The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Unit Train of Hoppers from the Green Brook

In our recent family trip to Kansas/Nebraska/Colorado we kept count and saw over 50 moving trains, and probably 1/3 of them were coal trains. As my son has since then been mentioning coal cars it seemed like an ideal time to invest a few hours and get a whole train of hoppers running again that had been built by David Sacks for his layout perhaps 50 years ago and came to me with the cars described in this post. It took a few hours spread over several days to get them in shape.

As there are four types of hopper cars in this group I will go through them one by one. First we have three of these Schorr triple hoppers. They are lettered for the North Jersey. I would have to research it out a bit more, perhaps this was the home road of another modeler, but I am inclined to think Sacks built these and lettered them as “club cars” for the North Jersey Midland Model Railroad Association, one of two active round-robin clubs in that area in the post-war era of which he was an active member. I have more on the group here. The cars themselves were not decaled very well but this group of three has the best looking coal loads (although sand falls out when you tip the cars—sand was used for extra weight). All were a bit high on their trucks (coupler height too high) and one was on Lionel trucks. I switched it over to Schorr trucks. More on that in a minute.

This second car is also Schorr and one of a pair and is lettered for the Greenbrook as are all the rest. Lettering is somewhat minimal; I think mostly he wanted cars on the road and it was his layout, he could simplify things if he wished. One of these was also on Lionel trucks. Why put a Schorr car on Lionel trucks? I have seen odder things but I had Schorr trucks coming off other cars so it was switched over to Schorr trucks. Note the load on this car looks OK still but the other one of this pair has the other type of load which I will get to next.

This third car is Lionel. There were three of these and they were all on Schorr trucks. As there were good Lionel trucks available from other cars I switched them back to Lionel trucks, in the case of this car Lionel trucks taken off a junker Hawk car that was also in his residual that I will come back to at some later date. Two of the three Lionel cars have these overly tall loads with the big chunks of “coal.” I am not sure if the coal is a commercial product or not. It looks like someone took black plastic and ran it through a meat grinder and Sacks maybe used solvent as the adhesive! I hope he did the work outdoors! This particular one you can see was also at one point painted red and he repainted it (mostly) black.

The last car type is Scale-Craft. There were also three of these and these were in the worst shape. On the plus side they are the only ones with remnants of dimensional data (I don’t think the other cars ever had any) but on the negative side I did not know that Schorr trucks could rust out that badly to the point of being inoperable (they needed new springs, etc.), and about half of the trucks were to that point. No worries though, I had Schorr trucks I had shifted around from other cars. Then I hit another snag. Earlier I noted the cars were too high; all were set up for a higher coupler height than my standard. In lowering these cars I discovered yet again that not every car can be set up for every type of truck. So, in short, I converted them to use Scale-Craft trucks again, and fortunately he had used the S-C screws to hold on the Schorr trucks as those screws are in short supply. I worked over three pair from the parts supply and in particular made sure these were really square and rolled well with “fresh” bolsters and closely matched wheelsets. (Articles on tuning up S-C trucks are here and here). Also, on these S-C cars I will give Sacks credit as he also added HO brake details, so on these three even though condition was the worst after storage they were probably the nicest cars of the group when fresh from the shop.

So in total there are 11 cars in the train and they run great together again with the S-C cars taking the most effort on my part. All of the trucks had wheelsets in them that were spot in guage, a reflection of his running these cars a lot I am sure. I wish they were in a bit better shape but if you don’t look too critically it passes for weathering and it is a unit coal train in the eyes of a youngster for sure.

As to the topic of coupler height touched on a few times, I found that the S-C hoppers with fresh bolsters (of the most common style) and S-C dummy couplers in the standard mounting come out pretty much exactly at my standard height for cars with no washers. I had a bunch of spare washers for the parts supply after working over these cars. For more on setting cars up with trucks and couplers in general see this post. The Lionel cars needed a washer to bring them up to height and the Schorr cars several. As to the actual couplers, I don’t plan to change these cars to Kadee couplers. It is not real obvious from the photos but the couplers all appear to have been painted yellow for reasons I am not certain of.

Finally, what train is complete without a caboose? In that post linked up at the beginning of this article (here) is a photo of an extended Lionel caboose by Sacks. It was on S-C trucks that needed a lot of work and he had for reasons unclear to me made it so they were mounted way in from the ends as well which enhanced the odd look of the green trucks. As it is a Lionel car I opted for Lionel trucks again from the parts supply and had to rebuild the mounting areas somewhat to restore the original mounting locations. The result is a caboose that certainly matches the train and while dirty (the flash photograph makes it look a bit better than it is) it passes I think as weathered rather than merely the result of years of storage in a less than ideal location.

Again, a great train to see run as a unit again, you can almost imagine Sacks and his friends running trains in a basement in New Jersey back 50 years ago.


Steve Neubaum said...

I actually have sitting on my layout right now, a Scale-Craft Green Brook hopper car. Got it from an eBay seller in Minnesota. Looking at it, it appears there was some decals that were painted over, perhaps the dimensional data you mentioned.

I have never heard of a real railroad called "Green Brook Lines". Was this a club layout car? It appears your hoppers and mine might have come from the same place.

John Ericson said...

The Green Brook was the personal line of David Sacks. His name comes up in several posts in American OO Today, I have a number of models that he made and he was a very prolific builder. Originally part of the very active post-war OO gauge community in New Jersey, he later lived in California. See this article for more: