Bowser HO scale ballast hopper
A second run of HO scale 70-ton twobay ballast hoppers is now available from Bowser Manufacturing Co. Inc. The model is based on the company’s American Car & Foundry (ACF) twobay covered hopper tooling and features a plastic body; a mix of molded and separate, factory-applied parts; and 33" metal wheelsets. The car is offered in open- and closed-side versions.
Our sample is decorated as Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe No. 177756, part of the railroad’s 176900 through 177861 series of ballast hoppers. These weren’t new cars, though. Instead, Santa Fe rebuilt two-bay covered hoppers from the GA-88, GA-101, and GA-105 classes between 1974 and 1985. Car No. 177756 was originally ATSF No. 87668, a class GA-101 car built by Pullman-Standard under Lot 8318A in mid-1956.
During the rebuild, the roof was removed, box tube reinforcement was added along the top edge of the car, and four Morrison-Knudsen 42" ballast doors were installed. Car 177756 kept its high brake wheel after the rebuild.
I compared the Bowser ballast hopper to a kit version of its ACF two-bay covered hopper to see how the tooling was modified. Starting at the top of the car, a partial peaked roof was added to both ends. There’s rivet detail along the top edge of the roof closest to the interior.
A one-piece plastic ballast load, painted gray, fills the interior. Because the partial roof pieces are glued in place, there’s no way to remove the load without damaging the model. The steel weights and weight retainers are concealed by the load.
Like the covered hopper, the end cages on the ballast hopper have molded posts, ladder rungs, and grab irons. The brake wheel is a factory-applied part.
The A and B ends of the car are fitted with a separate end brace. Freestanding brake details on the B end include the air reservoir, brake cylinder, brake lever, and control valve.
The biggest change to the tooling was on the underbody. To accommodate the four ballast doors, the hopper bays were shortened by approximately ⁄16". They
now end about ⁄16" short of the bottom
of the sills. The ballast doors are part of plastic pieces attached to the bottom of the car.
Other underfame details are carryovers from the covered hopper. The center sill, body bolsters, bolster blocks, draft-gear boxes, and end braces are part of a single plastic casting. The inner braces between the ballast doors are separate parts. The draft-gear box covers and roller-bearing trucks are secured with Phillips-head screws.
The Mineral Red paint on our sample is smooth and evenly applied. All of the lettering is crisp and opaque. The reporting mark, road number, and capacity data should all be moved one panel to the right. Some stencils, like the operating instructions on the sides and the reporting mark and road number on the ends, were omitted.
The Bowser ACF car is a reasonable stand-in for the Santa Fe ballast hopper, which was built from a PS covered hopper. The model more closely matches cars decorated for Denver & Rio Grande Western, Louisville & Nashville, Maine Central, and Seaboard Coast Line.
For real-world testing, I put the ballast hopper in a train on our Wisconsin & Southern layout. The car performed without issue while being pushed and pulled in a train. The car will comfortably navigate 18" radius curves.
I like to see manufacturers be creative with existing tooling, and the Bowser 70-ton two-bay ballast hopper is a great example of that. The maintenance-ofway car would look good parked on a siding, in a work train, or with a cut of other ballast haulers in a freight train. – Cody Grivno, senior editor