The beauty of old covered hoppers…(and a commercial plug for Tangent Scale Models)

I love to watch freights go by with a wide variety of covered hoppered, especially those with paint jobs reflecting their 1970 and 80s original owners and leasors.  I was in Harper’s Ferry, WV, recently hiking and watching trains pass through a beautiful setting.  I saw oil trains, auto trains, coal trains, steel trains, but my favorite of all was two merchandise trains loaded with covered hoppers and box cars.  Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park is a great park and hosts the world renown Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail among others.  The history of the site is very rich.

In addition to great hiking, beauty and history, here’s a small sampling of the rail action I saw.  More to come in a future post.

CSX 3008 crossing the Potomac in Harper's Ferry, August 6, 2014.  photo by C. Hunt

CSX 3008 crossing the Potomac in Harper’s Ferry, August 6, 2014. –photo by C. Hunt

CSX 861 leads a freight across the Potomac as the sun baths the beautiful valley below.  photo by C. Hunt

CSX 861 leads a freight across the Potomac as the sun baths the beautiful valley and river below. –photo by C. Hunt

Former AGP covered hoppers rolling through Harper's Ferry in a little drizzle, August 8, 2014.  photo by C. Hunt

Former AGP covered hoppers rolling through Harper’s Ferry in a little drizzle, August 8, 2014. –photo by C. Hunt

OK.  Speaking of covered hoppers…I want to do a product endorsement.  I don’t do many, but I may do more in the future.  I want to talk about Tangent Scale Models.  I have not been paid to do this. Quite the contrary, I have given a lot of money to Tangent Scale Models for their fine products.

Tangent Scale Models produces the finest scale models of covered hoppers in the hobby.  Exactrail and some Athearn Products (particularly, Athearn Genesis) are also excellent, but the level of detail on Tangent’s is typically a hair better.  (I do, however, recommend Athearn Genesis scale trucks with .88 wheels or Exactrail’s outstanding fine scale wheels.  Exactrail’s wheels are made in the USA).

Tangent 4740 covered hopper on my ATSF in Roswell layout.

Tangent 4740 covered hopper on my ATSF in Roswell layout.

Tangent 4740 on my ATSF in Roswell layout.

Another Tangent 4740 on my ATSF in Roswell layout.

I will highlight a recent product, Tangent’s 4750 covered hopper.

It comes in a number of great schemes.  Below are some prototype photos from Tangent’s great website of some very recent releases.

PTLX 14636 Fridley MN 1991

PLTX 14163 in Fridley, MN 1991. –©photo Tangent Scale Models. Copyrighted image courtesy


PLTX 33036 in Taunton, MA 1974. –©photo Tangent Scale Models. Copyrighted image courtesy


UP 75204 in McAleister, OK 2002. –©photo David Lehbach. Copyrighted image courtesy

Here are some photos of the beautiful models.



I wish they were made in the United States and some modellers may find them a bit expensive, but the result is breathtaking.  I would rather have fewer, highly detailed models.  With my emphasis on slow operations, the viewers sees the cars quite well.  These cars hold up to very close scrutiny!

I applaud David Lehlbach and his Tangent Scale Models for bringing this level of realism to our layouts!

(Note:  My comment concerning overseas production is not intended to single out Tangent Scale Models by any means.  Its products have so many individually applied parts that full production in the US would likely be extraordinarily expensive.  Overseas production in the industry is quite common. As far as I know, Accurail and Kadee, which produce nice products are the only companies that currently produces HO cars in the United States.  Exactrail mills its products in the US and has discussed moving full production of some of its freight cars to the US in the future.  Again, the wheels Exactrail produces in the US are remarkable.)



The power of buildings and organic commerce…


More on Delaware in coming posts.  

See that light gray building to the left?  I was recently in Alexandria, VA.  I knew this area on the Potomac waterfront was slated for substantial “tourist and quality of life” changes.  I figured that building’s days were numbered so I had to check it out.


Alexandria Marine Service and Sales has been in business for 64 years. The locally-owned store sells new and used boat engine parts and also fixes outboard engines. The shop is located right on the Old Town waterfront. The Potomac river flows right behind the building.   A beautiful and rustic setting.


Check out the width of those walls.  I hope they continue to use this building with the waterfront development.  It would be tragic to see this solid structure come down.


I wish we could learn to re-develop neat areas like this without losing places like this.  It is so organic.


Service yard where motors are (or perhaps sadly were) brought in.  It will likely be a great project that Alexandria has planned with cool restaurants and a boutique hotel, but can’t we leave a little room for authentic businesses that have nothing to do with tourism?


I know, I know, the real estate is too valuable.  OK.  Just saying.  However, a business like this gives the area a sense of authenticity that is missing with many re-developments.


Enjoy this “organic” business structure while you can and try to capture them when you see a little jewel like this.  Sadly, I think a warehouse a couple of blocks away that still receives boxcars off the CSX is also slated to be “re-developed.”


The three green dots show boxcars in 2014 in downtown Alexandria just a couple of blocks from Alexandria Marine.


Street view.  Green dot shows box car spotted at Robinson Terminal #1.  Again, the waterfront redevelopment will likely be a very popular project with many benefits.  I just wish we could save a little of the organic quality of our living spaces.  Buildings that help people make a living unrelated to tourism can be special in their own way.  We need to get development professionals to be more sensitive to this.