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First Look Review
HO scale
AAR 70 Ton 3-Bay Open Hopper
Trainman AAR 70 Ton 3-Bay Open Hopper
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

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Atlas' HO AAR 70 Ton 3-Bay Open Hopper has been re-released with new paint schemes & road numbers. This review is of PMCX 018, item number 20 003 850, part of Atlas' Trainman® range of train cars. This model is available with both an arched end and a standard end.

AAR 70 Ton 3-Bay Hopper
Believe it or not, there was a time that coal was beloved by industry and government in the USA. Hundreds of thousands of cars for carrying coal rolled across America. Many designs have been tried and this type with external ribs gained favor because chemical reactions with the coal attacked the steel of the cars. According to Atlas;
    This familiar hopper was an industry standard on many railroads since the 1930’s. It was adopted by the AAR as a recommended design, but fell out of favor by the mid-1950s. While offering greater capacity over cars with conventional flat sides, the original open hoppers created corrosive interaction between acidic coal and the car’s joints, leading to costly rebuilding programs.

This is the 9th run of this popular model. Let's see why it is so popular.

The erudite NEB&W Railroad Heritage Website tells us;
    These models are listed under Atlas's "Trainman" category. This is basically the same prototype as the MDC 11-panel ribbed triple hopper, but much, MUCH better. As the industry's love-affair with the offset hopper design began to wane in the '40's, when they realized the ribs rusted much faster when in contact with the coal, the outside rib design resurfaced. This design was most popular in the late steam-era, into the late '50's, when longer hoppers came on the scene. Unfortunately for steam modelers, the earliest scheme Atlas offers is the C&EI one of 1952, with other ones way later.**


Type: Open Hopper
AAR Class: HTA: Open top self-clearing car, having fixed sides and ends and bottom consisting of three or more divided hoppers with doors hinged lengthwise of car and dumping between rails.
AAR Type: H260
Detail Info: Unequipped Hopper, Load Limit: 155,000 to 184,999, Non-rotary couplers***

To see a photo of the real PMCX No. 73, see Click here for additional images for this review at the end of this review.

The Model
This 11-panel ribbed triple hopper is finely molded in plastic without flash, ejector circles, seam line or sink marks. It rolls on RP-25 metal wheels and attaches to other cars with knuckle couplers.

Features include:
    True scale dimensions with accurate details
    Weighted, detailed underframes
    Equipped with AccuMate®* Knuckle Couplers
    Trucks equipped with free-rolling metal wheels
    Accurate painting and lettering
    Removable coal load

Atlas packs it securely in a custom fitted cradle with a matching clear top. The hopper is protected from scuffing by a soft plastic sheet. That is held inside an end-opening carton with a plastic film window. Atlas includes a simple parts diagram and warranty information documents.

Trainman® models are more entry level and thus lack the extensive extra detail of Atlas' Master Line models. Still, they have a good amount of detail, although almost all of it is molded on.

Grabs and stirrups, rails and stiffeners are thicker than the more expensive models and yet they are horrible. As far as I can tell, the only detail item not modeled to the body is the hand brake wheel. The coal is not molded to the body, either, although I don't consider it part of the hopper model.

Structural detail includes rivets and dump chute locks. A fair air brake system is molded into the A-end.

The car rides on plastic trucks holding metal wheels.

The coal load looks good.

Performance and physical characteristics
Those metal wheels roll very well across Atlas code 83 track and a No. 6 turnout, and through a Peco code 80 slip switch. The couplers are hung at the proper height. Atlas scaled the body to 43 feet of length, with 47 feet from coupler to coupler. The car weighs 3.7 ounces, slightly light according to NMRA RP20.1, Car Weight. That removable coal load makes it very easy to add some weight if you wish.

Paint and Markings
Modern application of paint and printing enhances this model from earlier issues. The paint is opaque and does not cover detail.

Printing is excellent. Reporting marks and road numbers, as well as technical stenciling is legible, including in the consolidated stencil.

This release of Trainman® AAR 70 Ton 3-Bay Open Hopper includes undecorated models for both body styles, and eight new road names:
    1.New Haven (Brown/White)
    2. PMCX (Blue/White)
    3. Burlington Northern (Black/White)
    4. Canadian National (Black/White)
    5. Santa Fe (Brown/White)
    6. Donner-Hanna Coke Corp. (Black/White)
    7. Central of Georgia
    8. Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac (Black/White)

PMCX was Plateau Mining Co., served by the Utah Railway and the Wattis coal mine beginning in 1967.

Loaded and Rolling
Atlas' HO Trainman® AAR 70 Ton 3-Bay Open Hopper is a good looking "intermediate level" model. While the rugged molding of parts lacks the finesse achievable, this isn't the clunky Tyco or Life-Like models of my youth. Nor is it a "handle-with-care" case. Pricing models is controversial and some modelers may find this model overpriced, but at least it has the industry standard knuckle couplers and metal wheels. And that printing is better than the aftermarket decals many of us used to pay big bucks for.

Overall I think this is a good model for young and intermediate model railroaders.

Please remember to tell vendors and retailers that you saw this model here - on RailRoad Modeling.

PMCX Plateau Mining Co.
According to Jim Eager (June '95 RMJ), this Wattis, Utah company got 130 cars from the C&I (which is 30 more than they had to start with, and at least one car remained on the C&I roster for another 6 years). These were renumbered PMCX 1-130. The C&I cars had been originally built with a heavy rib between each set of hoppers, but c. 1977, they were rebuilt with new sides and equal-sized ribs.

They were 10 ft. 8 ins. tall, with a cubic capacity of 2,949. There was a Craig Bossler photo taken in July '79 of three of these cars in Wyomissing, PA. (I don't think they were newly refurbished cars on their way to Utah, as you can see they are loaded.) They were painted a medium blue with white stencil Gothic lettering, just the reporting marks, no lines or periods. The top chord ("bulb angle") appears to be white. I'm not into post-steam cars, but these are the only blue hoppers I can think of.


* AccuMate® couplers are made under license from AccuRail, Inc.

** NEB&W Railroad Heritage Website. NEB&W Guide to Atlas Triple Hopper Car Models. [Web.] 23 September 2011, at 12:57.

*** Steven Vincent. RR Picture Archives. Pictures of PMCX 73. [http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/rsPicture.aspx?id=984511.] 4/25/2015 5:17:40 PM.

**** John Nehrich: Plateau Mining Co. NEB&W Guide to 11-Panel Ribbed Triple Hopper Cars - M-Z. [Web.] 5 February 2012, at 15:48.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Excellent paint and printing. Metal wheels and knuckle couplers.
Lows: Rugged molding of parts lacks the finesse achievable.
Verdict: A good model for young and intermediate model railroaders.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 20 003 850
  Suggested Retail: $27.95
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Mar 30, 2017
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Looks good Fred. Perhaps it needs a bit of weathering to tone down the colour a bit. tim
MAR 30, 2017 - 04:51 PM

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