Quick & Easy Hopper Loads

quick and easy hopper loads

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If you’re tired of watching empty hopper cars rolling along on your layout here’s a quick way to fill ‘em.

I cut 1” thick pink rigid foam insulation to fit inside the hoppers. I slice the foam in half so it’s about 1/2” thick. I use a bandsaw, but a jewlers saw also works for these cuts (Figures 2a,b,c).

I bevel the top of the pink foam blanks to represent the shape of the top of a coal or gravel load. I paint the foam black (or gray or brown depending on the commodity being modeled) with acrylic, not solvent based paint.  I carefully hot-glue a fender washer to the bottom of the load (don’t melt the foam!). This let’s me unload hoppers with a strong magnet. I paint the top surface of the loads with full-strength white glue and liberall sprinkle on Woodland Scenics coal or ballast to represent coal or gravel.

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Figure 1: Hopper cars, loaded with coal rolling through Oakhill on my BC&SJ.

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Figure 2a,b,c: Cutting the foam to length, width, and thickness.

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Figure 3: A pair of pink-foam blanks ready for shaping to simulate the crown of a coal or gravel load.

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Figure 4: The bottom of the upside-down load shows its fender washer hot-glued in place. The quarter gives an idea of the load’s size. These are HO scale.

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Figure 5: I use the steel fender washers to make unloading the hoppers easy. No prying, no need to pick up the cars, instead I hold a Kadee under-the-track uncoupling magnet over the load and it pops right out.

After the glue holding the phony coal or gravel in place dries, the load is ready to be placed into a hopper car and delivered where it’s needed. You’ll probably need different size loads for different types of hoppers.

No more transparent coal or gravel loads on my railroad!

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