Tasha Oates updated December 30, 2011


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  • Southern Pacific 35' Standard 70-Ton Covered Hoppers in Road Classes H-70-4, -6, -8, & -10


    Southern Pacific H-70-6 Class covered hopper. This grey car has all black lettering; it is used in cement service and is shown here at Redwood City, California, in 1977. Photo is by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 44 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 45

    Southern Pacific and the Texas & New Orleans purchased 1000 two compartment covered hoppers between 1946 and 1953. The cars were purchased in four classes: H70-4, H70-6, H70-8, and H70-10. All these cars are 37'9" long and have a capacity of 1958 cubic feet. The easiest feature to identify that which separates these cars from the newer PS-2 covered hoppers is their square roof hatches. The cars in these classes are numbered as shown on Table I. According to the October 1976 Official Railway Equipment Register there were 654 of these cars still in service. The various classes were built by several car builders including Pullman Standard, American Car and Foundry (ACF ), and General American.

    All of these cars have AAR style 70-ton plain bearing trucks. The H-70-10 cars are slightly different from the rest of the classes because the vee between the hoppers at the center of the car is not covered by sheet metal; you can see through the car. This is illustrated by the photograph of car 400738. The SP covered hoppers are all painted grey including the trucks and underframe. Some of the H-70-6 cars in the 400000 series that I have observed seem to have originally been painted tuscan red and have since been painted to match the later cars. I would be happy to have someone confirm or deny this.

    Three styles of lettering are in use on the H-70-4 to H-70-10 class cars. The first style can be called conventional Southern Pacific. The words Southern Pacific are spelled out horizontially in one line in Roman letters starting at the left end of the car. The car number is under the name. The older AAR requirements of a line over and under the reporting marks and num ber are used in this lettering style. The name Southern Pacific replaces the re porting marks in this style. An SP herald is always used with this lettering style located in either the first, seventh or the eighth panel depending on the individual car. All the lettering is black.

    The second style is what I call the bill board style and consists of the name Southern Pacific spelled the full length of the car in large black 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. There is no SP herald used with this lettering style.

    The third style I have called a reduced billboard style because the name Southern Pacific only covers the right half of the car side. Again the word Pacific is under neath the word Southern and is offset to the right. The lettering colors with this style can be either red, yellow, or black. Some of the cars with this lettering style also have an SP herald, usually located in the second panel from the left end.

    Page 46: Southern Pacific H-70-10 Class covered hopper. This grey car has all red lettering; it is used in cement service and is shown here at Redwood City, California, in 1977. Photo is by the author.

    Page 47: Espee H-70-8 Class covered hopper is a grey car with all black lettering. Photo taken at Redwood City, CA, in 1976. Photo is by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 46 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 47

    My observations indicate that there is no pattern within a given class as to which cars have which lettering style and color. The only way to be certain of a cars lettering style is to see the car or have a photograph. I have observed 103 individual cars in these classes during the past year and on these cars the distribution of lettering styles was approximately as follows;

    Conventional SP, black 20%
    Billboard, black 45%
    Reduced Billboard, red 24%
    Reduced Billboard, yellow 8%
    Reduced Billboard, black 3%

    So if you want to build one of these cars without a specific car to follow you can estimate the probability of the lettering scheme you pick being the correct one. 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) have been in cement service, but I have also seen some cars in these classes labeled for food service.


    A reasonably accurate model of these covered hoppers can be built using the Roundhouse covered hopper kit as a basis. The body and underframe of the kit are used; the rest of the model must be built up. I recommend that you strip all paint and lettering from the model before you start. I use the paint remover made by Scalecoat and I have also used brake fluid with success, but use whatever method you prefer. Tools and materials required to make this conversion include an X-acto knife with No. 11 and 15 blades, a pin vise with No. 77 drill bit, needle nose pliers, tweezers, a scale rule, assorted needle files, sandpaper, cement (liquid, epoxy, and cyanoacrylate), sheet styrene, wire, filler, paint, and decals.

    I used two references in building my model; 1) plans for an Enterprise Railway Equipment Co. 70-ton covered hopper on page 230 of "Popular Picture and Plan Book of Railroad Cars and Locomotives," published in 1951 by Simmons-Board man, and 2) article No. 14 in "Easy To Build Model Railroad Freight Cars" published by Kalmbach Books. These references plus frequent trips to the yards to check the prototype allowed me to build a reasonably accurate model.


    The first step in the conversion is to modify the body. This consists of extending the hopper side panels, adding a center rib, widening the ends of the side frame, and removing the cast on ladders and grab irons. Refer to Figure 1 and care fully remove the hopper ends and slope sheet. I used a razor saw to separate the pieces from the side, scored a line across the bottom where I wanted to remove the end, and removed the end by bend ing. The bottom of the piece removed should be just above the hump in the body for the underframe. Sand and file smooth the inside of the car side where you have removed the ends. Also square up the bottom of the space where you removed the ends.

    Carefully saw and cut off the side and end ladders and grab irons, including the inside vertical angle. Do not remove the brake wheel housing, the brake platform, or the two vertical angles in the center of both ends, Work carefully to avoid break ing the comer angles since without the ladders to support them they are some what fragile. On the roundhouse body, the side sheets are squared off at the ends; they follow the shape of the hoppers. On the cars we are modeling, the side sheets continue to the top of the car. Refer to Figure 2 and fit a slightly oversize triangular piece of 0.040" styrene to extend the end of the side sheet to where it ends 21inches (scale) from the end of the car. Glue these pieces in place on each end of the side. When the glue is thoroughly set, layout the triangular ends of the sides using Figure 2 as a guide, and then cut and file the sides to shape.

    Use 0.040" styrene to replace the hopper end and slope sheet. Fit the hopper ends first. The ends are about 12-inches (scale) deep and should be positioned to give a total outside length to the hoppers of 29'3". Find the center of the top of the car and then layout the outside of the hoppers on the inside of the car side.

    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 48 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 49

    Make the end pieces slightly too wide to allow for trimming to size once the hop per slope sheets are installed. Glue the hopper ends in place flush with the top of the car body using liquid cement.

    Now by trial and error fit the hopper slope sheet using 0.040" sheet styrene. I started with a piece with scale dimensions of 8' long by 8.875' wide. The top of the slope sheet should be tapered to fit against the hopper end. The bottom of the slope sheet fits flush with the bottom edge of the tapered portion of the hopper side. The bottom end of the slope sheet may not fit exactly against the hoppers but don't worry about this unless you want a super accurate model. When the model is finished any problems in this area will be out of sight. When you are satisfied with the fit of the slope sheet, glue it in place with liquid cement.The ends of the side frame need to be thickened to a scale 12-inches to match the prototype. This is done by fitting and glueing a piece of 0.040" styrene on top of the existing frame as shown in Figure 2. The piece should be the same width as the car side. Fill any cracks and sand smooth. These cars all have a center side post. Make the missing side post from 0.010" and 0.020" styrene as shown in Figure 3 and cement them to the body with liquid cement. Now is a good time to file the flash off of the underframe and make a trial fit to the body. Try to get a good snug fit.

    Whereas a PS-2 covered hopper has a solid sheet between the sides, these older covered hoppers expose the angles and braces supporting the hopper end. Figure 4 illustrates these details. These supports are on both ends and are recessed about a scale 3-inches from the edge of the side channel. They fit flush with the top of the underframe. Make part A from 0.010" styrene and install these first to get the correct length between the hopper slope sheet bottom and the underframe. There are four of these pieces. Cement them in place to the slope sheet and car side with liquid cement. Again using 0.010" styrene, cut a piece to a scale 9-inches wide and install parts B on both ends of the car. Parts B fit inside of parts A towards the center of the car. Glue parts B to parts A and the slope sheet with liquid cement. On the prototype there is no horizontal member at the bottom since the braces attach to the underframe. Since on the model the body and underframe are separate, I added brace C, a scale 6-inches wide, across the bottom for strength. Brace C is also made from 0.010" styrene and when the model is done it looks like it belongs there. Braces D, E, and F are made from 3/64-inch Plastruct angle. Cut them to length and install in place using liquid cement, referring to Figure 4 for the correct location.


    Start construction of the roof by in stalling three cross braces between the body sides equally spaced from the ends and in the center. I made them of 0.040" styrene about 0.12-inches deep. Next lo cate and mark the center line of the car on the car ends, hopper ends, and the cross braces. Make a support for the roof ridge 0.060" high by 0.040" and the length of the body. I did this by gluing 0.020" and 0.040" styrene together and cutting a strip of the desired width. The width is not very critical, but 0.040" is about right. Glue the roof support on the center line of the top of the body with liquid cement. Refer to Figure 5 and make sure the support is straight and in the center of the car.

    The roof is made of 0.040" styrene. Cut two pieces a scale 4'-7.5" wide and the length of the body. Work carefully to be sure the cuts are square. Test fit the pieces to the car. When centered the roof pieces should just cover the inside edge of the hopper side and leave the top of the side exposed. This is shown in Figure 5. Trim if necessary to get the right fit. When the fit is right, glue the roof pieces in place with liquid cement. Make the end roof support as shown in Figure 5 and glue in place with liquid cement. You can fill the seam at the roof center line if you like; I didn't since it is covered by the roof walk.


    The underframe can be assembled and installed per the Roundhouse instructions if you wish. When I built by PS-2 covered hoppers, I tried detailing the underframe and was quite pleased with the results so I did the same thing with this model. This is not as hard as it looks and the results are satisfying. Drill No. 77 air line holes in the air reservoir and triple valve as shown in Figure 6. Drill the end of the brake cylinder and air reservoir in the 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 truck bolster. Epoxy the triple valve in place. Make air lines from 0.018" wire and cement in place with cyanoacrylate cement.

    Page 50: End view of the brake end of a H-70-4 through H-70-10 series Southern Pacific covered hopper class car. Photo by the author.

    Page 51: These two photographs of the author's Southern Pacific covered hopper model in HO clearly illustrate just how high a level of perfection can readily be achieved by following this article. The excellent level of realism achieved makes this model a major subject of conversation when seen by even the most meticulous modeler. Model and photos are by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 50 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 51

    Make a brake lever from 0.010" styrene referring to Figure 7 for the dimensions. Use a piece of 0.030" wire to form the brake cylinder piston and to mount the brake lever. Bend the wire to form a right angle and cut and file one end so it is just long enough to go through the brake lever. Trim the other end to fit into the brake cylinder and position the brake lever pivot a scale 6-12 inches from the cylinder. Use cyanoacrylate or epoxy cement to attach the piston rod into the cylinder and fix the brake lever to the rod and the underframe. Now is a good time to assemble the underframe to the body, I used epoxy cement.


    The top end of the brake lever pivots on an angle bracket that runs between the hopper and the center vertical angles on the brake gear end. Refer to Figure 7 and make the brackets from 3/64-inch PIastruct angle. There are two braces; glue them in place with liquid cement. Drill a No. 76 hole in the brake platform, centered under the brake housing and a similar hole in the brake housing. I simulated the brake rod with a piece of L shaped 0018" wire. Trim the vertical section of the wire so the horizontal piece lines up with the brake cylinder piston rod. The horizontal piece should be just long enough to reach the brake lever. Use cyanoacrylate cement to glue the wire into the brake housing and to the brake lever.

    The side and end ladders are made from Kemtron X-383 brass freight car ladders. Refer to the prototype photographs to help in trimming and positioning the ladders. The side angle on the ladders must be trimmed away so that the ladders will fit flush against the comer angles on the car body. I did the trimming with an ordinary pair of scissors followed by a file to finish and smooth the edge. The ends of the ladders need to be notched to fit at the top and bottom. Install the ladders with cyanoacrylate cement.

    Add a vertical angle on the left end of each side using 3/64-inch Plastruct angle. Refer to Figure for the correct location.

    Page 53: Espee H-70-10 covered hopper is all grey with black lettering. This class car, in Red wood City, CA, in 1977, is unique in that it is the only class with the open "vee" in the center. Photo is by the author.
    Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 52 Prototype Modeler - December 1978 - Page 53

    The angle is notched at the top and bot tom and is attached with liquid cement. Refer to Figure 8 and drill No. 77 holes for the side and end grab irons. Be sure the glue holding the angles is dry and work slowly since these parts are somewhat fragile. At the same time locate and drill the holes for the grab irons on each side of the end sill, and a hole for the uncoupling rod through the cast-on bracket on the end sill. Install the grab irons, I used ones from Quality Craft, on the sides and the end sills with cyanoacrylate cement. Make the long horizontal end grab bar from 0.018" wire and glue it in place with cyanoacrylate cement.

    Glue the brake wheel in place with liquid cement. Make four roping staples, two per side, and install them near the bolster as shown in Figure 9. The staples are made from 0.025" 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 0.020" styrene to a scale 9"x12" and glue them to the frame on each side on the left end just to the left of the side channel. Install a train air line made from 0.025" 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 be low the bottom edge and turns under the car approximately in the center of the end side panels. Figure 9 shows how I installed the line with epoxy cement. Make and epoxy on an uncoupling lever using 0.018" wire mounted in the previously drilled hole. Carefully file down the cross section of the cast on strip steps to give them a thinner, more prototypical look.

    Refer to Figure 10 and with 3/64-inch Plastruct angle, add the hopper reinforcing angles using liquid cement. The angles are attached with the angle down. Note that the angle on the center side of the hoppers is attached so that the inside of the angle is horizontal. Glue the kit hop per doors and the door slide frame to the hoppers with liquid cement. Make and install the door slide brackets; there are eight of these (two per door) made from 3/64-inch Plastruct angle. All of the brackets are vertical and are glued be tween the hopper reinforcing angle and the door slide with liquid cement.

    There is an angle brace that runs be tween the two hoppers. Make the bracket from our old friend 3/64-inch Plastruct angle and glue in place with liquid cement. The vertical face of the angle is inside on this piece. Make the four plate braces for the angle as shown in Figure 10 and cement in place with liquid cement. Install the kit door open ing shafts.

    Refer to Figure 11 to make and install the eight roof hatches. The hatch is made from 0.40" styrene with scale dimensions of 35" square. Layout the outline of the hatch locations on, the roof in pencil and then cement the hatches in place with liquid cement using the outlines to aid in positioning the hatches. The hatch cover is made from 0.020" styrene with scale dimensions of 39" x 38". Cement the hatch cover to the hatch using liquid cement with the back of the cover flush with the back of the hatch. Now add the hinge detail and the hatch grab iron as shown in Figure 11.

    The hatches are held closed by a latch bar that runs along the edge of the roof. Refer to Figure 12 and install the latch bar using 0.018" wire. There are actually two styles of latch bars on SP's covered hoppers. The style on my model is the simpler of the two designs. Use prototype photographs to guide you in deter mining: which is correct for your model. Start by adding the four mounting pads of 0.010" styrene about a scale 2" square. These are glued with liquid cement to the top of the side centered on each hatch. Next attach the lengthwise latch pivot bar using drops of epoxy cement on the mounting pads. Now bend the eight latch angles and the two operating rods and at tach them to the lengthwise bar with drops of epoxy cement. The latch angles are centered on each hatch and the operating rods are at the center of the car be tween the hatches. Add the sheet metal brackets outside of the latch bar. These are made from 0.010" styrene and in stalled as shown in Figure 12.

    The roof walk supplied with the kit is much too thick. I separated the roof walk from the end walks and then sanded each to a thinner cross section. Use your own judgment as to what looks right here. I try to get a thickness of about 2-3 scale inches. Make mounting brackets for the roof walk by glueing short pieces of 0.020" styrene about 2 scale inches wide at the locations shown in Figure 1 3. When the glue is dry, trim the pieces flush with the sides of the roof walk. Put two similar brackets at the outer end of each of the end walks. Glue the roof walk to the car roof, centered on the roof with equal overhang at each end. Glue the end walks to the roof walk and the roof. Make a grab iron for the end walks from 0.018" wire as shown in Figure 13 and mount it in No. 77 holes with cyanoacrylate cement. Make end brackets for the roof walk from 0.010" styrene with scale dimensions of 2"x12". Glue the brackets to the underside of the end of the roof walk and to the end of the car. There are two of these brackets on each end of the roof walk.

    Install couplers of our choice; I used Kadee No. 5's. The H-70-4 to H-70-10 class covered hoppers all have AAR 7 0ton plain bearing trucks. Bettendorf trucks are similar and I used those from the kit.


    Thoroughly and carefully wash the car in soap and water, then let it air dry. Paint the entire car, including the trucks, grey. I used Pactra Rebel Grey. 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 to provide a good base for the decals. The wheels and couplers should be painted a rusty color; I use tuscan red.

    Now you have to decide which lettering scheme and lettering color you want on your model, if you have not already done so. I used Champ Decals for most of my lettering with some dimensional data from Micro-Scale. My model is lettered in the old standard SP scheme as one of the H-70-6 class cars. I recommend that you follow a prototype photograph when you are lettering your car. For the billboard scheme with Southern Pacific the full width of the car, Champ set HC481 lettering is correct but the dimensional data is for a newer and larger car. Walthers set 89-40A could also be used. If you choose the scheme with the Southern Pacific name on the right half of the car side then Champ set HC-422 is correct for red lettering and set HC-435 is for yellow. The SP heralds in the last two sets are too large for use on the H-70 class cars. For the conventional SP style like I used, Champ set HC-404 is correct. The only end lettering is the reporting marks SP and the car number. These are stenciled in a single line on the hopper end under neath the roof. When the lettering is dry give the car a coat of clear sealer, gloss or flat, to hide the, decal film. Weather the car to your own satisfaction. Install the trucks and your car is ready for many years of service.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Tom Vanden Bosch
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date December 1978

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