Lightweight Home-made Coal Loads

Most models now come with relatively rudimentary coal load inserts, however if you use them in every car, each load will look the same. Here's a way to make a load for your own hoppers, this can be used with coal, gravel, or other materials as well.

I recently had a conversation with freind and fellow modeler Nick about his attempt at replicating a crushed glass load, during which he mentioned using air dry clay to make the load insert, that the "glass" material would be attached to.

The clay he was using adds weight to the hopper, which in his case was a positive aspect. The car I chose was a beautiful H-100-16 from Tangent Scale Models, which are fairly good on weight. They do come with loads, but I replace most to get variety. Even if I don't, I add Medium or Fine coal from Arizona Rock and Mineral.

While perusing my local Hobby Lobby looking for new modeling supplies, I stumbled on Delight Air Dry Modeling Compound, the whole package weighing in at 3oz.

This product seemed to fit my plans, so I immediately purchased a bag and got to work, drawing inspiration from Nick's method.

I placed clear plastic kitchen film inside the car, then started pressing in lumps of the air dry compound. I used half the package to make this load, so this package will allow me to make two unique loads.

The package said to wait 24 hours to dry, I think I gave it a week, mostly because other projects jumped to the top of the pile.

I then removed the load insert and looked it over.

It looks great, is hard to the touch but still lightly spongy. I didn't try to trim the load insert, however given it's density, I'm sure it can be trimmed with a hobby knife.

I think it shrunk some, as when reinserted it has a small, maybe 1mm gap.

I then proceeded to paint the load insert black with some cheap craft paint.

Once dry I installed my load insert permanently with Aleenes tacky glue. You might ask, why didn't I just do that from the start? Well for starters I wasn't sure how tacky the material would be hard, and I didn't want to mar the car insides with stray material. Second, I wanted to be sure it was shaped right, so trimming might have been required. Third, I wasn't sure of the opposite, what if the material didn't stick to the car at all and I needed to pry it out past the interior detail to add adhesive? Fourth, you have to paint the insert anyways before the load material is attached!

After the glue dried, I spread Elmer's Glue-All and water over the load, then sprinkled in some medium coal from Arizona Rock and Mineral. I then lightly soak the coal with 70% isopropyl alcohol and then dripped on an additional soaking of a 50/50 mix of Elmer's Glue-All and water. The same process I use for scenery. (Read more here: Scenery Basics Part 1 and here Ballasting Done Right (Version 2))

Allow this to dry overnight, and your load is done. You can keep the kitchen flim between the load insert and the car while adding the coal, to make a removable load, if you desire.