Weekend Hopper Rebuild


It’s a grim sequence all model railroaders eventually face: The tick-tick-tick of a derailed wheel, the clumsy search for the throttle, the sickening crash, one or three or five models in gruesome postures on the ground.

The pieces are collected and added to the pile of wounded, and someday maybe…


Someday finally arrived for this Micro-Trains cylindrical covered hopper, and with a few simple steps it returned to revenue service in a weekend, with materials I had on hand so it was cheap. And, truth be told, I like the car more now than I did before I wrecked it.

The damage: Smashed end railings, dislodged roofwalk and brake gear, totaled trucks. I disassembled the model and cut away the bent and broken beams from the end structures. The roofwalk is photo-etched metal and thankfully it wasn’t too badly kinked – once I cut it loose of the model it pretty much returned to straight and flat.


The only hard part was rebuilding the smashed railing structure with some strip styrene I had on hand. I glued long strips against the remaining structure with CA. When they were dry I used a sharp scissors to trim them to length.


I glued the horizontal bars in place with CA, using a spring-loaded tweezers as a clamp to keep everything straight and square while the superglue dried. Again, I glued longer strips in place and trimmed them to size when the glue set.




With the structure rebuilt, I gently washed the car in soapy water and let it dry thoroughly. Then I sprayed it an oxide red. The brake gear got a coat of primer gray. Everything was set aside for 24 hours while the paint dried.


The Red Earth Co-Op in Herbst Junction operates a hodgepodge fleet of second-hand grain hoppers, and this resurrected unit is a perfect fit. Decals were scavenged from my odds-and-ends collection. I ran out of Xs for the RECX reporting marks, so I had to use a different font. Not perfect but so what? I imagine the outfit is a low-budget affair and good enough is good enough for them.

The car was fitted with new Micro-Trains 100-ton roller bearing trucks (I keep a 10-pack on hand) and Fox Valley Models 36-inch metal wheels (also an important staple). The roofwalk was glued back in place with CA. Finally, I did some light weathering with weathering powders.


When your models crash, save the pieces! Such unfortunate events can become fun, inexpensive weekend projects.


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