It is a fairly easy task and lends itself well to the "try to do one thing everyday on the layout" method of getting (model railroad) things done. I can easily spend just 30 minutes getting 3 or 4 cars "upgraded". Over time that has added up and I now have well over 100 cars ready for "heavy" operations.
Some cars are easier to address the weight issue than others. Boxcars with removable underframes are the easiest. Ones with removable roofs may take a little extra work depending on whether they were glued or not. Covered hoppers also vary depending on the design. Kato ones were easy as the whole shell pops off the underframe, while older E&B Valley ones are a little tougher having to pry off a glued on roof.
Tank cars have been another matter entirely. In Mike Confalone's e-books he mentioned and showed a picture of an Atlas tank car where he simply drilled a hole in the bottom and filled the car with sand. Besides being extremely cost effective, the amount of sand in a Kaolin tank car puts it at 7.5 ounces, right where I want to be for appx. 40 foot cars. As there is no real easy way to disassemble the cars to add weight, this seems to be the best method.
Doing the drilling takes a little care. I started with smaller drill bits and worked up to a larger one, 1/2". Starting with a larger one can easily cause the drill bit to grab the plastic and start spinning the whole car, sending parts all over. Yeah, that happened once, and I took great care not to do it again!
Once I have a hole about 1/2" wide I use a paper funnel and slowly worked sand into the car. It takes little longer than I would like and I needed to keep shaking the car to get the sand to work its way around the car. There is a weight that you will see that runs through the car, and the sand needs to work its way past the small openings along the edges to get to the top half of the car.
I fill it up until it weighs 7.5 ounces. There is not much more room to add sand at that point anyway, so weighing it makes it easy to know when I can stop. I plug the hole with some acrylic caulk and when it is dry hit it with a grimy black marker to make it nearly invisible.
|This Atlas Kaolin tank car is filled with sand, weighing int 7 ounces. The white dot is the plug, which will be painted black. The paper funned and a dish to catch spills is on the right.|
I found with Walthers tank cars that you can pry off one of the end caps using a finger nail. With practice, I was able to keep it attached to the handrail, add self stick weights and pop it back on.
|The Walthers tank car can be opened up at the end allowing a quick and easy install of self stick wheel weights.|
|A woodchip hopper with additional weight. I'll go back and weather the inside to help disguise the weights when the car runs without a load.|
In operating tests, I have really liked the extra weight. The cars do not wobble, couple easily and stay on the tracks well. One or two cars that have derailed have identified either a truck issue or in one case a track work deficiency. On the Maine Central route there is not much in the way of grades. The LVRC does have a steep grade, but two RS3s are easily handling 10 freight cars (which represent about 5 pounds of trains). Ten cars should be the max I operate on this line, much like the prototype.