Monday, March 21, 2011

Upgrading an IHC 40’ Quad Hopper

Few years ago, when I bought my IHC President’s Choice train set, I kept the engine (a nice running 4-6-4) and left the cheap rolling stock in the box. Cheap is a mere euphemism to described these pieces of plastic junk. Almost unprototypical by all aspects and decorated with horrendous paint schemes, I was feeling nothing could be done with them. In fact, it was almost true.

When rebuilding the layout, it was decided to stick to a 1957 era. Part of the rolling stock had to be upgraded and there was a need for a few more hoppers. Also, since the layout is mainly focussed on operation, we needed sturdy rolling stock (seeing nice Proto 2000 automotive box cars being scrapped of their grab irons by unscrupulous operators is a sight you don’t want to see again...).  At this moment, I remembered about the IHC 40’ quad hopper. Upon close inspection, it became apparent is was quite well done for a train set quality car. In fact, except the talgo truck, is was far better than the regular old Bachmann quad hopper.

Original car with talgo trucks, X2F couplers and "Mini-Chefs" paint scheme.

Looking on for pictures, I came across old triple-bay hopper with its 50’s paint scheme. Having enough decals and dry letterings to handle the job, I decided to convert my IHC car into a CNR car. At this point, I overlooked the fact it was quad hopper... and that CNR got their hopper in 1958! Sometimes, you have to make some compromises.

Prototype used as reference,, Don Jaworsky (2011)

First of all, I removed the talgo trucks and replaced them with a pair old MDC Roundhouse truck with 33' metal wheel sets. The underframe was modified to accommodate a pair of Kadee coupler pockets. Then, the truck mounting holes were filled with CA glue and baking soda. Smaller holes were drilled to accept the truck screws.

Car with new MDC trucks and body-mounted Kadee couplers.
New Kadee coupler pocket and truck mounting hole filed.
Truck mounting hole filled with CA glue and baking soda.
Then, I tried to remove the paint job. Nothing worked. The “Mini-chefs” scheme was decided to stay in place. So, I decided to paint it anyway. Using a Krylon spray primer (the brown one), I covered the car. Fortunately, the original paint scheme didn’t show up. Looks like IHC used a very thin film to decorate the car. However, I wouldn’t do this with another car.

The car after two coats of Krylon Brown Primer.

Krylon Primer is one of my preferred paint when dealing with CNR freight cars. It is decently similar to CN Red 11 and can be weathered nicely. It cost almost nothing and cover almost anything. Surface may be a little bit rougher than an airbrushed car, but not enough to be noticeable. It’s a good way to save a few bucks and a lot of time. Also, with this color, my CNR fleet is now consistent. Black washes may help to darken it until you get the shade you want, just like the real thing.

Letters were splitted individually and regularly spaced according to prototype.
Letterings was snatched from a set of Microscale decals (CN modern freight & caboose) adapted to the prototype (mainly the letter spacing). Data are from a old set of C-D-S dry transfer lettering.

Completed car beside an Accurail 55-Ton hopper prior to weathering.

Weathering was done using several washes of PollyScale Steam Power black diluted in alcohol. To give more character, I masked the numbers and some data to simulate reweighting and renumbering (the prototype was renumbered). Some oil paint washes were also used to enhance a few details and add rust. Pastel dust was applied on the lower body and wheels to simulate dirt. 

The final product weathered and ready to run on the layout.

In conclusion, this project shown me there was a lot of potential hidden in the IHC quad hopper. This car, once painted and weathered can survive the comparison with pricey rolling stock... at some extents. The conversion cost almost nothing and was done with left over parts from other scars.

Bachmann 40' quad hoppers with new truck and weathering.

I would definitively convert more IHC hopper if I ever get some. I also converted a Bachmann quad hopper of the same prototype. The Bachmann car is however another beast. Easier to modify but with chunky details that don’t look to good. However, a friend of our club gave us a whole box of Bachmann train set cars so I’ll give it a try to boost our hopper roster.

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