21T BR Hopper Wagons N gauge

Hopper Wagons

Dapol produce a rather nice 21T Hopper wagon (2F-034-000), available unpainted for a reasonable price (£5 when I bought it in 2014). I bought two and finished them in a similar way to the previous articles on Peco Coal Wagons[1] and Dapol Grain wagons[2].

For inspiration, I used the website of a group of EM gauge modellers portraying the 70s [3]. They have an article on their website describing their hopper wagons. I am afraid my efforts do not come up to their standards.

For reference, there is Paul Bartlett's compilation of photographs of wagons[4], which shows that the wagons became very rusty in use.

The Dapol Wagon

Pretreatment of constituent parts of Dapol Hopper Wagon

The wagons are well-detailed and come in a neat clear plastic presentation box. With a screwdriver or other thin blade, it is possible to lever to separate the hopper from the chassis. The coal load is detachable and painted black; I used it as it was. It is necessary to be careful when removing the body as it is very easy to lose the springs in the couplings.

After separating the chassis from the body, work can now go on to paint the two parts.

The underframe

This was painted with matt black enamel, followed by two washes of a brown earth-like colour (Wilco Nutmeg Spice acrylic testpot) to give it a rusty weathered appearance. The brake lever ends were painted white.

The body

The body was sprayed with Halfords grey primer. When dry, the body can be refitted to the chassis taking care with the coupling springs. The flanges which are flush with the front and back of the chassis were painted matt black and the end rails painted white The detachable coal load, already in black, was used without change, but before fitting, some weight was added inside the hopper. I used Eezyloads coal[5] which has a high density. This was fixed with PVA glue.

I found images of data panels on the internet and resized them before printing. This time, I used a slightly thinner paper - 60gsm computer listing paper. They were cut to size and fixed with Klear.

Rusting and weathering

The two wagons show different degrees of rusting and follow the examples seen in Paul Bartlett's photographs[4]. Rust was drybrushed on with Humbrol Track Colour. When the "rust" had dried, the wagons were given a wash of dilute matt black to make them slightly dirty.

Update: November 2017

Train of hopper wagons

Click image for larger version

Dapol's unpainted wagons had not been available for some time, so when they appeared back on the market again in August 2017, I bought 3 more to make a train. The cost was now £6, but still very good value. The other difference was that the coal load was not black as before but in the same plastic colour as the rest of the wagon. I painted the coal in the three new wagons matt black, but it looked different to the two I had already, so I painted the loads in those too.

The other change is that all wagons are now fitted with home-made magnetic couplings, similar to that described for diesel multiple units (Ref 6). They are less obtrusive than Rapido couplings and allow closer coupling.


  1. Coal train from Peco kits
  2. BR Grain Wagons
  3. EM Gauge Hopper Wagons. This website uses frames and the link takes you to the project page frame. This inspiring and useful website can be seen in its entirety through this link.
  4. Paul Bartlett's Photographs
  5. Eezy Loads. Supplier of simulated coal for N gauge.
  6. Magnetic couplers for diesel multiple units in N gauge

Article dated: 31/01/2016. Update:9th November 2017. References updated November 2019