From the first time I saw this strange looking beast I have been turned-on to its unique features that give it individuality. I first saw this car in a photo taken by a fellow Burlington fan. I had to have a copy, so in a few short weeks he returned with a copy. It is with this first photo that I made my first model of this hopper car, and everyone who has seen it, has been intrigued with it. Due to my unfamiliarity with this car, and limited to one photo, my model is not quite as accurate as one would like. This is no longer has to be true since my trip to the midwest this last summer rewarded me with the opportunity to take several photos of the "Whale Belly" hopper. All the photos I took were with color slide film, and I must apologize for the loss in quality of these photos in this article due to the several steps of processing from slide to black & white negative, to print, to negative, to plate and finally to you on paper. Anyone interested in copies of these slides may write to Prototype Modeler for information. (Please include SSAE).
The specifications for this cement hopper which is nicknamed "Whale Belly" were furnished by my friend Ken Martin. The Burlington number series are 84950-84999; weight 200,000 lbs., or 2,800 cu. ft.; length 41'3", (I have assumed that was measured from coupler to coupler), width 10'8", and height 15'1". My drawings are based on these figures and are only as good as my crystal ball could tell.
For this model I used an old tank car as a basic building block. The manufacture is unknown or at least out of production, so I would suggest using an Athearn 82' tank car which has similar rounded ends. This article will cover the basic steps necessary to modify the tank car as I built it which should be similar to the Athearn conversion.
First disassemble all parts and remove the tank from the frame. Take tank and trim all brackets and grab irons from body. Smooth with fine sand paper. The body of this hopper car is a welded tank construction and this makes it easy to match the prototype. Using the drawings as a guide, take the body and cut both ends to half the length of the whole body. (If using the Athearn car, it might make more sense to leave the body in one length and add the dome end to it.)
Note the body must be split horizontally on the center line so the bottom can be sloped to match the drawing. A triangular piece is set to the side to fill the void when the bottom is lowered. Notice that the bottom is made up of three special pices and special care must be taken to get the right angles cut so everything will fit together. Before putting the body together, cut the weights supplied to fit the bottom. Now using your favorite plastic cement, assemble the body one piece at a time, making sure all seams are smooth.
After the body has been assembled and cement is set, then all gaps and mismatches can be filled with one of the popular putties and sanded smooth. Finish with No. 600 sandpaper. Notice the nine holes on each side of the body that can be drilled now or later. (Use .015 dia. drill.)
Now we can start detailing the bottom of the tank body.
Looking at the photos and using the bottom view drawing, I constructed the air channels with .010 thick strips of white styrene. Again these are secured with your favorite cement. When I built my model I only had one photo and I assumed both sides were the same, but this summer proved this wrong. So when you make your model, you will have a better prototype than mine.
Now to add all the plumbing detail to the bottom of this cement hopper, I used brass wire and some scrap brass castings. Let's take the "Y" shaped piece first. If you are good at fine detail work, this piece can be made from brass castings, (elbows, etc.), but I chose to just bend brass wire to shape and solder together. To simulate the elbows I wound .0l0 dia. wire around the larger .040 dia. wire and soldered in place, and then trimmed the ends leaving a ring that looked like an elbow. The remaining plumbing details I will leave up to you since in my model these were inaccurate. I think you have a better chance just working with my drawings, Good luck!
Now for some more details, using .020 wire, bend one piece for each end railing. Drill holes and secure with one of the popular super glues. From styrene sheets, build brake wheel stand and mount a purchased gearbox of plastic or brass. Now add a roof walk which can be made from scraps left over from bottom walks. Since I did not climb up on top of this hopper car, the hatches used on top are still a mystery. I used some old round hatch doors from my scrap pile. I might suggest that if you don't have any, then buy an Athearn Tear Drop hopper car, (which contains two kinds of hatch covers), and use the round hatches for the whale belly. Then use the long hatches for your Athearn Tear Drop car.
For the ladders I would suggest purchasing some narrow guage brass ladder stock from your local hobby shop. I think the standard ladders would look a little too wide as mine did. Oh, yes! There are four ladders, not two as my model shows. For the last details you should add the brake rigging and on the opposite end there is a tank that should be mounted on the frame. I used an old Walthers passenger car tank, but I'm sure you can do better than this with a little imagination. That about does it for all the details except whatever you can add from the drawings and photos provided. One last comment about size; you will find that using these ready made kits, your model will be a little undersized, but who will ever notice? So if you are a purist, then you will have to build the body from a solid block of wood, or whatever comes to mind.
For painting, I mixed a little white into reefer gray, and painted the entire hopper with it. After that drys, then add a gloss coat to give the decals a good base. For a decal set, I used the Champ set No. HC-432 for a Burlington covered hopper. After decaling, I painted a few rust marks on the sides and lightly weathered it. Finish with a coat of flat finish to cover the decals. Install a good set of roller bearing trucks and you are ready to roll.