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The CN aluminum tank hopper (and CP aluminum and steel cars as well) were one of those seemingly forgotten freight cars that everyone saw for years but never photographed. They were built in the mid 1960's between the well known slabsided hoppers and the later cylindrical hoppers with features of both car types. They had flat or peaked roofs and rounded car sides, with the aluminum cars being promoted by Alcan as a market for aluminum. Aluminum turned out to have issues with corrosion, particularly where it was mated with steel or other metal. CN also purchased aluminum cylindrical hoppers for grain service, but CP stayed with steel for future car orders. CN rostered several orders of 4 and 8 hatch aluminum tank hoppers (http://canadianfreightcargallery.ca/cgi-bin/image.pl?i=cn361177&o=cn), while CP took delivery of multiple orders of 4 and 8 hatch cars in both steel and aluminum versions (http://canadianfreightcargallery.ca/cgi-bin/image.pl?i=cp386466&o=cprail). CN ran their cars into the mid 1990s while some of the CP cars lasted into the mid 2000’s. For many years Sylvan Scale Models has produced resin kits for buildings, ships, freight cars and vehicles. For a long time the only way to get accurate Canadian freight cars was with significant kitbashing of existing kits or with resin kits. Recent RTR plastic models have allowed for an easier way to accurately model the prototype. However there are some freight cars that will likely never be available in ready to run versions due to limited appeal beyond specific railways or being unique cars. One of these car types is the tank hopper.In the late 1990’s to early 2000’s Sylvan Scale Models offered resin kits for all the CN and CP cars. These were and still are the only way to accurately model these cars with the exception of some limited edition brass cars. While these cars appear to have sold well, it has been rare to see them as completed models on layouts and modelling meets. I didn’t understand the reason for this until I started building my own kits. The biggest challenge was and still is the end ladders and support cages. The resin parts are delicate and prone to significant warpage.
My first CN 4 hatch hopper - the ladders and end cages took as long as the rest of the car several times over.I completed a CN 4 hatch aluminum car using Tichy ladders and square styrene rod along with wire for the grab irons. This process was very labour intensive and time consuming. I thought that there had to be a better way to build these cars.Conversations with other modellers showed that they faced the same challenges with these cars. My friend Chris mentioned that he had seen a blog post from another modeler (Sean S.) who had done etched end cages for his own models of these cars. We decided to see if we could get etchings done for our own cars. We contacted Sean about using his drawings and he readily agreed. My friend Al at Black Cat Decals (http://blackcatdecals.com) has been expanding his product line into brass etchings for things like caboose doors, whistle posts and other useful things. I contacted him about doing some custom etching with his supplier as his products are very nicely done. He agreed and we were off.Sean suggested the idea of getting a custom run of the tank hoppers from Sylvan to go along with the new etchings. And suddenly I had 50 Sylvan CP 8 hatch tank hoppers in my basement. I put word out about the rerun of kits and they were all spoken for (sold out) in less than a day. I was surprised by how strong demand for the cars was. But I had no etchings yet…I forwarded the drawings to Al who redid them to meet the required format for his etcher. We had lots of back and forth during about the design and submitted the drawing to his etcher for a test run. Finally I had test etchings to see how they would look on the Sylvan kit. They were beautifully rendered with finely rendered ladder rungs and grab irons. Some review of the test etchings gave us some things to adjust. Further revisions to the drawings were done and resent to the etcher. It turns out that we will have two sets of end cages for the different cars as an added bonus. We’ve had people request separate end cages for both types of cars as many kits remain in their boxes due to the challenges related to building the end cages. There are other possibilities for this type of etched approach that maybe worth pursuing in the future.
I got the etchings folded using my Mission Models Etch Mate to fold the etching along the fold lines. I decided to add a small piece of styrene behind the corners to block off the small gaps along the fold lines. We added these to ensure that the corners would fold nicely. The gaps are barely noticeable but I figured I'd block off the chance of light being seen between the corner ladders. I trimmed 4 pieces of scale 2x2 Evergreen styrene and CA'ed them into each corner, ensuring I left sufficient room to fit the etching to the car end. It's a small detail that I think will make the overall build look better.The CP prototype cars have fairly straightforward brake piping as seen in this prototype photo: CP brake piping details - 8 hatch steel car CN 8 hatch aluminum hopper piping - as good as I have found so farThe CN cars are more complicated and unfortunately I haven't stumbled across a definitive photo showing the exact piping layout. I elected to fudge the piping based on what photos and information I have now. If you are going to be wrong at least be consistent. CN 8 hatch tank hopper CP 8 hatch steel hopper CN 4 hatch tank hopperI added Kadee brake wheels, Tichy chains and fulcrums and some wire for the pipes and we've got the brake gear done on the CN and CP cars. Close up photography does tend to show inconsistencies though. The delicate verticals and railings tend to get slightly bent during handling, but this is a bit prototypical as these cars got a fair bit of hard use over their lives.
I airbrushed my CN and CP tank hopper with Vallejo paints - a custom warm black mix for the CP cars and silver for the CN cars except for one which was painted in CN #11 grey as some cars got this scheme.
I used Sylvan decals for the CN and CP cars, but I swapped out the script decals on the 4 hatch car for a multimark set I had on hand as the multimark was more common by the early 1980's. On the CP cars I used either the kit walkway (8 hatch) or kitbashed Kadee walkways (4 hatch). On the CN cars I used newly minted custom etched walkways by Black Cat Decals instead as these were not done when I built the CP cars. An added bonus is that the walkways are stainless steel so don't need paint on the silver cars. I will paint the walkway for the grey car before I apply it. I still need to add the stainless steel walkways to the CN cars. Once that is done next up will be some weathering to make the cars a bit more "used". There will be enough car supply on the layout for all the demand for cement and lime in the north of Manitoba.
This article first appeared on hudbayrailway.blogspot.com
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