ann arbor 3-bay grain hoppers
One of the greatest things about this hobby is that you always have the opportunity to learn new things, meet new people, and explore new ideas. Back around Thanksgiving 2009, I attended the annual Washtenaw County Fairgrounds Train Show, which always takes place on the last Sunday of November. As I strolled through the tables in the southwest corner of the main building I spotted something I had never seen before: a three bay Ann Arbor grain hopper in the Ferry-in-Fog scheme!
At the time, no manufacturer produced such a model, so of course I snapped it up immediately - but I also introduced myself to the seller and asked if he had any more Ann Arbor items for sale. Which led to an in-depth discussion about the Ann Arbor, and it turned out we both had similar experiences and memories of the Ann Arbor and each of us had independently been trying to replicate the Annie's fleet in N Scale.
So I then had to run home and bring back some of my caboose models to share, and the next thing you know we were trading my scratch-building skills for his paint shop expertise. I had purchased several undecorated 3-bay hoppers a few years back, but I didn't have enough confidence in my painting abilities at the time, so I asked if he would paint them for me in exchange for a handful of scratch-built Annie cabooses.
And so began a great relationship: I would build cabooses and send them off to Ohio, and Ferry-in-Fog equipment came rolling back in to Michigan. Eventually this expanded into some 2-bay hoppers, and some DT&I hoppers, and ultimately I asked for some tips on painting/decaling. With Roy's advice, I started tackling the paint jobs on my own... and then we went full force into making Ann Arbor hoppers.
This is the point at which I started creating my own decal art and sending it off to SoliDesign for printing, while splitting and sharing the sheets/costs with Roy so that we each had a great supply and variety of Ann Arbor schemes. I would doctor up Atlas undecorated units with extra side ribs and modified ladders and send a batch off to Roy, and there was quite the interchange of rolling stock and skills as we both built up our inventory and rosters.
Of course, about the same time we were putting the final touches on the first batch of 3-bay hoppers, Atlas came out with the 4750 Thrall unit, and I discovered that JnJ produced a gray 3-bay unit in the Billboard scheme: so the 3-bay production changed over into numerous re-numbering projects. Pictures provided here show a variety of the 3-bay hoppers that were painted by Roy or converted/re-numbered and detailed by me.
Ann Arbor 3-bay grain hopper, painted by Roy Cavan
JnJ 3-bay hopper in CRDX lease scheme with AA billboard markings
Atlas 4750 Thrall unit, modified numbers and light weathering