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Fleet fillers: The lowly postwar Lionel two-bay hopper

An affordable way to build a train
Lionel postwar hopper car
The black no. 25000 has damage on one end its type VI body. Note the triangular gap below the LV diamond.
Lionel postwar hopper car
Brown no. 25000 is early production and dated 1-48. Note the different body type.
here’s never been a shortage of large industrial structures for three-rail layouts. Many of them could have been coal-powered.

You need not go broke buying high-dollar hoppers or high-side gondolas to carry the rivers of black diamonds needed to keep commerce humming.

Back in the postwar days Lionel made a wide variety of scale and operating hoppers, but my focus is on the humble 8½-inch, two-bay, non-operating cars. These are generally available in quantity and at very good prices.

Don’t expect a lot of variety, though. With the exception of a few totally unmarked cars, Lehigh Valley was the roadname of choice. The no. 6076 Santa Fe version differed in railroad and car number. All the rest were numbered 25000.

In the 72 years since Lionel introduced them, the hoppers you see might in a shop or at a train show may have been tinkered with. I’ve seen more than a few with structural damage on the corners from what must have been magnificent flights off the train table at high-speed. All work in your favor in getting the lowest price.

As always, condition drives the value. From personal experience and internet research, prices should range $7 to $12. That should allow you to assemble long coal trains or convey your layout’s industrial might for just a little money.


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