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Friday, August 27, 2010

The Graceline Hopper

One thing I try to have an eye out for on eBay is for uncommon vintage items. In the period when there was a flurry of sales after the Morlok auction (but as I recall not a Morlok item) I was able to purchase this Graceline hopper.

It does have a bit different look than the comparable Lionel and Scale-Craft models. My general post on Graceline is here, and from that we can tell this model is the “53 Quad hopper--decals for GN, SP, NYC, Rock Island, CB&Q, PRR, Milwaukee, C&NW, Santa Fe.” [See UPDATE 2017 at end for more on the prototype car.]

This particular car picked up a different set of decals and I feel sure the builder ran it a lot as after a bit of damage was repaired it ran well on the layout. The trucks are part of the story. These are the original late-Graceline castings for trucks but with different wheelsets. One truck has modified Lionel wheelsets and the other I can’t tell what the wheelsets are which is saying a lot. I think they may be earlier production Graceline wheelsets but with the flanges reworked a bit on a lathe. By this point in Graceline production they shipped out a type of plastic wheelset that I find really does not cut it on the layout. I have more on those wheelsets here.

I was also able more recently to buy a kit (sans instructions, unfortunately) for this model of the same vintage. You can see from the kit that it has metal ends but paper sides and is built around a wood block that fills the bottom 2/3 of the hopper interior. With a load you can’t see that and it allows for enough support for the thin sides up near the top.

This same kit was (probably) also later manufactured by Transportation Models. Based on what I have seen of other Transportation Models kits it should be exactly the same except that Transportation Models shipped them in a different box and with different trucks. Their trucks were closer to scale (the Graceline trucks on the car in the photo are close to S scale, really) but Transportation trucks had a lot of small parts and I have never seen an operational car that used them. I should build up a pair and give them a good try sometime to see how they operate in real life. More on Transportation Models in general may be found here.

I doubt that Graceline or Transportation Models sold a lot of these quad hoppers but it is a nice car. I do hope to touch up the scars on the sides and as I said it runs well now, a nice vintage find.

UPDATE 2017: 70-ton quad hoppers were not common cars on prototype roads. The only one I have found information about online with the same spacing of the side panels was a car type used by the Reading. There were two classes of these cars, the Reading HTl built in 1922 and the HTn built 1924-25, 4,000 cars total. More info and good prototype photos here and here. Worth mentioning too, these prototype cars were rebuilt in many ways, including as covered hoppers.

BUT: Then, checking the venerable 1944 version of the Model Railroader Cyclopedia what do I find but exactly the Graceline hopper, on page 126. The Linn Westcott drawings offer that the model is a Chicago and North Western prototype in a series numbered from 60001-60999, and that they were on "2 level Dalman" trucks. They call it the "C&NW four-hopper car." Curiously, I simply can't find any other reference to this class or type of C&NW car, and I'm thinking there are a lot of C&NW fans out there? Also, another curiosity, many of the drawings in this book are keyed to articles in Model Railroader, but this one apparently not.

The car could also be built up into a model that is very similar (other than the side panel spacing) to an early 70-ton triple hopper such as was designed by the USRA and built by several roads including the C&O, New York Central, P&LE, PMcK&Y and Virginian. I have six sets of body parts that only have enough hopper bays to be triple hoppers, I'm thinking they may be parts from a Transportation models version of the car.

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