Railroad Model Craftsman Product Review

Tangent Scale Models’ General American 4500cf Covered Hopper

Three different body shells are being offered by Tangent, covering the differences in side posts, roofs, running boards, roof hatches, discharge gates, brake systems and even the different axle bearing caps.

Tangent Scale Models’ General American 4500cf Covered Hopper

HO Scale (1:87)Review by Harry K. Wong/photos by the author

Even as rail enthusiasts, most of us seldom take the time to comprehend the massive volumes of cargo carried on the freight trains we endeavor to see and photograph. To help put things in perspective, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) states that one modern covered hopper today can carry enough corn to make 480,000 bags of corn chips! Put another way, the same covered hopper can haul enough grain to feed 37,000 chickens for their entire lifespans. Multiply these numbers by 110 for the number of covered hoppers in a typical grain train, and we can begin to grasp the idea. But how did we get here?

Up through the first half of the 20th century, American railroads hauled grain in modified 40’ boxcars. From the 1950s into the 1960s, railroads transitioned to high-capacity covered hoppers, significantly increasing efficiency and capacity. Between 1963 and 1966, General American Transportation Corp. (GATC) produced its first “grain hopper” design – a 4,500-cu.-ft. capacity car of which more than 1,200 were sold to a variety of railroads and lessors. The design had two distinct exterior appearances, with either 13 or 15 exterior vertical side posts.

This view of the bottom of the car shows the detail that Tangent has added to these models even if you won’t see the part of it much (unless of course there’s a derailment on your layout). 

Now available from Tangent Scale Models are highly detailed fine scale replicas of this GATC-built 4,500-cu.-ft. covered hopper. Three different body shells are offered, covering the differences in side posts, roofs, running boards, roof hatches, discharge gates, brake systems and even the different axle bearing caps. The many variations provided by Tangent are essential to accurately replicate the GATC 4500 fleet for each owner/lessor and time period. This first production of ready-to-run GATC 4500s covers four different owners and lessors, including Santa Fe “Quality Repaint 1991+” (Mineral Brown), Burlington “Delivery Gray 1-1965,” Chicago Great Western “Delivery Gray 9-1966,” CRDX “ADM Blue Lease 9-1966,” and three versions of undecorated kits.

Our first example for this review is Tangent’s rendition of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 86029. Assigned to Burlington’s class LO-5a, CB&Q 86029 was one of 500 GATC 4500s delivered to this Midwestern granger road between 1964-1965. Featuring a body with 15 vertical side posts, this CB&Q car is painted and detailed to depict an as-delivered car early in its service life. However, despite the merger of the CB&Q into Burlington Northern in March 1970, many of these cars survived in their original paint well into the 1990s, albeit with new reweigh stencils and ACI plates added on with the accumulation of grime. Other original owners of the 15-post variant of the GATC 4500 included CB&Q’s subsidiaries Fort Worth & Denver and Colorado & Southern.

An end-view of the car shows the detail that has gone into the models, including crisp lettering on both the ATSF and CB&Q models. 

Starting from the top, this CB&Q model begins with a long trough-style loading hatch with separately applied wire grab irons. Surrounding the hatch is an exquisitely rendered plastic Apex running board with side rivet detail. The running board rests over fifteen ribs on the roof.   Another fine detail on this Burlington GATC 4500 is the large “Burlington Route” herald presented as a large placard affixed to the side of the car. The placard is beautifully rendered with a thin cross-section that translates to HO scale perfectly from its prototype.

Corresponding to its prototype, the handbrake and retainer valve are mounted up high on the B-end of the car. Finished in black beneath the side sills are the three discharge bays, each equipped with shaker brackets and Wine-style outlet gates with their signature D-shaped frames. This Burlington 4500 rides on a pair of Barber S-2 100-ton capacity trucks with rotating axle bearing caps. Per its prototype, each truck on this car replicates a truck-mounted brake system that includes a pair of brake cylinders mounted to each truck’s brake beams.

July 2023Read the rest of this article in the July 2023 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Subscribe Today!

This article was posted on: June 20, 2023