Chicago & Northwestern 55-ton two-bay hopper car

Custom-run hopper from Piko
Chicago & Northwestern 55-ton two-bay hopper
Piko America, LLC
4610 Alvarado Canyon Road, Suite 5
San Diego CA 92120
Available exclusively through:
Reindeer Pass
Kidman Tree Farm
3665 NW 98th Ave.
Polk City IA 50226
Price: $48.89

Plastic, 1:32 scale, gauge 1, USRA 55 ton two-bay hopper car; plastic trucks; plastic wheels; truck mounted hook-and-loop couplers. Dimensions: Length, 121/2"; width, 37⁄8"; height, 43⁄8"

Pros: Good fidelity to prototype; crisp lettering
Cons: Missing details, like brake cylinders and door latches
When World War I broke out, the US government formed the United States Railroad Administration (USRA), which oversaw the operation of the railroads in the US. As part of this effort, the USRA came up with many standard designs for locomotives and rolling stock. These designs were then built by the railroads and locomotive/car builders, not only during the war years, but for many years afterward.

One such design was for a two-bay steel hopper. These cars were built by the thousands and were used virtually everywhere in the US by pretty much every railroad.
Many survived in regular service through the steam age and into the early diesel era. They have a capacity of 55 tons.

Piko’s model of this car is not new to large scale. In fact, it comes from the old MDC molds, when it went into production in the early ’90s. I found drawings of a USRA two-bay hopper car online, and Piko’s car matches favorably. For the rivet counters, the number and spacing of rivets is actually accurately reproduced. The model measures about two scale feet longer and a foot taller than the drawings I found, when measured at 1:32 scale, but the width is spot on. I can’t say for certain the drawings I found were for the specific prototype for this car (though the rivets match), and I’ve read of two-bay hoppers built to this or similar designs ranging in length from 30' to 33'.

The car is plastic, with plastic trucks and wheels, which are gauged within NMRA/G1MRA specs. The trucks have hook-and-loop couplers mounted on them; no other couplers are supplied. There is no brake detail modeled into the car, nor is there any door-latch detail. Steps are molded into the side of the car, as opposed to being separate parts.

The car is lettered for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. This is a custom paint job done especially for Reindeer Pass. The car is an attractive green, with the C&NW logo and reporting marks. Lettering is crisp, easy to read, and the style is consistent with other C&NW hoppers that came up in a Google search. Reindeer Pass offers four different road numbers in this series.

It’s hard to imagine a railroad without hopper cars and these do not disappoint. There’s something inherent in a long coal drag that just screams “railroad,” and these cars would certainly make a fine addition to the train.


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