The PRR's Chartiers Branch carried a large volume of coal, so I need to have a proportionately large number of hoppers, in general. Supposedly the Downs Model Railroad Co. produced a PRR GLa in S-scale in 1988, but I have not seen a photo of them. S-Helper Service made a very nice GLd model, but the GLd and GLa are really not related to each other. The later GLd was based on the USRA design, but the GLa wasn't.
So, I decided to scratchbuild this car. From the PRR FM flat car scratchbuilding project I learned that building three cars at the same time is a good idea for me. The first car takes the "hit" of me having to figure out how to make a part or do a step, but the other cars get the benefit of knowing how to do it, and since I just did it for the first one, I don't have to try to remember how I did it "way back when". On the other hand, building more than three cars at the same time will start to feel more like "work", and there is the issue of the amount of space these start to take up on the workbench.
So, I built three of these hoppers at once. I didn't keep track of how many hours it has taken to build them (that would, again, feel more like work), but judging by the dates of when I took photos (of which I have taken 535), I worked on the core frame in March of 2014, then set the project aside for over a year until June of 2015. From then on I worked on them steadily, as time permitted, until June 2016 when their construction phase was completed. I then took another break (tore down my layout, and did a bunch of other projects) until January 2017. From then until July 2017 I painted (which took most of that six-month period), applied decals, and did final finishing. So, I estimate that I spent about 17 months of hobby time on these cars. My modeling sessions are usually measured in "minutes" not "hours", so things don't move fast.
Overall, I am very happy with how the cars came out. They are far from perfect, and I wouldn't dream of entering them in a contest. However, I learned a lot from them. There are things that I need to improve the next time I build open-top hoppers. I learned that hand-painting freight cars works just fine; an airbrush is really not required. I gained a lot more confidence about the act of applying decals.
Would I do this again? Absolutely! As a matter of fact, since the PRR had so many of these cars, I will need to build quite a fleet of them. I am sure I'll become better and faster at it as I do more. However, I do believe that for me, at least, three cars is the maximum to build at a time. Burn-out is a very real problem with a project this big.
If you prefer to read a full article on the construction of these cars, I am honored to say that the The S Scale Resource magazine has published my article in their February/March 2018 issue. Download it here.