A few weeks ago, I acquired a set of Islington Station decals to letter a JM Huber ACF hopper. After some research, it was evident I needed a 3-bay hopper which I didn't have. Working on a budget, I was not willing to buy a new rail car thus decided to kitbash the hopper.
My victim was an old Athearn BB kit I custom painted as a CN hopper many years ago. It was among my first experimentation with decals and thus the job was quite rough. Lots of silvering and insufficient decal sealing spelled a disaster when I weathered it. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Anyway, stripped the paint from the shell and cut a bay and reduced the lenght of the car. Great care was taken to smooth down the seam as it would be ugly on a welded car. At some point, I decided to add the welded seams visible on the car. To do so, I put two stripes of Tamiya masking take leaving a 0.5mm gap. Then, using gel CA glue, I filled the gap. After a few minutes, before the glue was hard, I pulled off the tape, leaving a nice raised seam.
I took my decals and did a quick fit test. No!!! The car was now to short! Unusable.
Not discouraged, I decided to conitnue my researches and found out ACF covered hoppers came in all sort of lenght, capacity and building details. The JM Huber decals would be perfect for Accurail 3-Bay hopper, which is more modern. Anyway, let's be honest at this point, you'll find out the pneumatic discharge bays are wrong for most ACFX hoppers. I'll leave with that at this point.
My kitbashed 3-bay hopper could be suitable for a generic ACFX car, particularly a 3560 cuft car. A nice picture of car #63626 was sufficient to help me make my own custom decals for the project.
At this point, I also decided to use my other Athearn intact ACF hopper and paint it as a generic ACFX car. I only took a liberty by adding a small mention on each car: "Leased to JM Huber Corp.". I didn't strip the second shell, only removing easily the pad-printed lettering using a fine wet sandpaper and solvaset. This trick often does wonder to remove lettering without damaging the original paint.
I didn't find it suitable to improve the car details, except replacing the stirrups with A-Line metal ones. Cars were then painted with True Line CN Grey #11 which is a nice generic warm gray. Paint was thinned with Future floor finish to get a nice glossy surface ready for decaling.
Weathering was done by using various thin color filters airbrushed over the entire shells. Buff, dark brown and India ink with alcohol were used. The final weathering is weathering powders (white, dark earth and light gray). I try to achieve the look of a cars in service but not rusted. As a kid, those ACF center flow hoppers always looked in good shape and relatively clean. I'm quite happy with the results and we now have two new car to haul kaolin to the paper mill.
Now, I hope I'll find an Accurail ACF hopper some day at decent price to use my set of JM Huber decals.