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.