Updated date:

Rites of Passage for a Model Railway - 32: Convert a Proprietary Hopper Wagon Model, Make It Look Realistic

What we hope to re-create

Class Q6 63436 of Sunderland shed (54A) with a long rake of hoppers near Boldon (then in County Durham) with a coal train of divers hoppers

Class Q6 63436 of Sunderland shed (54A) with a long rake of hoppers near Boldon (then in County Durham) with a coal train of divers hoppers

What looks like a works drawing of the LNER Diagram 1/100 21 ton riveted steel  hopper wagon

What looks like a works drawing of the LNER Diagram 1/100 21 ton riveted steel hopper wagon

What we start with: a run-of-the-mill out-of-the-box model from the Dapol factory... Make a start:

The wagons have arrived from the retailer...

The wagons have arrived from the retailer...

Been taken from the (discarded) box and set on the work surface for cold analysis. I seem to have bought a pair of factory weathered models. No matter, their efforts and mine will maybe make for a better result ...

Been taken from the (discarded) box and set on the work surface for cold analysis. I seem to have bought a pair of factory weathered models. No matter, their efforts and mine will maybe make for a better result ...

... And the task has begun. I start by drawing the couplings from their housings, and removing the attachments that secured them (anybody need some spare proprietary couplings?

... And the task has begun. I start by drawing the couplings from their housings, and removing the attachments that secured them (anybody need some spare proprietary couplings?

Source the basic model and follow the process

I touched on mineral hoppers in ROPFAMR 8 ("Processable solids - wagons for industry" and 14 (King Coal, Iron Ore and Limestone... ).

Firstly, getting hold of the basic ready-to-run Dapol model*. I bought mine through Hattons' website as I receive their promotional monthly e-mails: www.hattons.co.uk. You can also try Rails of Sheffield, If you click on the box to receive e-mails there's no obligation to buy, of course. Shop around.

Here I'll take you through my conversion of a pair of Dapol mineral hoppers based on the LNER's 1936 Diagram 1/100 riveted steel hopper. It is a relatively simple process that involves some manual dexterity, patience and as much time as you want or can spare on what in the long is a worthwhile 4mm (or 1/76) replica of the real thing. "Manual dexterity" is something my teachers considered I lacked, and was for a long time prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

[I was wrong and so were they, and you can prove your detractors wrong in this exercise].

First a little more history: the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) introduced the Diagram 1/100 steel hopper to replace worn-out, although still serviceable 20 ton timber-built North Eastern Railway (NER) hopper wagons built well before WWI. These wagons had iron - later steel - working parts and over the years rot had crept in on many stored in sidings. Others had been repaired fit for mineral traffic to ship coal, iron ore and other mined or quarried minerals. Many of the NER's timber hoppers were still in use in the early 1950s, soon to be transferred in number to the National Coal Board (NCB) North Eastern Area fleet between the Humber and the Tyne, but few survived beyond the 1960s.

The LNER's 21 ton steel hoppers lasted into the 1970s to run in traffic alongside the more modern British Railways 21 ton Diagram 1/143, 1/145 and 1/146 hoppers built at Shildon near Darlington between 1949-52 on divers mineral traffic in many mining areas of mainland Britain, the North Eastern Region of British Railways in particular in an area between the River Humber and the River Tweed.

Detail differences and upgrades marked them out from their predecessors of Diagram 1/100 vintage (see Don Rowland's "BRITISH RAILWAY WAGONS - the first half million" published by Leopard - Random House UK Ltd.), ISBN 0-7529-0378-0.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

*If like me, when you visit exhibitions - local or national - scout around the second-hand stalls and you might be surprised to find older Dapol hoppers that have more detail and don't necessitate work I've detailed below, namely the ridge - /\ - between the two hopper halves.

See description below

See description below

Robert Hendry's BRITISH RAILWAY GOODS WAGONS IN COLOUR has to be one of the most useful reference works in my library for weathering and identification purposes. The book content is broken up into different categories from mineral to departmental, with diagrams and a glossary at the rear. The book shows the progression from steam to diesel motive power in the first few chapters, the huge variety of wagon types between the regions (pre- and post-nationalisation) and the historical aspect is copiously illustrated in colour - as the title suggests. A must-buy for serious modellers. Mine bulges with kit instructions and historical notes for various wagon types.

Mineral wagons are covered from page 30, hoppers (including the timber-built North Eastern variety) on page 35, iron ore hoppers on pages 37-38

Midland Publishing, ISBN 1-85780-094X

Conversion begins...

The wheels are off and will be replaced at a later stage; proprietary couplings taken off, mountings also...

The wheels are off and will be replaced at a later stage; proprietary couplings taken off, mountings also...

This is the hopper body with the end platforms, underside mouldings ready to be cut and residue scraped away (keep it tidy!)

This is the hopper body with the end platforms, underside mouldings ready to be cut and residue scraped away (keep it tidy!)

... Job done, the next stage awaits...

... Job done, the next stage awaits...

... Turn the body over and tackle the hopper divider stage.

... Turn the body over and tackle the hopper divider stage.

*If you want to keep the proprietary coupling ignore this next section

Pull out the proprietary coupling from its housing beneath the wagon ends. Next remove the 'anchoring' by twisting it from the body unless you have a screwdriver head small enough to loosen the 2mm head screw that secures it. (If you've twisted this part away and pulled it off use a pair of modelmaker's pliers to draw out the screw). Next remove the same size small screw close to the underside at the wagon end.

Under the hopper on either side are two lugs. Push them inward towards each other to loosen the body from the underframe, and prise apart gently. Take care not to loosen the metal buffer heads that are inserted into the shanks (housing). If you do don't worry, they can be secured with a dab of superglue. Remove the wheelsets by easing the axlebox mouldings apart and drawing out the axles. The 8-spoke wheels supplied with this model are wrong anyway, and should be the three hole disc type (refer to Peter Tatlow's "LNER WAGONS", published by Pendragon Partnership, ISBN 1-899816-05-4, page 61 plate 123), You can buy the right scale plastic wheels from Alan Gibson's catalogue, or Romford metal wheels through any online retailer. Leave the wheels to one side for the time being and cut away the end moulding on the underside of the end platforms (hopper body moulding - see picture above) that the screws were inserted into to secure the ends. You'll find these were unnecessary and they're in the way of the Smith's 3-link coupling shaft that sits inside the end.

Turn the body the right way up and cut away the plastic that holds in the steel weight. You can use this weight in an enclosed wagon or van body. Remove the weight and trim away the rest of the plastic extrusion with curved side cutters. File down - or away - the rough edges on the coupling base if you've removed the housing. Now you've got the task of making two wedge-shaped pieces of thin plastic (1 mm or thinner) to build the divider between the hoppers. Measure the width of the wagon for the top of the 'wedge' and the width of the hopper ledge for the bottom. Cut to size, trial fit and cement in place. I use the Revell 'Contacta Professional' with its long, think metal spout for accuracy. The profile should be an even inverted 'V' when you position them before securing. A tight fit is preferable but loose has its own benefits. You'll find out... Leave to dry hard.

Underframe, wheels and hopper body... getting things done

The underframe minus hopper body and wheels from the underside...

The underframe minus hopper body and wheels from the underside...

These three hole disc wheels were 'in store', ready for a job such as this to crop up. Two wheel-sets have been provided and the fronts painted (my favourite song, "Paint it Black") ...

These three hole disc wheels were 'in store', ready for a job such as this to crop up. Two wheel-sets have been provided and the fronts painted (my favourite song, "Paint it Black") ...

The weights from the hopper wagon will be used in a covered wagon or van...

The weights from the hopper wagon will be used in a covered wagon or van...

This extrusion can be eliminated in seconds with side cutters, although strictly speaking it's not necessary. The 'wedge' would cover it easily. It's your choice....

This extrusion can be eliminated in seconds with side cutters, although strictly speaking it's not necessary. The 'wedge' would cover it easily. It's your choice....

... And here's the result, the slopes direct coal or other minerals into the hoppers. You could rig up a working loading screen on your layout to make it look ultra-realistic...

... And here's the result, the slopes direct coal or other minerals into the hoppers. You could rig up a working loading screen on your layout to make it look ultra-realistic...

Before re-uniting body with underframe...

Cut down into the ends with the underframe facing upward. Use a strong craft knife, not a scalpel blade that will shatter under the pressure you need to exert. Cut down through the thickness of the rim so you get a deep groove about 1.5 cms or .75 of an inch long, tapered inward. I use the ready-assembled Smith's three link coupling (pack LP4) supplied by W&T. If you're going to do a lot of these, as well as maybe the Parkside/Peco Diagram 1/146 kits, you might find it easier to set up an online account with them. Set the coupling shaft into the groove and make sure the whole hook is free, together with the 'eye' through which the top link is suspended, along with the other two below. All three links should shake freely before and after you add the superglue that binds plastic and finely etched brass. Leave to dry at least a few hours before you file off the top edge of the brass shaft level with the top of the underframe moulding so the end platforms on the hopper moulding sit flush. Before you re-unite the two parts of the model, run the plastic adhesive over the end rim of the underframe, press both parts tightly together, making sure the lugs click in place. Before you add the three hole disc wheels I suggest you paint the outer and inner wheel faces (nothing looks sillier than seeing the outer face blackened or weathered when on the far side of the wagon the inside face is still bright, clean metal - the credibility gap). Paint them black or preferably a mix of anthracite and dark rust if you plan to weather your wagon heavily to give it the well-used look..

The next stage is the handrails.

Couplings, Smith's three link (LP4), completing the hopper body

Smith's 3-link couplings, pack LP4 - ready made-up; you can also buy them to make up yourself at less cost

Smith's 3-link couplings, pack LP4 - ready made-up; you can also buy them to make up yourself at less cost

The underframe unit with the coupling shafts in place - cut centrally at the ends to accommodate the coupling shaft. Make the cut very slightly wider than the brass etch. File the tops level with the underframe 'ridge'

The underframe unit with the coupling shafts in place - cut centrally at the ends to accommodate the coupling shaft. Make the cut very slightly wider than the brass etch. File the tops level with the underframe 'ridge'

Carve away the moulded plastic handrails on the ends and sides...

Take care not to cut into the vertical stanchions. Use a strong craft knife for this job as well. Better safe than sorry; you don't want a broken scalpel blade in your eye. Take a length of 0.3-0.4 mm brass wire for the ends. Use a 0.4 mm drill bit in a pin chuck to make the holes where the mouldings ended close to the corners. Also drill a second hole under the right-hand hole for the vertical rail (see pictures below). For the side hand-rails I tend to use 7mm long (about a third of an inch) office staples. It's quicker than fiddling about with minute bits of brass wire. I bend the wire at right-angles, insert in one side and where the wire should reach the opposite side cut the wire, allowing for another right angle bend. Repeat for the other end. The staples are already the right shape and just need to be pushed into their holes, adding a dab of superglue to the inside of the body. Trim off excess inside the hopper body once the adhesive has dried hard.

Next stage is to weight the wagon...

Double O Gauge Association (DOGA)

  • The Double O Gauge Association
    The OO Gauge Association is for all modellers in Double O Gauge (16.5 mm), encourages new modellers to get the most from the hobby and where sought, gives guidance to improving modelling standards

Hand-rail detail - remove the mouldings, replace with wire cut to length and chromed staples

Wire and staples ready for the hand-rail task...

Wire and staples ready for the hand-rail task...

Side view with the 'staple' handrails...

Side view with the 'staple' handrails...

And with the vertical rail on the right-hand corner at both ends

And with the vertical rail on the right-hand corner at both ends

Weighting the wagon on the underside of the hoppers...

'Fluid lead' in a 500 g bag from Eileen's Emporium - lead shot, the same as you get in a shotgun cartridge! Better than steel ingots because you can 'pour' it into a small space, whereas you'd have to saw the ingot or make-weight

'Fluid lead' in a 500 g bag from Eileen's Emporium - lead shot, the same as you get in a shotgun cartridge! Better than steel ingots because you can 'pour' it into a small space, whereas you'd have to saw the ingot or make-weight

Turn the wagon over, add thin plastic card either side of the hopper mouldings, inside and out, to ensure the lead shot stays within the moulded hoppers when it's poured. Some may overshoot and can be returned to the bag when the superglue dries hard

Turn the wagon over, add thin plastic card either side of the hopper mouldings, inside and out, to ensure the lead shot stays within the moulded hoppers when it's poured. Some may overshoot and can be returned to the bag when the superglue dries hard

The lead shot is set; leave some time - an hour, or two to be on the safe side - before you turn it the right way up

The lead shot is set; leave some time - an hour, or two to be on the safe side - before you turn it the right way up

Before you start to pour the 'fluid lead' into the underside of the hoppers...

Take a strip of thin plastic, about 5 mm or under a third of an inch that's short enough to fit on the inside of the moulding and sit level with the inside edge. Another, about the same length should be added to the underside of the wagon on the outside of the moulding. Repeat on the other side. These will retain the bulk of the lead shot when you pour evenly, stopping just below the rim on all four sides. Drip superglue onto the shot and leave for an hour, preferably two, maybe add a little more. The capillary action will see the glue permeate the shot and set evenly. Find something to do with your time, maybe watch one of Michael Marsden's dvd's, perhaps No.17 "North Durham" with rakes of hoppers behind either Class Q6 0-8-0 or J27 0-6-0 tender locomotives to give you an idea of what weathering you can apply after the decals are in position and matt spray varnished.

Decals - renumbering and tare detail - Modelmaster sheet 8073r ex-LNER Diagram 100 21 ton riveted hopper

TOPS wagon numbering - for pre-TOPS blank out 'HOP21' at the top of the black box and the 'K' at the end of the number

TOPS wagon numbering - for pre-TOPS blank out 'HOP21' at the top of the black box and the 'K' at the end of the number

Initially we're interested only in the wagon exterior being in ex-Works condition to apply the decals...

For decals/transfers there are several options I have in stock:

  1. Historical Model Railway Society (HMRS) Sheet 26 BR Revenue Wagon Lettering (Non-departmental), pre-TOPS with ex-LNER "E" prefixes;
  2. Fox Transfers BR wagon prefixes for wagon series, regional prefixes ("E") or BR ("B") builds, weight, tare weight and black numbering boxes for unfitted wagons (non-vacuum fitted);
  3. Model Master Sheet 8073r for ex-LNER BR era numbering (comes complete with large and small black panels for main numbering, including TOPS codes, and tare weight

Apply the decals of your choice, taking care to follow the manufacturer's advice. The HMRS transfers are applied differently to those of Fox and Modelmaster in that you wet the surface first and cut each number, letter or totem individually and apply whilst the surface is still wet, dab down and remove the protective surface, sliding the transfer into position. You have enough time to do this effectively, so there's no rush. Dab again with a small piece of damp sponge and go on to the next... Fox recommend you use a small drop of washing-up liquid in warm - not hot - water, as this aids the process and enables you to position the transfer satisfactorily. I also use a small drop of washing-up water for the Model Master decals and have been satisfied with the results. Again you have ample time to position the decals accurately. Check images and diagrams for positioning. This is where the books come in useful.

Spray varnish. I have used 'Railmatch' 150 ml. spray cans. Number 1487 Matt Varnish looks convincing on wagons unless you've produced a model for your cabinet, Then use Number 1488 Satin Varnish (it looks acceptable on carriages).

To my mind the matt varnish protects the decals/transfers, and when the weathering is done I give the models a final coat to protect the weathering so it doesn't smudge and come off on my hands when handled.

I have a boxful of Carr's weathering powders, some Humbrol washes, Phoenix rust shades, Humbrol enamels and thin them down with white spirit for coal dirt, dust, and rust effects brought on by constant running in traffic, wet weather and so forth. You can have fun experimenting. What matters is that you're pleased with the results of your model-making. There'll always be some who offer their recommendations. Hear them out, maybe try what they suggest. They may know something you don't or have never come across. You'll make friends and you can pass on their advice if it works for you. Go to exhibitions, watch, listen to others and you're bound to come away with more than model goods.

Stand back and admire, then put your wagon(s) in service to 'earn its keep'.

Final stage: weathering the wagon exterior after identification details have been applied...

Lightly weathered wagon, perhaps recently out-shopped after maintenance and a paint job. Less obvious is the oil stain around the brake linkage (Humbrol Wash)

Lightly weathered wagon, perhaps recently out-shopped after maintenance and a paint job. Less obvious is the oil stain around the brake linkage (Humbrol Wash)

Also lightly weathered - in contrast to other hopper wagons in the 'fleet'. I may come back to this one later

Also lightly weathered - in contrast to other hopper wagons in the 'fleet'. I may come back to this one later

The other side of the first wagon shows a large, dark rust patch on the inside.

The other side of the first wagon shows a large, dark rust patch on the inside.

Three-quarter view of the second wagon. Subtle is sometimes better, with dark weathering along the underframe side (a mix of anthracite, dust and dark rust)

Three-quarter view of the second wagon. Subtle is sometimes better, with dark weathering along the underframe side (a mix of anthracite, dust and dark rust)

And last but not least, the load...

Also when it comes it's hard to prise out of the wagon (I like to run rakes loaded one way and empty on the return), so I carve off some of the supporting plastic. That way I can lift out the loads with a light blade before I 'send'  the wagons back

Also when it comes it's hard to prise out of the wagon (I like to run rakes loaded one way and empty on the return), so I carve off some of the supporting plastic. That way I can lift out the loads with a light blade before I 'send' the wagons back

This is a coal load I made for a kit-built hopper wagon, using coal from a lump I liberated from the pile at North Woolwich Old Station Museum (still got enough for ten more at least - or loco tenders)

This is a coal load I made for a kit-built hopper wagon, using coal from a lump I liberated from the pile at North Woolwich Old Station Museum (still got enough for ten more at least - or loco tenders)

... And the underside, the plastic strip built up to sit on the hopper slope inside the wagon.

... And the underside, the plastic strip built up to sit on the hopper slope inside the wagon.

The coal load that comes with the model from the retailer is fairly innocuous. I add real coal on a layer of white pva glue that dries invisibly

The coal load that comes with the model from the retailer is fairly innocuous. I add real coal on a layer of white pva glue that dries invisibly

Parts search

Eileen's Emporium can be reached online by entering https://eileen'semporium.com in your search; or phone +44(0)1531 828009

Contact Smith's couplings by entering https://www.scalelink.co.uk - then on the site search menu click on "Smith's etched brass products"; telephone/fax: +44(0)1747 811817

HMRS transfers can be bought from Peter's Spares https://petersspares.com - then on the menu go to hmrs-oo-scale-transfers ; or direct to: https://hmrs.org.uk and go to transfers;

Fox Transfers: www.fox-transfers.co.uk; or e-mail: sales@fox-transfers.co.uk; phone +44(0)116 319 4950;

Model Master: www.modelmaster.uk; phone +44(0)1292 289770

By the way I mentioned the British Railways' successors to the LNER Diagram 1/100. Here's a Parkside Diagram 1/146 I put together some months ago:

It's actually a conversion job of a kit for a later wagon plus spare parts from a Dgm 1/146 kit I botched

It's actually a conversion job of a kit for a later wagon plus spare parts from a Dgm 1/146 kit I botched

... And from the other side, with a lot of rust and 'dirt'. This is one wagon that hasn't been back for upgrade or repair since the build year (1952)

... And from the other side, with a lot of rust and 'dirt'. This is one wagon that hasn't been back for upgrade or repair since the build year (1952)

Hopper wagons, why have them?

You'll have seen in ROPFAMR 8 and 14 that hoppers - the unfitted, 3-link coupled four wheeled versions built from the days before the Stockton & Darlington Railway known as 'chaldron' wagons up to the 1960s, and then fully braked four wheeled hoppers up to modern-day bogie hoppers used by aggregates companies and for transporting imported iron ore to the steel plants - made (and still make) life a lot easier for those employed by the railways or quarries and mines.

They could be turned around faster - no need to shovel the loads from hither to thither - thus earning revenue quicker, and in the case of coal depot working they could be unloaded as quickly as it took to turn a lever on the wagon side to open the bottom doors, and close them again ready to be attached to a train for returns to the colliery.

I've built up a small fleet of hopper wagons - a few of therm from Parkside kits of 1950s Diagram 1/146, most Dapol 1930s LNER types in British Railways livery. It'll be nice to see long rakes clattering along behind the occasional J27 0-6-0, K1 2-6-0 or Q6 0-8-0. There will be mixed rakes of British Railways steel 16 tonners, earlier long wheelbase steel side tippers and timber 14 tonners behind a K3 2-6-0 or ex WD 2-8-0. Who knows, even a 9F 2-10-0 might be seen, with a Q6 on banking duties. Everything's going to be possible on the 'Ainthorpe Junction' layout - see the page: ROPFAMR 31

See description below

See description below

Don Rowland, "BRITISH RAILWAYS WAGONS - the first half million", a good insight into British Railways' revenue-earning wagon fleet from 1948/9. Drawings,tables, monochrome images with appendices (16 ton All Steel Mineral Wagons - ex-Ministry of War Transport and Ministry of Transport, running numbers and original Lot Numbers and much more). It's like a small illustrated encyclopaedia of British Railways rolling stock. Well worth the outlay from a modeller's and railway historical researcher's point of view.

Hopper wagons are covered from Chapter 4, pages 51-59; Parkside kit PC77 is based on Diagram 1/146 (welded hopper) 21 ton, with a drawing of 1/145, can be seen on page 53.

© 2019 Alan R Lancaster

Comments

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 19, 2019:

Hello Heidi, I try. The 'acid test' is in converting a picture to monochrome and comparing it with period images (as I did on the 'Thoraldby' page, cf Profile page link in the 'slide show' section).

Had thoughts of embarking into this territory then? (Sorry couldn't get back to you earlier, i was offline a few days).

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 11, 2019:

Looks very realistic! Thanks for sharing your hobby and art with us!

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 08, 2019:

Why wait that long Bill? If the Indians are right about their idea that we come back as something altogether different, you might come back as a mandrill, not a man. Live this life, you're a long time gone. Most of what I buy is second-hand. I buy wagon or van bodies at a show and add kit underframes, or buy kits. The only things I'll buy new are track and locos. Take a look around a model railway show, ask exhibitors how they get through with used stock etc.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 08, 2019:

In my next life I'm going to have this hobby. Until then, I'll just live vicariously through your efforts. It's the best I can do.

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 08, 2019:

Hello Liz, not constructing so much as changing the appearance of the model to make it something closer to reality. However the bottom pictures are of a kit (in the old Beeb 'Blue Peter' tradition, "Here's one I made earlier") conversion from something different. It's what's called 'kit-bashing', i.e., using a kit to achieve something else other than what the kit is for. I bought three wagon kits only to find they were of a wagon built after my chosen BR era (mid-1950s), so I extemporised with one kit and will go to the Shenfield, Essex, model railway exhibition to swap the other two at the trade counter of the firm I bought them from by mail order. Seemples!

Liz Westwood from UK on September 08, 2019:

This is a detailed description of how to construct relevant rolling stock for your layout. I was intrigued to see an ad yesterday for a contest on Channel 5 at the end of this week in which groups appear to be competing to create model railway layouts.