More coal hoppers!


The next batch of coal hoppers are working through the shop. These started as Lionel 2 bay offset hoppers. They come out of the box with excellent details to include separate wire grab irons and brake gear. I have to add air hoses and cut levers. Of course I am changing out the Lionel 3 rail trucks for Intermountain trucks and wheels. These are cast metal bodies; they weight nearly a pound and a half…empty!


I’m not sure I remember you doing a previous batch… Cars made out of metal sure do help with the weight issue.

Jay Barnaby
Wichita, KS


Rick - Wow, they look great!

I’m not sure what the limit is, but the Whiting Rotaside rotary can’t flip heavy cast metal cars such as the fleet of ~40 Atlas cast metal fishbelly hoppers. The Atlas cars weigh more than the car clamp counterweight can handle.

If I recall the plastic 3-bay Weaver cars with added lead bird shot were the design center. I would hazard a guess that these might be too heavy for rotary unloading.


If I remember, the Weaver 3 bay hoppers are weighted at 16oz empty. These Lionel hoppers are too heavy, but they have working bay doors just like the Atlas 2 bays, so they can work in the fleet serving industries with drop pits. I need to test the drop doors to see how much weight they can hold, so they don’t spill as they get jostled during movement! The doors are held shut with tiny springs.


The A&D will need some high TE locomotives to make the grade through Mount Union with these bad boys in tow!



Have you considered using the more recent MTH offset twins? I purchased a couple six car sets and needed to cut off the heap shields, but otherwise left the cars intact. They have bolsters that allow you to put two rail trucks on and the end sills have a molded in mounting pad for KD couplers. The detailing is pretty good, though admittingly the Lionel car is better. The trade off is the extreme weight of the Lionel car and having to build a usable bolster. I will keep my AtlasO and Lionel heavies, but choose MTH cars when I can.



Hey Joe,

I did put some thought into the MTH offset hoppers. The one I looked at did seem decent but I didn’t think it improved much on the Weaver version. We have a lot of the Weaver offsets, and I have had pretty good success acquiring them for less than $10 on average. Add Kadees and Intermountain wheel sets, and my cost is for the Weavers is significantly less than the MTH cars. Cost is really what it boils down to.

The Lionel offsets do require more work to convert to 2 rail but I think the detail and overall body rendition is on par with the brass cars on the market but without the price! The Lionel missing bolster thing is a real pain and the weight is a little over the top! My Lionel examples (I have 13) will be a compromise at best, but I think my best compromise. They will be more along the lines of “photography stand-ins” or mixed train loads vs fleet cars. I’m confident that with the A&O train length of 15 to 18 cars, the heavy cars will be fine, as long as we don’t run them as complete unit trains!

Lionel is trending towards products that are both more to scale and easier if not actually intended to be converted to 2 rail, and for this I am thankful! But some of the traditional toy like heritage and manufacturing practices can be frustrating to deal with. I would love to see full bolsters. And the misconception of the metal is always better attitude sure adds a lot of un-needed weight as well as difficulty when modifying. MTH isn’t far behind either. I am looking for a deal (on my budget = crazy cheap!) on a MTH 3 bay ribbed side 70 ton hopper to acquire as to evaluate it’s 2 rail potential. Right now, they seem to be scarce and too expensive.


Looking over some options for the two bay offset hoppers, Lionel definitely has the best car. The model is a testament to creating a model from scale drawings, as the entire car is a pretty faithful reproduction, albeit with the Lionel signature three rail features. I do note that there are varying generations of the MTH cars, with the detailed version of the three bay nine panel car to be outstanding. I too, look for them, but they are very pricey. I have a couple decorated for =WM= and the only thing wrong is the routing instruction panel. Compared to the AtlasO and recent Lionel car (I suspect a plagered AtlasO design), the most recent/ detailed MTH car is top notch.

Something else another modeler pointed out to me was the Weaver THREE bay offset sides hopper was a more faithful replication, so he cut them down to two bays. More work than I wanted to do, plus the offset three bay cars were not as prominent on the sales tables as the ribbed cars, so I didn’t purchase many.

A higher quality offset twin hopper is noticeably missing from the offerings, in plastic.


A couple of the Antioc and Dover 2 bay offset hoppers finally made it off the workbench and over to the “Mother-ship” in David’s basement. I also finished a few other off-home-road coal hoppers. The Tennessee Central 2 bay ribbed hopper is an Ebay find. I’m a huge fan of this long lost regional. The prototype died in August of 1968 and these hoppers were scrapped shortly thereafter, making this car a little wrong for the A&O, but I like it!


Next are two well done C&O prototypes.

The first is an offering from MTH in plastic. It is riding on MTH two rail trucks and wheels with Kadee 805 couplers mounted in the MTH supplied coupler boxes. I paid around $35 for the car and the trucks cost me $5 at a closeout sale. Wish I could find more at that price! Normal prices should be between $40 and $60 for the car and $20 for the trucks. This car should be OK weight wise to run through the rotary dumper.

The second coal hopper is another Lionel scale offering. It is another dreaded HEAVY metal die cast body. This is a more modern 85-ton capacity car. I converted it to two rail with some nylon shims on the bolsters, plastic Weaver roller bearing trucks with NWSL 36 inch wheels, and Kadee 805 couplers. I had to drill and tap for the Kadee coupler boxes. The price on this car is equally as heavy as the car itself; I paid around $70 not counting the conversion trucks and wheels.

Both models are factory paint. I added the ACI labels, and removed the “Made by Lionel” markings from the Lionel car. Weathering is a combination of Dullcoat and gouache washes. Since the MTH car is an older prototype, I sanded down the lettering to show wear.


The old standby Weaver 2 bay offset is more like a slab side car but I have used these as a base for my cast resin sides making Western Maryland 9 rib hopper rebuilds and recently used an old out of production Kusan car I ripped apart and created a master to put an offset side on a cut down Weaver 2 bay. While a fair amount of work the lead sled diecast cars are hideously overweight and running 25 to 30 car trains over my up to 2.5% grades isn’t reasonable! Love the thread, being a WM modeler no such thing as too many hoppers!


Hey Joe,

I would love to see your work. In process pictures are great as well as finished models. You can post pictures straight to this board without the need to host the pictures elsewhere.

Work has been pretty time consuming lately so the only modeling I have managed has been stripping Weaver hoppers. Over the years I have found many Weaver hoppers that meet my price range. One of the compromises at my price range is that the hoppers tend to be the worst paint schemes on the planet! Bright blue Rock, fire engine red CB&Q, Neon blue Conrail! I have found that Easy-Off oven cleaner will strip these cars clean with no impact on the plastic. I have tried, 91% isopropyl alcohol, brake fluid, and bead blasting on these with no results, but the Easy-Off stripped them with a few hours soak.


I’ve always heard, mostly on the D-list, that easy off is the way to strip Bowser cars. tried it once and had bad results. Or more accurately, no results. Weaver and Bowser must use the same paint. I had decent results with bead blasting the lettering on Weaver cars but not the paint.


These cars were built by the WM using older 55 ton 7 rib cars in their Elkins WV car repair shop. They stretched the frame and used a new 9 rib side purchased from Bethlehem Steel. The new car raised the capacity to 66 tons. The rebuild program took place during the mid-60’s with several of the class making it into Chessie paint into the mid 80’s. The sides were cast using 2 part resin from a scratch built master before 3D printing overlaid onto a Weaver 2 bay offset car. The best way, I believe, would be to make a master with a 3D printer and then and RTV mold of that print. The decals are custom printed artwork produced by a fellow WM modeler for these cars.
2nd shot are these four cars in production shown on the layout weathered and ready to join the fleet.
Now for a similar but different build, this time using an Intermountain USRA twin hopper. The WM had several decent sized classes of channel side twin hoppers. They are similar in overall appearance to the more common USRA cars that used hat style ribs. Again built a master and cast an RTV mold for 2 part resin casting. The master is made with .015 styrene, Evergreen C channel ribs and a very liberal dose of rivet decals from MicroMark. This is a current build so I don’t have any currently painted yet, these classes of cars were rebuilt by the WM in the late 50’s with some lasting until the early 70’s. Other in this class were later rebuilt into tall woodchip hoppers and ballast cars that lasted well into the 80’s.
Channel side RTV master just after removing from the styrene casting box.



Another cast resin side using the same Weaver cars. These are class HTc rebuilt cars by the Reading Railroad. This master was cast by ripping apart and modifying a very old and long out of production Kusan car. The Weaver donor car is cut down about 3/4" or so from the middle to get it down to the correct length. Same basic build as the previous WM cars, the cast sides are sanded as necessary to fit and simply glued right onto the side of the Weaver car. The RDG added the top chord braces during the rebuild of this class, some made it into Conrail paint.
On the layout. I have finished 4 of these cars and 3 more are on the bench awaiting a trip through the paint shop.


Great stuff! Very ingenious to use the Weaver “offset” model as a base for rib side hoppers! I think your results speak for themselves; you have some nicely done and unique models. Any tips on prepping the Intermountain to receive your new side castings? Particularly asking about how you removed the factory ribs. I have a couple Weaver 3 bay hoppers I have experimented with to remove the ribs to facilitate changing the type and pattern to better match some Southern prototypes. I haven’t found a method that I like, or more importantly would want to repeat.


Thanks for the kind words! Since I was only doing one Intermountain to test the build I just used a flush pair of cutters to remove as much of the rib as possible before attacking them with a #17 chisel blade. I wanted all of the factory rivet details removed so I then used a mill file to finish prepping the surface to receive the cast site. The late Larry Kline of Pittsburgh won an RMC model of the month award building one of these channel side cars but doing it with single ribs. He removed the rib with a metal grinding bit in a dremel on low speed. I found using my dad’s oscillating saw with a fine tooth blade removed ribs very quickly on Weaver ribbed cars. It worked so well that I no longer worry about buying just offset cars!
BTW, since I mentioned Larry’s name, Jack Brown inspired the Weaver fishbelly cars when he also won an RMC model of the month award with the original build of using an overlay with Plastruct T ribs. I came up with casting them to cut down on build times and add the rivet detail.


3D printing a mold seems brilliant. 3D printing a decent sized part can get pricey…


Nice work, Ken! I’m always inspired by great craftsmanship. It seems such a rare commodity these days.

And Rick, great work as well. Once I finish circuits for the New River diamond signals I need to get my own butt in gear on locomotives and cars.


I’ll bug you guys with one last build! This is a WM class H14 from the mid-50s. It’s a pair of Intermountain USRA twins cut to extend the car into the correct length. Fortunately the prototype had a different rib than the hat rib over the middle of the bays so I was able to cover up the splice with new ribs. This car is nearly 20 years old and a 2nd one was on my workbench to finish but Atlas came out with their 11 panel car so I never finished it. In a strange twist I took the 2nd car which was spliced to 3 bays and cut it back down to a twin to build the channel side in the other reply, modelers!