Hopper cars are most commonly associated with coal. Coal was among the first and remains the most common commodity carried by rail, so it is no surprise that hoppers remain an important part of the railroad scene. Most model railroads need at least a few of these cars.
Hoppers aren't limited to just coal, however. Gravel, ballast, coke, ore - any number of aggregates can be hauled in hoppers.
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The Cumberland Mines Railroad is a prototype which looks like it was designed by a model railroader. This short railroad hauls coal a few miles from mine to river transfer and has no connections with other lines. If you like hoppers and heavy operations in a small railroad with a simple track plan, this could be for you.
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Mine Run Railroad
Looking for something a little more traditional for your hoppers? Check out this track plan for a coal-heavy branch line with multiple mines and mountain scenery. A layout like this could be set in any era and would use lots of hopper models.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Loads In - Empties Out
This old operating trick is a simple way to replicate operations without having to actually load and unload your hoppers. Placing the producing and consuming operations on opposite sides of a scenic divider allows hidden connecting tracks to serve both industries. As loaded and empty trains are shuttled back and forth over the scenic portion of the railroad, they always arrive at their destination to find a fresh train waiting to return the other way. This N scale plan shows the concept at work on a small layout, but the concept can be applied to any scale.