In a recent article I described how I detailed the tender from a Bachmann Annie (Anniversary Edition engine) by removing the plastic wood load and replacing it with real wood. The Annie tenders (and Big Haulers too for that matter) come in two flavors, wood burning and coal burning. The coal load in the stock tender looks as fake and toy-like as the wood load.
You can get real anthracite (coal) and beat it with a hammer to try to crush it down to a suitable size. That is if you have some anthracite to begin with. However, if you live closer to a pet shop than a coal mine you can get some aquarium charcoal that works great right out of the plastic jar.
I start by wiping off the fake coal load and putting down some paper towels or newspapers. Next, paint the surface of the fake coal load, with a thin coat of good old fashioned Elmer’s White Glue. Just do a smallish section, don’t try to do the entire load at one time. Next, you sprinkle some charcoal on the glue. Paint the next section and sprinkle more glue.
Once you have that first coat of glue and charcoal on the tender let the glue completely dry (the white glue will be completely transparent when dry). Then carefully turn the tender over and gently shake the lose charcoal off the tender (this is why you put down the newspaper). A lot will come off but that’s okay, some will stick. Dump the excess back in the jar.
You can build up the load until you get the look you want. Now, dilute some white glue about 50/50 with wet-water (stir until it looks like milk). Using an eyedropper carefully drop just enough of the solution on the loose coal to wet it.
Do just a small area at a time and be stingy with the glue solution. You don’t want it running off the coal. Patience is called for to keep from making a soggy mess. Do a bit and move on. You’ll find that capillary action pulls the solution into the coal and holds it fairly well.
After you have applied what you think is enough glue solution let it dry over night. The next day, again, turn the tender over and gently shake off any loose charcoal.
Add more charcoal where you think it is needed and repeat the process with the eyedropper over again. The glue will dry and be completely invisible when you are done. Repeat as many times as necessary to get the look you want.
I did the same process on the fake coal at the base of the car as well. I also added a prop coal shovel from the Bachmann spare tools kit and glued it and some single pieces on the floor of the tender just for looks.
Unfortunately this technique does not photograph very well, but trust me it is very simple and straightforward.
Let me know if this works for you. –TJ
(Originally posted 8/19/2011, revised 4/19/2013)