Scott Seders asked:
"Is the Hobbyline model the best starting point for this LV hopper?
I wanted to be certain there isn’t a better model (injection molded plastic or resin) available that I am overlooking."
Yes. It's the ONLY starting point available in HO scale. Make sure you don't get one of these models that was reboxed by Lionel HO - it's the same model, but will likely command a premium from the seller just because it's Lionel, even if it's a basket case. These are easily identified by heat-stamped lettering. Otherwise, you can still get these models at reasonable prices.