Recently, I posted a short piece on the different solutions that I had used to create loads for the growing CCH/LCH fleet servicing the Philip's Creek coal mine. ( http://philipscreek.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/cchlch-loads.html ) The CCH loads have worked well but the solution to simulate the LCH loads was not satisfactory. Because of the spreader bars at the top of each LCH hopper , there was insufficient space for some form of thin plate to carry the simulated coal without leaving an untidy gap between the load and the top of the hopper. The slight dimensional variability between different wagons also contributed to the situation. The right hand side of the photo below illustrates the problem.
I received some helpful suggestions in response to that post but I was hesitant about cutting into wagons that had just been completed particularly with my 'less than steady' hand. So I decided on a different approach. If I am trying to simulate coal, why not simulate a full load rather than just a cap on the top. So the challenge now was to get a load of coal into and out of the LCH hoppers without making an almighty mess.
I decided to measure out and store quantities for each wagon separately. I purchased some small cheap containers from Woolworths and they now each hold one hopper's worth of 'coal'. I also fabricated two funnels to assist the loading and unloading, the long rectangular one for loading and the square one for unloading. In reality, the unloading funnel could be any size as long as the coal can be poured from the hopper without spillage. However, the dimensions of the loading funnel were a little more critical. The base of the loading funnel is slightly smaller than the top of the hopper and two styrene supports were glued to the base of the funnel so that it would sit on the hopper.
I was a bit concerned that, perhaps, I was under filling the wagons, but after a check of a loaded coal train passing through Hornsby, I noted that quite a few hoppers were significantly less than brimming. So I don't think it's an issue.
This idea may not work in hurly burly of an exhibition or on a large home layout during a major operating session. However, it is viable for layouts like Philip's Creek with a single operator. Would I use the same technique for the CCHs? Probably not, it may be more realistic but it's not really necessary and poor old 5131 struggles with heavier loads, so I think I'll restrict it to the five LCH wagons in the fleet. However, the concept may be trialled for the BBWs where I am experiencing a similar challenge.