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Peter's Model Railroading | The Layout | Equipment | PRR GLa
Construction: Finishing


The process of painting these cars didn't start out well. The air pressure regulator on my airbrush setup broke. So, I decided that I would try it without it. The small compressor I use doesn't really put out more than 20psi, so I figured I was OK. I decided to use Tru-Color paint, and start with the interior of the cars. I had learned from other modelers that the paint needs to be thinned, about 50/50. So, that is what I did. Well, it turned into a big mess. I didn't really notice it until the interior of all three cars had dried. It was almost like a bunch of dust got mixed in with it. That was the first time that had happened to me, and I subsequently threw away what little there was left of the Tru-Color paint. I have a couple of other bottles of their paint, but I will only use those for small hand-painting scenarios. While trying to think of how to recover from that, I decided that I was going to hand-paint the rest of these cars. I started with the bottom of the cars, figuring that if I was no good at hand-painting, the effort wouldn't be as visible. I have one bottle of Polly-Scale Special Oxide Red left over, so I decided to devote it to this project. I always thought that airbrushing was an absolute requirement to paint freight cars, from all the articles read in magazines. I was surprised how nice the underside of the cars came out, once the paint dried.

Then came the scarier moment: painting the much-more visible side panels. I used a wide brush, as wide as the mouth of the bottle allowed, and tried to cover each panel with one stroke, from top to bottom. It went well, but some of the white of the styrene still bled through, as is shown in this photo.

However, a second coat did the trick. I used a tiny brush to get the paint in the hard-to-reach areas. I used three different sized brushes, as appropriate for the area to be covered. With practice, the brush marks were not visible once the paint dried. You have to make sure you always cover over a wet edge. Since Polly-Scale dries quickly, you have to work quickly. In the end, I don't think an airbrush would have been a complete solution for an open-top hopper, because there are so many surfaces that have to be painted, and you can't get to a lot of them with the airbrush without applying multiple layers of paint on other surfaces. Of course, hand painting takes much, much longer. Having to do three cars at the same time did lead to some burn-out from time to time, which dragged the painting step out even further (the first photo on this page was taken in January 2017, while the last one was taken in July 2017, to put this in perspective; of course, my modeling sessions are measured in minutes, not hours).

Since the interior already had the (badly) airbrushed cover, I only needed to apply one coat of the Polly-Scale to get its color to match the exterior. The interior, upon close inspection, still looks bad, but I am OK with that. I will likely put a "live" load in them, and there is no way these cars would still look like-new after many years of coal-transportation service. All imperfections of my three models are justified that way! After the paint fully cured, I sprayed all surfaces that are to receive decals with Testor's Glosscote.

Shortly before he closed up shop, I ordered three sets of the PRR GLa hopper decals from Greg Komar (part #PRR-S-392A). I had used his decals before and was happy with them. They came in a small plastic bag with a scale drawing of the HO-scale version of the model, which shows where all the decals are to go for these cars.

Inside the package are two sets of identical decals, each covering one end and one side. Three unique road numbers are included.

Of course, I used the Pennsylvania Railroad Steel Open Hopper Cars book by John Teichmoeller as my reference. The decals to match this car are provided.

So I copied that for one of my cars.

The road numbers for this photo were also included in the set.

So I copied that for one of my cars, also. The only downside with these decals was that Greg only provided a built date of 3/10, with no other matching numbers. So, all three of my cars have that same build date.

For my third car there were no pre-arranged matching road numbers to any of the prototype photo in the book. So, using the available numbers, I used "697" for the last car. This required some splicing up of decals. It all went OK, but it made the road number decals on the ends a bit of a challenge to put together. One of those end decals I messed up, so I had scrape it off and start over. As I completed one side of the car, I sprayed it with Testor's Dullcote to protect the decals.

When I completed all four sides, I also sprayed the interior of the car. When that had thoroughly dried, I flipped the car and sprayed the underside with Dullcote as well.

This was the setup I used to apply the decals on the ends of the car. I carefully wrapped the car with foam padding, and then wrapped those with some rubber bands, but with very little tension on those rubber bands. By making sure the foam pieces are longer than the car, the other end of the car is protected, while the whole thing is set up vertically, with the end of the car that I am working on being horizontal. According to Greg Komar's instructions, not all cars had numbers on their ends, but I put them on all of three of my cars. After all, it is only one decal per end. In the end, I applied 75 individual decals on these three models, with one of them having to be redone. The last thing I did was fix some of the damage that I caused to the cars while they were in the painting phase. Three of the six airhoses had broken off. I can't remember which brand I used, but they were very fragile. I had some others available, but I think I now have three brands of airhoses on these cars. I painted the hose part a grimy black, and the glad hands a silvery color. One of the couplers had had its tab broken off where the spring clips on to, so I had to actually break open the draft gear box and replace the coupler itself. Both of these repairs were nothing major, and something that I may have to do again in the future. I just proved to me that the manner in which I attached these to the cars is perfectly fine as far as future repairs. I then re-installed the trucks, and took the "promo photos" you see on the previous page of this web site.