Thursday, 10 February 2011

Coal traffic on Lambing Flat and weathering the Eureka Models four-wheel coal hoppers

I've had a couple of straight-out-of-the-box Eureka Models four-wheel coal hoppers (an LCH and a CCH) trundling around the layout for ages now. One might be forgiven for asking what a couple of coal hoppers would be doing in the Central West, given the scarcity of coal mines. Surprising as it may seem, they did appear from time to time on the Blayney-Demondrille line (which is the inspiration for Lambing Flat, at least trafficwise). Apart from their use as 'match trucks' (to allow the coupling of vehicles with autocouplers only to hook drawgeared vehicles - LCH and CCH hoppers had autocouplers and buffers) they were also seen quite regularly in small numbers (as were the BCH bogie hoppers), conveying loco coal from the mines around Lithgow to the coal stages at Demondrille and Junee. They could be used for coal consigned to these locations as these stages were the large 'bunker' types and could be recharged from hopper wagons. Every other location sourcing loco coal via the Blayney-Demondrille line had the low stages, which required some poor labourer to shovel the coal out of an open wagon manually. Traffic to these coal stages mainly travelled in S and K trucks.

Here is a scan of Chris Sim's photo, published in Lawrance Ryan's 'Lines to the Lachlan - revised edition' showing 5412 standing at Blayney with the Cowra mixed on 13 January 1966.
Included in the consist are a couple of loaded BCH coal hoppers destined for the coal stage at Demondrille or Junee.
So, having established that the LCH and CCH are legitimate vehicles to run through Lambing Flat, it was time to 'scruff' them up a bit, as unweathered vehicles, no matter how well made, have no place on LF!
Ok, so let’s get out some blacks and browns and slather it all over the models... ahh... no!
When I weather a model, I don't just throw some generic paint at it and call it weathered, I try to replicate the weathering patterns see on the real thing. Each vehicle type (and the same with locos and passenger rolling stock) develops a distinctive weathering pattern, depending on its design, usage and areas of operation. So the first step is not to get out the paints, the first step is to find some photos of the prototype and establish what sort of weathering occurred to the prototype.
My collection of calendars and books stretches back to the late 1960s, so I have plenty of photos to be inspired by... the biggest problem is finding them in the huge pile of reference!
A couple of enjoyable nights browsing turned up these...
This is a section from a photograph taken at Port Waratah in 1971 by Peter Attenborough that was published in the AMRM 2005 Calendar (November). It shows quite nicely a selection of weathered four-wheel hoppers.

The NSWRTM Calendar for 1992 (June) turned up this photo by Graham Cotterall, captured near Sandy Hollow on 12 April 1969, which shows two nicely weathered CCH hoppers acting as match trucks either side of a bufferless S truck.
While these photos were taken quite late in the steam era, the weathering pattern is quite consistent with what I have observed in earlier photos. Some of the features that stand out include the rusty patina on the metal parts of the vehicles and the weathering of the timber parts to a greyish tint. As is typical of four-wheelers, there is a particular build-up of rust on the springs and drawgear.
OK, now we know what they are supposed to look like, it’s time to get the weathering paints out! For this project, I used Tamiya XF-10 Flat Brown, Tamiya XF-52 Flat Earth and Gunze Sangyo Aqueous Hobby Color H343 Soot, diluted with Isocol alcohol, applied as per my article Weathering with Acrylics - Simple Techniques for Rolling Stock which appeared in AMRM No.265 (August 2007).
First step (after giving them a very thorough wash in warm water with a touch of detergent added, then rinsing) was to apply a wash of Tamiya XF-10 Flat Brown, heavily diluted with Isocol alcohol, to the metal parts of the wagons.
The wagon springs, wheel rims and brakeshoes were then brush painted with a not quite so dilute solution of the Flat Brown and Isocol. Once that had all dried, a very light coat of dilute Tamiya XF-52 Flat Earth was airbrushed around the bottom of the vehicle and then a very dilute mix of Gunze Sangyo Aqueous Hobby Color H343 Soot was sprayed over the wagon. When that had dried a final wash of very dilute Soot was brush painted on to the timber parts of the wagons.

Before starting to paint, I had added some interior detail to the 'hungry boards' of the CCH and fixed the metal spreader bars in place inside the wagons according to Peter Jarvis's article Enhancing Eureka's Coal Hoppers in AMRM No.274 (February 2009) with the difference that these are closer to the correct position in the LCH and the coal load (not shown) modified to sit slightly higher than Peter's article.
The CCH showing the interior. The 'hungry boards' have been scribed to represent the planks and wood grain, plus the metal strengthening strips replicated with styrene strips and the spreader bars glued in place.
The LCH had had the spreader bars added, slightly higher than in Peter's article. The plastic coal loads provided by Eureka were modified to sit down over the bars, a per Peter's article, and then real coal glued on top of them. They are still removable, as are all the loads in use on LF.

Here they are, loaded with Lithgow 'rock', enroute to Demondrille.

The wider scene shows NSWGR Standard Goods No.5262, rolling into Lambing Flat sometime in the mid-1950s with a mixed train from Cowra. Included in the consist are the loaded coal hoppers bound for the coal stage at Demondrille.


  1. James, you could of course have a few small coal mines in the Central West - there were some just east of Dubbo and there were some near Oaklands. Also what about coal for municipal gas works? There must have been some traffic for that.

    Anyway the weathering is inspiring.

  2. G'day Iain :)

    Re: mines in the Central West, there are none in the Cowra-Young area (the geology is all wrong), plus I don't want to clutter up the place with coal hoppers! There also weren't many gas works in the area, and what coal was used by them was conveyed in open wagons. A much bigger local user of coal in those days was the hospitals. The two hospitals at Young were still getting a couple of trucks of coal a week from Lithgow for their laundry boilers in the early 1970s! Once more, though, that coal traffic travelled in open wagons, not hoppers. They were manually unloaded in the goods yard into trucks for conveyance to the hospitals.

  3. Yes, certainly would have thought that the hospitals would have been fairly reasonable users of coal to fire the boilers in the laundry. The interior detail is a fine addition.

  4. It is a family joke that I cannot have enough coal hoppers!

    It seems odd that bulk supplies of coal were not delivered in hoppers to make unloading quicker but then I think of the VR's GY's and...

  5. Not at all odd Iain. Hoppers require a considerable investment in unloading bins, whereas an open wagon only requires a shovel and some muscles. Most 'domestic' and loco coal traffic volume to any given location was not large enough to warrant any investment larger than buying Fred a shovel, and even there, he often provided his own!

    1. (sorry to drag up an old thread) re: coal hoppers through Cowra, I was browsing some "picture books" today and saw a mixed goods with loaded coal hoppers on the Blayney Cowra line. I thought this would be primarily for the coal stages at Demondrille and Cowra, but then wondered about the gas-works at Cowra.

      What sort of system did they have to unload the quantity of coal needed for a town gas works? I'm not sure if the gas works was in operation in the late 50's or 60's but between the wars it must have been running.
      Any thoughts?

    2. Coal for gas works was transported in open wagons, David. It was unloaded by hand (bloke with a shovel), usually.