Freight Car Friday – Cylindrical Covered Hoppers

20 01 2012

There is no mistaking the distinctive look of a cylindrical covered hopper. What is less obvious is the important role they have played in the evolution of covered hopper design.

prototype car

A pair of cylindrical cars pass through Altoona on a cold February morning. These cars often venture far from home rails.

Early covered hoppers were built around a strong center sill that ran through the center of the car. Essentially, these cars were like open hoppers with a roof. The center sill created two problems; added weight and impediment to unloading. American Car and Foundry (ACF) was the first to find a way “a round” this design problem in 1966 with this cylindrical design. Taking advantage of the structural integrity of a cylinder, ACF made the carbody itself an integral part of the car’s structure. This is similar in concept to tank car designs which made a similar transformation in the same period.

Canada Cylindrical

Lionel's 6-27454 is nearly identical to the prototype shown above.

The cylindrical covered hoppers were really the first step in the evolution of ACF’s Center Flow design – one of the most enduring on the railroad scene. Like the conventional cars which preceded it, and the smooth-sided cars which followed, cylindrical were made available in several sizes for different lading. Smaller cars are used for cement, sand and other dense materials. Larger cars were employed for plastics, phosphates and other very light loads. Perhaps the most common cars are the three and four bay mid-range cars used for grain service.

CP cylindrical

Many of the Canadian cars, in a variety of paint schemes, were government-funded.

Most commonly associated with Canadian railroads, thousands of these covered hoppers have helped deliver the seasonal wheat rushes from the great plains of Canada to the world for over 40 years. Indeed, Canadian roads have stuck with the cylindrical design for decades and despite other revisions, new versions of these tubular cars continue to be built today. Many of the Canadian cars were funded by the government and have worn bright and lavish paint schemes over the years.

PC Cylindrical

Penn Central owned many of these cars, some inherited from the New York Central and Pennsylvania and others purchased new.

In addition to the popular Canadian cars, many U.S. railroads owned cylindricals as well. In fact the first prototype was owned by the New York Central. The car was transferred to Penn Central and Conrail and eventually converted to a scale monitor car before becoming part of Norfolk Southern’s roster. From the B&O to the Southern Pacific, ACF’s revolutionary design could be found all across the country. Many private owners, including chemical, salt and fertilizer companies, purchased these cars as well.

Distinctive, successful and historically important in their own right, perhaps the greatest contribution of the cylindrical design was their role in the development of the even more successful Center Flow ACF cars which followed. We’ll cover these important cars in coming weeks.



9 responses

20 01 2012

yes i have two of the lcca orange UNION PACIFIC COLLECTORS COVERED HOPPERS

20 01 2012
Andrew Falconer

From reading TRAINS magazine and checking on the rr-fallenflags website I have discovered that the first ACF CENTER FLOW Cylindrical Hopper demonstrator cars were built in late 1961-early 1962. Those ACF demonstration schemes have not been produced by LIONEL. ACF discontinued the Cylindrical Hopper in 1965 when they introduced the inverted Teardrop shaped version of the ACF CENTER FLOW covered hopper. Signature Press has an ACF book with builder’s photos that show all of these demonstration covered hoppers.

I have several of the ACF style Cylindrical Hoppers in the CN and Canadian schemes because I live 2 miles away from the Canadian National-Grand Trunk Western railroad tracks and like the way the hoppers look.

The Chicagoland Lionel Club is offering a Green and Yellow CNW Cylindrical Hopper. I have both. There is a photo of a C&NW 3-Bay Cylindrical Hopper in a different 1970’s era deep green and serif style lettering scheme on the Chicago & NorthWestern Historical Society website.

20 01 2012
Andrew Falconer

Canadian National had an early 1960’s version of the Cylindrical Hopper’s built out of Aluminum. A photo with 2 of the CN Aluminum Cylidrical Hoppers was used on the Canadian National 1991 Annual Report.

Later in 1972 Marine Industries, National Steel Car, and Hawker-Siddeley started building the typical Canadian Cylindrical Hoppers. They built those designs until at least 1983.

20 01 2012
Andrew Falconer

Found this history on the Internet Model Trains site for a HO Scale 8-Hatch Aluminum Tank Hopper Car Kit.
In 1959, Canadian National Railways, Roberval Saguenay Railway, and the Aluminum Co. of Canada combined efforts to create a new hopper design that eliminated the centre sill, and utilized the cars’ curved sides as a structural member. Six of these experimental cars were constructed for testing. In 1962, and again in 1964, CNR and CPR ordered production versions of these aluminum cars. Problems with corrosion of the aluminum led to CPR ordering slightly larger cars built of steel in 1965 and 1966.

20 01 2012
Andrew Falconer

Most of the Canadian Cylindrical Hoppers for Grain were built between 1972 and 1986, with some additional cylindrical hoppers being constructed in 1994.

23 01 2012
Alfonso Llana

What I like the most about my toy trains rolling stock is that my cars are not covered with that …… graffiti

23 01 2012
Andrew Falconer

A great looking scheme that has not been done yet for the ACF CENTER FLOW Cylindrical 3-Bay Covered Hoppers is El Rexene Plastics with the Shipper’s Car Line SHPX reporting marks.

3 02 2012
Andrew Falconer

Look here for a photo of ACFX 88 that was built in 1-62. It has ACF CENTER FLOW across the side and it is a Cylindrical 3-bay Covered Hopper.
The photo is so sharp that all the lettering can be read clearly.

That demonstrator scheme has simple markings that Lionel could make without too many problems. That car had to be one of the few cylindrical hoppers put on top of the old Box Journal trucks.

15 09 2013
Andrew Falconer

In the Signature Press book about ACF freight cars it shows that the ACF Center Flow 6-Bay Cylindrical Hoppers were first built in 1961.

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