Removing an Aurora Miniatures Truck

Recently I was contracted to weather the newly released Otter Valley 6400cf scrap/trash gondola. In the process I noted that the trucks need an extra step to remove and weather. While these cars are Otter Valley (OVR) they're manufactured by Aurora Miniatures so the removal will apply to their models too.

These 6400 (and future 6000cf) gons represent the last half decade of production, and are suitable for the ultra modern modeler.

Lightweight Home-made Coal Loads

Most models now come with relatively rudimentary coal load inserts, however if you use them in every car, each load will look the same. Here's a way to make a load for your own hoppers, this can be used with coal, gravel, or other materials as well.

I recently had a conversation with freind and fellow modeler Nick about his attempt at replicating a crushed glass load, during which he mentioned using air dry clay to make the load insert, that the "glass" material would be attached to.

The clay he was using adds weight to the hopper, which in his case was a positive aspect. The car I chose was a beautiful H-100-16 from Tangent Scale Models, which are fairly good on weight. They do come with loads, but I replace most to get variety. Even if I don't, I add Medium or Fine coal from Arizona Rock and Mineral.

While perusing my local Hobby Lobby looking for new modeling supplies, I stumbled on Delight Air Dry Modeling Compound, the whole package weighing in at 3oz.

Intermountain Cylindrical Covered Hopper Kit

What does an Intermountain cylindrical covered hopper kit consist of?

Kits have long been the mainstay of the model railroad hobby, only evolving into ready to run train cars in the past 2 decades.  So what really comes in a kit?  This is a short photo demonstration if an Intermountain cylindrical covered hopper.

HO Scale Wheel Tread

HO scale has 3 general tread sizes.

Each code translates to the width of the wheel in inches.  The chart below shows you what's available.

Code Inches Represents
110 .110" Standard RP25 tread
88 .088" Semi-Scale aka Fine Scale
64 .064" Proto 87
aka Scale

©2008/2020, Josh Baakko,

Lowering an Atlas Pressureaide Hopper Bolster

The only model on the market in HO scale, this model site WAY to high.  You can see it in the coupler pocket.  Theory is that the model was developed for N scale, and upscaled to HO, leaving the deep coupler and tall bolster.

I head about this "issue" on the Modern Freight Cars List, found on (...).  This discussion was about lowering the bolster.  Fortunately, with this Atlas release, it's "easy." Follow along.

Building an HO Scale Asplundh Weed Train Sprayer Control Car

Semi-scratch built weed train sprayer control car

Building an Asplundh Weed Train Sprayer Control Car
Part 1- Collecting needed parts
Part 2- Making the basic shell
Part 3- Scratch built details
Part 4- Assembly
Part 5- Last details
Part 6- Extra details
Part 7- Decals

Open car load: Material Handler

I'm planning to compile a neat list of some open car load ideas I've been tossing around recently.  Some are common ideas, some are slightly more uncommon.  The cars of mine are HO scale, but I'm sure most can be copied in N.

First up, to begin this article we have a flat car loaded with GHQ Material Handlers.  They are unpainted, and incomplete (missing a part from the kit!), and the flat car will most likely be replaced by a 60' version from Intermountain.

Note, these are cast white metal kits.  Due to this, they'll actually double as a way to add weight to flat cars.  Make sure you verify the loaded weight before securing the material handlers.

©2007/2020, Josh Baakko,

Repurposing a Great Northern Covered Hopper for Modern Service

How to redo a factory painted model that doesn't fit your modeling era.


We all have models that are somewhat misfit to our interests. I was given a magnificent replica of a Great Northern 2 bay cement hopper by a well meaning relative a few years back. Though I model the modern era, I was touched by their generosity and could not bring myself to sell it or return it. I thought of several different ways I could work this hopper painted for a road 50 years defunct into my roster or layout. Static Display? Junkyard or abandoned? Whatever scheme I came up with felt unnatural and somewhat forced until I read an article on Patch-out modeling. Like a bolt of lightning the idea came to me to strip and patch this hopper as a car that had seen years of service.


I began by looking through many photos from as well as Instagram posts to gather a good idea of how two bay hoppers weather and fade as they travel the rails. What became apparent very quickly is that ACF hoppers such as this are frequently the target of graffiti artists for ornate and complex paintings. As I model the modern era, I was eager to include some prototypical (or perhaps proto-freelanced) graffiti in my manifest trains and focused my searches to include such prototypes that had been so decorated. I decided one side of my hopper would feature several paint patches and the other side would feature large graffiti exhibit and found according to prototype pictures.



With my photos picked out I set to stripping the famous rocky mountain goat and all accompanying graphics from the model.

Husky Stack 53' Well Cars Scratchbuild

General Wheel Size Info

A General List of Wheel Sizes for Your Rolling Stock.

I often get the questions, "What size wheels does this car need? Does it have 70 Ton or 100 Ton trucks?"  I made this simple guide to help answer that question for the most part.  There are anomalies, but this should cover 95% of freight cars.

As a basic sense:
33in up to 77t
36in 78-100t
38in above 100t

However, we're modelers, what does this mean?  I asked around, and this is the guide I was given.