During the summer of 2011 Bill Lane designed and released a set of S-scale less-than-carload ("LCL") containers used by the Pennsylvania Railroad (and many other railroads). These were typically used for transporting bulk dry goods. They have two lids on the top for loading, and a bottom-hopper for quick unloading (the model does not have the unloading hopper, as it is not visible in its normal upright position). These containers were made starting in the mid-1930s and lasted into the 1960s. I bought a set of ten of Bill's containers and they are shown here (unfinished) ready for paint (they are cast in this freight-car red color). These containers look like the ones the PRR classified as "HB4 - weatherproof, bulk freight".
(external link: PRR HB4 Containers)
All railroads that used these containers painted them black, except, of course, the "Standard Railroad of the World", the PRR, which painted them a freight car red! I cleaned them up and airbrushed the containers with Poly Scale "Steam Power Black" and Floquil "Oxide Red". I bought only ten of them, so I made four black and the rest red. The black ones are going to be labeled for the Baltimore & Ohio. Some interchange traffic with the B&O happened on the PRR branch line I model, so my gondola will have a few black ones thrown in. It is my understanding that railroads didn't mix foreign roads' containers with their own, but in my small, compressed world, they did. After the paint dried, I sprayed Testors' gloss cote to make it easier for the decals to slide on.
For decals, I bought one set each of the S-scale versions from Mount Vernon Shops. The decals come with a chart diagram for where to place the decals on the containers as per the appropriate prototype. Applying the decals went smoothly using purified water and Walthers' Solvaset. My only issue with the decals was the size of the font. As you'll see below, some of the letters are crammed right next to each other. I am sure Bill's containers are the correct size, so I think a slightly smaller font needs to be used on the decals. The height of the lettering is exactly equal to the height of the "ribs" on the container, so it is sometimes a challenge to get the decal to stay centered on the "rib". I found that after, roughly, placing the decal on the rib, soaking most of the liquid up with a very small piece of paper towel helped settle the decal while still keeping it moveable. That kept it from wanting to slip off the top or bottom edge of the "rib". The photo shows what you get for the PRR set. The photo came out way too dark to see any detail in it, but you get the idea. All the decals needed are included. While Mount Vernon Shops primarily focuses on HO-scale, if you ask them, they will produce whatever they have in HO-scale in S-scale.
(external link: Mount Vernon Shops)
Here's a photo of the diagrams that come with the decals. On the back is some prototype information about the containers, and a small diagram showing that the PRR put the containers' class number, "HB4", on the skinny side of the containers.
There are 5 decals per side for the B&O containers, 10 per container, 40 total for the 4 containers I designated for the B&O (sorry, the photo is a bit out of focus). As you can see, the "LD LMT 10000" and "CU FT 134" decals are way too close. You have to cut the decals right at the edge of the lettering to get them to both fit on the rib.
There are 5 decals per side for the PRR containers and one on each skinny end, 12 per container, 70 total for the 6 containers. If you don't like applying decals, like I do, you are not going to enjoy this project. If you have little experience applying decals, this project will make you an "expert"!
This photo shows two of the B&O containers. The one on the left I used the dry-brush technique to apply some white paint to highlight the rivets and edges, which also helps to "age" them a bit. You can see the tremendous amount of difference that technique makes, comparing it to the unweathered one on the right.