Freight Car Friday – PS-2 2003 Covered Hoppers

18 05 2012

Like their PS-1 boxcars, PS-5 gondolas and other car designs, Pullman Standard applied the PS-2 classification to all of its covered hoppers. Pullman Standard built covered hoppers in many sizes and configurations. But say “PS-2” to most modelers and it is this particular car that usually first comes to mind. The 2003 cubic foot car was one of the first, smallest and prolific of the PS-2 cars.


The PS-2 is one of the most familiar covered hoppers in railroading, This former Pennsy car was placed in company service by Penn Central and continued in this role well into the Conrail era before being preserved at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Although used to haul sand, the yellow “S” actually stands for “Stores” a holdover from PRR practice.

Pullman began building its standardized freight car designs with the PS-1 boxcar in 1947. Next up would be a standard covered hopper – hence PS-2 – shortly thereafter. Although covered hoppers are among the most common cars on the rails today, in 1947 they were a rarity. The PS-2’s primary competition wasn’t other covered hopper designs but boxcars. Grain, cement, sand and dried chemicals were carried mostly in boxcars prior to the 1950s either in sacks and bags or poured in bulk through hatches in the roof. The theory here was that it made more sense to utilize a single car for a variety of products. The car could carry bags of cement one way and then cut lumber the other. Of course a car that could do many things often couldn’t do many of them well.

Burlington Northern

The PS-2 enjoyed a long life, with many outliving the companies for which they were built. Burlington Northern’s cars could be found in green and gray like our forthcoming 6-27081, with an amazing variety of lettering and logo styles.

The PS-2 offered railroads and private companies alike a car that could be loaded and unloaded quickly and freely interchange between railroads across the country. Although these cars too could be used to haul several different commodities, most found their way into a single service. Carrying different loads usually required a complete cleaning of the interior of the car. For example, the 2003 cubic foot car was well suited for hauling salt, cement and whole grains – but you wouldn’t want to back-haul any of these commodities until it was cleaned. Cars might be used to haul different products in two seasons, with cleanings in between.

Conrail PS-2

Conrail inherited a large fleet of these small PS-2s from Penn Central, Reading, Lehigh Valley, Lehigh and New England, Jersey Central and Erie Lackawanna. The railroad rostered larger versions as well. Look for this car, 6-27069 to hit dealers in late summer / early fall.

These first PS-2s were 34 feet long and had two bays straddling the center sill which supported the car. Air brake equipment was placed in an open area beneath the end sheet and overhanging roof. The sides featured two heavier end posts, and six smaller support posts clustered in groups of three with a larger “panel” in the center of the car. Slope sheets, which direct the load to the hopper doors, were hidden behind the side sheets, making the cars’ capacity look greater than it really was. The design of the end posts, end sheets and other components changed several times over the cars’ lengthy production run, but this general arrangement of parts remained the same and even carried over to larger designs.


The “panels” on the sides of the PS-2 offered interesting paint and lettering options for railroads, even on simple schemes like this Wabash car (6-27085).

The smaller 2003 cubic foot cars were perfect for denser, heavy commodities. Lighter loads like grains and flour were hauled in these cars early on, but as more of the users of these cars converted facilities to receive bottom-unloading cars, larger capacity covered hoppers came into use. Cars of this size, both older Pullman Standard cars as well as competing designs for ACF and PS successor Trinity remain in service today. Older cars can also be found in captive company service hauling and storing sand for locomotives.

Rock Island

Far more colorful were the later cars of the Rock Island – whose image at the time was sadly brighter than the future of the line itself. The PS-2 is perfect for many different eras – even the colorful 1970s. 6-27083

Not only are these cars very common on the prototype, their small size makes them perfect for model railroads. Lionel’s PS-2 covered hoppers have come in many prototypical paint schemes, including four new versions in our 2012 Signature catalog. The Lionel cars feature lots of detail, die-cast trucks, working couplers and even opening roof hatches. With production of these cars spanning decades and numbering in the tens of thousands, there is no end in sight to the variety that can be done.



3 responses

3 10 2012
Andrew Falconer

I am looking forward to getting the Burlington Northern and ROCK PS-2 2-Bay Hopper. Hopefully the Penn Central PS-2 2-Bay Covered Hopper in the specific paint scheme shown in the photo above will be produced sometime.

22 03 2013
Andrew Falconer

I finally got the BN and ROCK PS-2 2006 Cu. Ft. 2-Bay Covered Hoppers. They are totally accurate.

30 04 2014
Conductor Andrew

Reblogged this on theredcaboose1.

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