Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You Dirty Cow!

Hornby R6288F Seacow Hopper Wagon Weathered
Hornby R8996 Ballast Load
As soon as we saw these weathered Seacow Hopper Wagons in the Hornby catalogue, we decided that we just had to have a rake of them because they would look great behind one of our weathered freight locomotives.
So we set about collecting a few and now have ten which certainly makes for an impressive train behind the Class 37, 47 or 53.
Of course, if you have the hoppers then, really, you need the load as well so we also bought sufficient ballast loads to fill all of the hoppers. However, when we first inserted the loads into the hoppers we soon realized that the weight of the ballast could mean that any more than five or six loaded wagons might make any of our locos labour somewhat - and so it proved! The Bachmann Class 47 did manage to pull eight loaded hoppers plus one empty one but only on the level and it was definitely a struggle.
It is not surprising, to be honest, when you consider that these loads are made of solid resin and weigh over 40g each. A fully loaded hopper is, therefore, carrying around 85g; multiply that by our ten wagons and you have 850g for the whole train! 
Surely Hornby must know that this is simply too heavy. Why do they not make the loads out of a lighter material or make them hollow in the middle? Maybe they simply do not expect anyone to want to haul more than four or five of these loaded hoppers.
Anyway, our solution was to cut the bottoms off of each load and this reduced the weight by almost a half such that, now, all ten loaded hoppers can be handled with relative ease, even going uphill!
The hoppers themselves are lovely and have some very fine detail, however, this does make them quite delicate so care must be taken when handling them. 
One or two of ours also did not run very smoothly and even had squeaky wheels. The resultant drag would have merely added to the loco's difficulties in hauling such a heavy train but a quick squirt of lubricant to each bogie soon cured that problem and the smoother running, combined with the lighter loads, means that we can now haul the full complement of loaded hoppers with no problems - and they do look great too!


  1. Of course we have gradients on Derwent Midland and they really show up the hauling power of different locos - or the lack of it!

    Most of the problem (in steam and I guess it's true with diesels too) is about the amount of weight over each driving wheel (power bogie). Some of our locos don't have anything like enough body weight to haul much - they simply slip very swiftly to a stand. Double heading and banking are the norm. with longer trains!

    You could try using a card former for the height and then gluing some fine ballast material on top - shouldn't be too difficult and may well help haulage!

  2. Yes, gradients certainly do highlight some locos lack of pulling power. Generally we find that steam locos are worse than diesel and this is, as you say, due to the weight over each driving wheel. We once had Hornby's 'City of Sheffield', before we got rid of it, and it would slip and slide at the slightest of inclines!

    Having said that, one or two of our larger diesels can also struggle a bit, the Class 45 being a prime example. Then there are the real heavyweights, such as the Hornby Class 50, that can haul lengthy trains up the bank and appear not even to notice it.

    Yes, the card method is a good idea and definitely something we will try with our coal wagons. However, for the hoppers, we thought the ballast load would provide them with s decent amount of weight and, thus, prevent too many derailments. Unfortunately, it made them a little too weighty! Still, our solution does seem to have worked and we are happy that ten full hoppers can be pulled without relative ease.

    We have still not mastered double-heading as yet. We did try it recently with two of our Class 50s, using the Dynamis, but failed miserably. We really ought to give it another try sometime.