Time to Weather: Rivet Counter N Scale 5188 Covered Hopper Cars
An Article by Justin Sobeck
After seeing a handful of these BNSF Heritage Hoppers in unit grain trains around Kansas City, I thought it would be fun to add some additional fidelity by highlighting the details on this already great model.
The fun part about weathering is that there are two sides to each car, so I decided that a light and heavy side (which is entirely possible, depending on how cars run) was the way to proceed here. Building on the techniques used on the BNSF outlined before, I used the same acrylic earth color palette and styles of application here. Bear in mind too that modern freight cars truly aren’t painted, but instead “industrially coated”, and as such quickly go flat, but don’t necessarily fade beyond there.
To begin, I unscrewed the trucks from the cars and separated the wheels, then carefully pried the etched roofwalk away from the carbody. There are four of the tabs around the roofwalk that are secured with adhesive, as well as support wings on the end crossovers, so pry gently so as not to bend or distort. Spray the dis-assembled model with dullcote or a flat coating of your choice. This step is important as this helps the washes adhere to the rounded carbody. Select a brush about the width of the panels and begin with a wash of nutmeg brown to simulate the light brown grunge that accumulates near the weld seams of the car. Dry your brush and quickly pull off any excess wash on the center of the panels, then let dry. Repeat this step with a darker shade of brown. Wash this coat up to the roof hatches as well, to create the darker appearance of materials that would naturally gather on the roof of the car.
The darker weathering near the roof hip is mildewed/molded grain dust. Sounds delicious? The coating is offers just enough porosity for the mold to attach, and flourish through the presence of food and daylight. I used repeated dry brushing and stippling of colors pavement and burnt umber to get this effect on the upper third of the carbody, centered around the upper hip sill. Once this is dry, moisten a Q-tip and burnish up from the center of the panels to the upper hip sill to wash some of this overage off – any inconsistencies here are ok, as the prototypes aren’t perfect. Repeat a couple more washes to this side in base colors of your choice to blend it in. For the lighter side, I used a few washes of burnt umber, nutmeg brown, and one thin wash of pavement overall to bring the car together. The roofwalk was washed in nutmeg brown and pavement, and really pops against the dirty/dusty roof.
Don’t forget about the bottom and ends of the car. The flat coat we applied earlier helps with adhesion to the finely detailed end cages, brake details and couplers. The wheels were painted with nutmeg brown, as were the bearing caps and bolster springs. Couplers can be either lighter(new) or darker (in-service) to simulate the service cycle of the equipment as desired (I went with moderate). Don’t forget that the wheels kick up an interesting pattern of mud and dirt on the ends of the outer hopper bays and end cages – wash or dry brush to your impression of this.
Once you have got all the parts weathered, time to carefully re-assemble the model. Apply any transitional weathering to the roofwalk supports to better tie it into the rest of the car, and same with the trucks. Apply one more round of flat coat to seal the weathering onto the car. Clean any paint overage or clear coat off the wheels before hitting the rails with it.
Another really neat feature of these modern cars is the post-2005 mandated Part 224 FRA Conspicuity striping along the bottom sill of the car. There are aftermarket sources for this reflective material, one being Smokebox Graphics – and my order from them was unfortunately delayed by the USPS when I was completing this project. Little details like this make an already awesome model even better!
eNjoy, and happy modeling!
Justin Sobeck is a lifelong N Scale Modeler and lives with his young family in Pacific, Missouri. When he’s not working at his day job as a Rail Safety Specialist for the State of Missouri, Sobeck custom paints and weathers model trains as a side business called “Cedar Summit Customs.”