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ann arbor 2-bay sand hoppers

One of the major on-line commodities serviced by the Ann Arbor Railroad was foundry sand. With a large facility at Yuma and a smaller operation between Mesick and Thompsonville at a place called Harlan, the fertile soils of the northern lower peninsula had an abundance of very fine sand deposits that were perfect for use in automotive molding. After sand was extracted and cleaned, it would be shipped by covered hopper to foundries all over the Midwest. One of the more prominent users of this Ann Arbor-shipped sand was Ford Motor Company, which used the sand to cast engine blocks.


Believe it or not, sand is pretty darn heavy when you put a lot of it into a rail car. So you will typically find that sand hoppers have a shorter wheelbase to spread that weight more evenly. In the Michigan Interstate era, from 1977-1982, the railroad leased a large number of 2-bay PS2 hoppers from the Pittsburg & Lake Erie Railroad. These hoppers went through the paint shop and came out with steel herald plates bearing the Ferry-in-Fog logo, along with the stylized "ann arbor railroad system" lettering and a stenciled P&LE ownership tag in the top right panel.

Thankfully, my friend Roy Cavan was there to assist with the painting and decaling of my first N Scale versions of these hoppers, but ultimately I ended up doing quite a few of these on my own (I also had to create my own labels to tell the difference between what I did and what Roy did). Pictures herein show the conversion from undecorated Atlas model to the finished product. These are actually pretty simple projects, with only minor car body modifications. The top right picture shows the basic Atlas car, along with a styrene square for the herald plate and a number of new side body ribs.

The side body ribs are made by taking a piece of styrene N Scale car siding and cutting it to the exact same height as the Atlas car side. Sand the top and bottom edges with a 45-degree inward angle, then put the shaped piece into a chopping tool and slice off as many individual strips as needed. Place the new rib on the car side and gently apply Testors liquid cement to the edge. Capillary action will draw the cement along the side and after a few minutes it will be set to go. You will note on the left side of the car body on the primered models, the horizontal bracing was trimmed off and a rib was inserted to more accurately capture the ladder design of the Ann Arbor units.  

Once again, I cannot give enough credit to the invaluable guidance for this project that was obtained through the bible of  Craig Wilson's Ann Arbor rolling stock book. His detailed drawings and meticulous research on paint schemes and car numbers are awesome!


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Ferry in Fog hopper with herlad plate

AA #727, w/herald plate, by Roy Cavan

Ann Arbor sand hoppers with extra detail

modified ladders, ribs, herald plate to be added

N Scale hoppers with extra detail in primer paint

all details installed, in primer, ready for paint

Ann Arbor Railroad sand hopper without herald plate

AA #787, no herald plate, by the author 

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