Vintage N Scale B&M Rolling Stock #4
Atlas (Roco) Pullman Standard PS-3 Hopper–
So this Atlas (Roco made) PS-3 hopper was kind of an easy choice to pick up when I spotted it on eBay a little while ago. The PS-3 was a very popular style of open hopper that had a nominal 50 ton capacity in two bays (although apparently Pullman Standard used the designation “PS-3” for more than one pattern of open hopper). Since we know what specific car this Atlas model is meant to represent, some of the normal research can be cut short. The first thing we know (or are pretty certain of) is that the B&M didn’t own any PS-3 hoppers and that, even if they had, they wouldn’t have been “blue dipped”. While the blue paint can’t seem to be avoided on early N scale B&M equipment, I think the model choice could have been. The problem is that, in the early N scale world, there were only a handful of manufacturers making a handful of car models. This narrow focus actually led several manufacturers to make the same, or very similar, rolling stock instead of branching out into different models within the same class or type. In the case of the PS-3 both Roco and Mehano (of Yugoslavia) made models of this hopper, and then applied road names that probably should have never been on it (1). B&M did have some two bay hoppers with capacities of around 50 tons, we find group 7000-7099 were ex-C&O 30 foot externally braced hoppers (these had 7 ribs and the PS-3 has 9). In addition a second group 7100-7199 were AAR standard offset-side hoppers made by Bethlehem (Atlas has since released an excellent model of the twin offset-side hopper in N scale). This Atlas PS-3 doesn’t fit the description, type, or road number series for either group of B&M two bay hoppers, this one is numbered 71717 which is a great deal higher than both prototype groups. On roads where they were used the PS-3 was apparently common from the 1940s to the 1970s for carload traffic direct to the retailer.
I paid less than $10.00 to get this car delivered to my front door, it is in factory fresh condition in its original packaging (with insert), and so I can’t complain at all. The paint is “blue dipped”, and so is every other B&M car from the early days of N scale, but the herald has a nice contrast with sharp separation between the blue and white, that feature kind of sets this car apart from its other early brethren. I could certainly see a 1970s layout with a string of these being used to haul coal to a rural dealer or medium coal yard; they would look nice in a manifest freight behind a couple Atlas/Kato RS3s as well.
Regardless of how it could/should be used, I think this is a great little open hopper car. Being based on a 50 ton prototype it is actually a bit smaller than all of the other early B&M open hoppers I have found (except the Minitrix “Old Time Hopper” which I will discuss at some future date) so it could be delivered to spurs with tight curves or to add cars to a train without adding a great deal of overall length, those can be very useful features on smaller layouts. In the end this isn’t the most detailed car on Earth but it is clear enough that we can trace it to an actual prototype which is rare in the world of the early days of N scale.
As detailed above, the B&M doesn’t appear to have owned any PS-3 hoppers in real life. The PS-3 was a very common open hopper however and would be at home on most roads operating during the steam to diesel transition period and beyond. What 50 ton, two bay, hoppers B&M did own were bought used from C&O or purchased from Bethlehem and were numbered way below this model.
(1) Atlas, Con-Cor, Walthers, and Eastern Seaboard Models all imported or sold the Roco car at one time or another. AHM, MRC, Model Power, and Life-Like imported the Mehano version of this car. I am unsure how many of those companies offered their PS-3 lettered for B&M but I am aware of at least one other, I believe marketed by Life-Like and therefore a Mehano version, that was offered in an older-style all black with white lettering B&M scheme – I am trying to track that one down here in the States even though, since I believe it to be 1980s production, it really doesn’t count as “vintage” in my book. These days anything with original truck-mounted Rapido couplers gets Honorary Vintage status in my collection, at least on an unofficial level.