of this relatively easy project was the removal of the grabs. A chisel blade and some patience rendered the car entirely denuded of a variety of cast-on detail.
A Stewart 70 ton hopper before the removal of its details.
The grab irons and brake wheel details need to be removed.
Here, both cars have had grab irons, stirrups, and roping anchors removed.
The overall dimensions and panel details are quite nice on the Stewart model. Oddly, they neglected to address this casting post in the centre of the hopper. A chisel blade cleans this up nicely.
The process I used to locate the holes for wire grabs was to first cut the cast-on rivets, leaving a clear location for each hole. I’d lightly ream the location, then drill holes. After all the drilling was finished, I removed the rest of the grab iron detail. Once the details were removed, I used some 1200 and 1500 grit sandpaper to smooth out the areas where I’d worked. This shows the progress at the b-end of both cars. Grab irons were custom bent for the ends. Those are 18″ grabs. The side grabs are stock Details Associates parts. Brake parts have yet to be added.
Similar to the b-end, the a-end of each car has hand-bent grabs on the ends and Details Associates parts on the sides. The various handrails on the end sills and between the end posts needed to be bent to fit.
Once the wire details were in place, the weight of the car needed to be addressed. The car comes with two pieces of steel cut to fit under the slope sheets. The weight of the car as it comes from Stewart is about half of what it needs to be. One solution would be to cut new slope sheet weights out of lead to replace these steel pieces. The lead I had on hand was too thick to double up, and the additional weight of a single layer of lead was too minimal to make a difference. I opted to use the stock steel weights.
The car needed more weight to bring the car up to standard. The underside of each bay offers a hiding place for small bits of lead, but I also managed to insert long narrow rectangles of lead into the centre beam of the car.
The shiny strip down the middle of the centre beam is two narrow rectangles of lead cut to fit and glued into place.
I decided that, in addition to what I added to the centre sill, I would add more weight wherever I could find space to hide it once the car was assembled. At this point I added the brake details to the b-end of the car from Cal-Scale castings, chain, and bits of brass wire. Because I had removed the thick platform cast for the brake wheel, I built a new platform from some walkway etching and .005 styrene. Then I attached the brake cylinder, triple valve, and reservoir to the frame casting and ran some basic air lines.
I couldn’t find clear photos as proof, but I suspect that I mounted the air reservoirs incorrectly on both cars. From the vague shadows I can see in my reference photos, it appears that the tanks are parallel to the rails instead of perpendicular as I’ve done on my cars. The kit provides mounting tabs to build the cars as I did, and I discovered the possible error after I’d already used the tabs and added air pipe details. I decided to leave this (possible) error. If I get better photos of this area on the prototype cars, I’ll build the next pair of cars more accurately. This is a trade-off I was willing to live with in order to keep some forward momentum happening with this project.
At this point, I sprayed the car with Polly Scale Engine Black with a bit of primer grey mixed in to dial back the intensity and fade the car a bit. The corner stirrups and cut bars will be added later because these parts are fragile. Once the decals are finished and weight is added to the hollows between the bays, I’ll add the remaining parts and weather the car.
This photo nicely depicts the level of detail that I find sufficient to improve the overall appearance of the Stewart kit. This is still not the same level of detail one finds on many kits nowadays, but I’m fine with moving on from here.
Next time I’ll write about how I chose the numbers and paint scheme for these cars.