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  • Southern Pacific PS-2 Covered Hopper

    By T. Vanden Bosch

    Photos by Tom Vanden Bosch
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 26 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 27


    Southern Pacific purchased 700 PS-2 covered hoppers from the Pullman Company between December, 1956, and July, 1958. The PS-2 covered hopper was one of several "standard" freight car designs designed and sold by the Pullman Company. The Southern Pacific's PS-2's are grouped in two classes; H-70-16 and H-7018. Class H-70-16 includes cars numbered 401100-401349 and 402048-402297. These cars were built between December, 1956, and April, 1957, and are standard PS-2 covered hoppers. All Class H-7 0-16 cars have AAR style, 70 ton, plain bear ing trucks. Class H-70-18 includes cars numbered 4013 50-401549. These cars were built between March and July, 1958, and are also standard PS-2 covered hoppers. All of the H-70-18 Class cars have roller bearing trucks. Except for the trucks, the cars of both classes are essentially the same. According to the October, 1976, issue of The Official Railway Equipment Register, 616 of the H-70-16 and H-70-18 cars are still in service.

    The Southern Pacific covered hoppers are all painted grey, including the trucks and underframe. Two styles of lettering are used. The first style is what I call the billboard style and consist of the name Southern Pacific spelled the full length of the car in large block letters. The word Pacific is underneath the word Southern. With this style, all the lettering is black, and all the letters in both the words Southern and Pacific are the same size. The second style could be called a reduced billboard style because the name Southern Pacific only covers the right half of the car side. Again the word Pacific is underneath the word Southern and is offset to the right. The lettering colors with the second lettering style can be either red, yellow, or black. Some of the H-70-16 cars with the second lettering style also have an SP Herald with the letter ing. When the herald is present it is usually in the second panel from the left end. My observations indicate that there is no pattern within the classes as to which cars have which style and color of lettering. For example, cars 401152, 501157, and 401158 all have the second lettering style, but in red, yellow, and black respectively. Car 401152 does not have a herald and the others do. Cars 401140 and 401171 both have the first style of lettering.

    The covered hoppers are in general service use for bulk commodities that must be protected from the weather. Most of the cars I have observed in my area (San Francisco Peninsula) recently have been in cement service, but I have also seen some cars in these classes labeled for food service.


    A quite accurate model of an S P PS-2 covered hopper can be built starting with a Roundhouse covered hopper kit. Four modifications of the kit are required in order to build a reasonably accurate model; 1) the roof hatch spacing must be changed, the end hatches are too close to the center on the kit roof, 2) the space between the sides at the hopper ends must be enclosed, 3) the channel on the end of each side must be removed and replaced with a rib the same as the other ribs, and 4) for class H-70-18 different trucks are required (in some kits the truck change is required for the H-70-16 depending on which trucks come with the kit). Other detailing is optional such as replacing cast on grab irons with wire, adding brake piping and levers, hopper vibrator fittings, roping staples, and so on.

    I recommend that you strip all paint and lettering from the model before you start. I use the paint stripper made by Scale coat and I have also used brake fluid with success, but use whatever method suits you best. Tools and materials required to make this conversion include an X-acto knife with No. 11 and No. 15 blades, a pin vise with No. 77 drill bit, needle nose pliers, tweezers, double edged razor blades, a scale rule, assorted needle files, sand paper, cement (liquid, epoxy, and cyano acrylate), sheet styrene, wire, filler, paint, and decals.


    The end roof hatches are located too close to the center on the Roundhouse kit roof. The end hatches should be centered 10'-6" from the centerline of the center hatches. I have used two different methods to move the end hatches. The first involves cutting the roof into sections and rearranging the pieces to get the correct spacing. This method in complicated, time consuming, and requires quite a bit of filling and sanding, but it works. The second method is simpler, gives results as good as the first and is the one I recommend. Use a thin double edge razor blade and carefully and slowly cut the end hatch ring from the roof. This is tricky and you must work slowly and deliberately, work ing the blade around the hatch ring. If you lose the hinge pieces in the process, don't worry, these are very easy to replace. What you want is a ring as close as possible to the original thickness. Set the rings aside. Fill the holes in the roof where you removed the ring with a disc of styrene and fill any cracks with putty. When dry, sand flush with the roof. Now, using liquid cement, re-cement the hatch rings to the roof centered on a line 10'-6" from the center of the center hatch. The side of the ring with the double nibs (hatch hinge) goes towards the center of the car. You can get the rings the correct distance from the edge of the roof by laying a straight edge against the center hatches and locating the rings against it.

    Photo by Tom Vanden Bosch
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 28 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 29

    Replace any lost hinge nibs and the latch piece with scraps of.020" styrene using the pieces on the center hatches as a guide for size. You can now install the hatch llds. You may have to thin the bottom disc of the end lids to get them to fit properly. Cement the lids in place with liquid cement.


    On Southern Pacific's covered hoppers all the side ribs are the same. The Round house kit has channels for the end ribs, so these must be removed and replaced. Use an X-acto knife with a No. 15 blade to carefully cut and scrape the channels off then sand the area smooth. Make new ribs from.010" and.020" styrene as shown in Figure 1 and cement them to the body. On the prototype, the ends of the hopper body are filled in between the sides behind the end ribs. Cut a piece of.040" styrene with scale dimensions of about 1'-0" x 4'-0" and fit this to the body. The top will need to be tapered to match the hopper slope sheet. Fit a piece to each end by trial and error working to get a relatively tight fit. The end panel is slightly recessed behind the end ribs leaving about a scale 3" of the side showing beyond the end panel. The bottom of the panel should just touch the under frame when the underframe is installed. When the fit is right, cement the panel in place with liquid cement from the inside.

    Cement the roof to the body with liquid cement, aligning the roof end flush with the body at the brake wheel end. When the cement is dry, sand the roof flush with the end. At this point you have a reasonably accurate SP PS-2 cover ed hopper model and if you are satisfied you can finish assembly according to the Roundhouse kit instructions and then skip to the painting and lettering.


    I replaced all the cast on ladders and grab irons with ones of wire. Doing this makes a remarkable improvement in the looks of the model. Use the grab iron mounting bolt heads cast on the model to locate and drill No. 77 holes for each grab iron. With holes drilled, take a razor saw and very carefully cut the cast grabs and ladder rungs off. When working on the ladders I found that cutting the inside end of the rung off first followed by the end worked best. Use a knife to cut and scrape the grab irons off the side and end of the frame. Cut and file the ladder angles and comer braces smooth where the grab irons have been cut off. Use Figure 1 to locate the holes for the left end side grab irons. The locations are slightly different from the kit locations. Note that there is only one long grab iron on each end instead of the two on the kit.

    Quality Craft grab irons are the correct size to fit the kit ladder width, with the exception of the bottom two rungs on the end ladders. These are slightly wider and I used Pacific Traction grab irons here. I also used Pacific Traction grab irons for those on the frame below the ladder on the sides and for the grab irons on the end sill. The long grab irons on the left (facing each side) were bent from.018" wire. I used cyanoacrylate cement to hold the grab irons and ladder rungs in place. On one of my models I replaced the side ladders with Kemtron X-383 brass freight car ladders cut to size. This looks as good as the individual grab irons and is easier to do. This doesn't work on the ends because of the wide bottom on the ladders. Thin the cross section of the end steps by filing so that they look more like strap steel steps. The cast on steps are not absolutely correct and could be replaced with built up ones of styrene or brass for a more exact model. Refer to prototype photo graphs for the correct shape.

    The running board supplied with the kit is much too thick. I separated the longitudinal running boards from the latitudinal running boards and then sanded each to a thinner cross-section. Use your own judgement as to what looks right here. I try to get a thickness of about 2-3 scale inches. Make mounting brackets for the running board by cementing short pieces of .020" styrene about two scale inches wide at the locations shown in Figure 2. When the cement is dry, trim the pieces flush with the sides of the running boards. Put two similar brackets at the outer end of the two end running boards. Cement the running board to the car roof, center ed on the roof with equal overhang at each end. Cement the end running boards to the roof running board and the roof. Make a grab iron for the end boards from .018" wire as shown in Figure 2 and mount it in No. 77 holes with cyanoacry late cement. Make end brackets for the running boards from .010" styrene with scale dimensions of 12" x 2". Cement the brackets to the underside of the end of the running board and to the end of the car. There are two of these brackets on each end of the running board.

    Page 31: This photo is typical of the cars as they appear today in the grey paint scheme. This is also typical of the weathering seen on these cars though this is something that varies widely on covered hoppers more so than on most other types. Photo by Tom Vanden Bosch.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 30 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 31

    Add four roping staples, two to a side, near the bolster as shown in Figure 3. The staples are made from .025" wire. Depending on the car, these roping staples may be on either side of the bolster so it is best to refer to a photograph of the car you are modeling to get the right location. Make two tack boards from .020" styrene a scale 9" x 12" and cement them to the frame on each side on the left end just to the left of the last rib. Install a train air line made from .025" wire. Facing the brake wheel end of the car, the air line is on the right side of the car. The line runs parallel to the car side just below the bottom edge and turns under the car approximately in the center of the end side panels. Figure 4 shows how I installed mine with epoxy cement. Make, and epoxy on, an uncoupling lever using .018" wire mounted in a No. 77 hole drilled in the cast on bracket.

    All PS-2 covered hoppers on the SP have vibrator fittings on the bottom hoppers for attaching car shakers. The shakers are used to speed up unloading or free sticking cargo. Figure 5 illustrates how I made the vibrator fittings using .020" styrene. Four are required. When the fittings are assembled and dry, sand the edges smooth and cement one on the side of each hopper with liquid cement. The vibrator fittings are centered on the side of each hopper six scale inches from the hopper bottom. Assemble the hopper doors, door frame and slide, angle brackets, and door opening shaft. Use the kit instructions as a guide for this. On the prototype both of the door slide brackets are of the bent type rather than one bent and one straight as in the kit. You may want to correct this. Since I decided to paint the underframe of my model separately and install it last, I cut the hopper door frames apart and trimmed them down so that they cleared the underframe slot. Actually, this is the way they are on the prototype.

    Page 32: The end details are particularly clear in this photo of two similar cars. Use it to help your detailing. Photo by Tom Vanden Bosch.

    Page 33: The completed model of this car as it would appear after a bright, new paint job. Though not a particularly complex project, this model comes across as an excellent addition to the rolling stock on any layout. A satisfying project. Photo by Tom Vanden Bosch.
    Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 32 Prototype Modeler - August 1977 - Page 33


    The underframe can be assembled and installed per the kit instructions if you wish. I started to do this, but after looking at the open ends of the car and prototype photographs I decided to try to do some detailing on the brake end of the car. This is not as hard as it looks and the results are very satisfying. Drill No. 77 air line holes in the air reservoir and triple valve as shown in Figure 6. Drill the end End Supports Pad of the brake cylinder to take a piece of .030" wire. Install the brake cylinder and air reservoir in their mounting holes flush with the frame using epoxy cement. Drill a new mounting hole for the triple valve so that it is located midway between the end sill and the hopper end wall. Epoxy the triple valve in place. Make air lines from .018" wire and cement in place with cyanoacrylate cement. One thing that I did not do that could improve the detail more would be to add the train air line parallel to the center frame right side.

    Make a brake lever from.010"styrene. The lever is about a scale 42" long and tapered towards the ends from the pivot point at the brake piston rod connection. I used a lever from a brake set in my scrap box. Bend a piece of.030" wire to a right angle and cut on end just long enough to hold the brake lever. Trim the other end to fit in the brake cylinder as the piston rod by trial and error. Cement the rod and lever to the brake cylinder and the underframe. The brake lever pivots on a bracket between the hopper end wall and the two vertical end supports under the brake wheel. Make and install the bracket as shown in Figure 6. Drill a No. 76 hole in the brake platform and the brake wheel box. Install a piece of chain between the brake. box and the platform; I used a piece of plastic chain cut from a brake gear set found in my spare parts box. Add an L shaped piece of .018" wire from the platform to the brake lever piston to simulate the rest of the brake system. Cement the brake wheel in place. Note that the wire connecting the brake wheel to the brake lever and the lever pivot bracket are not attached to the brake lever. These remain separate, at least on my model, so that the body and frame can be finished separately. These pieces must be located so that the underframe and brake gear will fit into the body without damaging them when the car is finally assembled.

    Install couplers of your choice; I used Kadee No. 5 's. The H-70-16 class of covered hoppers should have AAR 70-ton plain bearing trucks. Bettendorf trucks are similar and I used them (Recent advertisements from Bowser indicate that they are -- or will -- produce the correct truck). For the H-70-18 class cars Central Valley roller bearing trucks are the correct type and I used them on my model.


    Thoroughly and carefully wash the car in soap and water and let dry. Paint the entire car, including the trucks, grey. I used Pactra Rebel Grey. If you want to use Floquil or some other brand be sure to coat the car with Barrier first. Reefer Grey may be a little closer to the correct prototype color but my observations indicate that either grey is suitable. When the color coat is dry give the sides and ends a coat of gloss before starting with the lettering. The wheels and the couplers should be painted with a rusty color.

    Now you have to decide which letter ing scheme and color you want on your model, if you have not already done so. I used Champion decals for most of my lettering with some dimensional data from Micro-Scale. I recommend that you follow a prototype photograph when you are lettering your car. For the billboard paint scheme with Southern Pacific the full width of the car, Champ set HC-481 lettering is correct but the dimensional data is for another car. Walthers set 89-40A could also be used. If you choose the scheme with the name Southern Pacific on the right half of the car side then Champ set HC-422 is correct for red lettering and the set HC-435 i s correct for yellow lettering. The SP heralds in the last two sets are too large, so you have. to model a car without the herald. Don't forget the SP and number on the car end just below the roof. When the lettering is dry give the car a coat of flat or gloss sealer to hide the decal film. Weather the car to your own satisfaction. The last step is to assemble the body to the underframe with epoxy cement and the car is ready to roll in revenue service.

    Article Details

    • Original Author T. Vanden Bosch
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date August 1977

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