News & Reviews Product Reviews Staff Reviews Fox Valley Models HO 55-ton hopper

Fox Valley Models HO 55-ton hopper

By Cody Grivno | March 22, 2024

Ready-to-run car is based on United States Railroad Administration prototype

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Color photo of HO scale freight car painted black with white graphics.
Baltimore & Ohio is one of six paint schemes offered on the Fox Valley Models HO 55-ton hopper. The model is based on a United States Railroad Administration prototype. Cody Grivno photos

Fox Valley Models, a ScaleTrains company, has released an HO scale 55-ton two-bay hopper. The model, based on a United States Railroad Administration (USRA) prototype, features plastic and die-cast metal construction, 33” metal wheelsets, and semi-scale Type E knuckle couplers.

Prototype information

With railroads facing equipment shortages during World War I, the USRA designed five standard freight cars, including the 55-ton two-bay hopper. During 1918, 25,000 cars were built to the design. The all-steel car was such a success that the American Railway Association later adopted the short-wheelbase car as its standard hopper.

The 55-ton cars were primarily assigned to coal-hauling railroads in the East and Midwest. Among the larger fleets were New York Central (3,000); Pennsylvania Lines West (2,500); Baltimore & Ohio, Louisville & Nashville, and Pennsylvania RR (2,000 each); Lehigh Valley (1,300); and Delaware & Hudson and Wheeling & Lake Erie (1,000 each). Railroads with less than 1,000 cars included Bessemer & Lake Erie; Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh; Clinchfield; Central of New Jersey; Chesapeake & Ohio; Delaware, Lackawanna & Western; Erie; Reading Co.; and Toledo, St. Louis & Western.

Our sample is decorated as Baltimore & Ohio 726431, part of the railroad’s 726000 through 726798 series. The cars were built by Pullman-Standard in 1918 for the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh (55000 through 55799 series). The 800 cars became part of the B&O fleet after it acquired the BR&P in 1932. Cars from the 726000 through 726798 series were still listed in the Official Railway Equipment Register as late as 1972.

Model features

Photo showing brake end of hopper car.
The Fox Valley Models HO 55-ton hopper features plastic and formed wire detail parts. The model is equipped with plastic Type E scale couplers without trip pins.

The Fox Valley Models HO 55-ton hopper is based on tooling from MTH Electric Trains that was introduced in 2009. The model has a one-piece injection-molded plastic body with many separate, factory-applied parts. Plastic details include the end supports, stirrup steps, and uncoupling levers. The grab irons on the sides and ends are formed wire.

The brake, or B, end of the hopper is well detailed. Factory-applied plastic parts on the car end include the brake rod and support, brake wheel, and brake platform. Details tucked under the slope sheet include an air reservoir and support, brake cylinder, and brake lever. Additional freestanding parts include the brake cylinder line and branch pipe off the air reservoir. The bolster supports on both ends are plastic parts with molded rivet detail.

Color image showing underbody details on HO scale hopper car.
Metal weights are located above both trucks and between the hopper bays. The B&O model has Andrews trucks with 33” metal wheelsets.

Underneath, the two-bay hopper has a mix of die-cast metal and plastic parts. Metal weights, painted to match the body color, are concealed above the trucks and between the hopper bays. The center sill, which includes the draft-gear boxes and end braces, also uses die-cast metal construction. The screw-mounted draft-gear box covers are plastic.

The hopper outlets also use hybrid construction. The doors are metal; the outlet door stiffener, connection bar, latch keeper, and actuator are plastic. Outlet door latch mechanisms are located above the center sill by both bays. A plastic rod runs from the mechanisms to actuators on the left side of the car.

A one-piece plastic train line runs along the bottom right edge of the hopper. The train line hoses are separate parts. The B&O hopper is equipped with Andrews trucks with separate brake beam detail. Other road names feature Bettendorf-style solid-bearing trucks.

Color photo showing interior of hopper.
Here’s what the interior of the hopper looks like with the plastic coal load removed. The three plastic cross beams are separate, factory-applied parts.

A removable plastic coal load is included with the hopper. The car’s interior features rivet detail on the slope sheets and cross ridge floor sheets. The longitudinal hood floor sheets that run between the slope sheets and cross ridge are smooth. The two inner cross beams and center cross beam are freestanding plastic parts.

Measuring up

Our sample is decorated in B&O’s mid-1950s billboard scheme, which uses a smaller ampersand than the early 1950s version of the scheme. The black paint is smooth and evenly applied, and all of the lettering is opaque and legible. I was unable to find a prototype image of a B&O N-17b hopper to compare the model to its prototype counterpart. The hopper’s dimensions match or are within scale inches of drawings published in the April 1969 issue of Model Railroader.

The short-wheelbase car will comfortably navigate 18” radius curves. The model ran without incident while being pushed and pulled in a train on our Wisconsin & Southern staff layout.

Welcome back!

Color image of three HO scale hopper cars.
Look for the Fox Valley Models HO 55-ton hopper at your favorite ScaleTrains retailer. Among the road names are Canadian National, Baltimore & Ohio, and Colorado & Southern. Each paint scheme is offered in six road numbers.

I’ve enjoyed watching ScaleTrains merge the former MTH HO scale rolling stock line into its product ranges. This is the first of two freight cars being marketed under the Fox Valley Models banner (the other being the Pullman-Standard F60GH 60-foot flatcar). Additional MTH cars have been folded into the ScaleTrains Kit Classics line. If you model the steam, steam-to-diesel transition, or early diesel eras, you’ll want to consider adding a few USRA 55-ton two-bay hoppers to your freight car fleet.

Facts & features

Price: $31.99


Fox Valley Models, a ScaleTrains company

4901 Old Tasso Rd. NE

Cleveland, TN 37312

Era: 1956 to 1972 (as decorated)

Road names: Baltimore & Ohio, Canadian National, Clinchfield, Colorado & Southern, Northern Pacific, and Pennsylvania RR. Six road numbers per scheme.


  • 33” metal wheelsets, correctly gauged
  • Plastic Type E knuckle couplers, at correct height
  • Weight: 2.1 ounces with load, 1.9 ounces without (1 ounce and 1.2 ounces too light, respectively, per National Model Railroad Association Recommended Practice 20.1)



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