Project # 4 - Lowering Aristocraft Covered Hoppers To Make Them Look More Prototypically Correct!



Last reviewed and revised June 20, 2002(When writing my articles, I have tried to be conscious of the time it takes to view them. Some modelers only have a dial-up connection to the Internet and sizeable image files imbedded in the text can slow viewing down quite a bit. To counteract this, I have kept my images hidden behind key words in the text so that you view them only when you click on those words. This also has the benefit of opening a seperate window with the image in it so that the text and the image can be viewed side by side. As a result, imbedded in this article you will find some underlined words that hyperlink you to photographic images illustrating the point being made. I have deliberately tried to keep the image files small so, necessarily, the images are pretty low resolution but I hope that they help in any case. Enjoy!)


Introduction and Credits

Well, If you have read any of my other articles you probably know that I find it hard to leave well enough alone. I am always trying to improve something and the Aristo 2 Bay Covered Hopper is no exception. While the 2 bay covered hopper is a great car with nice detail, like some of the other Aristo freight cars and locos, it stands too tall off the rails.

Since I had developed some techniques for dealing with this for the box cars, I thought I might try my hand at fixing up one of these fine looking cars by lowering it too. The results were very gratifying, and it turned out to be pretty simple so I thought you all might like to try it for yourselves.

I didn't bother trying to research the correct height for the car this time. Instead I just decided to try to lower it the same 3/16ths of an inch as the box cars to see what it looked like. This worked extremely well and the overall appearance of the car improved a lot.

What I did, in summary, was to file down the body bolster on the car bottom to use a modified form of the bolster casting I created for the box car project. Following that, I created a new Kadee coupler adapter and body mounted the couplers at the correct height.

Here are the details of how to create one of these beauties for yourself.


Description of My Methods



The first thing that you will need to do is disassemble the whole car by following these steps:

1. Take the trucks and couplers off the floor/underframe.2. Gently pry off the towing loops from the underside of the body bolsters.3. Remove the underframe from the car body. This will require you to remove 4 screws that hold the underbody and hopper bays to the main body.4. Remove the screws that hold the Brake Rigging assembly to the car underbody.5. Set the screws, the towing loops, the brake rigging parts and the main body casting aside for now. We will only be working on the floor/underframe.


The Floor/Underframe

First let's look at the Aristo Covered Hopper car underframe to get some idea of what it looks like before it is modified. Please note that the height of the bolster, to where the truck will sit, is .55 inches, as compared to .60 inches for the box car floors. This dimension produces a car that is almost 3/16ths of an inch too tall. Our object, in this project, is to reduce that dimension to about .3625 inches.


Removing the Cast In Bolster

Now let's remove most of that bolster.

This photo shows my frameless hacksaw blade as it is cutting through the bolster.

Be careful here. You want to leave enough material so that, after the rough cut, you can file this area down to a height of 3/32nds of an inch (about .10 inches). Also note that, after this cut, this part of the car floor is very weak so try not to break it in the filing process.

This photo shows the resulting cut on the underbody with enough material left.

I clamp the floor in my milling machine and, with care, get the results shown in this photo. (By the way, I now have a jig for this and can remove these bolsters in about 2 minutes per side so if you want me to do it, just email me and we will get it accomplished for you.)


Fitting the New Bolster Casting

I start with one of the bolster castings that I created for the box cars. I use this as a master and put it in the mill and cut it down so that it fits where the old bolster used to be and the overall height to the truck pad is .3625 inches.

Now we need to make another piece, a capture block, that will fit into the hole that we created in the car floor. This piece will be glued in place and will receive the screws that hold the modified bolster in place.

Here is a picture of the finished capture block from the bottom.

Here is another picture of the finished capture block from the side.

And, again, another picture of the finished capture block from the top.

When I got both the bolster and the capture block right, I made an RTV mold of the pieces and cast duplicates. (I can make all these parts available to anyone who is interested for a nominal charge or you can make your own by copying my parts.)

Here is what the bolster and capture block look like when held together in their eventual spacing relationship, but without the visual interference of the car floor.

So now I take a couple of these cast replacement body bolsters and capture blocks and trial fit the car with them by setting them, one at a time, in place and put two screws into them to hold them on. If I need to sand down the remaining material on the car floor or the bolster casting to get a precise .3625 measurement, I do so now.

Finally, I assemble the two pieces on each side of the car, with some optional epoxy glue for the capture block and, after assembly, they look like this, taken outward from the center of the car floor. Another image shows that they look like this, taken from the end of the car. And finally, here is how the capture block looks from inside the car after it is installed.

You should note that the area where the truck will sit is now 3/16 of an inch closer to the floor making the car ride lower. This makes the car measure right about 14 foot 11 inches tall, which seems about right.

The only thing left to do now is spray paint the floor flat black so that the white bolster castings are covered evenly.


Body Mounting Kadee Couplers

If you are going to use the original Aristo truck mounted couplers, you are essentially finished. Skip this next section and go on to finalizing the project.

If, on the other hand, you are like me and want to use Kadee body mounted couplers on this car, then you have another challenge.

The end of the car includes some angled floors making body mounting of couplers a bit tricky. I decided to attempt to make a spacer that compensated for the angles and put the Kadees at just the right height. While I was at it, I thought it might be an interesting challenge to try to include some aspects of an I beam in the casting.

This picture shows the final product from the side, and you can see the lower lip of the I beam shape that I managed to make. Here's another image showing the adapter from the bottom. And lastly, another image showing the adapter from the end.

Needless to say, I copied this part in resin castings and, when mounted on the car it looks like this.

I attach these to the car floor with 2-56 flat head machine screws and some epoxy glue. I then use 4/40 round head machine screws to attach the Kadee draft gear.

When you have the adapters attached, paint them flat black and then assemble the Kadees.

Here's what the final assembly looks like after you have put the car back together.


Finalizing the Project

Well, you've done it. All you need to do now is reverse the order of disassembly that I outlined earlier in this article to put the car back together.

You are now ready to test run your newly lowered, more realistic looking covered hopper car. Put the floor back in the car and you should get the results shown in the "before and after" photo below.

All my Aristo covered hoppers have been converted using this method and had their Bettendorf trucks improved, as described in one of my other articles. The result is a truly fantastic looking model freight train in 1/29 scale and my successes in this area have greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the Large Scale model railroading hobby. I hope it will do the same for you.


Thanks for your attention! Now get busy!

If you have any questions or comments about my methods, or about 1/29 model railroading in general, please Email me at [email protected]

Thanks again for your interest.


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