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  • Modeling Two-Bay Coal Hoppers For the 1940s and 1950s


    Here is a Proto 2000 ready-to-run war emergency hopper car. Many of these cars lasted well into the 1950s and are ideal for serving local coal yards in most any town. All detail shown here was factory installed with the exception of the coupler cut lever and train line air hose.
    While I really like the Proto 2000 two-bay hoppers, they are not perfect. My biggest beef is with the stirrup steps at the corners of the frame. They are too hefty for my likes. I should have replaced them with Detail Associates stirrups matching this application, but decided to leave well enough alone. I will replace them if and when the molded-on stirrups break off the model.
    Model Railroading - August 2006 - Page 26 Model Railroading - August 2006 - Page 27

    Working with ready-to-run Proto 2000 and InterMountain models

    By Jim Six
    Model photos by the author

    My layout is modeled after the New York Central Michigan Branch between Goshen and Wabash in northern Indiana. Obviously, there were no coal mines along the line, and in fact, there weren't even any power plants, steel mills or other large industries served with hoppers of coal. So why do I want coal hoppers for the layout? There are two good reasons. First, the L&N transferred coal to the NYC at Cincinnati and at Louisville. The former Big-4 (NYC) lines from these points headed north to the Michigan Branch, passing through the area I am modeling, funneling coal to the heavy industries on the southeast side of Chicago. The other reason may be even more important to operations on my layout. Back in the 1950s this bucolic rural setting saw the lightly used Michigan Branch serve several communities along the route. At the time that I am modeling almost every town along the route had at least one coal yard at trackside.

    I have included the towns of New Paris, Milford, Warsaw, Claypool and Wabash on the layout. All had coal yards. In fact, Warsaw had two that were serviced by the New York Central. This means that coal hoppers were set out loaded and picked up empty by passing trains. While I am not much of a fan of switching yards, I love to switch customers along the line, and this plays right into my liking of open-top hopper cars.

    While newer 3-bay coal hoppers fed these coal yards from time to time, more typically it was the venerable old 2-bay design that was most used in this service. As such, one would find from one to maybe a half dozen of these small hoppers in a train. I plan to do just that; setting out and picking up a hopper or two in each town will meet my wants and needs. I suspect that there are plenty of railroad modelers that have the same need.

    Modeling coal operations has been a staple of our hobby for decades. Some of my favorite layouts model an Appalachian setting. The V&O, AM and other well-known layouts were all coal-based layouts. Many folks populated their layouts with the three Athearn 34' 2-bay open-top hoppers. They were and are nice models that with some TLC can become works of art. On the other hand, several other 2-bay open-top hoppers are available today. Lets take a look at a few the InterMountain New York Central USRA-rebuilt hopper and the Proto 2000 war emergency hopper with wood panel sides along with the war emergency hopper that was rebuilt after the war with sheet steel sides. We will take a look at a few things that can be done to these ready-to-run models to make them more realistic while remaining rugged enough for layout use.

    Neither of these models is cheap. Ready-to-run, the Proto 2000 models can be had for about twenty dollars; add another ten dollars for the InterMountain models. So what does the fellow do that needs serious number of these models? Punt! The cost of today's quality models is one of the primary reasons that I am building a layout depicting a rural branchline that will not need dozens of these beauties. A couple dozen I can afford, but a couple hundred is out of the question. I have explained to many folks that I prefer the philosophy of the US Marines who want a few good men. In this case, I'd rather have a setting that calls for fewer freight cars so that I can afford really good ones. I most definitely am not a member of the "more is better" club.

    All five models pictured on these pages are factory-painted and assembled models to which I added coupler cut levers, train line air hoses, and Kadee #58 couplers. Each was weathered using acrylic paints. Obviously the theme here is not about how to build a well-detailed model but instead, this is about how to put together a small fleet of well-detailed and weathered model coal hoppers.

    Pictured is one of t he InterMountain New York Central rebuild USRA hopper cars. These are factory-assembled and painted Tichy kits and are truly great models. As with the two B&O Proto 2000 models, the only additions to this model are the Detail Associates train line air hose and Detail Associates freight car coupler cut lever.
    While the individual ladder rungs are impressive, all would be for naught if it were not for the weathering, I struggled for years to formulate a weathering color for the inside of hopper cars. After studying the prototype I settled on Model Master Acryl #4605 Burnt Umber acrylic paint. To me, this is the perfect color for old rust.
    What really sets the InterMountain model apart from the Proto 2000 is the interior detail. Included are braces, rivets (no, I didn't count them!) and pockets where the bulged panels are located all done to great effect. These models, while weathered, do not appear to be ready for the scrap heap. Try not to over-do your weathering.
    The formed-metal rod end braces and ladder rungs along with the Detail Associates formed-metal coupler cut lever add a lot of realism to the model. Sure, some folks will tell you that this detail is not noticeable on a moving train, but I disagree. If the train is moving at scale speeds it is definitely noticeable. The detailed model is to me definitely worth the $30 price tag.
    The coupler area of coal hoppers always appears busy. Here you can clearly see all the formed-wire detail t hat truly makes these models including end braces, ladder grabs and coupler cut levers. The included trucks are also very nicely done. Note the rusty wheel sides and couplers. They are a lighter color rust than the umber-colored rust inside the body.
    Pictured are all three of the InterMountain NYC-rebuild USRA hopper cars. When the New York Central rebuilt their USRA two-bay hopper cars they did so with stamped-steel side panels that bulged out to allow an increased load capacity. This made for a somewhat unique appearance that was not widely used by other railroads.
    Model Railroading - August 2006 - Page 28 Model Railroading - August 2006 - Page 29



    Article Details

    • Original Author Jim Six
    • Source Model Railroading
    • Publication Date August 2006

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  • Tasha Oates
    Tasha Oates Mark,
    Thank you for your comment. It looks like the original author made a mistake. I'm sure you won't hold it against him. Let me know if you need anything else.
    May 2, 2011