The development of all-steel cars spurred the railroad industry to begin developing larger hopper cars.  Initially, the larger cars were intended for hauling coke, which is lighter than coal.  However, improvements in truck design and heavier rails soon made loads of seventy tons or more possible.  These larger cars received the AAR class designation HT: “A car with three or more hopper bays with doors hinged crosswise to allow dumping between the rails.” 


   One of the earliest developments was the Pennsylvania Railroad H21, a four-bay hopper first built in 1910.  Offset-side hoppers were introduced in the twenties, and like the H21, most had four bays.  Many of these early hoppers featured clamshell doors, and differed from the models available to N-scalers.  In the thirties, most of the clamshell doors were replaced by conventional hopper bays.     

Composite HT pic.jpg




   Early in the 20th Century, the Delaware & Hudson purchased a large fleet of composite hoppers.  Known as “Seley” hoppers, they had a seven-panel Howe truss with no diagonal in the center panel and “C” channel ribs.  When built, they had clamshell doors and the end panels were fully sheathed, giving them the appearance of a high-side gondola.  In the twenties and thirties, the Delaware & Hudson rebuilt them into more conventional looking hoppers.  While most were rebuilt into two-bay cars, some were rebuilt with three or even four bays.  They were being rebuilt again into all-steel cars by the late forties.


   The Minitrix “old time” wood hopper is a model of a Delaware & Hudson Seley hopper rebuilt with three bays.  The model was available in other road names, none of which are correct.  The Con Cor wood hopper appears to be a stretched model of the same car, and is a tad oversized even for a forty-foot car!  While not offered in Delaware & Hudson, some of the road names could be stand-ins for other forty-foot composite cars.


   NORFOLK & WESTERN- N&W was one of the few roads that received three-bay war emergency hoppers, which featured an eight-panel Pratt truss.   The chart below is a comprehensive list of war emergency cars (Just in case somebody would like to produce an N-scale model).  An asterisk in a column indicates that the cars have been rebuilt as all-steel cars.

CHICAGO, BURLINGTON & QUINCY- The Burlington had a series of composite hoppers which were type HK side dumping hoppers with an eight-panel Pratt truss.  They were listed as “Ore” cars in the Equipment Registers, though this type was usually used for ballast.

SOUTHERN PACIFIC and CHICAGO & NORTHWESTERN- Both roads owned composite “Hart Convertible” ballast cars, which could be used as either a gondola or hopper car, however, they bore a closer resemblance to gondolas than hopper cars.

Composite HT chart.jpg
H21 HT pic.jpg




   The Pennsylvania Railroad H21a hopper car was one of the largest and long-lived classes of freight cars ever constructed.  First appearing around 1910, they were originally constructed with clamshell doors, but were rebuilt with standard hopper bays in the thirties.  Over, the years, a few H21’s were leased to other railroads on a short-term basis.  In 1970, Penn Central refurbished 602 cars, designating them as class H5 hoppers.  Though about a thousand H21’s and H5’s made it to Conrail in 1976, the January 1978 Equipment Register listed only eleven H21’s. 


   Bowser’s H21 is a model of the post-war version with standard hopper bays, so the early scheme (37403), it would not be an accurate representation for pre-1930’s era modelers.  The “Coal Goes to War” scheme (37402) was likely applied to only a handful of cars during the World War II, and I don’t know how long it lasted after the war.  The lack of reporting marks on the green panel scheme (38023) is a bit of a mystery; though Bowser lists it as a Penn Central scheme, it has a PRR keystone and the Equipment Registers list the number series under PRR.  Bowser also included three lease schemes for Norfolk & Western and Virginian.  Apparently, the leases were brief as none were listed in any of my Equipment Registers, so you’ll have to use the service date on the model as a guide.  Bowser did overlook one road name; Baltimore & Ohio’s W-1 hoppers were copies of the H21.


   Roco also produced a model of the H21 which was first sold by AHM.  This model differs in that the two center hopper bays are facing the wrong way.  Presumably, Roco utilized some of the tooling from their ARA offset quad, in which all four bays face the center of the car.  Most of the road names offered by AHM and Roco were stand-ins for other types of ribbed hoppers, making the wrong-way center bays a moot point.   Many are stand-ins for the three-bay eleven-panel hopper produced by Roundhouse and Athearn, which is indicated by the notation (3/11) in the “ROAD” column below.  Other models are stand-ins for the Bluford Shops sixteen-panel car, which is indicated by the notation (3/16).  An asterisk in the ROADS column indicates a scheme that is not yet available on the proper body style.


Other exceptions are as follows:

BALTIMORE & OHIO- Roco 28865 is numbered for a small series of hoppers that appeared in the fifties. Except for a slight increase in capacity, the dimensions are identical to earlier W-1 hoppers, though they could also be leased cars from another railroad.

CHESAPEAKE & OHIO- Roco 28863 is numbered for a series forty-foot ten-panel USRA hoppers, a model not yet available in N-scale.

CLINCHFIELD-  Both the AHM and Roco models are numbered for a series of 17-panel PS-3 hoppers, which is available from Atlas.  However, they would better represent a series of eleven-panel cars.  Both series had peaked ends.

KANSAS, OKLAHOMA & GULF-  I haven’t been able to find a photo for confirmation, but the dimensions in the register are close to other eleven-panel ribbed hoppers.

ROBERVAL & SAQUENAY-  I can’t find a photo, but the dimensions of these aluminum bodied cars suggest  they had offset sides.

SOUTHERN PACIFIC-  The number on Roco 28861 doesn’t conform to any series I could find, but all of SP’s early type HT hoppers had offset sides.

H21 HT chart.png
Quad offset HT pic.jpg


BROADWAY LIMITED and many others


  By putting the side walls outside of the ribs, car builders were able to increase the cubic capacity of hopper cars.  The side walls were slanted (or offset) to the inside of the ribs at the top of the car to prevent the load from catching on the top chord when dumped.  The ARA produced a design for a four-bay offset-side hopper in the late twenties.  The design was short-lived, as railroads switched to building less complex three-bay cars in the thirties.

   Broadway Limited Imports produced the definitive N-scale model of this car, and most of the schemes offered are appropriate for the post-war era. 

   This body style should be familiar to long-time N-scale modelers, as it has been offered by a host of manufacturers.  Roco (Austria) produced a model that was sold by Atlas, Minitrix and later by Con Cor.  Bachmann’s model was made first in Hong Kong, and later in China. Model Power offered a model made by Mehano (Jugoslavia) as well as a copy made in China.  Sadly, the bulk of the paint schemes on these early models were too colorful or modern for the body style.

   The chart below is separated into two sections; the first lists appropriate four-bay models, and the second lists the models that could stand in for three-bay cars.  The manufacturers are indicated as follows: A= Atlas, B= Bachmann, C= Con Cor, E= Eastern Seaboard Models, M= Model Power, T=Minitrix

Offset 4 HT chart.png
H2a HT pic.jpg




   The H2a hopper was the backbone of Norfolk & Western’s hopper fleet throuought the transition era. First built in 1936, a few cars lasted into the early nineties.  These ten panel, three-bay cars had an inside length of 36’10” and a capacity of 2460 cubic feet.   They were unique to the Norfolk & Western, though a few were leased or sold to other railroads.  The Pennsylvania leased 2,000 cars in 1957, while the Baltimore & Ohio listed two small groups at different times.  The Wabash and the Frisco also listed small groups of cars whose dimensions matched those of the H2a.   


   Broadway Limited Imports offers the H2a in N-scale in Norfolk & Western as well as for three other railroads that briefly operated H2a’s.  Most of the other road names offered are stand-ins for hoppers which are available in N-scale.  The chart below lists H2a’s and stand-in separately.  For those who like to letter their own models (Or a second run by BLI), I’ve included the H2a series that BLI overlooked.  I’ve also included USRA three-bay hoppers in the chart. These three-bay, ten-panel cars were about two feet longer than the H2a, and no model is available in N-scale 


ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE- The model is numbered for a small series of offset-side hoppers, models of which are available from Athearn and Bluford Shops. 

CANADIAN PACIFIC- This model represents CP’s three-bay offset-side hoppers as repainted after 1958, models of which are available from Athearn and Bluford Shops.

CHICAGO & NORTH WESTERN- The model is numbered for a series of two bay cars with an inside length of 32’6”.  However, they would be a better stand-in for two series of ten-panel four-bay cars with an inside length of 39’ numbered 60000-60999 and 62000-65003, so I’ve listed them in the chart below.

CSXT- The model represents a series of 90-ton hoppers, a model of which is available from Atlas. It features the NYC reporting marks of former Conrail cars as well as the FRA visibility stripes mandated in 2005.

DENVER & RIO GRANDE- The model is numbered for a series of covered hoppers, however it most closely resembles the 3-bay 11-panel hopper available from Roundhouse and Athearn.

GREAT NORTHERN- The model is numbered for a series of hoppers built by the Canton Car Company.  These two-bay cars had five wide panels and an inside length of 29’ 10”.

ILLINOIS CENTRAL- The model is numbered for a series of two-bay, eight-panel cars which had been rebuilt the forties.  They were lengthened  to an inside length of 41’3” and the sides had been lowered about a foot.

NEW YORK CENTRAL- The model represents the Central’s large fleet of 16-panel hoppers, a model which is available from Bluford shops.

NORFOLK SOUTHERN-  The model represents a series of rebuilt 90-ton hoppers, a model which is available from Atlas.  It features the visibility stripes mandated by the FRA in 2005

UNION PACIFIC-  The model represents a series of  Hart Selective type HK hoppers, a model which is available from Atlas.

H2a HT chart.png
Offset 3 HT pic.jpg





  The three-bay offset-side hopper design reigned supreme in the thirties and forties.  They were operated by nearly every railroad, though a few large coal haulers never took the plunge, namely Pennsylvania, Norfolk & Western and Virginian.  Though placing the sidewalls outside of the ribs increased capacity, the weight of the load tended to separate the walls from the ribs.  By the early fifties the railroad industry had reverted to building ribbed hoppers.


  This body style has been offered by Bluford Shops, Athearn, Roundhouse and Con Cor.  The Bluford Shops model represents the standard AAR design of 1935, and should be an accurate model for most of the many road names offered.  However, cars built prior to 1935 differ a bit, most notably in the end panels.  In the 1935 design, the end panels taper gradually to the end of the car, while earlier cars had a shorter taper that provided a flat surface for the end ladders. 


  The Athearn hoppers were originally sold by Roundhouse and are models of earlier cars with a short taper.  The ERIE and DL&W road names would be the most accurate for the model as most of the other road names offered represented the 1935 design.  A few of the road names offered were stand-ins for other body styles as outlined below.  Roundhouse cars are marked with an “R” in the A/R/C column.


   Con Cor offered an offset-side hopper in the early days of N-scale which is also a model of an early short-taper car.  This model doesn’t have much to recommend it, as it is somewhat oversized, and the paint jobs are not the best.  Most of the schemes are either too modern for the car or outright fantasies, so I’ve only included a few of the best in the chart below which are indicated by a "C" in the A/R/C column.


Exceptions are as follows:

BELT RAILWAY OF CHICAGO- Bluford 73801 has a built date of 1/49, but there were no references to either the road number or three-bay hoppers in any of my Equipment Registers.  The series may have been either short-lived or not for revenue service. However, the BRC did list a series of two-bay offset hoppers numbered 2000-2049 in the October 1947 and January 1952 Equipment Registers.

CHICAGO, TERRE HAUTE & SOUTHEASTERN- Athearn 5117 represents this Milwaukee Road subsidiary’s four-bay offset-side hoppers; this scheme is not yet available from Broadway Limited.

NEW YORK CENTRAL- Roundhouse 8622 represents the Central's offset-side hoppers as repainted after 1954.   Athearn 11979 is decorated in the right-hand reporting marks and number series of Central’s sixteen-panel hoppers which are available from Bluford Shops. It’s possible that some offset-side hoppers were painted in this scheme, but I haven’t been able to confirm it.   

UNION PACIFIC- The road numbers on Athearn 11983 are for a series of 90-ton ribbed hoppers; however, it would be a better stand-in for UP’s type HK offset side ballast hoppers as repainted after the mid-sixties.

AMERICAN STEEL & WIRE- Bluford 73611 has a built date of 1/48, but I could find no reference to the company in my Equipment Registers.  The lack of reporting marks leads me to believe the model represents an intra-plant car that was not used in interchange service.

UNITED STATES ARMY- Bluford 72461 has a three-panel lubrication plate dating it to 1982 or later, “USAX” cars were not listed in the Equipment Registers, but the index in the Registers indicated that the cars were for “Intra plant service”.

offset 3 HT chart.png
ACF 11 panel HT pic.jpg




   By 1950, the offset-side hopper design had fallen out of favor, and car builders were again building hoppers with ribbed-sides. The AAR introduced a 70-ton hopper design which featured three-bays and eleven-panel sides.  Though it found acceptance by relatively few roads, the Chesapeake and Ohio amassed a large fleet of them.


   Roundhouse produced this body style in N-scale in three variations, flat end, oval ends and peaked ends.  Athearn acquired the Roundhouse tooling and currently offers this body style to N-scalers.  Many of the schemes offered by both companies were stand-ins for other models or modern schemes that are outside the scope of this site.  The chart below lists eleven-panel cars and stand-in schemes separately.  Those models with oval ends are indicated by an “O” in parentheses.  For models with peaked ends, see the Norfolk & Western exceptions below.


ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE- Roundhouse 86003 represents a series of 90-ton hoppers, a model available from Atlas and Micro-Trains.

CHESAPEAKE & OHIO-  The C&O had the largest fleet of 11-panel hoppers.  Athearn 11086 represents the first group of cars which did not include the “Progress” logo, while Athearn 24475 includes includes the logo.  I don’t know the exact proportion, but I believe the vast majority of the cars included the logo.  Finally, Roundhouse 8641 represents C&O’s fleet of USRA ten-panel hopper cars. 

CHICAGO & NORTHWESTERN- Roundhouse 86001 represents a series of 90-ton hoppers, a model available from Atlas.

DETRIOIT & MACKINAC- I couldn’t find any info on this car series, it had an inside length of 40’2”, but a capacity of only 1,670 cubic feet.

NEW YORK CENTRAL- Roundhouse 86006 is numbered for Central’s large fleet of sixteen-panel hoppers, a model available from Bluford Shops.  It is decorated in a “patch” scheme that would have been applied in later years.  The “NYC Color Guide” has a photo dated 1981.  The model might also represent one of Central’s 10-panel USRA hoppers as repainted in the late fifties, so I’ve included both in the chart below.  

NORFOLK & WESTERN-  All of the Athearn and Roundhouse models are numbered for N&W’s H2a hopper, a model which is now available from Broadway Limited Imports.  However, N&W inherited several series of eleven-panel hoppers from the Virginian in 1959 which did not have peaked ends.

PENNSYLVANIA- Roundhouse 8604 represents Pennsy’s H21 hopper, a model available from Bowser.

PITTSBURGH & LAKE ERIE- Athearn 17623 represents a series of 90-ton hoppers, a model available from Atlas.

READING- Reading’s 1,000 eleven-panel hoppers were delivered with the Anthracite logo in 1957.  Roundhouse 89435 represents cars that were modified for special service.  The models with blue end panels are numbered for a series of eleven-panel cars that were equipped with fabric clovers for raw-sugar service.  The models with red end panels are numbered for a series of 90-ton hoppers that were in ore service, though I don’t know how many cars in the series were so marked.

THE ROCK- Rock Island series 10000-10249 match the dimensions of other series of eleven-panel hoppers, however, I haven’t been able to confirm it.  The January 1979 Equipment Register listed 48 cars in ROCK series 510000-510249.

St. LOUIS, SAN FRANCISCO- Roundhouse 86003 represents a series of 90-ton hoppers, a model available from Atlas and Micro-Trains.

SEABOARD AIR LINE- Roundhouse 86007 represents a series of 16-panel hoppers, a model available from Bluford Shops.

UNION PACIFIC- Athearn 24485 represents a series of slightly longer eleven-panel hoppers built by Pressed Steel Car in 1949.  They were renumbered to 16000-17949 in 1959.


ACF 11 panel HT chart.png
PS-3 HT pic.jpg





   In the late fifties, Pullman Standard introduced its PS-3 hopper to replace the offset-side hopper.  The loss of capacity caused by placing the sidewalls inside of the ribs was offset by a longer inside length of 42’10”, producing a car with a capacity of 2750 cubic feet.  In the sixties, the capacity was increased to 2960 cubic feet by increasing the height of the sidewalls. The PS-3 was purchased by few roads with only the Louisville & Nashville acquiring a sizeable fleet.


   Atlas offers N-scale models of both versions, which are available with or without peaked ends for a total of four variations.   In the chart below, the later versions are indicated by “2960” in the ROAD column, and “P” indicates cars with peaked ends.     

PS-3 HT chart.png
16-panel HT pic.jpg




  In 1956, the New York Central developed a version of the AAR 70-ton hopper which found favor with many railroads.  The new hopper featured sixteen-panel sides, an inside length of 40’8” and a capacity of 2700 cubic feet. 


   Bluford Shops produced an N-scale model of this hopper, much to the delight of New York Central fans.  Although Bluford refers to it as a 14-panel hopper, I’ve always counted the end panels, so it is referred to as a 16-panel car here.  Though there may be minor differences in details, nearly all of the road names chosen are appropriate for the body style; I could find only one exception.  Though I couldn’t locate pictures to confirm several road names, the dimensions in the Equipment Registers match those of the car.


FORT DODGE, DES MOINES & SOUTHERN- I couldn’t find reference to this model in any of my Equipment Registers, so they were likely used in maintenance of way service.  The Bluford Shops ad for the car did say they hauled ballast for the Chicago & North Western, which absorbed the FDDM in 1968.                        

RICHMOND, FREDERICKSBURG & POTOMAC-  This model represents a series of eleven panel hoppers; a body style available from Athearn, but not in this paint scheme.


16-panel HT chart.png
90-ton HT pic.jpg