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Hoppers in distress


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Although my collection of coal hoppers and mineral wagons do not fit in with either of my layouts, constructing a rake of weathered and aged wagons of various types has been something I've always wanted to do ever since I became interested in model railways. I already have a short rake of loaded 16t mineral wagons which I've previously weathered and fitted with scale couplings but for the past few years I've also collected a number of hopper wagons and I feel now is the time to do something with them.

The following photo shows where things currently stand, eight wagons that can be coupled and run together. There are a few more 16t minerals that need reattaching to their chassis but I have to sort them out first.


E270706 still requires its chassis weathering


And E306626 is also in need of its chassis weathering


B411781 is in slightly better condition but also requires chassis weathering


E270706 has seen better days


E306626 (duplicate one) has only just received its first coat of enamel both inside and out. I keep altering my technique as I go along and discover what works best for me. I stil prefer using the short piece of sponge with enamel paints to create rust effects but here I've been using pieces of kitchen paper to remove excess paint and tomorrow I'll be giving this one some additional coats.


Although individually they may leave a lot to be desired, as a rake of wagons I'm quite pleased with how it's all turning out but there's a long way and a lot more wagons to go yet.

I have no idea where I'll be running these when they're finished or whether they'll be loaded or empty. I do prefer loaded coal wagons but there's also a case for a long rake of empties. I'm also undecided about couplings but on this occasion I may stick with the tension locks rather than fiddling about with scale couplings. It would be nice to see them on the garden layout but if they're empty they might just need some additional weight to get through the spring points.

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I was up in the attic again earlier doing some more weathering to the hoppers and just before I came down I took some photos of my latest attempts, only to find that they look very much like the ones I posted above yesterday.

I would like to point out that I'm not exclusively into heavy distressing and that some of those I've done look in pretty good condition like the one below.


The interior still needs seeing to, the chassis as well needs doing, but it makes a change from some of the others I've been doing.

In the next two photos, both are very similar but I'm just trying this out to see which colour is best to begin with. I add several coats of enamels to the heavily weathered ones and this is how I normally begin.

Firstly a rusty coloured one....


...followed by a darker coloured one


Both the above wagons wil have another couple of coats

This next one was originally started in rust colour before layers of dirt were added on top. Initially it didn't look quite right but I've gone over the bits of remaining grey paint with some white spirit to clean them off a bit and make them stand out more.


One of the benefits with using a piece of sponge on tacky enamel paint is that pieces of sponge break away and stick to the paint which I think resembles rust as seen above.

Doing the rusty wagons is immensely satisfying. I don't think a few like this will look out of place but it does need balancing with some better condition ones. I suppose it all depends on what era I'm trying to portray but I'l have to get back to you on that one as I have no idea just yet.

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Just a brief update today as I've not done too much again but I thought it might be of interest to show how the two wagons pictured above turned out after having their second coats this evening.

I wonderred which would turn out better, one painted with dark colour first and then rust on top and the other painted in a rust undercoat with darker colour on top.

The following 2 photos show how the darker one turned out after having a top coat of rust colour applied



It doesn't look too bad, just a bit too brown overall for my liking, so I'll be adding another coat of dirt colour tomorrow when it has dried.

The one first painted rust I think has turned out much better with a layer of dirt added



I really like that one so in future it's going to be rust colours underneath, which I suppose is prototypical, and dirt on top.

I'll post these next 3 photos to show the method I've used on the next 2 wagons bearing in mind that it's rust colour as the base coat.

Firstly the rusty brown colour is roughly painted on to the panels and stippled with a piece of sponge when tacky to give it some texture. Small pieces of sponge will b reak away and adhere to the enamel but that just adds to the effect in my opinion.


Then I drop on some neat white spirit with a paintbrush and dab it off gently with some kitchen roll to leave some of the original wagon colour showing surrounded by ther remaining rust.


And here's a close up of a panel that I have stippled with the sponge to create the rust texture. I might even leave this entire panel this way for a bit of variety



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I made an earlier start today so I've already got some photos to add to show the latest progress on the hopper wagons.

Just to show how quick and easy it is to achieve acceptable results, take a look back at the previous 3 photos showing 2 wagons that I began working on last night. They had both been roughly painted (and I mean roughly) in a rust colour before the tacky enamel paint was stippled with a small piece of foam. The tackier it gets the better the results. Then splash on some thinners or, in my case, white spirit, and dab that off with a piece of paper kitchen towel. I think it's best to leave a fair amount of the original paintwork showing through with rust surrounding it. Leave to dry overnight.

Once it has dried paint the panels with a dirt colour, I used a mix of frame dirt and weathered black and then gently wipe it away downwards with kitchen paper towel. It looks good to leave some streaking so do it to your preferences.


(above) This wagon has had the 3 right-hand panels painted with a dirt colour which has then been gently removed by wiping from the top downwards, leaving deposits of dirt around the edges.


(above) The 3 left-hand panels have been painted with dirt colour and are ready for wiping.


(above) On the left is the other wagon from yesterday, B411781, having been weathered with the top colour of dirt, alongside the one seen above before painting.


(above) This is the side of the wagon where I left an entire panel rusty.


(above) A closer view of B11781

And seen below is a line up of 3 weathered 21t hoppers that just need their chassis's weathering and some weathering powders applying to finish everything off.


I know weathering isn't everyones cup of tea and added to that is the cost of models today. It's not easy after having paid a small fortune for them to then start covering them in paints but viewed alongside the original out of the box wagons there really is no comparison. I used to be reluctant to have a go myself but when you see what you can achieve then it does make it all worthwhile.

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Thanks Iain. Some of them give me what I was hoping for but as with most of my weathering attempts it's all done from what I feel I remember rather than from any prototype photos. These types of wagons, or at least the few that were left, were all in a run down state when I was on the railway and perhaps they weren't quite as rusted as I like to portray them but that's what I feel they were like. There really should be some holes in the bodysides too where bits of coal/coke could fall out, often with a bit of wood or even cardboard placed there in an attempt to retain the contents.

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One thing I would point out about the Hornby 21t hoppers is just how poor they are running on the layout. I've been looking on the Internet and it seems it's a problem for everyone and not just me. The clearances between the wheels, the bottom part of the hopper and the underside of the chassis isn't sufficient for the wheels to freely turn without binding on some part of it. Changing the wheels seems to be one remedy with Dapol wheels suggested as they are that bit smaller. Other than that it's out with some files to try make enough clearance to get a free rolling wagon. Isn't that something that should have been remedied before mass production?

Compared to a recent Accurascale 24.5t wagon there is no comparison, the Accurascale one being so perfectly smooth. Mind you, one thing that did surprise me with the 21t Accurascale mineral wagon is the thickness of the bodysides, or at least the edge around the top of the wagon. It does look on the thick side but maybe that's just me.

Edited by mick
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Not a lot been happening today but I can at least post this photo of the first Accurascale 21t mineral wagon I have attempted. I thought I'd leave the other 2 until I was confident they would be okay, especialy as we're talking approximately £25 per wagon with these.


Edited by mick
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The end is in sight for this current batch of wagons. I've given all the chassis' a coat of dirt using the airbrush so I can finally start putting some of them back together again. 

The final 2 wagons to be weathered were a couple of 16t minerals, one of them quite rusty...



...and one not quite so rusty.



I do like seeing the side doors rusted over as in the first two photos above and the bit of sponge over tacky enamel paint does a decent job of replicating that rusted appearance.


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I've had a rest for a day or two as there's only so much weathering you can do before it starts getting a bit tedious. I also went through a period of questioning why on earth I was weathering all these wagons when they don't fit in with either of my layouts. I still don't know the answer to that but what got me back to the weathering table was getting out the 28 mineral wagons I weathered, loaded and fitted with scale couplings all those years ago.  They're not perfect by any means but it was just so good to see them back out on a layout and the fact that I could now add to the rake gave me the incentive to carry on.

So there's now another three 21t hoppers awaiting chassis weathering and interiors finishing off.



E306626 has received my usual treatment and has 3 rusted panels which I really like. It's just something out of my head rather than anything I've seen in photographs but I'm sure there'll have been wagons like this at some point in time.



E303821 is very similar to the first wagon but also has some rather prominent rust flaking off on one side of the wagon in addition to one rusted panel. Another effect that I really like, caused by particles of sponge sticking to the tacky enamel.



B411732 is rather plain in comparison but rather than dropping white spirits onto the rusty undercoat I spattered it with white spirit from the paintbrush to leave smaller markings.


Edited by mick
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Those rusted panels look really effective, I'm sure there must have been some with panels that were worn more than the rest on the wagon. The sponge effect looks very believable aswell, they add some coarser texture thats looks more than just surface rust that tends to be depicted on models.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've made more progress weathering the coal hoppers/mineral wagons.


The 3 grey Accurascale 21t minerals have now been similarly weathered. I like them but that's as many as I'm getting. They add a bit of variety to the mineral wagon rake and there are 3 bauxite liveried ones for a later date but I can't bring myself to buying any more when there's always some problem or other to deal with.




I've still not decided if they should be empty or loaded.

Also fresh from the weathering desk is an Accurascale 24.5t hopper wagon


I purchased a number of these when they were first released along with fitted coal loads. Like many recent wagons they have some very fine detail that is easily damaged and I've already managed to snap off one of the handbrake levers (opposite side to the photo) while wiping away surplus paint. I may be able to carefully fix it back in place but it has snapped right in the middle.

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As mentioned elsewhere, I've managed to find a solution to the droopy couplings on the 21t mineral wagons which I'm pleased about. It still doesn't make me want to purchase any more but at least now I feel confident running the ones I have.

I have spent an hour or two this afternoon trying to get the Hornby 21t hoppers running smoothly. This has involved removing the wheels, filing down parts of the hopper sides and adding lubricant to the axle holes. It has made a significant difference though they are still not on a par with the Accurascale wagons when it comes to free running - far from it in fact.

I have now got a sizeable rake of 16t minerals, 21t minerals, 21t hoppers and 24.5t hoppers so before I continue weathering any more wagons I need to think about what I want to do with them, which ones need to be loaded and which should remain empty.

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15 hours ago, ba14eagle said:

They need loading Mick - they will look fabulous with some really coarse grades of the black gold.

I will certainly be loading some of them Iain. In the case of the 24.5t hoppers I already have the Accurascale loads ready and waiting to fit inside so I'll need to crack on and get those wagons weathered as there are about 2 dozen of them to do. The Hornby 21t hoppers would benefit from being loaded - the addition of extra weight would aid running. I'll be making my own loads for these.

I'm not entirely sure how many Bachmann 16t minerals I have -  probably about 30 in total that could be run empty. There's also the 28 loaded ones from my previous attempts. I'd prefer to load the 3 Accurascale 21t minerals and add them to the loaded set for a bit of variety but that will mean adding scale couplings. Accurascale include some scale couplings with the wagons but I think they're mainly for cosmetic purposes - I'll have to take a closer look. In any case I've got a few pairs of couplings I can use.

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