Re: Hills Brothers Coffee Car - 3M

John Nehrich <nehrij@...>

FYI - According to Symbols Of America, Austin and Reuben Hill moved from
Maine to San Francisco in 1873. In 1882, the two brothers bought a
specialty grocery store (Arabian Coffee & Spice Mills) where they sold tea,
spices and the coffee that they roasted. Since at least 1897, the figure of
a turbaned figure in a nightgown and slippers sipping coffee has been used
as a trademark. (Maybe he was trying to awake from one of those Arabian
- John
PS - The T-M wood car, in addition to the gross door claws "Irv was here!",
has a protruding side sill along the bottom - apparently the result of a
mixup in cutting the dies. It can be cut off and replaced with styrene,
although not for this car as Richard has pointed out. I also think the T-M
wood reefer as a better starting point for wood box cars, as it has wood
sheathing that extends down further and has no oversized door tracks to deal
with. There is one thing that the box car can be useful for - with the door
opening and the way the battens line up, you can cut out a chunk and make a
slightly oversized 36 foot box car, somewhat like the 1910 class of Central
cars which had the side sill exposed. (Not that I'm recommending this as
the best way to achieve such end products, it is just an interesting
challenge to make something useful out of these kits.)
Speaking of wood box cars, I came across an uncredited photo of a 3M box
car, also done by T-M. It was closer in dimensions to such a car, but the
car had roof hatches and I can't see where they were placed.
- John

----- Original Message -----
From: "Garth G. Groff" <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2001 8:25 AM
Subject: Re: [STMFC] Hills Brothers Coffee Car

Nick and friends,

A partial view of one of the Hills Brothers' cars can be seen at:

It is the car on the extreme left. I am not sure of the exact location,
but it appears that this might be on the State Belt Railroad/San
Francisco Belt Railroad at their interchange with the SP. The rock
bunker to the rear was served by the SBR, and often figures prominently
in a number of surviving photos. Hills Brothers had a large roasting and
packaging factory in that area, but it was a few blocks inland from the
docks. Might these two cars have been used to shuttle bagged coffee
beans from ships to the roasting plant?

The above photo is part of the California Digital Archive collection. It
was taken during the 1934 Longshoremen's Strike. More photos, including
freight cars and locomotives, can be seen by browsing this collection
beginning at:;cs=

In general, the CDC has some very interesting train photos. You might
also look at the section on building the Oakland Bay Bridge. It has some
SP stuff. There is also a section on the Bully Hill Mines and their
Sacramento Valley & Eastern, plus more miscellaneous railroad subjects
in other files.

Kind regards,

Garth G. Groff

Nick Gray wrote:

Damn shame,

I guess this one gets added to my (2 year old) daughters collection. I
would still like a scan of the photo to see what the cars actually
looked like

Thanks for the answer!

At 09:16 PM 2/22/2001 -0800, you wrote:
I know I am going to regret this and will probably end up tossing it
in my
pile of things that I chop up and use for other projects. But I
resist it.

The car is a Train-Miniature Hills Brothers Coffee Car, HBCX #161.
data indicates Blt 3-30 and N&W 3-32 I think. There is no date on the
or instructions but it appears to be 20-30 years old.

First question is on authenticity. I recalled seeing that Micro-
trains had
one of these in n-scale. I would guess there must be some basis for
car. Does anyone have any information they would like to share?

Second question is on Viability of the project. So far the only
obviously other worth saving are the large decal, the rather decent
and the body structure. Does someone make a decal out there. If I
want this
car as a detailing/rebuild project. Would it be better to start over
Uh, Nick, are you sure you want to go there? For some obscure reason,
Hills Brothers of San Francisco owned two box cars numbered 161 and 162
which were stenciled that they were built in 1930 but look like they
built earlier (so 1930 may have been a rebuilding date). They lasted
than ten years and were gone from the 1/40 ORER. In my 1933 ORER,
reporting marks were HBKX, but later they were apparently changed to
Ca. 1937 Will Whittaker photographed HBCX 161 on the San Francisco
waterfront, and your model is probably based on that photo. I have a
of the photo and could send you a scan, but -

(1) These cars could not have operated in interchange, and probably
just used for short hauls around San Francisco, as the car in the photo
not been reweighed since 3-30, and -

(2) The T-M model can't really be converted into an accurate replica of
prototype because, aside from numerous other problems, the Hills Bros.
were 9'8" IH, thus considerably taller than the T-M model.

FWIW, the prototype cars were double wood sheathed with wood body
and had 4-4 inverse Dreadnaught ends, metal sheathed roofs with flat
battens, wood doors, fishbelly steel center sills, and ARA trucks with
spring planks and Barber lateral motion devices.

Richard H. Hendrickson
Ashland, Oregon 97520

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