A quick Hopper Project

I am sitting here in a world where this year, I basically have no freight car kits on the go. I have a couple of more freight cars on order, but realistically, more boxcars are not what I need, or freight cars of any kind. I need to finish the scenery on the layout, keep plugging away at buildings, and start making operations paperwork for the freight cars I have so I can invite friends over and actually try to operate the layout and see how that goes. That said, a car I ordered a while ago has come in. I want a model of a GACX Airslide Hopper painted for the “Canadian Doughnut Company Ltd”. I know this car was seen in Toronto, but no idea if it would have ever made it to the Gillett Company Mill. A while back Athearn announced a new run of their GACX 2600 Airflow hoppers, and I had a set of the Black Cat Publishing decals for the CDL car. So I ordered one, knowing I could remove the factory printing from a blank car, and add the decals.

The first thing I do with every car or piece of equipment for the layout is replace the wheels with Code 88 semi-scale wheels, and Kadee 58 scale head couplers. This helps with a bunch of things, in theory, operations as all my cars have the same couplers. I also cut the trip pins off as all my coupling/uncoupling will be done manually. Similarly, for the wheels, using the same wheels means that hopefully any areas where there are issues, when I have to make adjustments, no equipment with different treads causes issues. This is hopefully something that will come home to roost when I actually start operating more (I say that a lot, I really do need to run more trains!).

First up, Couplers and wheels. Swapping out the Athearn Plastic Couplers for Kadee 58 Scale Head, and the Code 110 Wheels for Code 88 semi-finescale wheelsets (I have a supply of pre-painted wheels for when new cars are built or bought).

Moving on from the basic mechanical upgrades, I needed to strip the factory printed lettering to renumber the car, and change build dates and data. To do this, I started with my least noxious chemical, to see if it would work. This being Microscale Micro Sol, a solution intended to help settle newly applied decals. I don’t remember the last time (or if I’ve ever) tried to strip Athearn printing, but I’d head online Micro Sol would soften their printing from a short application. This turned out to be entirely true. In less than a minute, the lettering would start to scrape away with a toothpick. This is, still something you want to be gentle doing, and quick;y clean away the Micro Sol. It also effects the overall coating, and the goal is to not create big patches where the base colour is too distorted. A bit of distortion is OK, as the new lettering and weathering will hide it, but you want to gently scrape away the existing letters as they become soft. You can always apply more Micro Sol after a scrape and wipe up to soften any bits of lettering that are clinging on.

Removing Athearn Genesis lettering with Micro Sol and a Toothpick.

There was a lot more lettering to remove on the sides, but fortunately, with the blank generic GACX car as a base, there was nothing in the way of the “Canadian Doughnut Company Ltd” lettering and logo. the hardest part would be getting these aligned across the car. The decals are printed in parts, designed to provide a gap over the ribs between panels, makes getting them to lie flat easier, keeping everything aligned, harder! I did a combination of things, none of which I got usable pictures of, but using various straight edge rulers and tape, I gave myself alignment lines for each row. I think there are a couple of minor misalignments, but I can live with being close as I have to really squint to see them!

Stripping printed markings from the side, and applying the Black Cat Decals.

Once the decals were down, and had a chance to set, it was back at them with setting solutions and a knife, to poke holes so the Walthers Solvaset could get in beneath and melt away any air pockets. After a few applications, the decals settled down and the carrier film all but disappeared along with any air bubbles caught beneath the decals.

Did this rare car ever actually serve the one mill in Liberty Village? I don’t know, but I know I wanted it as an option for an occasional appearance, and I’m happy with how it came out.

Another one for the “to be weathered” pile. Always something else to do, but for now, at least this quick project of a couple of evenings work is done and looking snazzy prior to being dirtied up!

2 thoughts on “A quick Hopper Project

  1. Hey Stephen, can I encourage you to begin solo operations on your layout? I found when I stopped testing and started operating I shook out many more gremlins, enjoyed myself more and thus did more! Even if you just start deliveries to one customer, you’re operating.

    • Hi Rene, thanks. Yes, I do need to run more trains myself, but todays post will give you a good hint as to why I haven’t been running a lot of trains. Fingers crossed I am moving forward to finally be able to run trains without getting mad at my hobby!


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