Matt's Grain Hopper

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This hopper was built in August 2003, and is representative of a modern grain hopper in the United States and Canada. It is just under 8 studds wide (I find I like less than 8 as a scale) and it is 36 studs long. Vertical clearance is about 10 1/3 brick above track height.

This hopper will be making a debut at the next PNLTC show. These photos are from the top rail of the deck in front of my house.

Here is a side view of my hopper. That is Mt. Adams in the background, in this view from my front deck (can't complain about the view where I live). The hopper is not based on a specific prototype, but on the general feel of a modern grain hopper. My main inspiration though for details was a Trinity 100-ton covered hopper featured in the July 2003 Model Railroader. Around where I live it is common to see 100+ car trains of hoppers similar to this carrying grain from inland producers to port cities for export to Asia. I like my model enough that I plan to start gathering some more of those 4 radius curved panels to make some more.
A view of the "back" end of the car, though both ends are pretty much the same. The difference they have is the result of the side panels, which are lined up so the studs come out at the other "front" end. I used 4x4 wing pieces between the quarter round panels to provide a little more texture and some visual support of the top walkways.
A top and side view. I used 1x4x2 fence pieces, pony-eared into the top plates, as walkways. I'm very pleased with how they turned out. Between the walkways are the grain hatches, attached stud-down between the inside edges. In a real hopper, the smooth hatches open to allow grain to be poured in the top. Mine easily pop off, but they are not hinged. They are not really prototypical, but I like the effect. A real hopper is really a pretty plain train car, and models need to be more interesting than real life to be interesting.
A straight on side view, a little dark. But it gives a good profile. The little mountain to the right of the big one is Mt. Rainer, the tallest point in Washington State at somewhere over 14,000 feet. It is 70 miles away, as opposed to the closer (35 miles) but slightly shorter Mt. Adams at 12,000+ feet. The view is looking north.
A view of the "front" end of the car. Here you can see the studs that are not attached on the quarter round pieces. Only the bottom stud is attached, and I had to make room for the top stud since there is no way to make it line up nicely with something with a hole in it without creating another gap somewhere else. You can get a good view of how the 4x4 wing pieces are used. The other side is a mirror image of this side, with the panel studs facing the same direction.
Just after I took the last picture I set the hopper aside to take some pictures of another train car. It rolled off the deck rail and landed on some firewood 12 feet below. Pieces scattered about 6 feet and I never found a couple of them…
Here is the wreckage I could gather…
But out of all bad things something good results (though a good thing can never justify a bad). Here is an inside view of the hopper car, where you can see a little of how I constructed it. From the finished far left of the image, you can see the grey brick slopes just inside the curved edges, which hide most of the gap that is otherwise visible. The 4x4 wing panels on each side between the quarter round panels are held together by 1x3 plates, and these in turn are attached to the floor of the car by 2x2/2x2 L brackets. The blue pillars hold up the roof. The whole thing is quite strong, but as you can see it doesn't fully survive the ultimate crash test. :) You can't get a good view of it from here, but the panels at the left end (front) of the car are slightly father apart at their studded end than the rest of the panels are. But it isn't enough to generally notice. Feel free to send me an email if you have more questions about this model!

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Last Updated April 28, 2010 - - Copyright Matthew J. Chiles 2003-2010 all rights reserved.
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