Monday, October 30, 2017

Modeling Glass Cullet Loads

I think at one point we all come across a prototype freight load that begs to be modeled. In particular I can say there are many that lack a model, but a simple one that has been on my planning board for sometime is recycled glass otherwise known as "cullet". My intended goal will be to share the backstory and creation process so you can bring these loads to your layout. 

What is it? 
In simple enough terms it is crushed recycled glass. This material is used in numerous ways such as fiberglass insulation, glass beads (sandblasting), and road materials to name a few. 

           Potter's Industries north of Brownwood, TX. They make glass ball beads for many different uses. 
                   Photo courtesy of Google Maps. 

How is it transported?
Alot of times glass cullet is crushed and transported locally by truck from the recycling facility to end user, but there are cases where it moves by rail. I do not believe it will be one of those unit train type commodities found often like aggregate or coal, but as a one off load. Every prototype example I have seen or found shows use of dump trucks or open top hoppers, not to say an older covered hopper could be utilized. This is a heavier material as its raw material was sand and soda ash prior to becoming glass, so the car would not be loaded to the brim more around 3/4 full. The cars I have seen are marked EAMX (Everest Railcar Services). Due to the nature of the commodity these are probably in a captive service as cleaning would require something more abrasive then water like sandblasting. 

Besides seeing in person from an overpass, John Danielson over at has the best photo of these 3 bay hoppers carrying glass cullet at this link: EAMX 328 - John Danielson Collection 

How is is loaded/unloaded?
Loading at the crushing facility is as simple as a front end loader filling its bucket and dumping into the railcar. Unloading is just as easy. In this prototype example a small under track pit allows the transloader to empty from one gate at a time. The pit is shallow but deep enough for a front end loader to get a bucket full, back up, and then load the awaiting truck. The front end loader could also double as a car mover if multiple cars are to be unloaded. 

Photo courtesy Google Maps (Satellite View)
                         Glass cullet rail to truck transload in Brownwood, TX on Texas Rock Crusher Railroad

                                                        Photo courtesy Google Street View 

How is it modeled?
The easiest part about glass cullet is its "replication" on a model level. Sometimes making model loads are complex and require kitbashing or even scratchbuilding. In this case it is about simple cosmetics. Follow along as I walk you through creating a glass cullet load. In as little as a weekend you could have yours complete. 

Step 1: Materials
- Removable type open top hopper load (I used Motrak Models #81728)
       ** Side note the Motrak Models coal load is fantastic as purchased without changes **
- Rustoleum 2x (Gloss White) or any cheap white spray can 
- Dullcote
- Extra fine glitter (I used silver peacock which is blueish-green-silver)
- India Ink / Isopropyl Alcohol mix

Coal type loads work well with the sharp angles to provide a good texture for the paint / glitter to adhere on. 

Step 2: Base 
- Start by giving the drop in loads a generous coat of gloss white (Well ventilated area)
- Spray from all four angles to ensure you get a good coat in all the tight spots

Step 3: Glitter
- Giving the paint just about one minute to setup some then sprinkler your glitter
- Do not worry about being modest you want solid coverage 
- At this point let the load completely dry, do not touch or dump off excess glitter

Step 4: Glitter to Cullet
- Once dry, carefully pickup the load and tip it over to remove excess material.
- You should have good coverage with no load under showing through.
- In a well ventialiated area - spray the load with dull coat and let dry.
- The glitter provides the dull shine that you would find from crushed glass.  

                           This was my test plastic load before making the cullet loads from Motrak load. 

Step 5: Dull 
- Once dullcoat is dry use your fingernail to check around the edges of the load and remove any glitter stuck on the sides. Its important the sides are clear of glitter so it will sit properly in the railcar. 
- Airbrush load with a india ink / alcohol mix to get the desired dirty effect 
- Let dry, then place in railcar.

This technique worked well for plastic and hydrocal casting loads. Materials can be purchased for under $10 at your local craft store. 

I hope you enjoyed this fun post, showing you a quick and inexpensive way to add a one of a kind open top load to your layout. Everyone have a safe and happy Halloween.



  1. This is actually something that's really cool, do you have any idea when they started doing this? I model the 1940s and I'm curious if glass was as fanatic Lee recycled as metal

    1. I don't see why you couldn't model one from the 40s using the prominent glass color of the era. It would look good in a older 32 or 40' hopper.

  2. I have created gondola loads (coal) using foam blocks (recycled, shaved, shaped, trimmed, and painted. The cost of the paint, $3.00 Thanks for share

    1. Glitter was $2.50 and dullcote $3.00. Glad I could share

  3. Greg,

    Great idea and a really creative way to come up with another source of traffic. I'm curious, too- do you know when this started?


    1. I imagine cullet was being transported by rail back in the 40s or earlier. The MR Beer Line had the Pabst plant loading cars of cullet.

      I do not think we have seen more of this from a photo perspective since it's a very captive industry and routes. When you google it railcar cullet loads I only found a photo of a railcar in Europe getting loaded.

  4. The Delaware & Hudson railroad had a couple of blue hopper cars (three different styles: 2-bay, 3-bay, 4-bay, though they might have only used one of each) to transport recycled glass bottles to the glass plant in Oneonta, NY. This was during the 1970s. Though I model the 1980s, I plan to have a couple of these cars. To model the glass, I was going to crush clear small beads, but your idea looks good too. Nice job!

    1. Do you have any info on this operation. I am interested in modeling there fleet and operation of glass cars.

  5. The grand elk in grand rapids michigan loads cullet into NS bottom dump coal hoppers using a small conveyer system.
    They also keep a front endloader at the team track to help move cars and pick up over flow glass. It's predominantly green or brown glass and they tend to fill the cars up all the way so they look like coal cars only with slightly smaller mounds above the car top. This company tends to load about ten cars a week.