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MDC 3-bay hopper mystery

D. Scott Chatfield
 

Everybody loves a good mystery, right?

I'm holding an old MDC rib-side 3-bay (HO) with the longitudinal ballast gates.  The crossdump version was long ago superseded by the Atlas 9-panel 3-bay (has there been anything better?), but I started this thing many years ago to make a Southern ballast hopper.  Made quite a bit of progress until I took a long look at those 9-panel sides (should be 10 on a ballast hopper) and realized I was going to have quite the problem making the eight large letters of the name SOUTHERN look right since they wouldn't be centered.  Oh well....on to the next project....

(Turns out FEC rebuilt some 9-panel crossdumps into ballast hoppers, so there is an after-the-fact sorta-prototype for this model.  But that happened long after 1960.)

(Get to the mystery, Blind Dog.)  So recently I dug it out of the heap to make it into a stand-in for another railroad that didn't exist before 1960 and pawn it off on a friend.

Looking the sides I see a little plate on the lower left side with the number 12 in raised letters. Huh?  And is this 12 on the other side?  Of course not.  It's 170.  

What the flying fudge are those supposed to mean?

And yes, they're on the crossdump version too. 


Scott Chatfield

Todd Sullivan
 

Hi Scott -

Not sure what those numbers are for.  Could be that Clarence Menteer had them put there to indicate mold numbers.  Clarence owned MDC when the hopper models were created.  Clarence used to direct his mold-maker(s) to "make a boxcar that looks like this", holding up prototype photos of boxcars built by ACF and P-S, so the resulting models had ACF ends and P-S sides, or some similar combination.  He was a businessman, not a modeler.

More about those MDC hoppers.  Back 30 or so years ago when I was building a fleet of B&O and C&O hoppers for a 1960s B&O layout that never got built, I did a bunch of work to improve a group of MDC ribbed triples.  About 70% of the way through he project, I realized that the handbrakes were on the wrong end of the C&O cars (whence came the B&O cars), based on the direction of the outlet bays.  That problem I couldn't fix without a lot more work on the painted and decaled cars I had finished, so I quietly put them away with a sigh. You might want to check your prototype photos to see if that hold true for the car(s) you are finishing.

Todd Sullivan.

Curt Fortenberry
 


Back when Athearn acquired the line, I had a conversation with Craig Walker over these hoppers, and I said the same thing, correct the orientation of the hoppers.  We were talking specifically about the Alaska RR versions, which were acquired used from C&O.  ARR was still using them till about 10 - 15 years ago or so; probably till the 50 year rule kicked in.

Curt Fortenberry