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MGR Wagon (HAA) Making Coal Loads



After a post Christmas trip to the NRM at Shildon end of year toy fair with my 3 year old son, I came away, with among other things, two boxes of the triple Railroad MGR wagons. Even though these are Railroad versions, I was impressed with the level of detail, ok they are missing the fine level detail some wagons now have and the chassis lacks and painted details, but I think with a bit of a paint touch up and some weathering they will be great addition to my railway (once built).


The key bit that was missing though was a good realistic coal load. While I was at the show, the in-house Shildon Model Club layout “Shildon” was being operated with some modern stock. Whilst we watched one of the Ops got out a box of coal loads and began dropping them in to a rake of HAA MGR wagons. He showed me that they were home-made from shaped pipe lagging covered in grit blast grit. With the wagons also being weathered they added a great finishing touch.


So, I cannot take the credit for the idea, but I thought I would share how I made the coal loads and what they look like when finished. I have to say that I am really pleased with the outcome and the way they have enhanced the wagon. Plus this was the first railway modelling session I have had with my son. He painted on the glue and helped to sprinkle the coal dust… our model railway hath started!!!


So here’s how I did it:


1) Starting point, 10mm dia. Microbore foam pipe lagging (15mm dia pipe lagging would also work)

2) Cut it in half long ways and angle the ends so it fit snuggly in the hopper, no need for a lift out loop as pushing down on one end pops the load up out of the wagon for removal.

3) Cut, scrape and pick off the foam to required coal load shape, thus creating a unique load shape every time.

4) Sprinkle on black grit to represent the coal over PVA wood glue. Make sure that the surface of the foam to be coated with glue is fully roughened to create a good key – remove all shiny surface.

5) Leave to dry; the load will become quite stiff and robust.


I found that I could create each load in about 10mins, with small hands help!


I researched photos on the web of MGR wagons to get an idea of the way coal loads looked in real life. What I found was that there were a number of key visual points to bear in mind.

  • Auto load, which creates a uniform section, sloping sides and a flat top.
  • Manual chute, typically three/four mounds.
  • Track side bucket loader, creating various mounds and levels of loading from flush to high peaks. In some cases the bucket of the loader was used to flatten the coal load down to maintain loading gauge and reduce loss due to air flow.
  • The final visual point to note is that MGR wagons carried power station coal and this is typically transported in a pre-crushed state and looks very fine, no large lump coal! Hence, track ballast is too coarse in my view. I crushed a lump of ‘real’ anthracite coal using a hammer to a fine grit/dust. Which when stuck to the foam, I think looks perfect as it has a lovely black sparkle effect like the real thing.


Useful links to photos of real wagons


Shows the fineness of the MGR coal load - http://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/brhaatopskip/h119292E1#h119292e1

Auto loaded coal load - http://www.flickr.com/photos/55879910@N02/6277683605/in/photolist-ayJLCe-gyFia4-dUTfzq-bsFEwK

Large heaped coal loads - http://www.flickr.com/photos/55879910@N02/9558916762/in/photolist-fyFWVG-dnewHu-gJqVHV-g8GVdB-dvPq5E-e45QLz-e49q2D-akoVz5-b9DEm4-iu7kDD-dcepw2-9sMB4m-e5GUBg-dUKfeY-cWGf97-dNmSYp-d1Tqrs-fq9nxU-foCt9R-foSK4Y

High peaked load - http://www.petertandy.co.uk/58023_mgr_hat_3785.jpg

Load flatten with loader bucket - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Penmanshiel_Tunnel_(coal_train_on_new_alignment)..jpg

Railfreight wagon with coarse coal load - http://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/brhba/h3c33f975#h3c33f975

Side view of coal load - http://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/brhda/h1cb3829#h1cb3829



I hope this article is of use and inspiration to people



Views of my efforts (click images to view larger versions):


MGR Coal load 1

Pipe lagging cut to shape


MGR Coal load 2

Checking it fits in the wagon


MGR Coal load 3

Before and after gluing on the coal grit/dust


MGR Coal load 4

Finished view, before weathering wagon


MGR Coal load 5

Finished view, before weathering wagon
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that was my dad that told you how to do that lol he is still and always will be a member of shildon model railway club, i am raymond batchelor and also a member of the club and volunteer at the museum, hope to see you at one of the clubs shows this year, please do come and say hi and bring a loco or/ and some stock with you so you can join in the fun and have a play with the clubs layout

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Just begun a new layout based upon Settle and Carlisle area. And also, having taken recent ownership of two orphaned cats, I've found that Cat San litter makes an excellent load to represent gypsum mined in local quarries. Also sprayed or painted black can be a realistic coke load. 

Pictures to follow soon.

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