Need some covered hopper information please!

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by trainsteve2435, Oct 28, 2006.

  1. Hello, can someone explain the difference between a covered hopper that hauls grain and one that hauls cement or plastic pellets and so on? I need to purchase some 3 bay covered hoppers for my grain elevator, but im confused as to what type to get. Im looking at some Proto 2000 PS2 3bay coverd hoppers with the ribs out side the car. Any information is appreciated. Thanks!:wave:
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think the biggest difference are two fold. If the hopper is for hauling grain or other foodstuff, it will be restricted as to what else could ever be loaded into it so as not to contaminate food. The other thing is that the size of a hopper will be determined by the weight of the product. Cement is heavy, so the cement hoppers tend to be around 55 feet long. The plastic pellets are relatively light, so you find pellet cars will be 85 feet long or longer.
  3. Iles

    Iles New Member

    It may depend on the era you are modeling, but I think the best bang for the buck are the Athearn "blue box" PS 54 covered hoppers. I have a bunch and they are pretty accurate looking grain haulers.
  4. I think Russ is right about the difference in size but bit out on the lengths. An 85' covered hopper would be enormous... even the plastic pellet cars were't that big... and (with a few exceptions) they are about the biggest covered hoppers around.

    The P2K 3 bay PS2CD cars are right for what you describe.

    Okay... Cement covered hoppers... are almost all 2 bay, short, massively built and (if you're in H0 and post mid 60s) represented by Walthers 2 Bay cement hoppers. There's an Athearn 2 Bay hopper that came out this year that could be used for cement and an E&C shops rarity that I have only seen once (and bought... for cement service...

    Cement also gets carried in specialised tank (type) cars. No one seems to model these . Pity as these are a nice variation.

    Grain covered hoppers... (same spec) there's loads. Most are three bay, some are four and... if they are right for grain and not for salt, potash and other chemicals... there are Atlas 6 bay cylindrical covered hoppers... BUT I think those are for the powder/chemical loads...

    Athearn do their 55' PS 3 bay and what was the Roundhouse 57' with the really deep sides. P2K do PS2CD high sided covered hoppers - in this case the "high side" means that the vertical side starts high up and is distinct from the "low side" which runs from boxcar floor level all the way to the cant rail (top of the side) - Walthers do the PS2CD low side _ BUT theirs has the high brake wheel of the earlier period while all the others I'm listing [um, except the Atlas cylindricals] have the later low brake wheel.

    Okay... Accurail do a very nice 4 bay curved side covered hopper that comes in lots of car numbers. [These are the only non-rib sided non cylindrical covered hopper models that I know of that could be used in grain service. If you model ATSF they look superb mixed in clusters with the P2K PS2CDs in ATSF "boxcar" red/bauxite... you can even get the Intermountain 1754 cars in the same livery (when you can find them)].

    I love whole trains of one livery with different shapes of the same thing... maybe with the odd car of the same shape and same road but different colour thrown in to wake up the bored railfan or a flatcar tagging along at the back - before the caboose of course...

    Intermountain do a 1754 cu ft 3 bay that is very nice but pricey - especially in RTR... but a really great car - Must put my kits together some day. They livery these for chemical companies as well as RR and grain... each run has a fresh batch of numbers... you just need to stick around long enough to find them. This is a fairly long car. (The PS2CDs are about the shortest regular grain cars... and very nice _ the P2K ones are very detailed/as good as the Intermountains but cheaper.

    Intermountain also do Canadian Cylindrical Hoppers which are terrific and expensive. These come in CN,CP,CNW,ATSF, Canadian Government and various Potash liveries at least. Numbers are in batches again. The odd Cylindrical in a string of CNW PS2s and 1754s sticks out very nicely.

    Otherwise... Kato do a short, fairly heavy 2 bay that costs a bomb and could be used for cement. I think Atlas do a few 2 bays. Atlas do a variety of expensive but very nice 3 or 4 bays... can't recall which - I haven't got any... they have metal walkways which look great but make all the other cars look wrong...

    Main thing for grain... I'm told that they always use trough loading not round hatches. (Can anyone confirm this please)? They have large drop through rectangular sliding outlet gates not the small gates as on the Walthers cement cars nor the pipe systems as used on pressure cars and pellet cars.

    So--- the other main covered hoppers you will find are...
    Airslides - Walthers - Used for fine powders (like flour) that can be "liquidised" by compressed air and pumped through pipes.
    Pellet cars and powder cars - Walthers (about the biggest because their plastic pellet cars carried a very low density load) and Athearn's "centreflow" cars which are 4 Bay with pipe outlets at the sides of each bay bottom... these can be made up with either hatches ortroughs if you get the blue box.
    PD cars - Walthers again - These are a powder carrying car again and unload by pressure differential - basically a low-pressure airslide... they carry the low density stuff that can be pumped while the airslides carry the higher density stuff like flour.
    McKeen also has made some different covered hoppers from time to time... mostly chemical hoppers as far as I recall. The ones i have are 5 bay centreflows... sort of stretched versions of the Athearn 4 bay centreflows... they mix things up nicely in a train.

    This reminds me... Both loading and unloading facilities tend to be built to specific car types and sizes and to stick with cars that fit. Later cars are often designed to fit into the existing equipment...'cos the capital has been spent on fixed plant. An odd length car can though the position of bay gates out against receivers and pipe outlets out against pipe positions. In the first case cars may need to be re-spotted and in the second they may be respotted or there may be odd lengths of discharge pipe set by to extend pipe(s) to reach the odd awkward one.

    Grain traffic boxcars were fitted with grain doors inside the ordinary door or blocked with planks and later plywood. They were put on rocker/tippers at the big facilities. Some had drop bottoms which normally made flat floors. (like a GS gon).

    Covered hoppers frequently have plates on the sides of ether the lower bay or the car body to take vibrators which shake the whole car to encourage the load to drop out. These shakers vary from mobile plant about half the size of a jack hammer body to fixed machines that swing in against the car side or drop down from above.

    Some chemical cars have special hatches and outlets. These are rarely provided for in models. All the Athearn Centreflows are the same including the Carbon Black cars which should have very specialised fittings 'cos carbon black is disgusting, filthy stuff.

    I have one or two other covered hoppers by different makers but those are the main ones.

    If you are going back before the mid 60s covered hoppers started in cement and similar heavy service forst back before WW2 but were relatively rare. Grain continued to be bulk loaded in boxcars into the late 70s and even the 80s. There has been loads of stuff recently on the Model Railroader Forum about unloading grain.

    Just out of interest ... what scale, where, when, RR(s) and what sort of line are you modelling... if you've decided.

    To convert to N scale just check out the H0 cars in the online catalogues and find the equivalents in N. Most of those I've listed are available in both scales.

    I'm told that grain hoppers always trough load... can anyone confirm this please?

    Hope this helps
  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    John Armstrong mentioned 80' covered hoppers in one of his books, implying that these were the plastic-pellet cars. I've never seen a photo of one that large.
  6. Rusty Spike

    Rusty Spike Member

    64ft plastic pellet cars are standard on the UP near me - they drop at two injection molding facilities. I've not seen any longer than that.

    This pic is from the walther's catalog
  7. Rusty Spike

    Rusty Spike Member

    :rolleyes: Let's try that pic once again . . . nevermind -- on the kids computer right now and I can't shut off the pop up blocker to access the picture manager. Search Walthers for ho/pellet and you'll see all that is there.
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    You guys are probably right about me getting the length wrong on the biggest hoppers. I have a couple of McKean pellet cars that I bought on close out when McKean was going out of business, and they looked absolutely huge, so I thought they must be 85 foot cars. They are probably closer to 65-70 feet. Of course, I've discovered that modelers classify car lengths differently than the prototype. Athearn makes a 50 foot mechanical reefer. BNSF runs the prototype of the Athearn 50 foot reefer, but they classify it as a 57 foot reefer. Athearn measures the length of the car body and calls it a 50 footer. BNSF measure the length of the same car over the coupler knuckles and calls it a 57 footer.

    By the way MDC made a nice 2 bay hopper that is slightly different than the Athearn 2 bay covered hopper that makes a nice cement hopper. A few years ago Kato made cement hopper kits in three car packages. They were really nice cars, but like all Kato products they were limited run, and to my knowledge no longer offered.
  9. As far as I know the correct way to measure a car for description is to measure the length clear inside the inside of the ends. This means that the important information (how long the load space is) is immediately clear. RR people know that a 50' car will be longer outside. Car width is constant. Height varies between standard, Hi cube and excess height (I believe).
    The 5 set of Athearn UPFE mechanical reefers are listed as 57' cars.
    There are other types of reefer available though.
  10. KATY

    KATY Member

    Good grain hopper info being given here. Have been in the grain industry for geez, 36 years now, so here's the scoop on current equipment used for grain loading.

    1. No one uses boxcars any longer. Went out in the early to mid 80's.
    2. Yes, all grain hoppers are trough loaded. Elevators are just not set up to load "round holers" whether down the center or offset.
    3. Oldest style are the rounded 4600 cubic ft hoppers.
    4. Next and most prevelant are the ribbed 4750 cubic ft hoppers. Used to be many road names, but many have been bought by who knows and renumbered.
    5. Newest are the larger 5100 or 5200 cubic ft hoppers which can sometimes take up to 225,000 lbs of grain.
    6. Increasingly elevators are being set up or built to handle 110 car unit trains which must be loaded in 15 hours to realize RR incentives. It's quite an operation usually with a huge loop of track to load the train which is never uncoupled. I digress....

    You have any pics of your model elevator you could post?
  11. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Of course, the question is "What time period is your layout?"

    And, if you're modelling anywhere in Canada, the predominant type of grain hopper will be 4-bay cylindrical hoppers.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I haven't seen that 5 set. I was referring to the single model in the blue box kit that has been available forever. Since they are now listing them as 57 footers they have gone over to the railroad method of measurement. By the way, the data stencil on all rail cars will list inside length, width, & height, but the railroad will classify them by overall length over the coupler knuckles. They just don't take chances that "every railroader knows the cars are longer." A mechanical reefer will have extra lengthtaken up by the reefer unit that is in addition to the inside length. Additionally, there is extra length made up by the thickness of bulkheads, and then depending on how long the draft gear is, there may be differences in coupler length as well. The dispatcher needs to have the exact overall length of every car and every siding in his territory available to him/her at all times. They need to be able to make sure there is room for the cars they want to have set out on a siding, and even more important they need to know that the train they want to put into a passing siding will fit. Even more important, when making up a train, the people responsible for assembling the train need to know it is short enough to fit any passing siding they need to shove it into. The railroad can do saw bys, but they prefer not to.
  13. Hello everyone, and thanks for all the great information. Im modelling the 1970's to mid 1980's BN and some MRL. The grain elevator i have is one of the Walthers ADM grainers. I will post the link to some pictures of waht im doing. Thanks again!
  14. gottaBreal

    gottaBreal Member

    you are doing a great Job 2435 however did you look into making your backdrops a few feet taller? It would add so much to your layout just in terms of making it look so much longer than it really is.
  15. santafewillie

    santafewillie Member

    I can't add anything to what Dave-the Train and KATY said, both were very informative posts. I have five grain elevators on my layout and have about sixty of the Accurail ACF center-flow cars, they are good models. I also have about thirty of the Athearn 3-bay covered hoppers, fifteen of the P2K hoppers and an assortment of the Walthers and Roundhouse models. The P2K's are a bit delicate. The older Athearn blue-box kits all have black undersides that have to be painted. I have some of their newer models and they are painted. Here's a couple of pictures: the first two are the Accurail smooth side hoppers, the third is the Roundhouse, the next is the Walthers, the last is one of the new Athearns that I haven't weathered yet.

    Attached Files:

  16. I take your points Russ. Especially on the drawgear length. These reefers are some of the few cars that always came ready with the cushion draw gear making them a lot longer in the frame than the body. (This came up somewhere else recently with a question about how close together cars should be coupled). It certainly helps to know how long cars are to get them clear into spurs and pass them out on the road.
    I quoted the "inside measurement" from what I've always understood... but your point about the space taken by the mechanical reefer gear at one end is very true. I think that this also occurred with at least some ice reefers. I wonder if there is a definitive solution someone can give us?
    Some of my string of reefers arrived as blue box :) it's only recently I've been able to afford them RTR.
    I'm pretty sure that there are quite a few 50' reefers around (by MDC as well as Athearn) but they're not the "modern" mechanical ones. 17 of my 20 are Athearns and the other 3 are Pemco I think.
    I don't know whether there's more than one type in service. All the pics i've got from the net seem to show just the one type.
  17. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Actually, BNSF & UP rebuilt a bunch of the prototype cars that Athearn modelled their 50 foot reefer from. I think the rebuilds were done @1999 or 2000, but I may be mistaken. In the case of UP, all of the cars had the mechanical reefers and gen sets removed from the end and the platform left open. They then installed a new Carrier-Transicold Ultima 53 in the end of the car, but behind the dreadnought end. BNSF also opened up the end platforms of 400 cars. BNSF did 200 cars with the Carrier-Transicold, 200 with Thermo-King SB3's, and 200 with rebuilt versions of the old tried and true Trane electric units with gen sets. The ones with the Trane units/gen sets were rebuilt just like the original cars were built. They ran them for a year or two for test purposes. The gen sets needed to run the Trane units burned way too much fuel, and the T-K mechanics had so many "blue flag law" violations that BNSF sent T-K a letter advising them that no Thermo-King personal were ever to come on BNSF property again. I think the T-K units were removed and replaced with the Carriers. I'm not sure what happened to the rebuilt Trane electric units. The Carrier unit can be modelled using the A-line "modern Carrier" trailer unit. A-line also makes a T-K SB 3.
  18. I've seen those open ended "verandah" fridge units in pics from the net. Thanks for the good news that they are way to late for me to need to worry about!:thumb:

    I've been told by several people that UP in particular were unning reefers that externally looked awful for grime and "weathering". I've not seen theis in many pics thogh... a lot look pristine but these are fairly recent and I've also been told that they cleaned a lot up post 2000. How bad were they in the 80s please?

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