Tyco Operating Hopper Cars
by William Mosteller
The Lionel O-gauge equipment that first got me interested in model railroading offered one important thing we're usually lacking in HO-scale: accessories! I've never felt that was fair, operating accessories always seemed exciting to me, and they still do. (Some "serious" model railroaders feel operating accessories aren't serious enough, I think. Anyhow, I don't agree.) Maybe that's why I've worked so hard for operating overhead; it's an operating accessory. So when my quest for Virginian equipment uncovered these curiosities, I began buying. I now have a dozen, and recently I bought an unloader. After a hard evening's drilling, cutting, and sawing, I had it in-place on the railroad. Now the fun begins.

Following a principle I've applied successfully to knuckle couplers, I first unit-tested each hopper car on the unloader. It's a plastic casting that fits in a specially prepared section of track. As the operating hopper car rolls over the unloader, the unloader spreads the petals on the hopper, and the load dumps through. That's the idea, anyway. Only about half of my hoppers appeared to have read the instructions. On the rest, some petals were either too high, causing the doors not to open. Others were too low, causing the car to bottom on the unloader, and derail. I set these aside and pressed on.

I loaded my working cars with scale coal, and discovered that although a few grains would get through, the hopper would quickly jam, preventing further unloading. After considerable discussion and experimentation, I went to the next smaller size coal. It works like a charm. The coal pours out like a waterfall. If you have these cars and wish to engage in similar foolishness, the man to see is,

Eugene W. Browning
153 Cedarford Road
Natural Bridge, VA 24578
(540) 463-6367
Order sieve size #20-#40 coal (1½"-3" scale inches)
$2/½ pound bag, plus $3 shipping (loads several cars)
With this problem solved, I returned to the non-functional cars. Three car parts contribute to the height of the petals, the truck height, the thickness of the car's zamac frame, and the size of the petals. The tolerance we're working toward here appears to be about .01", pretty tight.

Exchanging trucks had no effect whatsoever. This was quite a surprise, particularly because the cars come with two different truck types and at least three different wheelsets (one of which I replace with Kadee for RP-25 contour). Amazingly, the trucks all seem to have identical height. The car frame didn't look like a promising place for adjustments. The post-adjustment surfaces have to be better than I could make them. Having run out of choices, I tried swapping petals, and that worked. My whole fleet now dumps coal! This is one situation where more truly is better.

Depending on where and how you install your unloader on your layout, you may have to switch cars into it one at a time. That requires automatic uncouplers, of course. The Kadee conversion list doesn't break out these cars, as far as I can see. The two truck styles require different couplers. The older style truck is metal and takes the #9 coupler. (Older #9 packages had a self-tapping screw of just the right length. The modern packages have a longer screw that must be cut off for these trucks.  Or use a shorter screw, say the #401.) The newer style truck is plastic and takes the Kadee talgo truck adapter. I've managed to force #5 couplers to work on a couple of my hoppers. But after careful measuring, I realized that the #27 (medium underset) was a better choice. Incidentally, the talgo truck adapter, while relatively easy to install, is almost impossible to remove, so measure carefully first. Many of the newer trucks have RP-25 wheels. For those that don't, I've replaced the wheelsets with Kadee #523. I love the detail on those wheels! I've not yet gotten my nerve up to try replacing the wheelsets on the older metal trucks.

So if you see one of these cars at a train show, you might consider picking it up. But if it's a Virginian, please consider leaving it for me!

Gerard Dombroski wrote and corrected the information I had about the Monon cement covered hopper, I've put his information in below.  Additionally, he provided beautiful pictures of the Monon and Spreckel's Sugar cars.  Click on the links under Covered Hoppers and Monon.  Thanks, Gerry!

  Tyco/Mantua Operating Hoppers
Released July 1961
  Open Hoppers      
Cat. # Road Name Color Road #  
T330A Reading black 65950  
T330B Burlington red 107432  
T330C Pennsylvania tuscan (old) 240137  
T330D Chesapeake & Ohio black 123246  
T330E U. S. Navy grey X101   
T330F Virginian
Threesome, two without heralds
silver 2106  
T330G Boston & Maine blue 10056  
  Covered Hoppers
roofs  - sides - ends
Cat. # Road Name Color Road # Cover
T332B Spreckel's Sugar grey 42674 Raised, Round Hatches
T332C Holly Sugar white 42764 Raised, Round Hatches
T332A  Brach's Candy orange 43467 Raised, Round Hatches
T336A  Monon
side - top
grey 9076 Low, Square Hatches
  Ore Hoppers      
  Road Name Color    
  Detroit, Toledo & Ironton black    
Cat. # Description      
839 Coal Load      
862 Hopper Car Unloader Set      
868 Ore Unloading Set      
7786 Coaling Station      
5736 Hopper Car Gate Activator      
5742 6 Car Stops      
15735 Mounted Hopper Car Gate Activator      

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